THE REINVENTION OF RIA MAE - Q&A with Haligonian Singer/Songwriter

THE REINVENTION OF RIA MAE - Q&A with Haligonian Singer/Songwriter

Q&A: Tiffany Thornton
Photo: Lane Dorsey

It’s hard to believe that singer-songwriter and Haligonian Ria Mae was ever shy. With the hit song "Clothes Off" and a record deal with Sony Music, Mae is on a role. Her self-titled album showcases her ability to transition from folk to a pop-infused sound almost effortlessly. Local Connections chats with Rae about perfectionism, music and Maritime camaraderie.  

LCH: You have been writing songs since you were a kid. Was that something you always gravitated towards?

Ria: Yeah, I come from a family that has a lot of writers, novelists and poetry writers. My mom was a bit of a songwriter. I think it was just a normal thing in our family to lock yourself away and just write. I think for some families that would be weird; like, ‘What's wrong with this kid? Four days in her room without coming out.’ In my family it was just okay; it was like, ‘I hope the songs are going well.’ That was a normal thing for me. I never had a diary;
I would just record songs on a tape player. I was always encouraged and I did well in school, so my parents never really had a reason to worry. I was fascinated with songwriting and trying to get better.
I wondered how some people were so good at it. 

LCH: Had you been singing the songs you wrote? Did people tell you that you had a great voice growing up?

Ria: I always sang, but I don't think anyone would say I had a good voice, especially when I was younger. I worked really hard around college; I was working in construction management and then got laid off for about a year. I made myself get up every morning and sing. I always wanted to be a good singer and
I just wasn't. I really wanted to be good; I was hard on myself. So I woke up really early and would sing eight hours a day and developed my own style. I am happy with my voice now but it’s been a long haul. 

LCH: You have dabbled in a bit of acting, like in the video for your song "Gold." Have you thought about acting more?

Ria: I definitely think about it. To me it’s really similar to performing on stage and getting into an emotion. I feel like most people that can perform on stage can act a little bit. It’s something I would like to do more of. 

LCH: It’s amazing how many people in the industry out here work together and support each other, which you don't see in most cities. Do you think it’s a Maritime thing?

Ria: I never realized that it was a thing until I started touring more and hearing stories from musicians in other cities where it was more competitive. I think it’s so great, and we are so lucky. I feel like when I go home to Halifax, even musicians who are still struggling I feel genuine support from them. And I feel genuinely happy for people who came before me or who are coming up now. It’s a wonderful thing, and we sure have some weird cross-pollination. Yeah, it’s definitely a Maritime thing. 

LCH: I love the title of your hit song, "Clothes Off." How did the title come to be? 

Ria: I had written that song in Montreal. I actually wrote the song with the clothes dryer going, and I think it was subliminal; with the clothes dryer going and the circular beat — I wrote an entire line. I usually write the title for my songs last. 

LCH: You’re touring a lot this summer and into the fall. What do you enjoy about being on the road? 

Ria: I am having a lot of fun this year on the road. Switching my last show from a folk show to a pop show was great. I always feel inspired when I don't know what I am doing, which is what happened with this last album. Making a poppy, hip-hoppy album and with this show making it bigger. Showing what
I really want to pull out from the album and doing it live. To me it’s so fun! I am glad that I get to experience both the writing and the performing; they are both so different. 

LCH: Did you ever think that your career would skyrocket this fast? 

Ria: In one way I never thought that this whole year would happen. Yet in another way I had always hoped and worked towards it. There were a couple years where I was doing so many jobs; it looked like music was not working out for me. But I had always visualized this. I put out "Clothes Off" on my own before the album was done. I had this weird gut feeling in August, and I just was like, ‘This needs to go out now.’ I was saving up money to finish the album, and I had to make that choice to finish the album or just put the song out. I put the song out, and ten days later Sony called. 

LCH: Any new albums or singles in the works that we can anticipate this year?

Ria: We just put out a new single called "Ooh Love." We just put that to radio. I was in L.A. recently filming a video for it. That video will be coming out probably in August. I will be touring a lot and working on some new music.


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