RaeLynn Says It's 'Hard for Women' to Carve a Path in Country: 'Might as Well Put Out Music I Love'

The Voice alum will release her genre-blending Baytown EP on Friday

Photo: Alysse Gafkjen

RaeLynn has found her voice.

The Voice alum proved her songwriting prowess on her 2016 debut, Wildhorse, but she's never sounded as comfortable as she does on her new EP Baytown, out Friday.

Baytown, named after RaeLynn's Texas hometown, blends genres she was raised on.

"I'm from outside Houston, so you've got all these hip-hop artists, and then you've got the Houston Rodeo," RaeLynn, 26, says. "Growing up on those artists — I'd go from the Dixie Chicks to Destiny's Child — has become part of who I am."

Since 2000, according to industry data, women's representation on country radio has decreased by 66 percent; in 2019 songs by female artists accounted for only 10 percent of airplay. These alarming figures helped inspire RaeLynn's swagger-filled vibe.

"It's hard for women," the singer (born Racheal Lynn Woodward) says, "so I'm at the point, like every other country girl, if it's going to be hard for me no matter what, I might as well put out music I freaking love."

Her new music exudes an anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better confidence, whether she's going beer-for-beer with the boys ("Keep Up") or name-checking Cardi B and Jesus in the same verse (standout "Judgin' to Jesus").

RaeLynn has been hustling for nearly a decade. When she was eliminated from The Voice in the quarterfinals in 2012, she vowed to use the show as a stepping stone and moved to Nashville to pursue her dreams. She has weathered cycles of successes and setbacks:

Blake Shelton, Raelynn
Blake Shelton & RaeLynn. Katherine Bomboy/NBC

In 2014 her first single, “God Made Girls,” became a hit, but two years later she left her label Big Machine Label Group. Her debut album, WildHorse, topped the country charts in 2017, but last year she parted ways with another label, Warner Music Nashville.

"Instead of being ashamed, like, ‘Oh, I’ve been on this many labels,’ I own it. I have never given up,” says RaeLynn, who finds solace in her friend and Voice coach Shelton’s career trajectory. “He was on a few labels too, and it took him [almost] 15 years to get a No. 1 — he had a really crazy journey, then he took off.”

Picking Shelton as her Voice coach “changed my life,” she says of the star. “Not everybody gets to have their hero be just there to help, like I did."

And Shelton — who attended RaeLynn's 2016 wedding to husband Josh Davis with his girlfriend, Gwen Stefani — isn't her only major mentor in Nashville. In November RaeLynn signed with Round Here Records, a new label formed by Florida Georgia Line's Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley.

"They let me be myself and ride ponies and wear all the glitter and cheetah print I want in my music videos," she says. “They’re not trying to change me.”

And now it's with an EP that is utterly her that RaeLynn is ready to take her seat at the table.

"It's been a wild ride," she says, "but I know all my hard work I've put in the last 10 years will pay off."

For more from RaeLynn, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

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