Raffa (me) and Ralph (my creative alter-ego) are closely linked, but Ralph is a little more adventurous.
When I’m performing, I get to tap into a part of my personality that is less careful, less contained. I experiment more with my outfits, my dancing, my energy. I’m more confrontational as Ralph too, which is reflected in my lyrics — I worry less about calling bullshit on people. The role of Ralph never feels artificial because it’s still very much me. Ralph is more like me, but amplified.
I’m always making music; I carry my songbook around at all times so I can capture lyric ideas the moment they pop into my head. But I also like to drink coffee, do crosswords, stay up late dancing, do hot yoga, drink red wine, watch crime thriller TV shows (“The Bridge”, “The Fall”), eat Mexican food, read e.e. cummings, and sing Shania Twain songs at karaoke. As I write this I’m sitting in my best friend’s apartment in Copenhagen. I forgot how much I love to travel. A lot of my creative research comes from pulling visual inspiration from old films (lately I’ve been very obsessed with Italian films from the 60s). And let’s just get it out there: Pinterest is the best.
Before Ralph, I grew up in Toronto with very cool parents who had excellent, diverse tastes in music, which influenced me at a very young age. Some of my favourite records were Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Prince, The Temptations, and Nina Simone. (Currently, I’m really feeling Anderson Paak, Carly Rae Jepson, Daniel Caesar, Charlotte Day Wilson, Jorja Smith, CLARA-NOVA, Kehlani, Maggie Rogers and Salen.)
[The video for Tease] is inspired by a visit to a Korean spa, and it’s centred around female friendship and strength.
My latest track (above) is called ‘Tease’ and it’s a super fun 80s dance track with a slick bass line, produced by Mike Wise and co-written by Nate Ferraro. My best friend Gemma Warren directed it — she’s an incredible human who does much of my photography, so it seemed only natural for her to move into directing. Gemma crafted the concept, inspired by our visit to a Korean spa, and it’s centred around female friendship and strength, since spas are traditionally a space to gather and cleanse, emotionally and physically. We were awarded a Muchfact grant and shot it at a Russian Spa, starting at 10PM and ending at 10AM.
Jackson Parrell (whose work I’ve admired forever) was the DP, Part & Parcel produced the vid, Matt Bianchi (who also directed my video for ‘Something More’) did art direction, Basia Wyszynski styled, Anastasia Shivrina choreographed the dancing, amongst many other wonderful crew members. Everyone was amazing, especially considering it was an overnight, and I feel so fortunate to have peers who believe in me enough to donate such valuable time and energy.
That’s definitely one of the best aspects of living [in Toronto]; I’ve always felt incredibly supported. I make sure that I’m working with people who want to co-create with me, allowing me to play a role when creating photo shoot and music video concepts. I love telling stories and with each shoot we strive to make something new.
Having strong female allies within the music industry is crucial — they inspire and understand me like no one else can.
I’ve also done my fair share of contributing and assisting on my peers’ creative projects, which I think is really important. When you’re asking others to put time and effort towards your project, you need to make sure you’re giving back in some way so it balances out. That’s how a community works.
TWIM [Toronto Women in Music, a local group] has been such a positive community experience for me — it’s where I met my manager and made lots of new friends and valuable networking connections. Having strong female allies within the music industry is crucial — they inspire and understand me like no one else can. The meetings I’ve attended have helped ground me when it comes to feelings of jealousy and comparison. We’ve openly discussed and acknowledged that we all experience it, which I think naturally makes it less apparent in my mind since it’s no longer a dirty secret. I just always try to remind myself of this quote: “being jealous of someone else’s success isn’t going to make you more successful.”
I feel very strongly about vocalizing my personal beliefs regarding important social and political topics, and I’m not afraid to lose followers online who disagree with my support of female, LGBT and POC communities. However, I try to stay away from prompting frustrating arguments with strangers on social media. There are so many trolls who just want to start a fight to hear themselves talk. Even if you engage, it doesn’t mean they’re interested in learning or listening. I would prefer to have a conversation in person, or with a group of people.
There are tons of wicked events happening right now in my city, such as the recent Q&A with Princess Nokia and the Women’s March, that address topical issues in a live way. Although social media is valuable to promote discussion and thought, I think actual real life discussion is a more productive way to engage and make change.
I’m willing to make sacrifices and feel a little occasional FOMO if the rewards are worth it.
’Busy Man’ was written about a guy I was seeing who was really focused on his career and kept hurting my feelings by not being able to commit to anything, whether it was a relationship or even just a date. Ironically, I’ve sort of become a ‘Busy Man’ myself, as music increasingly takes up so much of my time. Since signing a record deal at the end of the year, I’ve just been so focused on writing songs and meeting new people who want to be a part of the Ralph team. Travelling to London, Berlin and Los Angeles to write with various producers has been unreal and I’m so excited to release my EP in March.
Being career-driven and consistently being on the move can be challenging, but music is what makes me happiest. Period. I’m at a place where I’m willing to make sacrifices and feel a little occasional FOMO if the rewards are worth it.