Interview – Raine Hamilton

Over the past few years, it’s become more & more common for artists to release a single here and a single there, simply to keep their fans satisfied. Winnipeg’s Raine Hamilton has stepped that idea up with one single released every month for the past year as an introduction to their new album Brave Land. Read on to learn how they came up with this plan as well as so much more on what brought the album to life.

As shared on your website, Brave Land is “a concept album about mountains, and the courage, wisdom, and otherworldly connection they represent”. Was there a specific experience you had to spark this idea?

I’m a prairie person. I grew up in the flatlands of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and outstretched open space was all I knew. When I started touring, I spent more time in the mountains than ever before, and I started to get acquainted with this whole other axis: up. “Oh yeah, the venue is just up the mountain and then left,” people would say, or “see you up there!” We just don’t have up on the prairies. This was a whole new area of existence. The mountains, I see them as brave land that reaches into this other world of the sky. Wow, I feel that to be brave, to be so solidly the earth, and to connect so profoundly to the sky, bridging two worlds. I started paying more and more attention to the mountains, and the themes of courage, wisdom, and connection kept showing up; The courage of reaching, the wisdom the mountains possess from having reached, and the way they are able to connect this place and the next.

Having released one track from the new album every month since last January, what was your intention behind this?

Because I was releasing an album during a pandemic, the typical plan of releasing singles and albums alongside touring was out the window. It wouldn’t make sense to release a regular stream of songs, because that doesn’t match the rhythm of touring. But this time, I wasn’t beholden to that rhythm. With this new freedom, I was interested in giving each song its own moment. On their own, each of the 11 tracks feel like cool puzzle pieces that can be appreciated on their own. And then, once they are all present and accounted for, they can be assembled into the album, and listeners can experience the work in a whole new way.

The use of strings (guitar, violin, cello, and double bass) adds a certain magic to your already beautiful melodies and thoughtful lyrics. Is there a certain order of things when it comes to starting to create a new song? For example, first lyrics, next basic melody, and finally, strings. Or is it different every time?

I am so lucky to work with outstanding collaborators Natanielle Felicitas on cello, and Quintin Bart on bass. We have been working together for years, and have developed a shared creative language, and artistic trust. I bring songs in the works to these two, and together we see what arrangements spark. The longer we work together, the more easily we dart down creative paths and forge new ones. Our arranging is mostly done by ear and by intuition. Sometimes one of us will notate something specific during this process, but that is rare.

Of the many, many shows and festivals you’ve had the opportunity to play over the years, we have to take a moment to chat about your playing in a…CAVE? How did that show come about? What was your best memory from it?

Ah the cave! The Rat’s Nest Cave near Canmore AB is a very cool hole many stories deep into the earth. Local caving tourist business Canmore Caves had started hosting concerts 10 stories below the earth in this open space they called The Cathedral. The Cathedral was a space in the rock below a mountain, about the size of a small church chapel, with a high ceiling, and an uneven stone floor. It was pointy. I have never been so careful about where I stepped in my life. The sound in that space was cool and clear, but not particularly reverberant. The surfaces of the space are all hard stone, which is a hard surface that reflects sound well. The catch is, the surfaces were also very rough, and faced each other at random angles, so the space did not reflect sound from one surface to another very well. The concert sold out, I faced my fear of enclosure deep under the earth, and we all had a cool shared art experience. It was a real win.

Despite the ever-changing restrictions and rules, what do you hope for yourself and your new album over the next few months?

I look forward to Brave Land being heard as a complete project, and to the album finding its way to its listeners.

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