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Interview With Andrea Ramolo of Scarlett Jane

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.”

Photograph of Andrea Ramolo

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?

Image of Andrea Ramolo's CD artwork: The Shadows And The CracksA: 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.  

Photograph of Scarlett Jane

Cindy Doire and Andrea Ramolo are Scarlett Jane

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

VISIT Andrea’s website: www.andrearamolo.com
FOLLOW Andrea on Twitter: www.twitter.com/andrearamolo

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Interview with Sue Newberry of Sue Newberry & The Law (Wk 6 – 3 of 4)

I first met Sue Newberry a couple of years ago when we played a show together at the Spill in Peterborough Ontario (back then she was going by the moniker “Sioux Newberry”.) We spent a bunch of time together last summer – and dare I say we even became friends – when we were both participants in a four-day songwriting workshop at Island Mountain Arts in Wells, British Columbia. Dave Bidini led the workshop, and I forgot to ask but I bet Sue would agree with me that it was an awesome and fruitful experience. (An aside: Dave Bidini is facilitating it again this summer. For all you inspiring/aspiring songwriters, I highly recommend that you check out the IMA 2012 Songwriting Workshop.)

To describe Sue Newberry’s music, I love this quote that her brother David Newberry – a kick ass singer-songwriter himself – writes:

“I want to say that you sing pretty and powerfully, have a killer pop band that can rock, and are smart and poetic. I think thats a good set of messages to try and get across. Is ‘funrock’ a word? I hope so. It’s literate funrock. That’s what you do. Well.”

Photo of Sue Newberry Holding A Delicious Pie

K: Let’s talk about your name for a second here. What’s the story behind ‘Sioux’?

S: It was a nickname from a schoolmate many (15?) years ago. She spelled my name “Sioux” on letters we passed back and forth during class. It just stuck, and pretty soon my peers and teachers were using the spelling. When I was pursuing my university degree in theatre I found that the spelling of the name helped distinguish me in auditions, etc. After so many years I became really attached to the spelling and identifying myself with the pattern and the shape of the letters. It just made sense.

K: I see you are shifting over to Sue Newberry. How’s that going?

S: It’s such a small thing, but a big shift to make. I’m still transitioning all my online sites. I’ve never loved “______ and the ______” band names, but here we are. It seems to make sense for now.

K: Canada seems to have two distinct indie modes of music. Solo verses Band projects. Where do you sit in that dichotomy?

S: I sit in both seats! In the past I’ve played mostly solo, duets, in small projects. The last 3 years or so I’ve been fronting larger bands – our current band has 6 members. It’s super, and so interesting to me right now. I don’t write songs anymore for myself and my guitar, and instead start to conceive and write songs with a 6-person rock band in mind. Playing with a full band for the first time was like grasping the edges of my song and pulling it open, making room for so many sounds. For me, the band enables the expression of the idea and emotion of the song in ways that can’t exist when I’m playing solo. Lots of new challenges, but I’m loving the results.

K: What’s it been like working with a band? Have they been part of the writing process too?

S: We don’t have any set rules about how songs come about. Most often I approach a member of the band, or the band as a whole with a song I have written beginning to end, and we play it out, making changes as suggestions arise. We have tried writing or re-writing together as a group, but find it not as effective. I’m looking forward to continued experimentation.

K: We’re doing this social media blogging challenge together: a challenge that asks musicians to pull out their bullhorns and spend some (a lot?) of time digging into the marketing side of music. How do you keep yourself creatively engaged with your music while at the same time promoting it?

S: Deadlines! I find it essential that my creative time be structured in a way that has actual results in mind. Most of my songs come from a strong lyrical or melodic idea, and those will often come out of unstructured thinking or playing times, but the idea will wither out if I don’t eventually lock myself in a room and put the hard and frustrating work in of finishing the song. Deadlines are essential motivators for me, and for my creative engagement. That might sound backwards, but putting up structures helps me to immerse myself fully in a creative work time – or else the day-to-day will take over.

For example, I’m currently in-studio recording the last few songs of an EP that I started a while back. At the same time I’m working with a publicist, graphic designer, booking gigs, updating social media sites… it’s a very exciting but overwhelming time. I can honestly say that without set deadlines (such as a planned CD release) I would not have put in as much time as I have on my own and with the band over the last month doing the really important work at this time: getting the tunes together for this weekend’s studio session! (P.S. – I’m writing this after day one of recording — bed tracks are sounding great!)

Photo of Sue Newberry Playing Live

K: Can’t wait to hear it, Sue! So, you are smack in the middle of recording your album… that’s no light feat. Long days / nights that absorb most if not all of a person’s creative energy and care. And here you are doing this blog interview! Do you think self-promotion is a necessary evil of being an independent musician these days?

S: *laughs* I think it’s important for the artist have a handle on social media, and be up to date with how social media is connected to exposure, publicity, sales, ‘buzz’, etc — regardless of if the artist  is at the helm of promotion or not. An unexpected result that I started to find about halfway through this challenge is this: I’ve been spending so much time with the ‘other side’ of the music, which is the product that is being marketed (as opposed to the creative process). Somewhere amidst all the thoughts, research and action regarding self-promotion that has been dominating the last 6 weeks I’ve discovered and started to truly believe that the ‘product’ I have is actually something that is worth promoting. So in that way, it’s not an ‘evil’ at all – it’s a pretty great motivator. 

K: If you could delegate away one job as a musician, what would it be?

S: It can be really hard to let go of the reins when it comes to your own craft, and self-promoting that craft! I’ve been working at it, though, and seeing the benefits. Things like mailing out CDs and press kits is an extremely time-consuming job that is better left to someone who has more professional contacts anyway, to yield the best results!

K: You mentioned you were in the studio this past weekend… you’ve got a new project on the horizon! Your album is coming out! Tell me a little more about it. What’s it called? Where and with whom are you recording it? How do we get our hands on it?

S: I independently released a solo CD in 2008, as well as a duet CD with my brother David Newberry (2008). Both albums were toured from Ontario to PEI a few times. You can get a copy of the duets CD here:

www.cdbaby.com/cd/newberryvsnewberry

My upcoming 6-song EP is my first full-band project. It’s under the band name “Sue Newberry & The Law” and is a far step away from the folk/country/roots sound of my first two albums. It’s taken me a long time of playing, writing and touring to start to hone in on my specific strengths as a songwriter and performer. This new turn toward an more indie-rock-pop sound is feeling good with my writing style and voice. I’m really excited to be a part of a team project and we’re really looking forward to the release and tour. CDs will be available online this spring. Our website is currently under re-design and will be launched shortly before the CD release. “Like” our bandpage and you’ll be sure to hear about how to get your hands on a new CD!

www.facebook.com/siouxnewberryandthelaw

K: You’re doing some tour dates around Ontario this spring with your brother who’s also a musician. Sibling rivalry or revelry?

S: Revelry, in accordance with the specific definition:
rev·el/ˈrevəl/ [verb] Engage in lively and noisy festivities, esp. those that involve drinking and dancing.

(Here’s a list of their upcoming tour dates in Ontario.)

K: Awesome ~ a dictionary definition! You’re a gal after my own heart, Sue. And now a few random questions: what’s your favourite mode of travel? (Bus, train, car, plane, boat, bicycle, skateboard, luck dragon?)

S: I’ve been taking the MegaBus lately from Toronto to Kingston for TEN DOLLARS. Double decker! That’s been pretty sweet. I do enjoy (non hwy 401) driving. But all that is behind me now, since I’ve switched to travelling via Luck Dragon. It’s kinda like, our band’s “thing”.

Photo of Sue Newberry and The Law standing in an alley.

K: What are two lines from the cheesiest song you have ever written?

S: This question is awesome.

this glass won’t see me turn to stone
this face i see just can not be my own
this world around me can’t revolve
until all my problems have been soooolllllllllvvvveeedd
(courtney love growl-out ending)

K: Yeah!! What are two lines from the song you are most proud of?

S: Our song “The Law” on our new EP is a mysterious story about a hero running from the law… but why is she running? Lyrics are pithy and fun to sing. It starts:

If you believe what you read than I’m a
Sharp Shooter
but don’t be deceived, believe me,
I’m just going through some hard times
and don’t we all go through
hard times ?

K: Nice! You’re awesome, Sue. Thanks so much for talking with me. Good luck with finishing up and launching your EP!



LISTEN to the song: The Law
From Sue Newberry & The Law’s upcoming album.

Find Sue Newberry & The Law on the Web:
www.facebook.com/siouxnewberryandthelaw
www.twitter.com/siouxberrynew

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