Rainey Qualley is painfully shy—until you press Play. “I started dancing when I was two,” says the 27-year-old, who makes music under the name Rainsford. “I’m introverted, but when you’re dancing, you have to experience it, to be in the music rather than passively listening.” Her actions certainly speak volumes. In Mad Men’s 2015 midseason premiere, she donned a fur—and little else—for a spellbound Don Draper. With no more than a few words, she handily stole the scene and launched some furious “Who’s that girl?” googling. But around two years ago she realized that not using her voice was getting in the way of, well, her voice. “Being shy kept me from speaking my mind,” says Rainsford, who grew up in Montana and North Carolina, just a state over from mother Andie MacDowell’s native South Carolina. “I didn’t want to offend people. And that’s stupid.” Starting from scratch, she experimented with different music producers and writers until she had built a team that bolstered her confidence and shared her vision. Together they created a handful of “weird sexy songs” like the bright and flirty “Too Close” and the sleek, electropoppy “Rendezvous.” Showcasing her candy-sweet voice, the offerings tease Rainsford’s debut EP, a collection of crisp, modern pop jams that juxtapose spun-sugar melodies with surprisingly complex lyrics. “I’m trying to learn not to put a lid on myself,” she says. We’re all ears.
Rainsford’s new song, “Intentions,” a collaboration with Twin Shadow, is out now.
Photography by Felisha Tolentino
Styling by Chloe Chippendale
Hair and make up by Daniele Piersons