By Jay Broderick - 2023 has brought great visibility of the Independent music scene, to us here at LOUDTO. In June, we were proud media supporters for Indie Night in Canada which highlighted 18 independent music artists from across this wonderful country of ours. We have covered some amazing indie talent from across the globe including Ohio's Oliver Hazard, and Sweden's ionnalee. It provides an opportunity for us to highlight some fantastic musical talent that may not be quite as well known a the REO Speedwagon's of the world.
This untapped market also allows us the opportunity to chat with some of the artists that live through the music they write, and share. Recently, we had the absolute pleasure to chat with one of Canada's hottest rising stars in the independent music scene. From Leamington, ON, Billy Raffoul is an award winning singer/songwriter/guitarist, and he is making his mark on the scene. With a newly released EP entitled I Wish You Were Here, and an upcoming, headlining US Tour I had a super chill, relaxed chat with the artist. And when I say chill, it was the most relaxed conversation with a musician that I have had the distinct pleasure of having. Read on, as you are going to hear more about this artist in the coming months, and years.
LOUDTO: Hey, it's Jay again here from LOUDTO. Today we're chatting with Canadian independent rock musician, Leamington, Ontario's Billy Raffoul. How's it going, Billy?
Billy Raffoul: I'm good, Jay, how are you doing? Thank you for having me.
LT: Oh, it's our pleasure actually. I thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. Um, so you sir have been busy as hell. Um, I see you kind of touring all over the place. Are you actually home right now?
BR: I’m actually in Toronto right now, yes, I am.
LT: Oh, you’re, in Toronto.
BR: Yeah. Yeah, I'm home, home in Toronto. Uh I've had a place here for, uh, it'll be two years in October, so…
LT: Were you living in Nashville for a little bit?
BR: Yeah, I still also have a house in Nashville for a few more months. Um, so we, uh, I've, I've had a place in Nashville for about uh, oh, jeez, it'll uh, it'll be nine years this December.
LT: What's the coolest thing about living in Nashville?
BR: I mean, it's like just, it's such an incredible, uh, music community, I think first and foremost. Um the amount of like, you know, talent, but also, um the way that the, you know, creatives kind of treat each other in Nashville, I think is something else. Um It's not like it, I don't wanna say it's not competitive because of course, at some level it is, but just so welcoming, you know, um everybody kind of friendly with everyone and just wants to see each other do good. It's a really cool thing.
LT: I was in Nashville a couple years ago and it's probably the best city I've ever been to in the US. It's such a cool city, love it there.
BR: Yeah, I owe a lot, you know, of what allows me to keep doing what I'm doing today to Nashville and my whole team is down there. Well, apart from the record label, but my, some of the record label is down there as well. My manager, my lawyer, my, uh, business manager, you know.
LT: Um I'm gonna take you way back. Do you remember the first day you said ‘I'm going to be a singer’?
BR: Uh I don't know if it was a definitive day. I just remember, I remember growing up and not being around it so much that it wasn't like, it was exciting to me, but maybe not in the same way somebody who was the first person to play music in their family is, you know, enamored with it. Um, to me it was just always there because of my dad. And, um, I don't know, I just remember, I just remember the first song I was really proud of, you know, uh when I was like 12 or 13 years old, whatever it was and maybe even almost 14, I guess, and I was able to record it on a laptop, um, on Sonar and, uh I just remember being, I remember that feeling of creating something and, and wanting to listen to it over and over again. So I don't know if it was like, ‘I'm gonna be a singer’ or if it was like, I want to be a songwriter first, you know,
LT: A great point. So I mentioned off the top, you've been crazy busy. I know you played a show in Burlington just this past weekend. Um you're at the Phoenix there on June 9th. Um, you've had some dates in Germany, a bunch of US dates earlier this year. How's that for you? I think it's cool but I'm not a musician. How is it?
BR: Yeah, you know, it's been so cool. It's gonna be the, uh most advertised, at least, you know, since I've been doing this professionally, the most shows I've done in a year ever. So I'm really excited about that. We, and coming off the last year, we toured Canada for the first time with JJ Wild. Um, it's exciting. It's exciting. We kind of, so we did 26 dates with the American Authors across the States earlier this year and we just announced yesterday that we're gonna go back and do 30 headline shows across the States, this October and November. So, um…
LT: You're hitting the road again!
BR: Yeah. So I guess that answers the question. We, I do really, really love it. And then I'm supporting White Buffalo in Western Canada in September, so…
LT: Is there a specific show from this year that kind of stands out to you as extra special?
BR: Um, you know, the Horseshoe, um I would love the Phoenix in June as well, but the Horseshoe is kind of like a legendary bucket list thing for me. We sold that out in February and my Dad opened the show and it was, uh I was only just today going through the recordings. We recorded, uh we recorded the whole set. So I think that one is one of the more special moments for me,
LT: I know it's not easy for bands traveling these days with inflation and everything. And I mean, I see a lot of notifications from bands having to cancel like full legs of tours and stuff like that. Has it negatively impacted you at all?
BR: I've been super fortunate. Um, I tour a lot by myself, you know, which makes, which makes it a little bit easier on me, I guess. I don't always have the band and when I do have the band, it's only a trio. So I really feel for four pieces and five pieces, you know, and, uh, my configuration is kind of different, constantly different, you know, like in Germany it was just a two piece. In the fall, I'll be doing some Canadian dates solo acoustic. You know, it makes it a little easier. Not to say it isn't tough. But uh yeah, I definitely feel for the larger groups that, you know, the more people you have out there, the more expensive it gets. Um Yeah.
LT: We talked a little earlier about the Phoenix. Uh, for me as a photographer, it's uh it's one of the best venues I think. The lighting there for me is fantastic.
BR: Um Yeah, it was really, really good. Really good! We actually saw some great photos from that, kind of start trickling through recently.
LT: I wanna ask you about one of your kind of bucket list venues. I know your debut album, your full length album International Hotel. Um there's a bit of story there going on, and the album ends up with “Massy Hall”. That is your, is it correct, that that's your dream venue to perform at?
BR: Absolutely. Absolutely. Got to do. I was 13 years old when uh, Neil Young started The Neil Young Archives, um, started, you know, properly releasing a lot of the bootleg stuff that they recorded over the, you know, in seventies and sixties even, I guess. Um, and I think he put out the first one that led it all off was live at Massey Hall in 1971 and I was 13 when that was released on CD. I remember buying it from HMV in Windsor (laughs) um in, in the Devonshire Mall. Like, I vividly remember, uh just because, you know, uh I was like working and I was like, OK, I mis-spend my own money and, you know, and that was the one of the first CD’s I'd ever bought. And, uh yeah, just like those, that whole show, the banter in between, you know, him talking about dropping his pick, uh talking about the farm and, and old man and you know, uh like those versions of those songs are burned into my brain to the point where they're the originals for me. I know it's not right, you know, but like in my mind, like “Down By the River” is, is a three minute acoustic song. It's not like a nine minute jam with the band. You know, it's just because of those, those acoustic versions in that legendary room and since that it's been, you know, this crazy thing for me, like, uh, one day I hope I, I get to, I mean, I would settle for supporting someone there, but the goal in my life is to be able to pack that place by myself. That would be the coolest thing.
LT: It’s such a legendary venue in this city for sure. And I mean, they've done a superb job renovating it. Um I'm a bit of a traditionalist. I kind of, you know, I like, I kind of like to go back to the way it was, but I mean,
BR: You know what I will say. Yeah, I am with you too. I'm with you. I've only been to two shows there. I saw one show before the renovation. I saw Noel Gallagher on his first solo record tour. And then I just, this past year saw Emmylou Harris there. And, uh, yeah, it's done a lot and it's done a lot for the sound of the place too. I know what you're saying though. I get the, the legend, you know, and you want it to be the way it was.
LT: I'm kind of like that with most things though. Um, can you share what a typical day in the life is for you when you're on the road?
BR: Yeah, you know, it's waking up at a Holiday Inn Express. It's always Holiday Inn Express. It has been for the last, since my first tour (laughs). Since I supported Jeff Beck in 2015. Um, you know, it just made sense and, I wake up there, they have complimentary breakfast across the board. It's pretty standard, pancakes, you know, coffee. Um, get up, do some, maybe some pushups. I don't know, trying to get a little bit of physical activity. There was a stretch there where I thought I could do the treadmill every day. And, uh, I don't know, man, that's like starting from zero every time you go.
BR: You know, because it's, you get done with merch and packing up and loading out, you know, and you're not in the room typically till like, you know, if the tour is routed properly, you're not in the room till like, you know, between midnight and 1 a.m. and it's a lot of times it's like Burger King or McDonald's or something, whatever's open, Taco Bell, you know, and then, and then the last thing you want to fucking do is wake up after eating that and get on the treadmill.
BR: So, um it's a quick set of pushups and then, uh Holiday Inn Express breakfast, coffee, get in the car, talk about, you know, what we loved about the night before and what we hated and then uh you know, listen to some music and tour at the next city and that's it.
LT: You mentioned Jeff Beck. Did you actually get to meet him while you were
BR: Oh, yeah, he had me on his bus with him. It was just an insane experience. I got to be a part of the band. I was again traveling solo. So, uh it was like a favour for my manager at the time that, you know, he kind of knew his camp pretty well that they had said, ‘Hey, you got him coming out with you guys anyway, you know, if you have an extra bunk’, which they did and uh I was a one man show. I didn't have any merch. I didn't have a sound guy. I didn't have anything, just my guitars. Um I got to meet him, I got to hang with him. He played my telecaster. I got to play one of his Strats. It was a um a surreal experience, truly. Uh, you know, yeah!
LT: So, um Billy, you come with a lot of very well deserved fanfare. Uh I mean, for lack of a better word! You won the ‘21 SOCAN songwriting prize as the Best Emerging Canadian Talent. Your Spotify streams have exploded. Um You know, you've done some collaborations I think with Kid Rock and Serena Ryder, at least as far as recording on, or recording some of their music. Your new EP was released there a couple of months ago.
BR: Thank you! Yeah!
LT: Do you ever feel like you're living a dream?
BR: No, man, I'm just uh I do, I do pinch myself in some of these crazier moments where it's, you know, you get to, you get to do some shit that you don't really feel like you're deserving of, you know. But I don't know, I'm not often looking at the bigger picture, which I probably should more. I think it's just every day I'm just trying to write a better song than I did the day before, you know, and just one after the other and the train doesn't stop kind of thing, you know. I uh I'm very grateful though and I understand that this is not a business that welcomes longevity. It's not, it's hard, man, you know, and I know a lot of people who we ‘We've done it, we don't do it anymore’. And just, you know, at the end of the day, I'm very fortunate to have seen my dad kind of, you know, bounce around this business for the last, my whole life. And then you know, years before I came along and, and uh his constant love for just playing for people at any level, no matter what happens and no matter what happens with, you know, the trajectory of your career or anything, just doing it because you love it, is just such an incredible thing to fall back on, you know, and as long as you don't ever lose that love for it, which I'm definitely, I haven't yet (laughs). Um, you know, as long as you don't, you'll always be happy doing it and that's why I don't really look at like the big picture of things I guess which, which again I should but it’s just one day after another.
LT: I mean, I think there's something to be said for sure about kind of just living in the moment, taking it one day at a time. I mean, you're definitely very humble which I think is amazing.
BR: Thank you.
LT: I think we may have touched on this but just wondering like over the last handful of years as you look back, is there kind of a moment where you're like, ‘Wow, that actually just happened!’? Like maybe, you know, an influence you worked with or?
BR: Yeah, you know, uh one thing I always keep going back to is I got to, I mean, I've been able to do some pretty cool collaborations in the last, you know, 6-7 years. What, about 5 years ago? Six, almost six years ago now, I got to release a song I wrote with Avicii, um Tim Bergling who, you know, has passed away since and it, you know, it was one of the last recordings he released, you know, while he was alive. And uh then my name's on it right next to his, and it's a song we recorded and wrote together in between Nashville and Los Angeles. You know, we started it in Nashville and then we uh finished in L A and I mean, that was an, that's an experience that I cherish and um sometimes I forget that that even happened because it was so surreal. I gotta play that song every show almost, and we opened a lot of it, I opened a lot of the acoustic tour in Europe with that song, which was, you know, it's a special thing to get to go and play it over there because he was so beloved all over the world, but especially over there, you know.
LT: Cool man. I think that's uh yeah, it's a really cool, really cool story there. Um I think, you know, with your trajectory, um I'm certain there's gonna be a ton of other wow moments in store for you um for your fans and even your future fans for that matter. Um I think we're kind of done here. I wanna thank you so much for taking some time.
BR: Thank you so much Jay!
LT: Super cool chatting with you. Um, just any kind of last words you may want to share with your audience?
BR: You know, another thing that just happened recently, not that it needs to be talked about but um one of the first singles from the EP, “We Could Get High”, uh just won song of the year at the Indie Awards here in Toronto a week and a half ago which was another SOCAN can award through the, presented by SOCAN through the Indies. That was a really cool experience, and it was fan voted, so I just want to thank everybody and everyone who was, you know, supporting the song and that was a pretty surreal thing. So, um thanks for that man!
LT: Amazing. Congratulations. Good for you, man.
BR: Thanks dude. Thank you.
LT: Cool. Alright, man, thanks so much.
BR: No problem Jay! Thank you dude!
LT: And we'll be keeping an eye out for you, back here in Toronto.
BR: Oh, yeah man. After this American tour, we wanna come back. I'm doing the west coast of Canada before the American tour, but I wanna come back in time for Christmas and do something here, so…
LT: Appreciate your time man.
BR: Right on. Thanks!!
Billy Raffoul Online