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The story behind Rachel Platten’s huge ‘Fight Song’

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Rachel Platten plays from her album “Wildfire” at the Regency. (Courtesy Harper Smith)

Sometimes a pop-charting single becomes part of the cultural zeitgeist. It’s the case with Rachel Platten’s anthemic “Fight Song,” which she penned with Dave Bassett. Although the New York-based musician, 34, intones, “Like a small boat on the ocean sending big waves and emotion/ Like a single word can make a heart open/ I might only have one march, but I can make an explosion,” she wrote the tune, and other cuts on her 2016 album *Wildfire,” at one of the lowest points in her career.

How bad were things when you tried to cheer yourself up with “Fight Song”?

Probably not as bad as it sounds. I think hard experiences are relative — to somebody else, someone’s pain might seem easy. But it was me struggling with confidence and believing in myself, and thinking I wasn’t good enough, and a lot of years of wanting this dream to happen and it just not working. That was building up inside me and hurting a lot. It hurts to want something so very badly, and to pour everything you have into it, and then be told “no” over and over again. It was more of an inner struggle, because thankfully, things outside were fine. I was finding a way to make money through music.

How were you making ends meet?

Through everything I could think of! For awhile, I was writing commercials and singing jingles, and I was playing in cover bands and doing these late-night, three-hour solo piano shows in bars. And I toured a bit, playing coffeehouses up and down the East Coast, and also played house concerts, which were wonderful and actually a great way to make money, because you’re getting that money directly from the host. Even if you’re playing for only 20 or 30 people, you could make enough to tour by yourself.

What year was “Fight Song” written?

In 2012. It took about a year and a half to write, and I hope no other song ever takes that long again, because it was horrible. The chords came really easily, and it felt like this gift, this prepackaged thing, like the words had existed before somehow. But the rest of the song was a huge struggle – I wrote 10 different verses and four different bridges, and it was this awful process. I knew I had something special with the chorus, and my publisher and my manager did, too. So it was just a matter of me trying and trying and trying to match the power of that chorus.


Rachel Platten
Where: Regency Ballroom, 1300 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. April 4
Tickets: $22.50 to $25
Contact: (415 673-5716, www.axs.com

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