Music: Real Harmony

Rainbow Girls strike a chord

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The North Bay’s Rainbow Girls cultivate their own original, richly layered, three-part harmonic folk music from their home in Bodega Bay.

In the eight years that vocalists, multi-instrumentalists and songwriters Erin Chapin, Caitlin Gowdey and Vanessa May have lived and sung together, they have developed a natural, intuitive and unified musical mission under the name Rainbow Girls.

“Playing as part of this collective has given me an opportunity to find harmony in my own life, in the most natural sense of the word,” May says. “To bring that to other people is really important and has been a driving force for me.”

In November, Rainbow Girls unveiled their first album as a trio, American Dream, that lyrically touches on experiences of love, loss and what May calls the political storm going on. “There’s been a lot of dissonance around, people having a hard time finding where they fit in,” she says. “Rainbow Girls’ and my own journey with this is to help people find that harmony in their own lives.”

Named after the so-called “Rainbow House” where the three first met and hosted weekly open mics while attending school in Santa Barbara, the Rainbow Girls moved to Bodega Bay after college, living in a cottage on Gowdy’s grandparents’ property when they’re not touring the U.S. or Europe.

“We moved up to the North Bay and at first felt like it wasn’t home because we were traveling so much and had such deep roots in Santa Barbara, but as soon as we started doing open mics again, we realized we do have friends here and we do have something to contribute to this community,” May says.

The 10-track American Dream is a culmination of their growth. “Sometimes you know exactly where you’re supposed to be,” May says, “and other times we try to create something that is unexpected.”

Rainbow Girls opens for Seattle folk-pop band Kuinka on Thursday, Jan. 18 at Sweetwater Music Hall, 19 Corte Madera Ave., Mill Valley; 8pm; $15-$17; 415/388-3850.

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