After experimenting with a range of genres in Toronto’s music scene, the most important thing to Raffaela Weyman—known on-stage as Ralph—is having creative freedom.
Beginning the project after meeting a producer on a date that lacked a romantic spark, Weyman initially added vocals to the beats she received from him over email. It didn’t take her long, though, to realize that she had to be involved in all stages of the writing process to connect with the tracks. Taking the plunge as a solo artist with a backing band, songs that she created caught the ear of Vancouver’s 604 Records, where she inked a deal that indulged her need for artistic autonomy.
“We wanted the label we were going to sign with to allow us to have a lot of freedom,” she tells the Straight on the line from her tour bus in Alberta. “604 were great because they were like, ‘You guys have been working on this for nearly two years already. You have a clear aesthetic; your videos are great, your songs are great, and we just want to facilitate more. We don’t want to control it.’ That was music to my ears, because I don’t want a 60-year-old dude telling me what’s cool. They’ve been really supportive with that. The deal was really good.”
Unlike that of labelmate Carly Rae Jepsen, whose bubblegum pop is a staple on club stereos, Ralph’s equally mainstream sound is more slow-burning, with whispers of R&B. Progressing from her first release—a self-titled EP in the ’80s-revival tradition—the performer has spent the past two years making her new material feel more mature in both its music and lyrics. Last September the singer dropped her debut album, A Good Girl, which she hopes captures her evolution as an artist.
“On the EP I think I played the victim card a bit more, and there were a lot of songs where I was like, ‘You did me wrong, you broke my heart,’” she says. “And maybe I’ve done more living and growing in the past year, but I realized that I wanted this album to explore more of an honest relationship, which means that you’re at fault often too. You’re not always the good guy. I wanted to talk about complicated relationships with yourself, with your friends, mental health—I wanted to touch on deeper content.”
Part of Weyman’s newfound maturity involves consciously embracing and celebrating people from all walks of life. Boasting a large LGBT following, the singer deliberately writes tracks that don’t just depict heteronormative love, and hopes that her catalogue can touch those from all cultures.
“It’s really cool having that community invite me in as an ally and as a guest,” she says. “It’s important to me to honour that, and make sure that when I’m writing my songs and making my visuals I’m doing it in an inclusive way. So I stay away from too many gender pronouns, and in music videos, I make sure that any characters and relationships are of different types. That’s really important for me. It’s been such a wonderful community to have on my side, because at every show the most excited people in the audience are queer men who come with these amazing outfits and makeup jobs, and they want to take pictures and spread the word.
“I want people from all around the world to have access to it [the album], and to connect with the music,” she continues. “I love the idea of people in Asia hearing the songs and connecting with this girl from Toronto. I want people in different communities hearing these tracks, and letting them uplift them, and tell them that they’re good enough.”
Ralph plays the Biltmore Cabaret on Saturday (December 1).
Follow Kate Wilson on Twitter @KateWilsonSays