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This article was published 19/11/2018 (1155 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Pop music isn’t what it once was. For the last decade, there has been a major shift away from the vapid, contrived content of the manufactured groups of the 1990s and early 2000s toward something more genuine, something with a more solid musical foundation that also maintains the catchiness that is a requirement of the genre.
In Canada, one of the newest — and strongest — additions to this pool of thoughtful pop artists is Toronto’s Raffaela Weyman.
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When: Tuesday, Nov. 20, 7 p.m.
Where: The Garrick Centre
How to buy: Tickets $19.99, available at Ticketfly.ca
Weyman, who performs under the stage moniker Ralph, spent much of her life honing her artistic chops, attending a performing arts high school in Toronto before heading to university to study English literature and film theory, two skills she uses thoroughly in her pop-music career.
Music wasn’t always the clearest path for Weyman, but she began performing as a folk singer-songwriter, realizing soon after how saturated that market is. An opportunity to take part in a more pop-influenced project with a producer came up, so she took it.
"I was like, ‘You know what? Sure,’ " chuckles Weyman from her home in Toronto.
"And it just came naturally because I grew up listening to pop music and it’s a huge part of who I am, and when you’re a singer-songwriter, you’re totally adaptable right? I can still write a country song but I can also write a pop song, so it felt very organically me."
That project was the stepping stone to the creation of Ralph.
Last year, she released a solo, self-titled EP, and with just those five tracks, Weyman was off to the races. The songs are pop bangers in every sense of the term; sparkling with sonic influences from the ‘80s, instantly infectious choruses and well-crafted lyrics and visuals that carry a distinctly feminist tone. The music community immediately took notice.
The first single, Cold to the Touch, quickly racked up millions of streams on Spotify, industry giants such as Billboard, Noisey and Fader were hurling praise her way, and she was nominated for a Much Music Video Award for Best New Canadian Artist.
Riding on that momentum, Weyman had begun work on her debut full-length (A Good Girl, released last month) but, as with any follow-up to a successful venture, she was feeling the pressure to create music all her new fans would love just as much.
"While I was writing it I didn’t feel it from others as much as I felt it from myself. It’s hard, you’re just constantly like, ‘Is this good enough? Is this good enough? Is this the best? Is this better than Cold to the Touch?’ I was really proud of my EP, and so pleasantly happy and surprised with the feedback and reception that I didn’t want to disappoint fans, I think. That was my biggest concern," says Weyman.
"Go with your gut and make sure you feel strongly about your songs, because if you don’t like them, how are you going to sell them to everyone else.”
"It was scary, and then we finally decided on the songs and it went to press and it was done and couldn’t be changed. That was definitely a moment where I was like, ‘Oh shit, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see,’ and trust my instincts and my managers experiences... go with your gut and make sure you feel strongly about your songs, because if you don’t like them, how are you going to sell them to everyone else."
Turns out, she didn’t have much to worry about.
"You know, when you put something out you have to always expect there’s going to be fans and there’s going to be haters and that’s always the hard part, and I’m sure they’re out there but I haven’t been exposed to much criticism," says Weyman of A Good Girl.
"It’s my favourite when I get messages or when I see threads online from fans saying, ‘Not only do I love the song but this song really helped me. This song helped carry me through a bad breakup.’ Or, you know, ‘When I was feeling really depressed, it made me feel like someone understood.’ That’s huge to me, because that’s the reason I make music and spend so much time songwriting, because I hope people will connect with the lyrics in a deep way.
Writing is something that’s very important to Weyman; her work is clever and colloquial, but not cheesy. She’s thoughtful and introspective, offering her fans a honest glimpse of who she is, even if that means not always painting herself in the most positive light.
“I think people will listen to the album and go, ‘Yeah I’ve been heartbroken but I’ve also been on the other end and I’ve totally messed around with someone’s feelings unintentionally and I’ve been the bad guy.’ I think it’s empowering and it’s good to talk about that kind of stuff."
"I can acknowledge that I’ve done some shitty things and because I write honestly and I write about everything, it would be dishonest for me to not talk about it and I think that that’s relatable," says Weyman.
"I think people will listen to the album and go, ‘Yeah I’ve been heartbroken but I’ve also been on the other end and I’ve totally messed around with someone’s feelings unintentionally and I’ve been the bad guy.’ I think it’s empowering and it’s good to talk about that kind of stuff.
"I’m just trying to be as candid as I can because I’ve always felt like when you, as an artist, are contrived or your songs are contrived, it’s very see-through, and I’d rather people see me for who I am as a real person."
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Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.