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INTERVIEW - Holding On To Ria Mae

Queer Singer on latest single and tour

Celebrity Interview by Jason Clevett (From GayCalgary® Magazine, November 2018, page 0)
Ria Mae
Ria Mae
Image by: Mathew Guido
Ria Mae
Ria Mae
Image by: Mathew Guido
Ria Mae
Ria Mae
Image by: Mathew Guido

It’s been a whirlwind few years for Halifax artist Ria Mae. The singer, known for hits like Clothes Off and Oh Love recently released her latest single Hold Me. Mae performs this week in Edmonton November 22nd and Calgary November 24th.

"I wrote that song with Frank Kadillac, he's the lead singer of Neon Dreams, they're a band also based outside of Halifax. It was just, basically I'd known Frank for a while and the song sort of started as a conversation about sort of the fact that everyone has anxiety in 2018 and just like with all the bad news we're getting and all the social media accounts we all have, just how easy life used to be when we were kids. And that's kind of how the song started."

Mae sings from experience. In a world of "fake news" and the ability to hide behind a keyboard, people can be quite cruel in comments.

"It's pretty crazy. YouTube, I think is the worst for that. And I didn't notice it until like I released the video for "Clothes Off" and I think when "Close Off" had about 5000 views that's when I got the first bad comment. So, you know at first, it's your aunts and your uncles and your cousins being like "Good for you!" And then you just get that one stranger who's like "Your voice sucks!" And it's like you just have to choose what your boundary is, and for me it was never looking at comments on YouTube. I'd look at comments everywhere else but YouTube just seems to be extra mean. So that just helps me not damage my creative spirit and my soul."

Mae has had quite a few singles now, hearing a song like "Hold Me" on the is still exciting.

"Well I guess there's nothing quite like hearing your first song on the radio. Like I don't know if that exact feeling will ever be able to be replicated but it's still really really really cool. And I just heard it a couple days ago for the first time and it's like, I mean it's the whole thing. That was my dream when I was a kid, to have a song on the radio. So, it's still really cool."

Mae has spent a lot of time on tour in the last year in support of her 2017 album My Love. She toured with Tegan and Sara in Europe, across Canada with Scott Helman, and played to a massive audience at the Jingle Ball in Toronto. The concert, which was broadcast on CTV was headlined by The Backstreet Boys and Kelly Clarkson.

"That was definitely a 'pinch me' moment. Yeah, that was crazy. We were so nervous at that show we couldn't even look at each other, me and my band. Touring with Tegan and Sara, in Europe you can get to different countries so quickly because they're so small, and so I got to see so many countries I had never seen before, imagined I would be here, and just that and success of "Bend" last year going into Top Ten for the first time, basically felt, yeah, I had a good New Year's Eve celebration.

Mae is part of the LGBT community and has included same sex female relationships in the videos for Gold and Red Light. It’s a balance between wanting to express that aspect of her life in her music and being pigeonholed into a category of "gay artist."

"I just talked to someone right before you who asked me that, but it was coming from a straight person's perspective, I guess. They were like, "Why do you put sexuality into everything?" And I was like, "What are you talking about?" So for me, I don't mind being pigeonholed. I don't think it's a problem now but I think when Tegen and Sara came out, it was a problem. It could ruin your career. I'm very sensitive to that and I think the last couple years it's okay to be gay. I think it is no longer a hindrance to your career in North America, anyway, or Europe."

While there is a prolific amount of male gay artists being successful, there’s significantly fewer female artists with mainstream success.

"It's true, yeah. It's true. I think it would blow your mind. And it's, I don't know if it's considered an act of aggression to represent yourself as a strong and, with a patriarchy in that way, I don't know if it's seen as more aggressive or if it's just coincidental because Troy Sivan and Sam Smith have created such a beautiful space and their music has such a big reach that now we're used to it with gay men. I'm not sure if it's the chicken or the egg thing, I guess it's a mix of both."

Mae has toured with multiple other Canadians and Classified produced her last album. Mae touched on the comradery on the Canadian music scene.

"I think it's indicative of a country where it does seem like a really small scene, so we all see each other at festivals. Summer feels like summer camp, you'll go to one festival with a person, and two of them might be going to the next festival. I find the Canadian scene really helpful and really supportive and I know some of my American friends say that they don't feel that as much as in the States, it the country, so I think in Canada we're real lucky in that way. The Canadian music industry is super strong. I think some of the top arts in the world come from Canada so that makes us have to reach to try to be as good as the top ones. It makes you a better artist at whatever you're doing if the person in front of you is way in front of you, you want to be as good as them."

Mae has played for thousands at arenas and festivals and also intimate shows in clubs. Every show is different, she says.

"It definitely keeps you on your toes. Even on a tour where the shows are relatively the same in terms of capacity, one show might be just everyone wants to sit down and clap and then next people want to dance. You just sort of have to learn to go with the flow and there's amazing things about playing for 200 people and getting that really awesome connection. Something like the Jingle Ball is just what you dream about as a little kid, the size of the stage, and you kind of get to have that moment where you're like "I did it and I'm doing it!" So I like everything. I don't like anything to be boring and stagnant so I love that every day is different. On this tour there's been probably almost every night I’ve met new fans that saw me at this festival and that's why they came out. And that's another great part about playing to larger festivals is getting in front of people that might like you but didn't know they would and then that just sorts of helps your own career and helps make my own shows bigger when I pass through town. But that's definitely a bonus, playing those big stages."

Mae is excited for her current tour which features some special guests.

"I brought a few friends with me. I brought this incredible artist Ralph from Toronto. She is super cool and I'm a huge fan of her. She's opening the show. And then during my set, I have special guests Neon Dreams from Halifax and it's basically, we're all in the pop genre but we're all very different brands so I think we've put together a really fun and diverse show. This particular tour won't happen again so I'm hoping people come out to catch it while they can."

Mae has a huge LGBT fanbase and wrapped things up with a thank you to them.

"I'd just like to thank people for their support because it's a queer community that started my career and then a huge portion of people come out to my live shows and I just feel very lucky to be part of that community."

Related Articles

Contributor Jason Clevett |

Locale Calgary | Edmonton |

Person Ria Mae |

Topic Celebrity Interview | Interview |


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