Most of the songs on Avery Raquel’s latest album, My Heart Away, explore the growth of relationships, the turmoil of loss and the want for understanding. Heavy topics, especially when you consider that Avery is still a teenager.
Her maturity may be a reflection of a lengthy career in show business. Avery got her start in television, at 7-years old, appearing in Dreamwork’s and Steven Spielberg’s Falling Skies and in animation, voicing a little elephant named Tiki for the Disney series, Ella The Elephant. At 11, she was starring as Jane Banks in the first Canadian production of Mary Poppins and at 13, she became a Mini Pop Kid, the Canadian version of Kidz Bop, recording kid-friendly versions of popular radio hits.
“It was my real first experience being followed by fans online,” she reflects. “I loved the autograph sessions after live concerts. It was kind of crazy and definitely something I'll never forget!”
She released her debut album, Life Lessons, in 2016 and then Without A Little Rain a year later. My Heart Away is her first foray into mainstream music, and includes “Pieces,” her first single to appear on the Billboard record charts.
We spoke with the teenaged contemporary soul/pop artist to discuss the state of being Indie today.
What is like to be an independent artist today?
Avery Raquel: With the increase in streaming platforms, and less of a push towards buying hard copy CD’s or even downloading full albums, it’s become somewhat easier for indie artists to gain a foothold in the business. A lot of people simply discover a single from a playlist or friend, and then follow that artist.
Of course, being an indie artist also means more time performing but it allows for a lot of freedom and shows a different kind of dedication that I really appreciate.
Many independent artists say it is easier to get music heard but harder to make a living from music.
Avery Raquel: While it’s easier to get your music out in the world, and on these streaming platforms, you are not guaranteed that people will find you and listen. I believe, with anything, you will get what you put into it. It is important to promote yourself as much as you would like to be recognized. I’ve been able to make a decent amount of income, mostly from performances, as opposed to online sales, to pay for my everyday living expenses as an independent artist. Though I am independent, I have a really amazing team of people who assist in my career every day, and I am very lucky to have them in my corner. That includes my friends and my parents. I definitely would not be where I am without them.
As a soul/R&B artist, why did you make the decision to jump into the EDM arena?
I’m not switching genres to become an EDM artist, but I do have an appreciation for the work that goes into creating that style of music. The idea to try EDM was really to expose my music, and myself as an artist, to a new market of listeners. We were pleasantly surprised at the response from both EDM fans and DJ’s around the world, as well as my existing fanbase in the RnB/Soul genre. It seemed very successful in both fields, and I am grateful for that!
What did it mean for your career to chart on the Billboard dance chart?
I approached the whole thing with an open mind and no expectations. So far, besides being able to call myself “a Billboard charting artist”, we’re starting to see an increase in the fanbase, and requests to perform. We’ve approached this as a jumping-off point for bigger and better things to come.
Should other indie artists look to work with dance producers to get their music out to new audiences?
I think it’s a really great idea, though not for everyone! I was terrified at first, because it is so different from anything I had ever released, but in the end, there were more pros than cons. If an artist feels that it makes sense, that their style is conducive to that genre, and they have the budget to make it happen, then don’t be afraid!
What was it about "Pieces" that made it right for a remix?
It was the most upbeat song on the ‘My Heart Away’ record. A lot of my listeners gravitated to it even before it was remixed. So, we thought it would be a good fit. Plus, the message in the song is very flexible, allowing people from all different walks of life to relate to it.
Have you been approached by producers to remix other songs on the album?
A couple! Which is another great surprise! We will see where the next year takes us, there may be another remix in store.
Are there other genres of music you may want to tap into at some point?
I really enjoy a pop alternative sound as well as a gospel sound. Both have very strong RnB/jazz undertones.
What's your goal as an indie artist?
I am kind of just taking things as they come. If I get approached by a major label, and the time is right, then I would consider it. For now, I am focused on writing good music and getting it out to the masses. I believe everything will eventually fall into place. If it’s meant to be, it will be.
Are major labels still important today?
I think being with a major label would definitely allow for greater exposure, but for a lesser known artist, building a career, you may lose some control over artist direction. At the end of the day you have to consider the type of artist you really want to be and the type of music you would like to produce.
What are you working on now?
I’ve been writing a lot! I’m always searching for inspiration. I write down little things around me, or stories that others tell me, because it all has the capability of being turned into art. The plan is to record some of my recent originals and maybe release a few singles over the next few months, with our sights on a new album, maybe in the Fall. Of course, I’m always performing as well, and hope to have a few small tours booked in and around Canada and the US over the upcoming spring and summer.
Follow Avery Raquel on Twitter @realaveryraquel and on Instagram, Facebook and Youtube @averyraquelmusic.