An Interview with Avery Raquel

Avery Raquel is a young artist, still in high school, and yet already building a name for herself as a soul/RnB singer. She has released three solo albums, Life Lessons, Without a Little Rain, and most recently, My Heart Away. Her newest album is all originals, and it showcases her budding skills as not only a singer with a strong, clear voice, but also as a songwriter. She incorporates modern elements into a classic genre, and draws inspiration from jazz greats, but also more contemporary music. She is performing on Monday June 25, at the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street at 6:00 p.m.

J: I was wondering how you got into the industry? I know you’re quite a young artist, and I was wondering when you got into music?

A: Well, I started singing when I was 4 years old, and not long after that – I think I was about 7 – I started singing jazz. My parents introduced me to jazz, and then I kind of took off from there. I sang at a bunch of different venues, I tried to get my name out there, and I put out my first album independently produced when I was 13 called Life Lessons. Then I was introduced to my current producer, Greg Kavanagh, and we put out Without a Little Rain together and now we’re at the most recent album, My Heart Away.

J: You’ve just started songwriting, is that right?

A: Yeah, last year.

J: What is your creative process like with songwriting? I know My Heart Away is all originals.

A: Yeah, so, me and Greg write together, and so I’ll make a session with him, and we’ll both work out a chord progression together of where we think we want it to go, and then we’ll record it. He’ll send me home with that, and then I’ll come up with the lyrics, the melody, and the instrumentation that I want, and other little things like that, and I’ll take it back to him and we’ll record a demo.

J: Do you tend to start with ideas of what you want the song to be about, or…

A: It kind of depends on what’s going on in my life I guess, because I write upon personal experience, so kind of just what I feel from the chord progression that’s given and then, if I want it to be happy or sad or whatever [laughs].

J: Are there any songs on My Heart Away that stand out to you with specific meaning, or maybe it was a specific challenge to write?

A: I think one in particular would be Hold on to Today, it was one of the easiest songs to write, because it was for a friend of mine who went through a lot with his family, and he just needed someone, so I wrote it for him.

J: Where do you tend to draw inspiration from? Do you solely look at jazz and soul artists, or do you also look at more contemporary and modern artists?

A: I listen to a lot of contemporary artists - I listen to a lot of Daniel Caesar, who else… [laughs] I actually listen to a lot of rap artists, believe it or not. Like Chance the Rapper. That’s because they take old gospel tunes and rap to them which I think is pretty sick. But obviously the greats: motown artists and RnB, soul, but yeah I listen to a lot of current artists. A lot of Amy Winehouse and stuff like that.

J: Is this your first time performing at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival?

A: Solo, yes. I performed last year with the Jazz.FM91 Youth Big Band.

J: What’s your experience like at this jazz festival compared to others? Or have you had a favourite performance?

A: Oh geez… [laughs] I don’t know that I’ve had an all-time favourite performance, but I mean, the jazz community in Toronto especially is really one to be involved with, and I’m really happy that I can be, so I just think performing at the jazz festival is great.

J: Are you performing with a band this year?

A: Yeah - I’m performing with a 7-piece behind me.

J: That’s exciting! Do you play any instruments? I know you sing…

A: Yeah, yeah, I play piano, and actually my pianist who plays for me, Adrean Farrugia, he’s also my piano teacher, and I also play ukulele and a little bit of drums.

J: Oh, that’s cool. Are there any instruments that you’re interested in learning?

A: I feel like bass would be really cool to learn, upright bass, yeah [laughs].

J: Do you have any specific future goals with your music career? Where do you see yourself going?

A: Kind of what I’m doing now, just on a grander scale I guess [laughs]. Just getting my name out there a lot more, really, being known I guess.

J: Do you have any hobbies outside of performing? And do you find that any of those influence your music? Any other creative hobbies?

A: I don’t know, because music is kind of all I do [laughs]. I mean, I have weird things that I like to do at school, like I love chemistry, I don’t know, that doesn’t reflect music at all [laughs].

J: It’s nice to have a balance, do something completely opposite.

A: Yeah, it is! But, yeah it’s pretty much all music.

J: What are you planning on doing after school? Are you going to go to post-secondary?

A: Post-secondary is definitely in mind for me, I’m starting to look at schools. But I’m not too sure yet, depending on where my career tends to go, I know a lot of people take a gap year.

J: Do you have a hard time balancing this music career and performing while you’re still in school?

A: Sometimes it can get a little stressful, but I have really supportive teachers, so they’re willing to extend due dates [laughs].

J: That’s nice, that you’ve at least got some supportive teachers... Is there anything specific you wanted to mention about your new album or performing or…

A: I don’t know, the 25th, well tomorrow I guess, is kind of like our CD release concert, well that’s how we’re treating it. And just get as many people out as possible, just have a good time.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity

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