Canadian singer songwriter Raffaela Weyman is better known by her stage name RALPH. Something I learn is her musical moniker and a project that began in 2014 with a creative partner. She does in fact simply go by Raffa in life. Though the partnership was short lived Raffa took Ralph from project to performer in just a few short years. Cementing herself as a recording artist, Juno nominee, with countrywide touring, and a lauded cameo in Canada’s much watched Drag Race.
By: Lauren Walker -Lee
Photographer Miguel Jacob
In the six months it took to coordinate this shoot and interview (thank you lock down) I had the pleasure of getting to know the singer also known as Ralph like many others in 2020 – online. The world over became connected by the myriad musical stylings made available to us by our favourite artists while sheltering at home. We discovered new music via unplugged bedroom sessions, caught DJ sets once reserved for festivals, and hit up Club Quarantine.
By the time I met the singer for our shoot, I felt like I had been privy to a dreamy documentary about the artist’s creative life with the help of Instagram Stories. The best part being, she turned out to be exactly herself. Talented, colourful, and smart.
Known for her synth pop sounds and smooth soul, with Stevie Nicks undertones, Ralph entered new musical territory when she released the infectious radio played Gravity. A dance hit that lead the singer to her first Juno nomination for Dance Recording of the Year. A massive achievement that had her community of fans and industry peers thrilled for her recognition. Recognition and momentum gained through hard work and her special blend of sounds. At a time that now feels like an eternity ago we were able to experience those sounds IRL, catching Ralph on stages coast to coast opening for Carly Rae Jepsen and DTK favourite Allie X. Bringing her self styled persona, ponytail, and platforms, to the dancing crowds wanting the unique recipe that makes Ralph, well Ralph.
After the months of texting, coordinating, rescheduling and scary corona virus headlines threatening our rendezvous, we got our desired photoshoot and interview in the bag. Just in time for the fast approaching holiday season and the release of the unexpected (yet much welcome) first ever Ralph Christmas song.
Speaking to her early musical influences
I come from a family of hippies with a vast arrangement of records. I listened to Aretha Franklin, Prince, Fleetwood Mac, and my Dad’s jazz albums. As well as lot of strong female singer songwriters like Joan Baez, Carol King, and Diana Ross. I would say a lot of oldies, fused with the Girl Bands of the 90’s. Always powerful female artists.
Finding her voice
I always thought I would be an actor, but an older cousin said I had a good voice and got me to sing for her. We were at the family farm and I sang for her with the lights off. I remember singing At Last in the dark. I was then cast as the lead in the grade 8 musical which I thought had been a mistake, I had auditioned for the chorus. Again someone said “you’re a great singer” so I said to myself maybe this (singing) is actually a thing.
On taking music seriously
I was just talking about this the other day. I remember after high school I was always in bands and always making music. I look at people on Youtube now who are 12 and trying to get famous. I was never trying to get famous, which is why I am 30 and here now. I just loved making music, I wasn’t thinking about it long term. I was also styling and into acting, so I wasn’t sure if this was going to be the basket where I put all of my eggs. The moment I started to take it more seriously was when my manager Laurie and I started working together on RALPH. We said the only way for this to work is if we give it 100%. So we did.
“I WAS NEVER TRYING TO GET FAMOUS, WHICH IS WHY I AM 30 AND HERE NOW. I JUST LOVED MAKING MUSIC.”
I had rough demos that I had done with a producing partner that were quite different from the RALPH you know today. Those demos then went to my now manager Laurie who at the time was at Universal in A&R and she said they had potential. We started working together but didn’t release anything for year. In that year there was a lot of ups and downs and things going on behind the scenes before RALPH became just me, and the music you hear now. There was a lot of transformation.
On feeling the momentum grow
For me at first everything felt like momentum. I remember releasing my first song and getting email interview requests, from say England, and I would be like oh my God this is it, this is all happening! I was just so excited that people were interested and it was working. At a certain point I learned patience and how the industry works. The Carly Rae tour felt like a big step and then the Juno nomination felt like continued momentum. It’s been a really great evolution and progression.
Creating more dance records
Yes more dance music is in the cards. Though I gravitate to the music I grew up on, and the music I was doing at first. Which is the folksy singer songwriter genre, those songs with narrative lyrics and harmonies that melt your heart. I think on a more global level and to get radio play, most people like feel good music. I am getting better at balancing my writing, that yah there is room for narrative songs, but also maybe just focus on a vibe to create a song.
Self sufficiency and the inception of Rich Man Records
In addition to the idea of self sufficiency my manager Laurie and I also wanted to continue to broaden our roles within the music industry. We decided to create Rich Man Records. We are women with different backgrounds and diverse experiences. I’m a singer and songwriter, and do all the creative direction and styling for RALPH. As well as coming up with all the concepts for my music videos. I think I have a good sense of branding and creative direction that can contribute to the growth of other artists. We loved the idea of having this label for musicians, specifically we wanted to make the label a safe space for women and LGBTQ and POC artists, a safe place and a place to network. Laurie and myself have created an amazing crew of people we’ve worked with along the way, and we wanted to create a hub of connection for young artists who need help creating their personas. We have great photographers, videographers and stylists etc. to share. We are more than a label we are a place to network, create, make music, and grow.
On styling her stage looks
My manager Laurie says I should just choose a couple looks for touring but that doesn’t feel like me. I wear something different every night on stage which is challenging. I am self styling and sourcing all of the looks, speaking with fashion designers, and ordering stuff online, hoping it fits. You might have seen the size mishap with the pink pants on social media a UK 6 is actually a size 2! I then spend days putting things together and taking pictures so I can quickly reference them while on the road for each night on stage.
The dress she would have worn to the Junos
I was touring and sourcing the look while on the road and did have a lot of great options! I was speaking to Markoo, VSP Consignment, and other Canadian designers. I love a risk, I would much rather be on the badly dressed list than the forgettable list. I like bright, low and wacky.
What is next…
I am writing my album, and will continue to hone my skills, and work with new producers. With the pandemic you can ask producers further a field like LA or Vancouver to do a Zoom session which is kinda cool, to see if they are down to work .
And my latest release is a Christmas song. Hard Candy Christmas, which is a cover of a more obscure Christmas song by Dolly Parton. It’s fun and silly.
Photographer: Miguel Jacob @miguel_jacob_
Fashion Editor: Lauren Walker-Lee @lauren_lwl
Make up: Viktor Peters @viktorpeters
Hair: Leandro Avanco @beautyroom6
Photo Assistant: Quintin B. Smith @qwiththephotos