Side Hustle Heroine: Rebecca, Singer & Songwriter

Growing up one of five children in coastal Alabama, Rebecca Czarka had to find her voice early, and that voice was born in a house filled with music. With a guitarist for a father, she was introduced at a young age to all of the greats: Elton John, the Beatles, the Eagles, and Carole King. She and her sisters used to make up songs together, the lyrics and melody directed by Rebecca. This led to piano lessons where she struggled with theory and an intimidating teacher but quickly found her footing memorizing songs and learning the mathematics of notes. One assignment gave her the freedom to write her own piece, and after that she knew she wanted to be a songwriter.

Her first live performance of a song she wrote was in a talent show in high school.

“This was the moment everything changed for me—a switch was flipped on inside of me, and I knew it was something I couldn’t turn off. The moment I looked out into the crowd and saw the faces staring back at me—really tuned in, engaged, frozen—I was addicted. I fell in love with that transaction, the exchange between music and listener that transcends regular conversation. I realized music was a channel of communication that can impact people, and I wanted to be part of that.”

After high school, Rebecca followed her family roots back to Louisiana and attended Louisiana State University to earn a degree in communications. Following graduation and encouragement from a friend to pursue music, Rebecca packed up her life to take her chances in Nashville, Tennessee—no job and no friends, just a keyboard and a car.

“It was stupidity, really. Sometimes I look back and marvel at my blind audacity, my fearless guts. But really I just had peace about the decision, which I saw as a divine calling.”

While there were many bruises along the way, the community Rebecca found in Nashville provided her with the camaraderie and support she needed to grow thick skin and a respectful appreciation for the peers honing her craft.

“I was submerged into an ocean of extreme talent. I got a lot of negative feedback and some constructive criticism. My voice grew stronger because of it.”

Although a career in something as competitive and cutthroat as the music industry can be a lonely one, she doesn’t have to take the stage alone, due to an instrument she believes chose her.

“I’m comfortable behind a piano—it creates a nice, long barrier between me and the listener. Occasionally I’ll stand and sing at a friend’s show, but I prefer to sit and hide behind the keys. It’s a familiar, comfort-thing, I think. And to deliver a gripping performance, you have to be comfortable.”

Rebecca also brings her past along with her wherever she goes, adding a level of familiarity to her lyrics that conjure fond memories of innocent joy and simple happiness.

“Everything about my childhood has bled into my music. All artists create their art through a personal lens, and mine is made up of all these incredible, Southern flavors: New Orleans jazz, Southern Creole comfort food, a healthy dose of warm weather, salt water, and beautiful people.”

While an echo of Southern spirituality is also undeniable in her music, Rebecca doesn’t see her piano as a pulpit.

“I happen to be a born-and-raised Catholic, and my faith and surrender to God has been the one source of peace and strength when everything else fails. I know a lot of people question Truth, but I don’t see my music as a means to preach. It’s an honest expression of the struggles, questions, and profound love I’ve experienced in my own spiritual journey.”

This honest display of emotion doesn’t always come so easy on the stage.

“Performing your own songs can be an outpouring of your heart and a bearing of your soul. There’s definitely a level of vulnerability involved, but it’s also a hard-earned skill. Sometimes I find myself lost to the emotions in a performance, but other times I am an actress on a stage performing an emotion. The latter isn’t a disservice to the song, but rather another way to honor it. It’s like a relationship: sometimes you feel the love strongly, other times not. But you choose to love anyway.”

A new love entered Rebecca’s life last year in the form of her and her husband’s baby girl, Edith.

“A friend said to me recently that having a baby is one of those life changes that draws a line down the middle of your life; nothing is the same after that. It changes the way I look at my career, it changes the way I look at the world—for the better. My devotion to my husband and baby are the most important, most creative things I do. Everything else comes after that.”

This prioritization of love is already contributing to Rebecca’s music, inspiring her latest song, “Mother’s Love.”

“I was about eight months pregnant when I wrote it, and I climbed behind a piano, bump and all, to capture the moment as I was living it so that one day I could show my baby, ‘That’s you! I wrote that when I was pregnant with you!'”

Her beloved fans receive a similar type of devotion. She even partnered with them recently to raise $35,000 in funds to create a duet of dual-concept EPs, two new singles, and an upcoming LP.

“My experience in crowd-funding has changed the way I approach a body of work. It wouldn’t be possible for Indies to make albums without fans these days. Even with the monetary support of a label, crowd-funding is a way to more intimately connect with fans and invite them inside your process! I am exceedingly grateful to all of those who have gotten down in the ditch with me and propelled me toward my goals. After all, I do music not just for my own enjoyment, but also to serve others. So why not have them along for the ride? My fans have meant everything to me because they have given my gift a purpose. Without ears, there would be no music.”

As fans, we’re so grateful to provide ears for this artist to continue making an impact in the music industry.

Rebecca in Ten

  1. You May Have Heard Her on TV: Her single “Break” appeared on the Fox TV series Bones in the “The Cold in the Case” episode. Also, her Valentine’s Day single, “What Love Looks Like,” was played on the 2015 season finale of Pretty Little Liars.
  2. If not music: Interior Design or Home Stylist
  3. Love-ly Fact: She began writing a song for her husband the night they met.
  4. Love-lier Fact: She performed the full song for him at their wedding.
  5. Writer’s Block Remedy: She learns a new cover or reads a book (poetry or fiction).
  6. Unpack Her Bag: She always has a rhyming dictionary with her.
  7. Social Media Secret: She keeps a separate account where she follows only beautiful things for inspiration.
  8. Role Models: Norah Jones, Carole King, Eva Cassidy. But also: “A lot of my role models are my friends. The ones I see up close and who I know are authentic both in their music and outside.”
  9. Currently Working On: “A project called Clementine that I’m working on with writer, pianist, and artist, Nicky Holland. It’s a collection of songs we’ve written and produced together that sound like…the feeling of the sun going down on a warm summer night, while you’re sipping brown liquor on the rocks. Think Randy Newman meets Dusty Springfield.”
  10. She Forgot To Include: That high school talent show she mentioned? I was there, and she forgot to add that she won. And then performed it again at her graduation ceremony to a standing ovation. (Sorry, Rebecca, I had to.)

Author: virginiakinnier

Founder of Side Hustle

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