Interview with JANEL RAE
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I think music snuck it’s way into me actually! At a very young age I noticed I was singing more than speaking… this seemed to stick and now I am here, with songs pouring out at all hours of the days and nights! If I wasn’t into music, I would be a painter.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I find myself resonating with cinema. Movies, moving images print themselves onto my mind. This is helpful while producing my music. Using the textures from Tarkovsky films or the sentiments from period feminist movies such as Portrait of a Lady on Fire by Céline Sciamma, these launch me into my work, giving me ground and purpose. I also love sports and often play with my cinematographer and dramaturg in-between our shoots.
How long has your band been around?
I have been around for 23 years so far! The team that I work with for the visuals of my music, we have been together for 3 years; however this can’t be true, as I know in some past life, I’ve grown old with these two. You know when you know.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I was born in Kelowna, B.C into a mountain side, facing a lake covered in pine trees. I’m drawn to nature and its abilities. Within my own practice, I am attempting to shift nature, to give it a new life amongst it’s many shapes. My childhood home cocooned me and my creativity, helping it grow and carve safely and freely.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
Janel Rae.. well my first name is Janel and my middle name is Rae. I was named after my dad Ray and always enjoyed that second piece. I think this stage name feels as though either side collects its own gender. Covering not only the binary but the styles, colours and attitudes that vibrate in-between and around the two. Tell me about your most memorable shows.
What is your favourite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
I haven’t done much performing of my own music in Toronto yet as I had just graduated from the Randolph College for Performing Arts when Covid struck. As of now, my favourite moment was the last virtual listening party I had for the release of my second album Dinner With Stranger. I would especially love to perform at the Danforth Music Hall and there is an outdoor theatre near Woodbine Beach that calls to me every passing… so once something has spoken to me, it will happen.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
The first that comes to mind is one of my best friends Thomas who recorded / released his own album All the Tapes under the name Haystacks while living with my partner and I. I would want to create a show that is whimsical, fun, full of amazing performances by my talented friends!
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
Trust that if you love it enough, you will figure out how to make it work. Continue being brave, facing yourself and staying true no matter how painful it may be.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
In time, it will be okay. I think a lot of my personal advice has gained power from the “stumbling into it”. Having experienced the reason that propels you to give wisdom is what builds you, or at least what has built me.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
I think the power lies in the whole pile. They speak to each other, interacting within a system that reflects how vast a life is. I love them all and proud of what they chose to be. Those songs are their own and no longer belong to me.
Which songs are your favourite to play and which get requested the most?
Sometimes is very popular (within my team of listeners). Because of its inclusive nature, and vulnerability in exploring anger, it resonates with a lot of people, especially in this time while many have had space to look inwards. I really love Winter, This Bed and I Cry. I never thought I would write songs like those.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
I sit at the piano, letting my fingers encounter the keys, finding their own rhythm. Once I have landed on a musical sentiment, I begin improvising lyrics letting my conscious wonder meanwhile recording the experience. I usually land in a pocket that starts to dance on its own halfway into the improv session. That material in the middle is usually the strongest and I build from there. On occasion, if I don’t have instruments, I will write poems and then lay those words onto a musical moment. Seeing if they fit. If they like each other.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
Many secrets. Many messages! Too many to share! Take a listen to Dinner With Stranger and you will get a find some for your own.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Working in solitude, I don’t often face this sort of thing, but am challenged tremendously by what solitude does to an artist. Feelings of aloneness, exhaustion, inadequacy and then eventually the songs start being their own things and communicating with them reminds me of how beautiful it all is and how nothing else matters.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
As of now, I am finishing the demos to a new album and am beginning to curate ideas for a new musical I am writing. Oh I cannot wait to share. Keep your eyes peeled my friends!