Ria Mae is a pop-star from Halifax, Ontario. We had a chance to catch up with her prior to her performance at the Warehouse in St. Catharines.
What got you into music? Why pop music?
I’m from Halifax, Nova Scotia, there is a big singer/songwriter culture, and I was sort of in that scene. Everyone else was listening to what was happening, but I found myself listening to the radio music, pop music. I mean, I was also creating acoustic music but then I just started adding in beats, more tracks, and it has taken me where I am now.
So when you were younger- what were you listening to, what was pop music for you? What inspired you towards what you’re doing now?
My parents music. My parents loved pop music of their era, Beatles, Tracy Chapman, anything that was a 3 minute song on the radio, that everyone knew. For me, Green Day and Sum 41 was what I got into, that kind of pop, kind of punk alternative sound. Then I got into hip hop, which is how I became a fan of Classified, also an artist from Nova Scotia. I am inspired by hip hop music merging with pop music, the girl singer chorus… I didn’t really see myself in that, but I wanted to do something that was similar to that.
I noticed you write a lot about love and relationships, do you find it difficult, or is it releasing to be super vulnerable and personable with your music?
I guess for me writing about love and relationships comes naturally. It is something that I’ve been interested in because I’ve been really bad in them, and sometimes good in them. So I start with melody before music or lyrics and then I put the puzzle together – I ask myself ‘what feeling does the melody give me, is it being angry with someone while you’re driving down the street’ ? From there, I put it together.
I was going to use the word “curious” – something you want to understand more, so you use the writing to help yourself navigate.
Totally, a lot of times when you listen to songs so specific, it almost feels like oh they’re really good at this subject because they’ve written a song about it, but usually that’s not the case. For me it’s because I am thick in the moment and trying to understand and trying to be cool with it, but I’m not. Curiosity.
What was your favourite music video to make – because music videos are the best?
You know what, I just made a new video for my new song, it’s not out yet – Hold Me. I have a feeling it will be my favourite yet. We worked with this dope director named Kat Webber, Toronto girl, and my co-star Frank Cadillac, lead singer from Neon Dreams, also from Halifax. Frank and I have been each others cheerleaders for the last eight years. For us to now be at a point where we have a bit of momentum, it was great to be on set together. He’s proud of me, I’m proud of him and we’re really proud of this song we wrote together.
I was looking through your career timeline, would you say “Clothes Off” was the song that changed everything for you?
Yeah, definitely. I almost didn’t release it because it was so different than anything else that I was doing. And even the topic! Clothes off, didn’t make sense to me, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it, laughing about it – it was so catchy! And it was right around then that I decided to not take myself so serious and embrace if I wrote something that was catchy, who cares! Put it out there! I was touring with an acoustic guitar on Greyhound buses and when that hit radio, everything changed.
So was that the “it” for you, did it make you feel super stoked about what you were doing?
Yeah, it just gave me confirmation. Around that time I had about 10 songs that I wanted to record, which was the self titled album from a few years ago. I either had enough money to put Clothes Off to radio or record the album. And I just made a choice and I trusted my decision. There were a lot of “no’s” from a few smaller labels, few managers… and no one took an interest… but I kept pushing the song, and once people liked it and once people started paying attention to it, I realized that maybe I was just marketing myself wrong at the time. But when Clothes Off hit radio, I realized I wasn’t crazy, and there was something about the track and my music. For me it was the confidence I got from that decision, it helped my self-esteem. That’s when “Bend” and “Ooo Love” started pouring out of me.
So you lead nicely into my next questions, not that long ago you were Greyhound-ing and playing acoustic gigs regularly and now your label is patching you through to interviews, so tell me about the journey – what’s it been like?
Funny thing, every step you get to… you get to a certain level and then you look around and you begin comparing. No matter where you are, you’re there. You have to be pretty good at staying positive and expressing gratitude. It’s easy to get use to where you are, and always looking up as to why you’re not there instead. Looking back, I mostly had delusion and positivity, but there were always those moments of “what if this doesn’t happen?” I feel super proud, and excited to be where I am now .
I’m a singer and I admire what you’re doing. Any advice for aspiring artists?
I ran into a friend most recently and we talked about how their focus was on what other people have and what they don’t have and I remember a few years ago that I had become overcome with jealousy. For instance, even close friends that were doing well and I should have been happy for them and I wasn’t, and I had to work through that! I swear to you, it was those couple months of adopting that new mentality that everything started changing, Clothes Off happened. I started writing better songs, people started being interested in me. That would be the advice, nip the jealousy as quick as you can.
Ria Mae performs at the Warehouse on November 10 with RALPH.