“I’d rather spend the rest of my life… Hard as Hell to Find!”
The crowd erupts.
From the first show of his ‘10,000 Lakes Summer Tour’, Rafe Carlson (pronounced “RAYF”) struck a chord with his audience. Songs that nod to his upbringing in the frigid Northwoods of Minnesota, and lyrics about self-sufficiency, individualism, and purpose, were easy for his legion of Midwest fans to resonate with. All of this, combined with a high octane, guitar-driven 5-piece band, sounds like somebody gave Lynyrd Skynyrd a Time Machine ride from 1974 to 2024 and told them to “figure it out”.
Rafe’s influences aren’t all musical. The Carlson bloodline is comprised of carpenters, loggers, vikings, home-builders, and WW2 soldiers. Cousins Steven and David Carlson- Rafe’s original inspiration to pick up an electric guitar at 13 years old- now join him on stage. The music that comes out of the speakers is a natural byproduct of a shared raising in a part of the world where, as Johnny Cash said, you “get tough or die”.
“There’s something special about a family band,” says Rafe after Concert in the Corn in 2023, “we’re always on the same page. We don’t pay attention to what other people are doing, we don’t care what’s in style, we just try to come to town and kick ass every time.” Rafe has joined dozens of national acts on tour, played at countless country festivals across the Midwest, as well as garnered over 45,000,000 views on social media.
But let’s start from the beginning… on a hot Spring night in Texas.
After putting some money away, and saving up vacation time at his job selling RVs in his hometown of Duluth, Minnesota, Rafe set out on a 2-week trip to nowhere. It was cold and still snowing in Duluth, and as long as the GPS said “S”, he kept driving. He finally made it to Austin, and on a Saturday at midnight, when most kids his age were down on Sixth Street hitting the bars, Rafe was in a complete strangers house, buying a vintage guitar he found on Facebook Marketplace. It ultimately was the decision to spend all of his emergency gas money on that guitar that led Rafe to turn in his name tag at work when he returned to Minnesota.
Within a month, Rafe had connected with a producer in Nashville, and made two trips down to start recording what would become his first single, ‘Lost and Found’. He reflected on this time saying “I had no idea what I was doing then. I didn’t know how to perform on a stage, or let alone write a song, but I was getting thrown into these writing rooms with people way out of my league” referring to icons like Tim Rushlow, original lead singer of Little Texas, and co-writer on Rafe’s 2022 fan-favorite, ‘Just Can’t Explain’.
After many trips, and many hours standing in line at TSA, Rafe eventually moved to Music City, and began writing music every day, and recording the first tracks for an album at Sound Stage Studios on Music Row. He lived for those writing room moments when the stars aligned, and a song came together… but he was missing something. Since opening for acts like Jake Owen and Tyler Rich, and selling out shows back home, he knew songwriting was a means to one end: performing the songs he’d written for his growing fanbase in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa.
Rafe quickly got to work booking what would become his ‘10,000 Lakes Summer Tour’. By May, he was heading from Nashville back up to the Great Northwoods for 61 shows, in over 40 cities and towns across the Midwest, over the span of 5 months. Joining acts like Trace Adkins, Jon Pardi, Sawyer Brown, and more, introduced his style of ‘Great Lakes Country’ to tens of thousands of new fans.
Rafe continues to create honest country music that’s true to his Minnesota roots, as well as perform all over the country. You can stay in the loop on his 2024 tour, new music and more by following him on social media @rafecarlson.
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