Post by Leslie Smith, an Ottawa freelance writer. Her award-winning book, Adele Hugo: La Miserable (Goose Lane Editions), is now available as an e-book via Amazon.
I was hanging out at my cottage last summer, listening to the fantastic Candy Palmater Show on CBC Radio when I heard an unforgettable voice. It was Halifax singing-songwriting sensation Ria Mae. Her voice gave me goosebumps. I just had to know more about who was behind this intense voice and the amazingly fresh, soul-influenced rhythms of her songs.
I eventually tracked Ria down, and she told me about her hectic life since signing a record deal with Sony on Christmas Eve, 2015.
Ria Mae called me from Montreal in late September, where she had just arrived from Germany. She keeps an apartment there, and was still reeling from the effects of a transatlantic flight. After a barrage of interviews, she would begin rehearsing for a gig in Hamilton, Ontario the following night.
Mae has been touring non-stop, her phone won’t stop ringing and sometimes she isn’t sure what time zone she is in. What’s more, Mae is rocking Spotify (more than 2 million plays) and Youtube with her videos.
Ria was interviewed by Palmater on CBC Radio’s popular morning show, Q when she was in Toronto to perform at the CBC Music Festival in June. After that broadcast, Canadians really began to take notice.
Currently on a cross-Canada tour, Ria Mae appears October 15th at the National Arts Centre Studio—an intimate venue she has never played before—along with percussionist Chuck Bucket and bassist/keyboardist Chris Wong.
The band has been dropping in as guests on Coleman Hell’s Summerland autumn tour. Upcoming tour stops include Ontario and the western provinces. Mae and Hell, who first played a show together in Toronto last winter, found they had a similar audience and, more importantly, that they really liked each other. Hell’s song “2 Heads” which features a quirky video, has gone triple platinum in Canada. “We are both kinda weirdos. He’s been a joy to perform with,” says Mae.
Mae’s Between the Bad EP came out in 2009, followed by her 2011 indie debut Under Your Skin. In 2015, she invested all of her money to record a demo, which received airplay on Halifax radio stations. A Sony Music rep heard the catchy “Clothes Off” and decided to find out more about her intriguing sound. He liked what he heard, and she was signed to a recording contract.
Soon after, Terry McBride of Nettwerk Music Group called. “He said ‘you remind me of another young girl from Halifax.’” Sarah McLachlan, a talented singer he had nurtured to fame. “To me that was a really good omen,” says Mae said, adding that McLachlan went to her high school.
The eponymous Ria Mae, her Sony debut album, contains the hits “Ooh Love,” “Gold,” and “Clothes Off,” as well as the more muscular “Crazy” and “Thoughts on Fire,” the latter featuring her producer, Halifax rapper Classified. “He is a rapper but he is into production,” says Mae. “He doesn’t care about what is cool or what is in. I can see working with him a lot in future.”
Learn more about Ria Mae at www.riamae.com. She performs October 15th at the National Arts Centre Studio (53 Elgin Street). Tickets are $25 available online at www.nac-cna.ca or in person at the NAC box office.