I met Andrea Ramolo when I played a show she was co-hosting in Parkdale, Toronto a couple years back (more about that series – Ladies in Waiting – in the interview below.) My first impression of her was that she was a total firestarter! Fun-loving, enthusiastic and at the same time, very focused on her music. She was heading out the next day for another dazzlingly large number of tour dates in support of her debut album, “Thank You for the Ride”.
To describe her music, I snagged this great quote from her website: “Musically, she’s been described as the antidote to too much Joni Mitchell, a tougher Dolly Parton a sexier Janis Joplin, but Andrea Ramolo has a soulful and sultry sound that’s all her own.”
K: You’ve been called a “tireless road warrior”. A quick glance at your past tour dates, and one can see you’ve pretty much been everywhere in Canada! Where did it all start? What initially inspired you to make albums and take your music on the road?
A: I became really serious about music after a pretty intense career as a dancer and actor. I was a later bloomer. My mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer while I was in university and I had just gotten out of a really long relationship so I picked up my dad’s old guitar, more out of therapeutic necessity… and started learning and writing my own songs. Singing and storytelling have always been a big part of my life. So the transition of becoming a songwriter happened pretty organically.
At the time, I worked at the infamous Orbit Room in Toronto owned by Alex Lifeson of Rush and really developed a close kinship with the incredible musical talents that came through there. I learned about life on the road and life off the road, while sharpening my craft and writing more of my own songs. And after another heartbreak it all sort of came together pretty quickly. I needed to record my songs… and I had a plethora of talented musicians at my fingertips, so my first recording experience was fantastic.
I released my first indie solo album in 2008 and wanted other listeners besides my friends and family to hear the tunes. I wanted to play and to travel and get more inspired. And so, I booked my first east coast tour and since that, I’ve pretty much been living out of a van for half of the year and travelling coast to coast and playing for audiences of 5 and audiences of 15,000. It’s been quite a ride.
K: Sounds like it! How many shows *do* you play a year?
A: Well I’ve released two solo albums- one in 2008 and one in 2011 – and within that time frame, I probably played around 150-200 shows a year.
I kept myself really busy. It was almost like a self-imposed boot camp. Living out of a van was not easy. I like comfy beds and showers. Most of us do. But concentrating on nothing but music for 6 months straight, morning, noon, and night and playing almost every night of the week in a different town kicked me in the butt and really helped me evolve as a writer and performer. It also gave me tons of material to write about.
I am just about to release my third album… this time with a project called Scarlett Jane with my good friend Cindy Doire. We’ve been writing and recording and getting a team around us, so I have actually been pretty stationary since the fall, which is very new for me. I have itchy feet and I don’t know what to do with myself half the time. But I’m lucky to live in such an incredible city. There’s a great scene going on in Toronto. Scarlett Jane is going to be hitting the road in May and June, then doing the Home Routes Concert Series in the prairies in the fall before we head off to Mexico and Europe for some shows.
K: What’s your favourite part of being a musician? The music? The touring? The fans? The lifestyle? The schedule?
A: Wow. It’s everything really. The music is the impetuous for it all of course… and it’s what sort of helps mould the lifestyle or the schedule or the touring. I love being on stage with other musicians and sharing in creating something all together that moves people in one way or another. I like collaborating. And I feel more at ease on stage than I do in many social settings. I also love songwriting.
[Songwriting is] painful at times and I find myself lying in the fetal position trying to come up with the best possible way to communicate this or that… musically and lyrically. So it’s challenging and puts you in a very vulnerable place… but it’s so rewarding. I also love all the beautiful strange misfits (like myself) who flock to this sort of lifestyle. The night owls, who’d rather sing you a song than waste time talking about the weather, so to speak. Life makes more sense to me in music and in songs. And I feel like you can really get to know people intimately through their music. It’s so revealing. I guess I’ve always been a revealer… and one who is drawn to those who feel the need to reveal.
K: You and I met at Ladies in Waiting, a cool weekly music series that you, Cindy Doire, Sarah Burton, Faye Blais, and Sara Fitzpatrick created and ran in Toronto. I loved how you organized it: each show featured you and the other ladies trading off hosting duties depending on who was in town and / or away touring. And then you’d bring in special guests to play one off shows, with a focus on showcasing women musicians. That series seemed to act as both a bonding space for that community of women singer-songwriters and a homecoming for you whenever you were off the road.
A: Ladies in Waiting ran at Not My Dog for over a year every Monday night. Monday became the new Friday and as you mentioned, all of us ladies, who are dear friends and supporters of one another, brought our new tunes to showcase. What ended up happening was that we would all end up on stage with one another, singing impromptu harmonies, playing percussion, and just having an amazing time. It was a great playground for trying out new material and jamming with new musicians. And we developed quite a steady following. We’ve had so many female (and some male) guests over that year, I can’t even remember them all. Samantha Martin, Kayla Howran, Jadea Kelly, yourself of course, Trish Robb, Jenny Allen, Mel Brulee, Kristin Sweetland. Man we know so many talented beauties.
K: And speaking of creating / bonding, you mentioned earlier that you and Cindy Doire have started a new band together called Scarlett Jane. How did that project come about? What was the inspiration for the name?
A: Cindy and I have been friends for years. We fell in love with singing with one another the first time we met and over the next while, we’d write songs, guest on each other’s albums, team up for double bills, do short little tours when we had the time. We were finding that we wouldn’t see each other for months and months except when our ferries criss crossed over the Atlantic, or when we’d plan to meet in the prairies for a coffee while we were on the road driving in opposite directions.
We’ve always had many of the same musical influences and the same sort of thing cranks us. So it just made sense… and we’re really excited about the album and thrilled with the outcome. We originally called ourselves Calamity Jane to allude to the dark country/folk noir sort of vibe that the new songs took on. But we discovered that there are a few bands by that name around the globe… so we tossed and turned for months and really liked Jane but not on it’s own. We are roommates so we would lie in bed and send phone messages to each other late at night with band name ideas. It was driving us crazy. Finally… we came up with Scarlett Jane and it stuck.
K: You and Cindy are both well-known for strong abilities and leadership as solo performers. What’s it been like working together as a band? How do you deal with creative decisions? What’s your writing process like together?
A: We really work as a team and discuss any potential decision at length before jumping into something. We push each other as well… which is needed sometimes when you’re your own boss. We actually have a great thing going and communicate very openly with one another. We’re not always going to be on the same page with creative or business decisions… so we share our opinions, argue our points, and then end up coming to a consensus in the end. We have our own process and it works for us. Creatively, we’re of the mind that we write better together than apart.
And songwriting can be a very sensitive endeavour. Like with anything else, we’ll both create and share ideas and lines and melodies, etc… and eventually we put it all together and fine tune it. Our debut album ‘Stranger’ was written on a writing retreat we forced ourselves to go on in Mexico. Quite painful, I know. We had a blast. We finished the album on a retreat in a cabin in the woods in Northern Ontario and in our apartment in downtown Toronto. The songs came together really quickly because both of us had been saving tidbits of inspiration from our time apart. And it was all perfect timing. We both were mourning break ups and it’s really easy to create when you’re feeling so lost and low. It kind of just pours out of you. So it did. Lucky enough we had each other to fall apart with, so it was easier to get back up. The buffet and open bar at the resort in Mexico made it a bit easier as well.
K: Cindy Doire is another fabulously seasoned touring aficionado. You mentioned Scarlett Jane will be hitting the road soon?
A: Yes. We have about 40 dates booked across Canada commencing after our Toronto release show at the Dakota Tavern on Thursday, May 10th. We’ll be touring with a full band out west and then as a duo out east. We’re also doing the Dauphin Country Music Fest and Mariposa among Home Routes Concert Series and a few other great shows this summer.
K: You’re previewing your debut Scarlett Jane record “Stranger” on March 15th at the Dakota in Toronto. What can we look forward to with that show?
A: Unfortunately the album is not packaged yet. But we’re really excited to showcase our new tunes in a great little spot with our new touring band. We’re also shooting a simple single camera live music video that night. The show starts at 10pm and tickets are $7 at the door. We have Ryan Weber of the Weber Brothers playing piano, Justin Ruppel playing drums, and Greg Cockerill (whose band will be closing the night) playing lead guitar. All members were involved to some degree with the album recording.
K: For those of us outside of Toronto, how do we get our hands on the new album?
A: ‘Stranger’ will be available via our new web site www.scarlettjane.com, as well as on iTunes. We’re not certain about who will be physically distributing it at this point, but I’m sure there will be other ways to get your hands on it. And of course, my favourite way to sell albums is right off the stage after a live show. CD’s make a great souvenir. We’re also going to be re-releasing the album on vinyl at some point. All these exciting plans.
K: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me, Andrea!
Lightening round: If you could bestow a superhero nickname on Cindy, what would it be? What superhero nickname would she give you?
Well… we sort of have these pseudo names. Hers is Bindy Boychuck… I forget where it came from. Mine is Audrey Rogers because I was once introduced and brought onto the stage at a show in Vancouver as that. I’m not quite sure how that came out of Andrea Ramolo, but I guess the initials are correct.
K: And finally… which time change do you prefer: Spring Forward or Fall Back? Why?
A: I’m one for moving forward so spring forward all the way. I feel like I have so much more energy when spring is near. I feel healthier and I really enjoy being outside. Cold weather tends to keep me indoors and gives me a bit of the blues. I crave sunshine and people out on the streets. Today was a gorgeous day and the sidewalks were so colourful.
K: Lovely! Good luck with your show at the Dakota on March 15th and with the launch of your new Scarlett Jane album!
VISIT Scarlett Jane’s brand new website to hear music & find tour dates: www.scarlettjane.com