With the release of her debut solo album A Fine Line, Heather Rankin is embarking on her own musical journey. Well known for being the youngest member of the multi-platinum selling musical group The Rankin Family, her musical past has allowed her to branch out into a different sound and it is clearly one she can call her own. Co-writing seven of the eleven songs with David Tyson, the songs embrace a poetic balance between struggle and joy, making it easy to understand the obvious success of their collaboration. We caught up with this Nova Scotia native to tell us more about her debut album and her experience towards creating her own musical legacy.
We all identify your amazing talent having seen you perform with your siblings, The Rankin Family. What prompted you to branch out as a solo artist?
Throughout my life I never really had the desire to branch out and record on my own. I always had my family as an outlet for making music and I was content with that. However, the opportunities to perform with my siblings became less frequent and I had been writing on my own and getting the nudge from a couple of people in the industry to come out with a solo recording. I guess it took those combined factors happening simultaneously to make me realize there was a need to explore this avenue after all.
Is it difficult to somewhat break away from a signature sound and how much of what you identify as your own sound blends into it?
Change is really tough for some people, myself included but it’s something I work really hard to not fear because most of the time you don’t have a choice. Clinging to what used to be is counterproductive. We have to keep evolving and moving forward. Sure, stepping outside of the comfort zone that was my family was scary and it took a while to get used to but it was also liberating. What’s most difficult is convincing other people that it’s okay for me to step outside of that box. People have an idea of what you are capable of and where they believe you fit and sometimes it’s difficult for them to see beyond that. So you take the leap! Having said that I have found that Rankin fans have been really positive about my choices and continue to encourage my growth.
You co-wrote several songs on your debut solo album. Take us through the process. Was this different from your previous collaborations?
This was my first experience co-writing and naturally I had a lot of trepidation about sharing my ideas with a master of the craft. Finding the person with the right chemistry is key. David and I seemed to be in similar places in our lives and hit it off from the get go. Over the course of getting to know one another we were able to come up with an eclectic group of songs. I’m proud of our work together and I made a great new friend. David’s got a good heart.
Our process varied from song to song. We brought some half shaped songs to the table, broke them apart and pieced them back together again. Sometimes I brought a lyric and he a melody and vice versa. And then there were a couple of songs we started and shaped from the ground up together. Of course David is an amazing musician and his intricate arrangements breathed new life into the songs.
Your songs give us a lot to ponder over; the balance between struggle and the will to forge ahead, all the while staying true to oneself. You are truly an eloquent songwriter. What do you hope fans experience from this album?
Thank you and thank you from David Tyson. You make a good point. I don’t think we deliberately set out to make a grand statement but by mining our personal experiences we ended up sharing what I believe are broadly felt challenges. We are constantly seeking balance in our business and personal relationships and in ourselves for that matter. We’re always walking that line. Things can change in the blink of an eye and can throw us into a tailspin. I hope by acknowledging our truth in our songs that people discover they are not alone in the fight, that they help others find the courage to fall and get back up.
Looking forward to going on the road? Anything special planned for the shows?
I am looking forward to hitting a number of festivals in Nova Scotia over the summer. Kitchen Fest and The Granville Green, Harmony Bazaar and Stomp are just a few of them. In September I head back to Neptune Theatre in Halifax to perform a three hander written by the renowned playwright, Daniel MacIvor.
At Canadian Beats, we love to get to know a different side of you outside of your musical background.
What is your favourite pastime?
I love going to the movies. I’ll be sad to see the day we no longer need to leave the house to go to the theatre and share that experience with a room full of strangers, mmm and the smell of popcorn.
Summertime is fun in Cape Breton! I love boating and spending time on the beautiful West Mabou beach with family and friends who are home from away. It’s always an important time to reconnect.
When I have time in the winter I love to skate and I’ve recently taken up playing hockey. Not much of a stick handler but I can keep up with the big boys!
Gotta work on my wrist shot! Speaking of falling and getting back up!
Cherished childhood memory?
My parents always made a big deal of the Christmas season. We didn’t have much but we had each other. They made it special by making it a big celebration every year. My sisters and I were always involved in the midnight mass church choir and we went Christmas caroling and my mom would put up a tree and a cardboard chimney for Santa and we’d decorate the entire house for the season. We would come home after midnight mass and eat a hot dinner cooked with the woodstove. They were good times. We were all young and healthy and together.
What would you be doing if not within the music industry?
There was a brief time in my early twenties when I thought I might be a teacher. I always hit it off with children maybe because at heart I think I’ll always be one.
I love to dance. I studied a little bit while in university but just the basics and I love that form of expression. You really have to let go of yourself to move your entire body. Letting go is a good thing.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us! Wishing you continued success!
Thank you, the pleasure was all mine.