The Career of a Student Musician


Crystal Gonsalves

Rachel DeLong looks off into the distance with a guitar balanced on her lap during a promotional shoot. Rachel is a Contemporary Christian Music artist and performs her own original music. “I’m lucky that music and gigs don’t feel like work to me, I look forward to every time I’m able to pick up my guitar,” said Rachel.

Emma Harley, Staff Writer

Rachel DeLong, 22’, is a 17 year old musician with songs on the radio. She is only in her senior year of high school, but she is discovering the music industry and looking forward to a career in music. The young Christian-Contemporary composer and performer was questioned on her music career and creative process by CavChron staff writer, Emma Harley, on January 7. 

How would you describe your music?

I would describe my music as CCM, or Contemporary Christian Music. As far as sound wise, I’ve been referred to as bluesy rock with a slight country feel. Personally, I’d say my sound depends on what I’m doing. When I’m leading worship I sound a lot more simple and sweet, and when I’m singing my own music I add more stylistic choices.

What inspired you to pursue a music career?

Growing up I’ve always had a huge passion for music, I’ve been singing since I could remember and started songwriting in 4th grade. 

What is your creative process when composing music?

I use my songwriting as a form of processing the world around me. I take time to sit down with my guitar, think, pray, and write. I usually just start fiddling on my guitar and thinking up lyrics, whether they’re cheesy lyrics or good ones, it’s good to start somewhere. After I finish a rough draft of the song I pour through the lyrics again and refine them. 

When was your first gig? What was that experience like?

My first gig was at a small festival hosted by a local church. I was 13, and it was my first time sharing my original music on a stage. I had 15 minutes of stage time, 4 songs, and wanted to make every minute of it count. I was super excited, and not expecting much to come from it, but to my surprise the band after me was really impressed. They came up after the show and asked me to be their opening act for their concerts in the area. Their kindness was what actually launched me into the industry. Every gig I played with them gave me more exposure to the local scene. I formed connections with people, venues, promoters, and organizations from all over New England. Having a music career is all about connecting with people.

Are there any artists that inspire you?

Kari Jobe and Brooke Ligertwood inspire me, they are so genuine in what they do. Their passion for God, music, and people shows through how they present themselves both onstage and off. I had the pleasure of performing in the same festival as Kari Jobe, and it was a life changing experience.

What specific qualities are important to have to be successful in the music industry?

It’s really important to have integrity and good executive functioning. People want to work with good people, and people who successfully execute what’s expected of them. The person who gets the most gigs isn’t always the “best musician”, it’s the person who shows up on time. It takes a lot to have a career, it’s like running a business. Here are some examples of how I manage aspects of my vocation like a small business. It involves: writing, selecting, and practicing songs; scheduling rehearsals, managing other artists, as well as maintaining working relationships with venues and agents; designing, ordering, and selling my own merchandise, as well as maintaining a social media presence; creating advertisements for local events, and investing in relationships with other local artists; recording radio liners for local broadcasting radio stations; I have been interviewed by a west coast television show and media company- Christian Media Spotlight; I’m currently working with a faith-based women’s magazine on a small spread about my music; I’ve been the opening act for Rhett Walker, Austin French, Leanna Crawford, and more; and this past year I performed three times at Soulfest, performed main stage at Connect Festival, performed main stage at River Rock Music Festival, and went on a 3-day New England tour with Austin French and Ben Laine. 

How do you find the time to balance school as well as music?

Honestly, it’s really difficult.  In 2021, I played over 50 gigs, which is crazy. Basically every weekend I’ve had a gig or two. I played SoulFest, won the battle of the bands for Riverrock Music Festival, [and] I just finished up a tour with Austin French and I was the opening act for Rhett Walker in Connecticut. It takes a lot of using your time wisely and passion for your craft even when it gets tough. I’m lucky that music and gigs don’t feel like work to me, I look forward to every time I’m able to pick up my guitar. So when I do a gig it feels like a break from everything else rather than a job.

What are your goals for the future?

My goal for the future is to keep following through the doors that are opened for me. I’ve worked really hard to get here, but I also understand that it’s sometimes grace that gives me these opportunities. I’m going to continue my career throughout college, and hope to continue growing as an artist! 

What advice would you give to other artists?

The advice I’d give to another artist is that no gig is too small. I’ve done gigs that seemed small at first, but the connection that I made there deeply impacted my career. I’d also advise other artists to just go for it, I wouldn’t have gotten here without being brave enough to put myself out there. I’ve had plenty of hiccups and mistakes, but each one has taught me something new. So I’d say, just go for it, and practice. No matter where you are in music, you can always learn something new and improve.

What has been your greatest achievement as a musician?

I’d say the people I’ve touched. With every show, my mindset consists of two things: One, I’m going up there to have fun, and two, as long as one person is touched, and brought closer to Christ, all of this is worth it. One of my favorite stories is when a mother came up to me and said “I don’t know if you’ll remember this, but about three years ago you were singing a worship song and you saw my daughter singing and dancing along. You stopped singing and then called her up to sing with you, and let me tell you, she’s been singing on the worship team ever since then. She’s 13 and you inspire her so much.” That story sticks with me as the reason why I do this, it’s not to promote myself, but to reach others. My goal is to inspire other young girls to find worth in themselves, not in the fickle things of the world around them. 

Find out more about Rachel’s music at Rachel DeLong Music on Facebook or Instagram.