Andrea Ramolo, one half of the Canadian country/folk duo Scarlett Jane, will be in Montreal Wednesday November 8th at Turbo Haüs to finally present her latest solo record “Nuda” (Naked, in Italian). “Montreal and Ottawa are the final frontier for this record release” she tells me, as she’s been busy touring overseas and on the west coast.
Born out of the ashes of a “very public romantic relationship with another Canadian musician”, “Nuda” is a deeply personal record for Andrea Ramolo, who channelled her grief into the creative process of songwriting. “It wrote itself. I saved so much money on therapy!” she adds laughing. The album’s genesis took place at the house of her friend Faye Blais, who was just starting to record and produce her own material. The singer had been reclusive for a few months but Blais managed to lure her out of her apartment. “It was that first step to start unraveling the hurt and the pain. I’d go over once a week and we would record a song of two. That was a very painful process; those recordings are as honest and real as they get but it was very therapeutic, and it helped Faye too because it was her first chance at producing. There was a lot of trust already in our friendship, so it was a great way to start getting these songs out there and hear them back.”
She eventually brought those demos to producer Michael Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies, who loved the raw emotion oozing from the songs. “He’s really attracted to the darkness as well,” Ramolo explains. “We were a very good match for each other. He definitely took them to an entirely other level sonically and arrangement wise.” She quickly decided to include the demos as a bonus album called “De Sola”. “They’re the balladeer versions of the songs,” she explains. “Stripped down, really intimate and naked, as if you’re sitting around my kitchen table with me. When people want just the communication with the songwriter, they can put down that album. I like the contrast between the two; it’s like theatre and cinema.”
If those stripped down versions are the rawest form of these songs, the finished album “Nuda” shows the singer dealing with those emotions, and taking back control. “The album was my strength,” Ramolo confirms. “It was the thing that kept me going and got me through this period. To this day I get messages from fans saying that this album was their beacon of hope. When you write from an honest place, even if it is personal, you’re sharing something and if someone out there can connect to that and feel that they’re not alone, you’ve done a really good job beyond just creating music.”
With that in mind, it’d be foolish to expect a ‘woe is me’ album. “They’re definitely not ‘pity’ songs” she acquiesces. “They’re songs about universal themes, because two things that all human beings have in common is that we all feel love and pain. And those two things often go hand in hand, unfortunately. But also fortunately because that’s how we do most of our growing.”
Andrea Ramolo may have spent the year focused on this record, but it doesn’t mean that Scarlett Jane is done, and she insists the band hasn’t broken up. “We will always be together,” she says. “We were on the road for almost five years straight and we needed a break from that, we needed to both reclaim our own individual voices. And for me, during this time of growth and transformation, these songs were so personal that they were not Scarlett Jane songs; they were very much Andrea Ramolo songs. They were so personal and intimate that they needed to come from my voice.”
Meanwhile, her Scarlett Jane partner, Franco-Ontarian Cindy Doire, had released her newest French album “so it was a perfect time for us to change direction for a couple of years and focus on ourselves,” says Ramolo. “A band is like a relationship, so I had these two most important relationships in my life shift at once and I was left feeling almost naked and lost, and I felt like I didn’t know who I was anymore.”
Having gone through the healing process with this record, I asked the musician if singing these songs live was a bit like reopening old wounds. “Sometimes you just slip back into that memory and it’s out of your control,” she answers. “Part of me fights it because I don’t want to feel that way anymore but those are the moments when I can feel the energy of the audience because I’m offering them something so real and I’m at my most vulnerable.”
“In this day and age of social media,” she goes on to explain, “we’re all film makers, we’re all photographers, and we’re constructing a glamorous version of ourselves. It’s important to allow yourself to be that vulnerable. I can play these songs without breaking down but there are special moments when I kind of time travel backwards into those spaces. And those become gifts because when I snap out of that I’m so grateful for where I’m at now, and for the journey that led me here.”
That journey is leading her to Montreal on Wednesday November 8th at Turbo Haüs, with a brand new live show. “It’s an all female power trio so I have Sarha Featherstone on electric violin, who we used to bring out on the road a lot with Scarlett Jane, and Megan Lane who is my lead guitarist. She’s a fantastic solo artist in her own right. I’m actually not playing acoustic guitar on this project: I’m playing my beautiful baritone guitar that I wrote most of the songs on, and I have this custom-made tap board, because I was a tap dancer since I was two. It’s a specially designed stage where I have two different drum sounds underneath my feet so I don’t need to hire a drummer, because they’re expensive and take up a lot of room in the tour van,” she says laughing, “I’m able to do intricate tapping rhythm while we play so it sounds like there’s a full band on stage. When you live in a country as big as ours and you have to drive 8 hours or fly halfway across the world to play your next show, you have to think about that sort of stuff.”
Her setlist will of course be focused on this latest record. “I’m going to play all the songs off “Nuda”, as well as a few older songs, maybe even a Scarlett Jane song,” she teases. “And there definitely will be homages to artists we’ve lost and some artists that I love.”
Don’t miss Andrea Ramolo at Turbo Haüs on Wednesday November 8th at 7:30. Tickets are available here for 20$. Montreal’s Baby Dove will open.
He's also a regular contributor at the very rad site Montreal Rampage