The now-20-year-old’s debut single "God Made Girls" has had a polarizing impact on country music since its June 2014 release. The Top 20 track has been certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America, selling more than 500,000 units, but not without stirring up a bit of controversy in the process.
"It's just a sweet song about the connection between guys and girls," RaeLynn (real name: Rachael Lynn Woodward) tells ETonline in this week's installment of Behind the Hit.
"Somebody's gotta make him get dressed up, give him a reason to wash that truck. Somebody's gotta teach him how to dance, so God made girls," RaeLynn croons on the single, which has been regarded by some as anti-feminist. The song inspired a sharply-worded blog post
on Jezebel, which declared "the term ‘retrograde’ doesn’t do this song justice – it's downright Victorian."
RaeLynn fires back: "I just think that’s kinda funny because I didn't have that intention at all when I wrote the song. The song came from a very pure place. I mean, heck, I'm a girl that’s very driven, very much in her career."
Asked point blank whether she considers herself a feminist, RaeLynn doesn't hesitate. "I believe that women should be treated just like men," she says. "So yeah, I guess I would."
"God Made Girls" was co-written by RaeLynn, along with an all-female panel of songwriters (Liz Rose, Lori McKenna and Nicolle Galyon) ranging in age from 20 to 50 years old.
"The coolest part about 'God Made Girls' is you had all these different women writing it," RaeLynn says, "so you had all these different perspectives in this song."
RaeLynn performs at the Grande Ole Opry on Feb. 25.
In fact, the Texas native embraces the idea of listeners bringing their own perspective to the song.
"The coolest part about being on the road is seeing the way different people take the song," she says, recalling a woman who shared a story of losing her daughter. "She was telling me that the line 'to hold him when he hurts,' every time she hears it she cries because she just thinks about being there for her husband. I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I didn't even think about this song touching somebody in that way.'"
"That's my favorite part about songwriting," she adds, "the way you write a song, and someone else might hear it a different way."
RaeLynn has spent much of the last year on tour with outspoken country feminist (and fellow reality competition alumna) Miranda Lambert
, whose husband Blake Shelton
mentored RaeLynn on The Voice
"The coolest thing about her is just learning from her," RaeLynn says of Lambert. "One thing that I love about her is she takes time with her fans on-stage. It's almost like going to school every day because every day I learn something new from her."
The biggest lesson learned: "Every song that she sings, it's a different emotion. It's crazy to watch her go from singing 'Kerosene' and 'Gunpowder & Lead' to 'The House That Built Me.' She just has her fans in the palm of her hands, and I think that's a really special gift to have. I want to have that gift."
From the sounds of it, she’s well on her way.
"I'll never forget this, I was at the [radio station] US 101 in Chattanooga and I sang 'God Made Girls' and the crowd could sing it back to me," she recalls. "That was when I knew it was a hit… It was the craziest feeling -- I had chills all up my arm."
She's come a long way from the bright-eyed, 17-year-old hopeful on The Voice, thanks in great part to the guidance of Shelton. She may not have taken home the show's top prize (another Shelton mentee, Jermaine Paul, earned the trophy that season), but she did land a spot on Shelton's album. In addition to a featured vocal on his 2014 track "Buzzin'," RaeLynn first heard herself on the radio in his 2013 smash hit "Boys 'Round Here."
"That part that goes, 'Are you gonna do the dougie?' That was my first intro into country radio," she says with a cackle. "It was pretty fun. The first time I heard it I was like, 'Oh my God! There's myself on the radio! That's pretty cool, but it'll be cooler when I hear my own song."
Shelton's impact on her career is not lost on the singer. "I am just so lucky to have him in my life," she says. "He's taught me to always be myself when it comes to being in country music."
Now, RaeLynn is gearing up to launch her next single to country radio: think 'God Made Girls' flipped on its head, and you've got 'For a Boy.' The song will hit radio in March, while RaeLynn anticipates a fall release for her first full-length record.