Hot off the release of her second EP Some Kind of Solace, Raven sips a pint of Guinness as she talks about the musical journey that led her to Montreal.
Being from Invermere, a small town in the Rockies, she talked about her life in the mountains.
“I grew up on a small cabin homestead in the woods, definitely a sort of hippy upbringing which is reflected in my full name – Raven Juniper Winona Jane Hart-McAllister,” she said as she laughed, “I definitely didn’t have a shortage of artist names to choose from.”
Raven began her career by playing covers of folk and country songs – the types of songs commonly heard in her mountain town of 3,000 people. It wasn’t until her parents introduced her to the musical stylings of Norah Jones, Morcheeba and Billie Holiday that Raven found her niche.
My voice didn’t suit folk or pop covers, they just ended up sounding more jazz and soul than I intended – my voice led me to the direction I’m going in now.”
From the age of five, piano and singing recitals were a regularity for Raven. This resulted in a deep love for performing. Taking a quick sip of her stout, she mentioned that her “favourite part of the entire process is performing.” This is not surprising considering her performance at the Some Kind of Solace release party in an Old Port graphic design office turned, intimate, dimly lit music venue.
With the help of her band, Raven confidently took the audience through the entirety of the new EP, granting the audience’s request for an encore of her single “E.T.A.” Pink lights lit the stage while Raven swayed to the beat, the saxophone player adding an element of depth to the music that filled the space. Her love for fashion and stage aesthetics helped create a dreamscape in which the audience was enveloped, as the neo-soul songs grooved through the Old Port space.
After highschool, Raven travelled the globe before returning home and beginning work on her first EP Illusions with her childhood best friend, Moneo. Although she did not have the ability to record while moving from country to country, Raven believes that the experiences heavily influenced her songwriting and helped her find her voice. After three years of country-hopping, Raven found herself back in Invermere, unsure what to do next. This is when she and Moneo decided to put those emotions and experiences into Illusions. This gave her insight into the writing and recording process – insight which would be used to improve her songwriting and enabled her to hone her craft before heading east.
Shortly upon arriving in Montreal in 2017, Raven met producer and partner Fabrice Jean. Together, they spent hours in their home studio in the Mile End, writing and producing her most recent work. With a love for R&B, jazz, and soul, the duo worked tirelessly on the recent batch of songs, some of which include lyrics that were directly influenced by the recording process. In “Golden Hour,” the first track off the new EP, Raven sings of spending a scorching hot summer day in Jean’s tiny, studio apartment, where the “bed touched the fridge and it was chaotic, but something about it was really special.”
Throughout all of the songs on the EP is Jean’s impeccable production that draws influence from multiple genres, seamlessly blending them in a unique mix, which provides the perfect soundscape for Raven’s voice. Although all of the music was produced in the home studio, the lead vocals were recorded at Celine Dion-frequented Piccolo Studios in Montreal, where the new environment inspired some of Raven’s best takes.
“Sonically, I felt like I was finally creating stuff I really liked and wanted to share it and to keep up that creative momentum Fabrice and I had going for Some Kind of Solace,” she said as she finished off the pint.
Graduating from Concordia’s Communications program this year, Raven is looking forward to having more time to put towards her music. With a new single ready for release this month, and an album release show in Quebec City on Dec. 6, Raven has a busy schedule ahead.
“I have no intention of slowing down,” she said. “Actually, quite the opposite.”
Judging by the quality of the most recent EP and the response to her live shows, it’s safe to say that she is one to keep an eye on.
Photo by Laurence B.D.