“Nashville has a scene that you will not find going on anywhere else.” — Wester’s Upcoming Single, “Rooftop Party”
Rafe Wester grew up with an uncanny resemblance to Randy Travis. People would ask, do you sing country music? He would say no, but my sister does.
Pearl Clarkin had been singing and writing songs since childhood. At 12 she was recruited by American Idol for their training camp. By 14 she had been named one of the top unsigned artists in the country in a CMT contest. The invitations to come sing in Nashville came streaming in and by 16 Pearl was traveling on weekends to sing at a Hard Rock Cafe Nashville for a weekly showcase.
By the time Pearl started Belmont University to study music the whole family decided to move from Pensacola Beach to Nashville. Pearl knew Rafe had a beautiful bass voice so, by the time he was 15, she signed him up to sing at their new church in Nashville. But while Pearl put her music before everything Rafe always seemed to have something else to do even though when he was 18 he also went to Belmont to study music.
Then the pandemic hit and the two found themselves in the house together 24/7 and Pearl taught Rafe guitar and they began to write. She taught him the country classics and they were singing octaves then harmonies. They wrote songs about the wild and crazy Nashville scene and about North Florida, alligators, crawfish boils, the beach and the farm.
A year later the restrictions lifted and they took their 40 songs and toured the country singing over 50 shows in 2021. In August 2021 they released their first song, “Redneck Rollercoaster,” a song dedicated to fun times singing on Lower Broadway Nashville. Rafe’s high level energy shines through in this honky tonk party song. He is 21 now and still asked at every performance if he is kin to Randy Travis. He’ll say he is not kin to Randy, his idol, but he is kin to Pearl Clarkin and so very proud of her.
There is something very heartwarming listening to a brother/sister duo. The sound is unique. Look for a very big 2022 as these two kids release 4 more songs, and sing another 50 gigs around the country and who knows what else. The energy and enthusiasm is on full blast.
Pensacola, Florida. Living in a spaceship. Sibling duo. For someone who was just being introduced to your music, which song should they listen to first — “Blackwater River,” “Redneck Rollercoaster” “Crawfish,” or another track?
“Redneck Rollercoaster” (our first release) and “Rooftop Party” (releasing soon) are definitely Nashville songs about our life here in the big city. Music City is a party and a far cry from where we come from. “Blackwater River” will most likely be our next release for spring of 2022. It’s a river north of Pensacola Beach, Florida, where we love to go tubing, canoeing and fishing. There are swamps with alligators and just a real southern North Florida vibe. You will find many of the songs Rafe wrote have this flavor.
I (Pearl) am more the beach girl and yes, the Spaceship is my favorite place in the world. Mardi Gras, spring break and a Blue Angels 4th of July on the beach are my celebrations. North Florida/Lower Alabama is a beautiful world that includes both the inland rivers and coastal beaches.
Following your cover of “Jingle Bell Rock,” you are releasing “Rooftop Party” on New Year’s Eve. How does the cover art help tell the backstory to the new single?
This is a wild story but it’s the truth. Rafe and I are here in Nashville working on a music career and going to college. Nashville has a scene that you will not find going on anywhere else. So last Saturday night Rafe and I are in the car going on a late Chick-Fil-A dinner run and we get a call. It’s a famous producer who works in LA and Nashville. He says… Pearlie the party is at Aldean’s Rooftop tonight. Come on down and text me I’ll have security bring you up. I say I’m with Rafe, be right there. We drive downtown and park, go to Aldean’s and are escorted to VIP. The world’s most famous country singer is there and it’s now me, Rafe, the producer and singer in the middle of about 20 people that have flown in to Nashville from all over the world for the weekend to be at this rooftop party.
A lot of these party goers are Instagram models or Instagram famous. This goes on every weekend on Broadway and sometimes I’m invited, sometimes I’m out of town. But it’s fun and it’s wild and Rafe wrote a song about it. The cover art is Rafe and I on a rooftop downtown and the song tells a story of the out-of-this-world shenanigans we get to be part of. One day I will write a book and tell my stories. But for now our song names no names lol.
Song promotion, including TikTok (2 million views on one post). Why are pre-saves important?
That TikTok is over 7 million views now. (Ed. Note: view the post here.) A few months ago we started focusing on our TikTok because of all the platforms used to promote your music, right now, TikTok is it. So in 3 months we have been able to increase our followers on this platform from 2000 to 12,000 and when “Rooftop” comes out we’ll be using the song in our TikToks. More people will hear “Rooftop” on TikTok than on YouTube and maybe Spotify and other streaming platforms. If we link our TikToks to our song on streaming we can hopefully build an audience who wants to go listen to the whole song on a streaming or our YouTube channel. Wester Country Duo is just a year old. We are trying new things. When it was just ‘Pearl Clarkin’ I focused first on FaceBook then YouTube and eventually Spotify where pre-saves were important. They still help identify fans but Wester is expanding. We’ve been working all angles.
Pearl, you are currently working towards a Master of Business Administration. How do you see this helping you most as an independent artist?
I can write songs and sing them out. I have been on tour. I understand promotion and distribution and have great social media. The only thing I am missing at this point is making this passion into a money making business and showing, in a business sense, how much money we are making. For instance I can sell out a show but I’ve never kept books on how much money I made singing. The next time a label asks me for a meeting I will not only share my acoustic demos but I will know how to show them my books.
Which songwriters would you love to write with and why?
Jeffrey Steele because he’s incredible and he does reach out to serious songwriters and communicates and gives advice through social media. I have recently become friends with Bobby Pinson and I hope to one day write a song with him. He’s already a living legend. I’m a huge fan of Shane McAnally and what I wouldn’t give to write one with him, there would be no stopping that effort. I am already lucky enough to write with some other incredible songwriters and so grateful.
Saw your post about good news about your mom. How is she doing?
White Brain Matter Disease has many contributing factors. We are told there is no cure and brain cells do not regenerate once destroyed. So we know we have to keep her blood pressure down. It’s really important that we avoid stroke. I read B12 is helpful and had her take it. Immediately she felt an improvement. We had her neurologist check her last blood panel and yes, she had low levels of B12. So we found “a” problem and addressed it. We have to find every problem and fight like hell. If we can just slow the deterioration we get more time. For anyone who has lost a parent you understand how precious more time would have been. We’re fighting as hard as we can for her.
Which family tradition is your favorite to do each Christmas?
Take my Grand Helen’s praline recipe and make batches for friends and family. Everyone asks for the recipe but we don’t share it. It’s a sixth generation Florida family tradition we call “praylines” because while we cook them we say a little Christmas prayer. Merry Christmas everyone! We love you and are praying for “Joy to the World.” This world could use more joy these days.
“Did you know that smiling can help us recover faster from stress and reduce our heart rate? In fact, the endorphins act as a mild pain reliever, whereas the serotonin is an antidepressant! Don’t forget to smile today! It’s the little treasures in life that make it worthwhile, like seeing people dancing and smiling when we perform.” What made you smile today?
Reading your interview questions. You’re amazing and thoughtful and we appreciate you and all you do!!! Merry Christmas sweet friend and Happy New Year.
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