In 2018, Rachel Wammack released her self-titled first EP, containing her debut single, "Damage." The singer has her whole career ahead of her, but like many great stories, it all began in a bar.

Wammack was just a senior in high school when she was discovered in her hometown of Muscle Shoals, Ala., where she spent many nights playing piano and singing to local crowds in bars. On one especially fateful occasion, while playing a set at the 360 Bar and Grill, Jim Catino of Sony Music Nashville approached her -- the start of a relationship that would lead to Wammack's record deal with RCA Records a few years later.

"[Catino] was at the restaurant I was playing at in my hometown, and he was staying at the hotel that was connected to the restaurant. So it was like fate, because I’m just doing my regular thing, playing covers, throwing in a couple of originals, and then he’s like, 'Hey, what are these originals that you played tonight? They’re really amazing,'" Wammack told The Boot during an interview inside of a Music Row office in late 2018. "He ended up being a mentor to me all throughout college."

Wammack stayed in touch with Catino and made the move to Nashville right after graduating from the University of North Alabama. She had no record deal and no plans, so she became a bartender.

"I’d never been a bartender before, I was not a good bartender, and I was told I was not a good bartender, which is -- whatever. It’s honest," Wammack admits. "But I love people. That is an aspect of the job that I didn’t realize I was going to love/hate so much."

Wammack also didn't realize that, while she longed to officially begin her career in music, the day job she was working in the meantime would grant her the material for her first single. The connections she made with her regular customers led to the lyrics of "Damage."

"So, it being a hotel bar, there were lots of people coming in for business that would stay for weeks at a time, and they became regulars and became my friends. It was just really amazing hearing lots of stories," Wammack says. "It was like I learned throughout the year that listening to people tell me their stories and things that are going on with them was a gift. I never thought about listening being a gift like that, but it was, and [I] ended up writing that song about being a bartender."

Bars have shaped Wammck's career in both literal and creative ways, all because of the people she met in them. Looking back, she is grateful for the experience, and she's taking the lessons of humility and the value of human connection into her future.

"I wanted to be from A to B so fast, because everybody does; that’s just human. All the quotes about 'Enjoy the journey, the process,' it’s so true. I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more if I had known," Wammack says. "Even right now, being in the journey, in the grind of being an artist, I try to remember to love it every day and love people throughout it. It’s easy to get caught up in the busy-ness."

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