There have been many debates throughout the years concerning whether an artist should be separated from their art. In Heather Ragnars’ case, however, doing so would be stripping her music from its essence.
Ragnars is a Concordia student of Icelandic origin, currently pursuing a degree in Music Studies, after completing a BA in Psychology. She moved to Montreal when she was eight years old, after spending most of her childhood in Maddison, Wisconsin.
She also happens to be a verified Spotify artist, and a frequent performer at The Wiggle Room on St-Laurent Boulevard. Just recently, she performed a collection of new songs in a show called “Your Money is Not a Gift,” a 1950s/60s-inspired Burlesque show.
Ragnars was raised by opera singers, and was taught the piano at age five. However, such a classical upbringing did not stop her from interpreting the standard musical pieces the way she believed would sound better.
“I could sing before I could talk,” she proudly said. “I often wanted to change the classical pieces I would learn, and my dad would always tell me not to, but I would go ‘well, wouldn’t it sound better if I played it this way?’ and so it wasn’t long before I started writing my own music.”
She describes the writing process as such: an idea comes to her because there’s something she needs to say to someone but can’t, because it is a difficult conversation. Either it can’t be said, or it’s too hard to say.
“It just comes out like that, and it’s usually not something very pleasant,” Ragnars said. “Hard to say but needs to be said. Some people would maybe think [the song] is empowering or negative. The feeling that I describe might be ephemeral, and it might be something is long-lasting.”
Her music is extremely personal, a sort of musical diary if one would choose to describe it. Her website best describes her songs as “heartbreaking, yet barefaced accounts of the many things we think but don’t say.”
Some of her musical influences include The Supremes, motown music in general, Etta James, Billy Joel, and Cat Stevens. She is also inspired by contemporary artists like the late Amy Winehouse, Lana del Rey, and The Weeknd.
Ragnars’ show, “Your Money is not A Gift” was inspired by a song she wrote under the same title. Despite having a 60s theme – something she is quite taken by – the song is also a recollection of a time when someone tried to buy her off with gifts and money – things that don’t come for free.
“The song felt relevant to that whole idea ‘are housewives getting a free payout from their husbands?’,” she said. “I’m really fascinated by vintage, the aesthetic, because it also has an economic importance to it. The idea that the woman takes care of everything in the home, looking good while she does it is something that fascinates a lot of people, because the housework never ends. So why not take the housewife as she is, and put a little sexy in it too? Maybe these wives were fulfilled, and maybe there weren’t, but they spark a lot of mystery and fascination.”
Photo by Britanny Clarke