Interview – Nicole Rayy

Nicole Rayy is a powerhouse of an artist that believes that empowering other women is what is needed right now.

Now is Nicole Rayy’s time. This southern Ontario born and raised singer-songwriter is becoming a force to be reckoned with and she really is “the real deal.” Over the years, she has taken the lemons that were handed to her and made the most delicious of lemonades. Rayy always has and always will push forward the limits of what is expected in Canadian country music and abroad, and as she does this, she is big on empowering other female artists around her to join her as she rises.

With the release of her new single and video “Broken Boys” and her big weekend at the CMA Ontario Awards, Nicole Rayy feels very blessed. She is nominated for Female Artist of the Year and we wish her the best of luck. I personally have had the opportunity to see Nicole grow as an artist over the years and we have become close friends, so this feature and interview mean a lot to me. I want to let you get to know Nic as well as I do.

But first, a bit about “Broken Boys”

On the new track, Rayy notes,

“I’m so excited to share “Broken Boys” because I think it is a song so many of us can relate to. We have all fallen for that person that we think we can change. I’ve always been drawn to helping people and being able to fix things. But in a way this song reminds me that we are all a little broken and there is nothing wrong with helping someone carry their baggage, but never at the expense of yourself.

She continues about the video,

“Once again I was fortunate to work with Tim Deegan and Leah Daniels on this music video. I really wanted the video for “Broken Boys” to highlight the message that is written in the first few lyrics of the song. “My daddy taught me that if something ain’t working you don’t just throw it away.” My dad is the type of guy who always finds a way to fix things and this really instilled this passion in me for helping people. Leah and Tim were able to come up with this great metaphor to demonstrate the feeling of fixing a broken person through fixing an old car. It was pretty outside of my comfort zone but I had so much fun filming it and can’t wait for you to see it!”

Now, on to the interview I had with Nicole Rayy, via email (we would have spent hours on the phone and gotten off subject too many times). This was a great opportunity for me, through Canadian Beats, to chat with Nicole about “Broken Boys,” her passion for empowering other female artists during this time in her life, and more. Check out our questions and her answers. You will enjoy what you read.

First of all, we at Canadian Beats want to congratulate you on the recent release of your latest single and video for “Broken Boys,” your very successful summer and your CMA Ontario nomination for Female Artist of the Year. I, personally, couldn’t be more proud of you and all that you have accomplished.

Let’s chat about “Broken Boys.” It’s your follow-up anthem to your very powerful single “All Woman.” All your songs give me goose bumps because you deliver them with such raw honesty and you give it your all on each and every one. You are once again showing your honest, raw self in another very powerful and distinct way. I absolutely love this one, maybe even more than “Fireproof.” You must be so proud of what you are accomplishing.

With that being said, tell us who wrote and produced “Broken Boys.”

Broken Boys” was written by an extremely talented group of writers, Dave Thompson, Emma-Lee and Meghan Patrick. And, it was produced by JUNO Award-winning producer Brian Howes and Jason Van Poederooyen.

You are already at 50,000 streams for “Broken Boys.” How does that feel?

Amazing! This is my fastest-growing song yet in terms of streams. I am just so excited that everyone loves it as much as I do.

The lyrics of this song are something that we can relate to; that we can all identify with. Tell us a bit about the song – how you came up with it, what inspired you?

As I was not a writer on this song it is so important to me that the lyrics are relatable. The lyrics are what really pull me into a song. My first listen through of “Broken Boys” I immediately fell in love with the honesty of the lyrics. It’s always been very important to me to sing from a place of honesty, so when I record a song written by someone else, I want the lyrics to be relatable and say something that I would say myself; this song definitely does that.

Can you tell us about what the song and video mean to you, or what you hope people take away from it?

Broken Boys” is a song I believe so many of us can relate to. We have all fallen for that person that we think we can change. I’ve always been drawn to helping people and being able to fix things. But in a way, this song reminds us that we are all a little broken and there is nothing wrong with helping someone carry their baggage but Never at the expense of ourselves and our own happiness.

How did this video come together, including the concept, where it was shot, and anything else you want to share with your fans?

I was so happy to work with Tim Deegan and Leah Daniels once again on this video. I really wanted a concept that explained the story of “Broken Boys” without literally showcasing a relationship. Leah and Tim came up with the car concept and I loved it as soon as I heard it. Tim and Leah are friends with the guys who appear in the video; most of the video was filmed at their car shop in Uxbridge.

Do you have any fun stories to tell us about in the making of “Broken Boys” and what was the most special highlight for you?

A highlight of the video was driving that car; it is an intimidatingly cool car. I was excited to get to drive it, but a little nervous. Cam, the owner of the car actually laid down in the backseat while we filmed the driving scenes to make sure I didn’t crash.

Tell us whose car you used and “maintained” in the video? Does working on a car fall into one of your many talents?

The car (1967 Mercury Caliente) and shop belong to Cam, a friend of Tim and Leah. I am very grateful that he let me use his baby for this video. I have to admit that fixing cars is definitely out of my wheelhouse. I had a lot of help from Cam and the other guys behind the scenes teaching me what to do.

With this video, you are once again are showing women how they can empower themselves. Not just by literally working on a car, but also by showing them that if they put the mind to something, it can be accomplished. Expand on this, please.

Thank you; this is exactly what I was hoping people would take away from this video. I wanted the concept of a woman fixing a car to represent women’s strength and independence, but it was also a very literal journey of empowerment while I filmed the video. Like I said, fixing a car is outside my comfort zone. I didn’t want to hire an actress to be in the video I wanted to get in there and figure out how to do it myself. I was certainly a little nervous about filming the scenes with the car because I don’t have a lot of experience fixing a car, but I knew I could put my mind to it and prove I could do it myself.

Now, let’s chat about how it has become your mission to help in empowering other women, especially in the country music genre. To give women enough strength to empower themselves is to create power in their own lives.

First, what do you want to say to everyone who is reading this interview on how they can empower themselves and others around them?

I feel like empowering yourself comes from believing in yourself and being confident in yourself. The path to empowerment can be totally different for everyone, but I think it comes back to being yourself. Doing things that contribute to your self-love, self-confidence, and having power over your own life.

You have reached a new level of confidence over the last while. Did someone inspire you to put yourself out there even more than you have in the past and what did they say or do to help you in your quest to help empower other women?

I think this confidence and empowerment has always been inside of me, but I’ve always been the type of person to put other people’s feeling ahead of my own. I’ve learned that can be a dangerous path because although it is important to help people it is so necessary to put yourself first sometimes. I realized that putting myself first doesn’t make me selfish it makes me empowered. As you know, I worked with a very strong, confident, and hard-working woman by the name of Janice Starodub. Personally, I think losing Janice brought out another side of me. She was really someone I could go to for support and to make decisions with, and though I do have a strong support system and team now, I feel for a time I was left to make decisions on my own. For the first time in my life, I felt like I wasn’t worrying about what everybody else thought, I was just making decisions for me and my career that I felt served me best, and that really showcased this confident side of me.

Describe what woman empowerment means to you.

One of my favourite quotes about women’s empowerment is “Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it, possibly without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” That is what women’s empowerment is truly about. It is about unlearning everything we learned from the media about women. There has always been this idea in the media that there are only so many spots for women at the top so we have to fight other women to get there. But this is so untrue; there is room for all of us. And when one woman succeeds it is a win for all of us. Women’s empowerment is also about personal empowerment. If we, personally as women, learn to love ourselves and be confident in ourselves; that will empower other women to do the same.

Being a songwriter/storyteller truly gets you excited about life, love, all of that. Do feel that this helps you reach out to other women so that they will to be able to love something enough about them so that they also want the same values that you hold dear to your heart?

As a songwriter, I think it is so important for me to be honest about my life experiences in my music and hope that that honesty can help other women. Of course, sharing my journey as a woman, I hope that other women can relate to it, but every woman’s journey is different and so even if they can’t relate to my stories, I hope in some way it can make them feel less alone. I definitely hope that my messages of empowerment reach women and help them on a journey of self-love.

By empowering other women to truly be themselves and just maybe try something for the first time, something there are afraid to try, would you say that this could be a defining moment in your own life?

Absolutely! I am still working on this myself. I used to always be so afraid of failing that I wouldn’t try new things sometimes. But I’ve realized it’s much worse to not try something at all because you are afraid. I’ve always liked that saying about how if your dreams don’t scare you than they aren’t big enough! It’s so important to try new things, to push yourself to learn and be better. And if I am empowering other women to do the same, to step outside their comfort zone then that is truly amazing.

You were raised to be a strong and independent woman, and yes, you’ve had tough times. We know that simply by listening to the lyrics of your songs. How did you pull yourself up, wipe yourself off and get on with life? Did someone empower you to do this?

I definitely have a lot of people in my life who are my shoulder to cry on and support me, but I think you can’t truly get over a tragedy in your life until you face it yourself and deal with it. I’ve dealt with a lot of things in my life by crying about them, writing a song about them, and then getting on and not letting them define me. There is nothing wrong with being upset over bad things that happen in your life, however, I think it’s what you do after that that really helps you move on.

Okay, onto to something recent … this past summer. You have had a very impressive and busy one

With all the live streaming leading up to the release of your latest album, All Woman (an album that everyone should own), live streaming with other female artists (The Women of Country, All Woman Music, #GirlTalkSessions), taking your passion for supporting female artists by creating a brand new all-female festival called HarmoniaFest, being a regular at Stories, Songs & Six Strings hosted by In the Country with Dave Woods, I know that this has empowered you as a female country artist and because of that you’ve filled people with energy, enthusiasm, hope and in turn gave us all a feeling of togetherness, especially during these very trying times. (That’s a long sentence!) How did you decide to push ahead with all this knowing all the hard work that it would entail?

I am definitely not afraid of hard work and I know that in this business nobody hands you anything, you have to work for what you want. I am happy to work hard to earn opportunities and also to better myself as an artist. Particularly with HarmoniaFest, it definitely intimidated me a few times knowing how much work it would be, but fighting for the cause of opportunity for women kept me going. It is so important right now to showcase just how amazingly talented women in Canadian country music are and the hard work was so worth it to watch how that day brought us women even closer together.

You have garnered a CMA Ontario nomination in the Female Artist of the Year category. What does that mean to you?

It means so much to me! As an artist, I obviously don’t make music just for the credit, but to have all my hard work recognized is truly an honour. I’m so grateful to everyone who took the time to vote for me.

Plus, you are performing at the CMA Ontario Awards Show in London on October 4. This event is a drive-in style show, just like HarmoniaFest. Are you excited to be a part of this unique show? But, at the same time, how will it feel to not be able to share in the camaraderie that you have experienced in past years, especially with social distancing in place?

I’m so excited I get to perform on the CMA Ontario stage! This is my very first time performing at the Awards show. Even though it will be a little different this year, and it will be hard to be distanced from friends and fans, I’m so glad the CMA Ontario could make this unique award show experience happen. It will still be such a nice feeling to get on a real stage in front of a live audience.

On that note, let’s broach the subject that is on everyone’s mind these days – Covid-19. Artists and musicians are among the hardest hit groups by this economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. This has been such a challenging time for the music industry and the Coronavirus has drastically reshaped how artists’ livelihood has changed.

How has it been for you not to be able to have that personal interaction with your fans?

It has definitely been tough. The most amazing part of being an artist is connecting with fans so it has been hard not to be able to sit on a stage and look out and see their faces. Although in some ways, the current world has allowed me to connect with fans I wouldn’t normally connect with. Fans who live on the other side of the world aren’t normally able to attend a show, but now with Facebook and Instagram live shows I can reach more fans outside of Canada.

With these huge walls that have been put up during this crazy time, you really had a great chance to get creative with how to make new music, to shoot your video, to interact with your fans. Tell us about that.

I was very nervous when things started to shut down. My career has been on such an upwards swing and I was worried about how this would affect my progress. But I refused to let it stop me, it was been hard work but also so much fun being able to get creative this year and find other ways to reach people.

Do you think social media has helped you even more than usual during these crazy times?

Definitely, without it there would be no ways to connect with my fans right now. It has also been a bit of a learning curve. I have always used social media in the past but with it being the sole way of connecting and putting on shows right now I have had to spend a lot of time learning new things.

What are some adjustments that you have had to make to your social media accounts due to this Coronavirus pandemic?

I think the biggest adjustment has just been finding new ways to stay creative and relevant on social media. Obviously, with all artists having only their social platforms to share their music right now, it can be hard to be heard. I have worked hard this year on finding new creative projects online. One of my favourite creative projects I worked on this year was my All Woman Wednesdays on Instagram. It was so cool being able to find other female-owned companies to share and collaborate with.

Rising to the challenge of this pandemic, what is one message you would give to your fans and other female country music artists?

Don’t give up on your goals right now, just because the world looks a little different doesn’t mean you can’t achieve things this year. Stay creative and find new and different ways to share your music and your message.

Let’s just have a little chat about you, Nicole Rayy, so those who don’t know who you are, can. Because you have amazing fans, let’s find out about some random things that will make your fans get to know you better and fun for you to answer.

What have you learned about your career and fans now that you’ve been at this for a while?

I have learned a lot! I have learned a lot of lessons about myself, about songwriting, techniques to improve my singing, but I think the biggest lessons I’ve learned are in business. I didn’t know much about the music business or business in general when I started my career. At some point, I thought that aspect of my career wouldn’t be something I would have to deal with too much, that I would always have help with it, but in the last few years that is definitely something, I have taken into my own hands and learned so much about.

What is the most useless talent you possess?

Haha, I literally always joke about how I have no useless talents, I can’t whistle or roll my tongue or any of those fun useless talents. Maybe the fact that I can quote every line from the TV show Friends. Unless I’m ever on a Friends-themed game show I am not sure that would ever come in handy.

What is the most trouble you’ve ever gotten into?

No comment … mostly because I know my mom will read this ­– haha!

And last but not least, if you can have one thing that your fans could remember about you, what would it be?

That I was real and honest.

If you could choose just one artist to collaborate with, one who you haven’t worked with, who would that be?

I’m shooting for the stars here, Shania Twain! She has always been an inspiration to me because she has never apologized for being exactly the woman she is. It was a truly amazing experience to get to work with her.

With all the many social media platforms that exist today telling the world your life story, is there anything about each of you that would be of interest to your fans; something that they couldn’t find on your own social network or even Google?

A couple of fun facts that I don’t often share: I used to competitively Irish Dance, and I took French emersion from Grade 5 to12 so technically I’m bilingual, although my skills are definitely rusty.

We, at Canadianbeats.ca, thank you Nic so much for taking the time for this interview and helping your fans get to know you a little more. Wishing you the best of luck at the CMAOs, and have a blast on stage!  We wish you much success with “Broken Boys,” in helping to empower other females, especially within the country music genre and all your future endeavours. I’m personally grateful for the time we have spent together over the past few years and to have you become a dear friend to me. We’ve shared many ups and downs and I’m very excited to see what the future holds for you!

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