Interview – Raine Hamilton

Photo Credit: Megan Steen

Raine Hamilton is making sure her music is enjoyed by everyone, even those with hearing disabilities. The Winnipeg-based singer-songwriter has been actively including ASL interpreters at her local concerts since 2017. This year the Raine Hamilton String Trio are heading out on the road for a full tour in Saskatchewan, featuring an interpreter at each show – a first for their out of town performances.

Since the release of her sophomore album Night Sky, Hamilton has been touring and promoting, and most recently nabbing a nomination for Canadian Folk Music’s New/Emerging Artist of the Year. With a new album said to be released in 2020, we wanted to catch up with Hamilton to find out a little more about her upcoming tour, and her take on uniting everyone through music.

You have taken a big step towards more inclusivity in music; something we can all learn from. How did this idea first come together?

Art is powerful. It is a profound human experience, and I really believe that it is for everyoneMusic, in particular, has been so important in my life, in finding connection, expression, and joy; I can’t imagine not having access to art and the art community. It breaks my heart that some people who feel that same draw to the arts do not have access. So, I have been planning more and more shows with inclusivity in mind, and I have been working in schools to make art skills more accessible, teaching creative processes that students can use for life. I am working to pay it forward. There is a lot to learn in this area, and a lot of social constructs to take apart (like examining why barriers to access exist in the first place), but I am listening and learning.

My band performed our first show with American Sign Language interpretation in 2017. The Winnipeg Free Press was publishing an article about ASL interpreted music, and we were invited to shoot an ASL interpreted video as an example. I did not know that there was an interest in music among the Deaf community. Once I learned that I set about connecting with that community and putting shows together.

If someone is interested in planning a more inclusive show, I think a good first step is to reach out to organizations of the communities you want to better serve, and see what they would like you to do. Connecting is really the bigger goal, isn’t it? It is best to start there, early in the planning stages.

Can you describe the feeling of watching someone enjoy your music in a way they may not have been able to before?

I am proud that we are able to offer our art to people who want it. I am proud that we are putting work in to connect with people who face barriers to access. It feels like the right thing to do. For sure I feel happy when I see people connecting with what I do. At the same time though it can be frustrating because these barriers should not exist in the first place. I wish the world was a kinder place for all people. We can do better, as a community and as a world.

What do you see as the next steps towards more inclusiveness in music and live performances?

I am very happy that we are taking the ASL interpreted show on the road! These will be our first out of town shows with ASL, and I am really happy about it! Art is for everyone! I’d like to take this show on the road more and more, and to work with Deaf ASL performers in more cities, as well.

Where the move towards greater inclusivity is concerned, there are some things I have in mind (like gender inclusive washrooms, wheelchair access at venues, sliding scale ticket prices, child care at shows, live captions for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people who do not sign), and there are a million more ways to move in this direction that I don’t even know about. I would not say I am an expert. I’m just an artist out here wanting to share and trying my best to listen and implement.

The great dream is a re-structuring of society that does an excellent job meeting everybody’s needs. That’s what we really need. Along the way, I think it is the job of arts community members to listen to the underrepresented and underserved and work to A: better connect with those groups as a community and B: undo the structures that created the barriers to access in the first place.

What else can fans expect from a live Raine Hamilton performance?

I will be performing with my string trio which features me on violin, voice, and guitar, alongside a cello and double bass. Cellist Natanielle Felicitas and bassist Quitin Bart are joining me on this tour. We will play mostly songs off the new album, Night Sky, as well as some brand new numbers. We take a chamberfolk approach, applying string quartet/chamber music arrangements to singer-songwriter songs. The stories behind the songs are important to me, and I share them throughout the show.

This show will be ASL interpreted, which means that each spoken and sung word, all the nuance and emotion will be conveyed in that visual language. An ASL interpreter stands up on stage with us, performing everything.

We’ll laugh, we’ll cry, it will be great!

Your next album isn’t scheduled for release until 2020 – is there anything you can tell us about the upcoming new music?

I am a string player through and through, so I think its safe to say we can expect more of this chamber folk sound in the future. I am excited about this new work!

THE RAINE HAMILTON STRING TRIO SASKATCHEWAN TOUR:
Oct 1 – Indian Head, SK – Grand Theatre
Oct 2 – Hudson Bay, SK – St. Stephen’s United Church
Oct 3 – Rosthern, SK – Station Arts Centre
Oct 4 – Kindersley, SK – Norman Ritchie Community Centre
Oct 5 – Swift Current, SK – Event Centre
Oct 6 – Saskatoon, SK – The Bassment

Connect with Raine Hamilton:
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