Q&A: Rachel Platten

Taylor Swift may have put Platten on the map, but the Newton Centre-native has been putting in hard work for more than a decade.

THIS IS MY FIGHT SONG @rachelplatten @kelseaballerini

A video posted by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift) on

Rachel Platten’s hit single “Fight Song” is currently atop the adult contemporary charts, and previously topped the “Adult Pop Song” chart for four weeks, giving the Newton Centre-native her first number one single in the U.S. But it’s been a long journey for the 34-year-old, who started playing small clubs in New York City after college.

Platten has had some success over her decade-plus-long musical career, but it was her friendship with Taylor Swift that really catapulted the singer-songwriter into stardom. When Swift stepped out in a “This My Fight Song” T-shirt with bestie Selena Gomez, suddenly Platten’s lyrics were on every gossip site in the country, from TMZ to Just Jared. New York mag’s fashion and lifestyle site, The Cut, even called Swift’s T-shirt the “look of the day.”

On Saturday, Platten is coming home to Boston to take part in MixFest at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade. Ahead of her new album coming out in December, we spoke to Platten to find out how she’s handling her new success, her friendship with Taylor Swift, and her favorite place to practice yoga in Boston.

When you come back to Massachusetts, what are some of your must-dos?

My parents live in Boston, and I always walk past [Crystal Lake] in Newton Centre, because I grew up around there. When I go back, I always make sure I walk around the lake, and I sit at a certain spot. I’m just obsessed.

Is that where you starting writing music?

I started writing music pretty much in college. I wrote my first song when I was six or seven, a silly little song. But I used to write poems in high school—not songs. I was in choir, and I played piano, but I didn’t put it together until college. And then when I went to [Greenwich] Village after college, I really dove in and tried to make this career happen. I was playing from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m., playing cover gigs, playing with cover bands.

Oh, wow. That is a lot of late nights.

Yea, I was taking any gig I could.

Fast forward 10 or so years, and Taylor Swift posts a backstage video of you guys jamming out to “Fight Song.” How did that all come about?

Taylor is so sweet, such an amazing friend. The night when she posted the video, I was playing a pre-show, and her manager and my manager introduced us, and that night we connected and really hit it off. Then she asked if I wanted to come backstage and that’s when we played what you saw in the video.

Did you give her the T-shirt or did she just happen to get it on her own?

I gave it to her, but I was like, “No pressure, you don’t have to wear this.” And she just wore it on her own a couple days later! And my friends kept texting me like “Oh my God, it’s on Taylor!”

“Fight Song” is incredibly catchy, but it feels like there is a lot of meaning behind those lyrics. Why is it so personal, and how did that all come together?

The lyrics are very personal to me, and I worked really hard on that song. I had been trying for a while, and there had been real successes but a lot of struggle, too. It was heartbreaking, because I believed in the dream so much, but I was like, “I have this gift, but I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to make music.” So it was hurting my heart, so much, and I was journaling a lot, and I thought, I know I want to share my truth, and I don’t want to feel afraid to do it. But then a good friend said to me, “You haven’t actually talked about what’s hurting you,” and I said, “I don’t want to go there,” and then I sat down and wrote that chorus with tears in my eyes, and it was this huge relief, that like, okay I’m not afraid to be vulnerable, I’m going to write about how hard I’ve been working.

Now, the song is an absolute hit. Is success everything you thought it would be?

Everything is incredible right now. I’m just looking around, so incredibly grateful for what’s happened. These are my dreams coming to life—every single one. I don’t know, I don’t know how to describe how that feels. I’m very, very grateful.

Even though you’ve been performing for years, you really just got your big break now at age 34. Do you think timing is everything?

Yeah, it blows my mind. But something I want you to know is that if there’s something big that you’re hoping to achieve, it’s never too late, keep believing in yourself fiercely. I wish I had that in mind, when I was deep in my struggle, just knowing that it’s not too late, my dream can come true when I’m 32. I don’t have a plan, just don’t stop believing in yourself. It’s just about timing. If this had happened when I was younger, I wouldn’t have known nearly as much about myself.

How have you been dealing with the stresses that come with success?

I’m a big yogi.

Do you have a favorite studio in Boston?

When I’m in town I go to [Laughing] Dog in Wellesley, I think that’s what it is called? I go with my mom.

*This interview has been edited and condensed. You can catch Rachel at Mixfest Saturday, September 19, and her new album is slated to come out in December.