Canadian rock & roll and folky roots music run freely through his veins – We caught up with Billy Raffoul before his Toronto show to speak about his highly anticipated debut album.
Originally from Ontario, Billy Raffoul has been all the buzz since his latest collaboration with electronic music producer Avicci and his live session with UK fashion brand All Saints. The young yet very authentic singer-songwriter may have grown up in the music industry with his musician father Jody Raffoul having opened up for the likes of Jeff Buckley, Neil Young and Joe Cocker, but he is confidently standing out in the music industry in his own right. The humble 22 year old is embracing his musical upbringing while still projecting his own unique sound, vocal delivery and songwriting. Billy can grasp your attention within seconds with his powerful, thought provoking voice and the minimalist yet lively production. Also, the guy has a serious stage presence.
“Drive” is our favourite song so far. It catches you off guard like a tidal wave and by the chorus you are fully into the storm, hooked until the end.
It’s rare you come across authentic musicians that stick to their roots but Canadian singer songwriter Billy Raffoul gives us faith that the future of music will always remain raw and from a genuine place. People are looking to connect and if you get to catch a performance by Billy on his upcoming tour dates across North America and Europe – you are guaranteed to leave desperate to get a copy of his debut album in 2018.
See the full interview below:
Q: Your video for Driver showcases how shaken up and upside down the world has felt in recent times, as an artist, do you feel that you find most inspiration from the hardest moments in life?
A: I definitely believe that art and inspiration can come from life’s hardest moments. Now that I think about it.. What you’ve been inspired to create could get you or someone else through another set of those same moments. Maybe it’s revolving? I try to let myself be inspired by both the good and trying times.
Q: Who was the first artist you remember listening to where you thought “I want people to feel this when I perform and write”?
A: It was probably my father. Both live and on record he is able to evoke so much emotion from the listener. Something I was definitely drawn to at a young age.
Q: Dark Four Door is raw and really exposes vulnerability, which is something many artists today can struggle with. Tell us what is your process when working on a new song in a studio – do you test it out acoustically to decide whether it’s going to make the final cut?
A: I appreciate the kind words. Many if not all of the songs I write start very small and minimalistic. A lot of them stay that way till the very end. Though I don’t always succeed I often try to make sure that the song can survive in a similar setting to Dark Four Door before taking it anywhere else.
Q: Being from Ontario, do you think your roots inspired you musically to develop the organic vocal sound you have today?
A: I definitely think my roots had and have a big influence on me musically. Between listening to my father to Neil Young growing up. I always tell people that I think that Canadian music has a unique fingerprint. Something that comes across in the sound and writing.
Q: You come from an artistic family, your dad Jody Raffoul opened for great artists such as Joe Cocker to Bon Jovi. What is the best advice your father has ever given you?
A: The best advice my father ever gave me wasn’t really advice at all. He’s kind of led by example in his career as a musician. He’s shown me that nothing is as important as hard work. Talent and serendipity help of course but they mean nothing if you’re not working hard.
Q: Having professional musicians in the family can be an awesome inspiration, but on the alternative side was it sometimes ever hard to find your own voice and sound?
A: I don’t think it was much of a struggle finding my own voice. More of a natural progression. I think every singer at the beginning is a product of their favourite singers all blended together. Growing up one of if not my favourite singer happened to be my father. Mixing that with other things would eventually become my sound.
Q: We heard you grew up on legendary English band The Beatles, in your opinion -what is it about this band that you think has made them stand the test of time?
A: Whenever I listen to Beatles’ records and especially the earlier ones l feel like I can hear the hunger in their voices and their playing. I obviously wasn’t there but it leads me to believe that they wanted it more than anyone else. I’ve read about how much time they put into the Beatles before they were even called the Beatles. They were the hardest working band. When they weren’t performing, they were practicing, and when they weren’t practicing they were writing. In my opinion, this is something that would go on to set them apart.
Q: In the studio, do you prefer to record vocals & guitar at the same time, or prefer to lay down the tracks separately? Any particular vocal microphone you prefer recording through?
A: We’ve done it both ways for sure. A lot of songs with guitar and vocals recorded separately yet on most of the stripped down recordings the vocals and guitars are recorded simultaneously. I’ve been so fortunate to be able to record on so many legendary microphones. My vocals for this album have all been recorded on a Telefunken U48.
Q: You mentioned your approach to songwriting is that they must have been lived by someone or by yourself. Which song by which artist do you wish you had have written.
A: There are a bunch. One that comes to mind right now is. Without You – Badfinger
Q: What puts you in the right mindset when you need to feel inspired or are experiencing writers block?
A: I think the best thing to do when you’re having trouble writing something new at least for me, is to let it be for a while. Forcing it has never really worked for me. Just keep going back to the records that got you into making music in the first place.
Q: You recently collaborated with Avicci on a really great track called “You Be Love”. Tell us more about this collab, how did it come about and what was it like to collaborate artistically as you both have a very different sound?
A: Collaborating with Avicii was an incredible experience. Even though we are from different ends of the spectrum when it comes to the kind of music we like to make it was fun for each of us to enter the other’s world. At the end of the day we’re both songwriters who love making music.
It was the A&R department at the record label who had asked me if it’s something I’d be interested in doing. It was an easy decision.
Q: What was your first guitar and what is your dream piece that you’d love to add to your collection?
A: The first guitar I remember being completely Mine was a Fernandez electric guitar. It had a built-in speaker and like 25 effects! Had the Union Jack on the front of it. My dad got it for me when I was 10. I play a Fender custom shop 51′ Nocaster. I’d love to own a real one.. one day.
Q: You’re currently touring and are hitting up Toronto at the Phoenix on the 19th & 20th – are you excited to play at home in Ontario?
A: I am really excited to be back playing in Toronto this week. So grateful to the Glorious Sons for having us on the shows with them. As I write this I am on a train from Ottawa to Toronto and saddened to learn of the passing of Gord Downie, a Canadian legend.
Q: What can we expect from you in the next year?
A: Well, I will be touring the rest of this year and heading back into the studio at the top of the next. A full length album is the plan. To be released in 2018.
UPCOMING TOUR DATES
10/6 – COLUMBUS, OH @ NEWPORT MUSIC HALL W/ NEEDTOBREATHE 10/9 – RALEIGH, NC @ THE RITZ W/ NEEDTOBREATHE 10/10 – BIRMINGHAM, AL @ ALABAMA THEATRE W/ NEEDTOBREATHE 10/11 – MOBILE, AL @ SAENGER THEATRE 10/19,20 – TORONTO, ON @ The Phoenix W/ The Glorious Sons – DIRECT SUPPORT (CA)
10/23 – 10/26 MONDO COZMO DATES – DIRECT SUPPORT (US)
11/2 – 12/5 JACOB BANKS DATES – SUPPORT(US)
Kaleo European tour dates with Billy Raffoul (also S. Judah & The Lion)
October 31 – Manchester, UK (02 Apollo)
November 1 – London, UK (Roundhouse)
November 3 – Glasgow, UK (Barrowlands)
November 4 – Birmingham, UK (Birmingham Academy)
November 6 – Dublin, Ireland (Olympia)
November 7 – Dublin, Ireland (Olympia)
November 9 – Antwerp, Belgium (Lotto Arena)
November 11 – Berlin, Germany (Tempodrom)
November 12 – Copenhagen, Denmark (Vega)
November 14 – Amsterdam, Holland (AFAS Live)
November 15 – Paris, France (Olympia)
November 17 – Offenbach, Germany (Stadthalle)
November 18 – Vienna, Austria (Gasometer)