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FYI

Five Questions With… Avery Raquel

Just 16, the soul wunderkind has just released her third album. As she explains in this Q&A, the collection represents a shift away from her jazz roots and showcases her fast-developing songwriting skills.

Five Questions With… Avery Raquel

By Jason Schneider

On her new album My Heart Away, 16-year-old Canadian soul wunderkind Avery Raquel updates classic sounds for contemporary ears. It’s the third full-length all-original collection from the vocalist and songwriter, displaying her rapid maturation and clear musical vision.


My Heart Away was produced once again by Juno and ECMA winner Greg Kavanagh, who helped Avery fulfill her goal of moving from the contemporary jazz style of her previous albums into incorporating vintage Motown and Stax sounds. However, what remains constant is Avery's sultry voice and the emotional depth within her lyrics. While many singers of her generation naturally gravitate toward pop, Avery Raquel has been a soul singer from day one, as her latest effort proves beyond a shadow of a doubt.

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The Hamilton, Ontario native started in the entertainment industry at a young age, appearing on television, in commercials, radio ads, a Disney animated television series, and even a number of professional stage productions across Canada. Her passion for singing quickly grew and has led to an impressive list of career accomplishments on her musical resume.

Having performed across the country, Avery Raquel is poised to break out with My Heart Away, which captures how quickly she has honed her skills as a contemporary songwriter. You can catch her on Sat. June 16 at the Sound of Music Festival in Burlington, Ontario, and also Mon. June 25 at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival’s OLG Stage in Yorkville. For more info go to averyraquel.com.

 

What makes My Heart Away stand apart from your previous work?

My first album, Life Lessons, was a jazz album. I started in jazz, so it made sense at the time to try that first and cover songs I loved. My second album, Without A Little Rain, though still rooted in jazz, had some contemporary soul songs on it. It was also my first attempt at songwriting. My Heart Away is all original material, which was an extremely fun process. As a songwriter, you tend to write about your experiences, and this album is quite literally eight months of my life, demonstrating the evolution of a relationship. The album and my songwriting have more of an R&B/soul vibe as well, though the discerning ear could probably still pick out some jazz nuances.

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What songs on the new album are you particularly proud of?

I'm very proud of the song “Hold On To Today.” It was also the most natural song to write because it was so personal. The instrumentation was written first; then the words just came really easy. It was written for a close friend of mine who was going through some struggles. Though maybe simplistic in its structure, I find solace when I sing it, and love how it builds throughout, as the story unfolds. I believe it to be very relatable for anyone going through some hard times.

You’re still in your teens, but how would you describe your artistic evolution so far?

I've changed my style over time. I was only 13 when I recorded my first album, and so my influences were really my experiences with jazz and musical theatre. As I got older, I wanted to perform material that I thought would be a little more mainstream, while staying true to my jazz roots. That was basically the approach taken on Without A Little Rainalthough some songs were still very comfortable in my style—like “Things You Do” or “Dreaming,” which was co-written with jazz vocalist Sophia Perlman—others allowed me to experiment more. Once I began writing my songs, I worked closely and learned a lot from my producer and guitarist Greg Kavanagh. Through the process of writing with him, I’ve been able to stretch my mind around embracing new styles.

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What song by another artist do you wish you had written?

That’s a tough one, as I love so many other artists. Some songs, through the mere musicality, make me wish I had written them, while others would be because of their lyrics. Sara Bareilles is a songwriter that shines through both her music and lyrics, and she has a song called “Gravity” that I love. She uses really beautiful chord choices, but besides the instrumentation, the lyrics are beautiful—“You loved me ‘cause I’m fragile, and I thought that I was strong. But you touch me for a little while and all my fragile strength is gone.” I find all of her songs to be very visual, and musically take you places you would have never thought to go. I strive for that in my songwriting.

What's been the most significant change in your life over the past year?

Being 16, everything I do I find to be life-changing. I got my beginner’s license this year; that will be more of life-changer for my parents! I also went through a relationship, which as noted, was the basis of the songs on My Heart Away. That’s always a learning experience, especially when it ends. I find through those experiences we grow and mature faster than we may want to. Career-wise, every time I perform, I grow as a musician, and it changes my outlook and my goals.

Last summer, I was fortunate to have been accepted into the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, in Newport, Rhode Island. It was a one-week intensive, full scholarship and they only accept 50 kids from around the world. I had the opportunity to learn from the renowned musicians and faculty of the Berklee College of Music, and at the end of the week, I got to perform at the Newport Jazz Festival. That whole experience of being away in a different country, hearing the high level of musicianship from not only the instructors, but also my peers, and performing on one of the world’s most recognizable stages was an insane learning opportunity for me. I walked away with a new appreciation of art, a deeper understanding of music, and how to be a better singer.

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The Beaches performing at Billboard Canada's Women in Music Launch on June 5, 2024
Marc Thususka Photography

The Beaches performing at Billboard Canada's Women in Music Launch on June 5, 2024

Awards

The Beaches, Charlotte Cardin, Allison Russell Make the 2024 Polaris Music Prize Long List

The 40-album long list for the Polaris Prize, which awards $50,000 to the best Canadian record of the year features up-and-comers like punk group NOBRO and producer Bambii, plus rapper TOBi, and legends like Quebec group Karkwa and previous Heritage Prize winner Beverly Glenn-Copeland.

Some of the country's biggest breakthrough artists are in contention for the prestigious Polaris Music Prize.

The 40-album long list was revealed today (June 11) at Sonic Boom record store in downtown Toronto. It features some of the buzziest names in Canadian music, from The Beaches — who were recently awarded Billboard Canada Women in Music's inaugural Group of the Year award — to Grammy-winner Allison Russell, to Canadian Hot 100 charting acts like Charlotte Cardin and Talk, to underground mainstays like Cindy Lee, who had an organic breakthrough this year with Diamond Jubilee.

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