Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing.
Over the ‘phone, I talked to Winnipeg singer/songwriter/violinist Raine Hamilton about her creative process, the importance of making music accessible to as many people as possible and the challenges she’s faced as a musician.
Music was something that started early for Raine after seeing world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma playing on Sesame Street. She explains, “I was hooked on string instruments after that. I started very persistently asking my parents if I could play the violin. When I was seven years old, I got my first violin. I reported to my mom that it was the happiest day of my life.”
She continues, “I went on to take violin lessons for many years. I’m classically trained and I have a music degree. I also played in fiddle bands growing up, so it was really cool to experience both schools of fiddle playing. They both really informed my writing and playing on the instrument.”
Song lyrics come to Raine like “seeds in the wind.” She elaborates, “They blow my way. They’re like a gift to me. I’ll feel a resonance with an idea, sound or phrase and I’ll know to write that down, record it and take care of it. It’s a really cool feeling. From there, it’s like how ice forms. There needs to be a speck of something in the water for the ice crystal to form around. The first idea is that little speck and the whole crystal of the song will form around it.”
Another important component of her musical career is her passion for educating others. Raine says, “I do a lot of workshops. I do them with community organizations and adults, but the bulk of what I do is with kids in schools. I do programs in songwriting and fiddle tune writing. I take such pride in them because I really believe that music and art is for everyone and I want the creative process and the skills that go with it to be accessible to anyone who wants to learn them.”
She adds, “When I’m going into a school, my goal is to teach a creative process that students can apply to many things. I want to help students expand and hone their creative skill set. It’s so important because it’s a skill set that allows us to externalize our internal world. It can be so healing and empowering and life-giving to do that.”
Raine’s democratic approach to music has extended in a unique direction. She’s started providing American Sign Language interpretation in her live concerts. She explains, “I was asked by the Winnipeg Free Press to do a video as an example for an article they were writing about sign language interpretation with live music. It was my first exposure to ASL interpretation with live music and I realized that there is this group of people who are interested, who want that experience of resonating live and in person with artistic expression, but they can't access it. We can get them that experience and that resonance through interpretation.”
Raine’s getting ready to release her second album entitled Night Sky. She says, “It’s going to be released on March 24, 2018. I recorded it this past winter with the awesome Lloyd Peterson at Paintbox Recording in Winnipeg. It’s an album of ten original songs. It’s a string trio with me on violin and guitar, Natanielle Felicitas on cello and Quintin Bart on bass. It has a small string ensemble/chamber music feel to it. We’re all players with a classical background, so that informs our playing and arrangements. The album is still living in the folk house. It’s singer/songwriter songs where the song, the lyrics and the voice are forefront.”
The biggest challenge that she faces currently is an organizational one. Raine explains, “I have an intricate web of spreadsheets to keep track of emails sent about things, plans about this, that and the other thing and details, details, details about so many things at once.”
She adds, “I have a system of lists. I’ll have a list for the month and then I’ll have weekly and short term lists. One thing I’ve started doing that I really like is making a list of what to do the next morning which helps me get started more efficiently.”
Earlier in her musical career, Raine struggled with letting go of her job as a violin teacher. She points out, “I let go of that steady work to pursue my musical career more fully. It was hard to do at the time, but it was such a good choice that I’m glad I did it.”
In terms of her personal experience with the folk music community, she has warm praise. Raine says, “I have experienced the folk community of artists and musicians as an open and welcoming place. I’ve had beautiful experiences connecting with people who are lovers of music all over Canada.”
The broader music industry is at a crossroads and Raine isn’t sure where it’s going next. She explains, “Digitization has changed things a lot. I don’t know for sure what it will look like, but I do know that it’s a human thing to seek out art and things that we resonate with. There will always be a role for art in every culture. I’m just not sure how the financial side of it will work. Streaming has changed everything.”
The next few weeks and months are full for her. Raine says, “In the immediate future, I’m going to Regina for the Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Councils meeting where I’ll showcase my music with ASL interpretation. I’m releasing a video and a single in the next week. I’m looking forward to some more workshops across Manitoba this winter. I’ll be heading out touring in the spring.”
A balance of different elements is what Raine requires to keep her creativity flowing. She says, “I need to have enough sleep, I need to eat well enough, laugh well enough and see enough of my friends and family. Whatever I need more of has to be in place before I’m centred enough and open enough to do any creating.”