Over 40K social media followers can’t be wrong! They know that Nicole Rayy has been delivering solid singles & captivating music videos since her introduction on the Canadian Country Music scene in 2012. Her biggest singles include “All Woman”, “Broken Boys”, “Feels Like Yesterday”, “House Of Cards” & “Graveyard”.
The numbers don’t lie – over 3 million catalogue streams to date, with her single “Feels Like Yesterday” garnering over 600K streams alone. A four-time CMAOntario nominee, Nicole has received praise from country music outlets like The Boot, Complete Country and Top Country while finding her music added to popular playlists like Spotify’s New Music Nashville, Women in Country, Live Country and Best Country Songs of 2021 as well as Amazon Music’s Breakthrough Country and Fresh Country.
Nicole has played festivals like Hagersville Rocks, Dauphin’s Countryfest & Manitoulin Country Fest – and she’s even had the experience of performing at the World Music Festival in Shanghai, China, four years in a row!
Nicole’s latest single “Graveyard” gained a lot of traction on TikTok with a clip of the track getting over 230K views and gaining Nicole a 150% increase in followers overnight.
Aside from promoting her own music career, Nicole devotes her time and energy to create opportunities for other female artists to shine. One of those opportunities is her successful all-female music festival HarmoniaFest which will celebrate its 4th anniversary this year.
“I was inspired to create HarmoniaFest in November 2019 when the festival lineups for 2020 were being announced,” explains Nicole. “I was very frustrated with the lack of female artists and headliners. There are many talented women in this industry who work so hard and I just wanted to create an opportunity to showcase them. I’ve always believed that you can’t wait around for an opportunity; you have to create it yourself. The first HarmoniaFest was a drive-in (due to the pandemic) music festival that took place in Milton, Ontario in August 2020 in partnership with the Italian Cultural Centre of Milton. As a result of the interest and success of the first HarmoniaFest, I brought the festival back in September 2021 and again in August 2022, partnering with Brooks Farms in Mount Albert, Ontario. I am so proud of the success of this small festival and hope to continue to see it grow through the years. Each year, we have had more support from media and sponsors and last year the festival was even sponsored by FACTOR. It has been a thrill to see our audience grow and gain interest from artists to be a part of this special day. I know this year’s festival, taking place August 19th at Brooks Farms, will be our biggest one yet!”
Nicole celebrates being a woman in “All Woman” & empowers women in “Fireproof”. She’s a proven leader & inspiration in the industry as well as a role model for new female artists on the scene.
Despite the success she’s achieved, Nicole knows the frustration that she and other female artists feel when faced with roadblocks in the music industry.
“When radio or playlists or festivals don’t give the audience a chance to fall in love with songs by women because they only have room for one at a time, the audience isn’t going to call in and request a bunch of songs by females if they have never heard them before,” shares Nicole. “If the industry made more room for female-sung songs, and not just because they are women, but because they are talented and deserve to be heard, I think things would be different. There are a lot of talented country artists both male and female, but from my perspective as a female, it seems that female artists are held to a higher standard. If you are a male you still have to be talented of course, but it seems there are a lot fewer boxes to be checked because they are “what the audience wants”. But the industry taking on a female artist is still seen as a “risk” therefore we have to have a lot more boxes checked in terms of talent, look and personality to even be considered. I think all artists – male and female – need to be seen equally and held to the same standards. The scary thing about the industry making us feel like there is only room for one female at the top can bring out the competitive side of women. However, this frustration in the industry has lit a spark that has brought women in country together to fight for ourselves and each other. It has motivated me to create platforms for women like All Woman Music and HarmoniaFest to come together and provide opportunities for them to share just how talented they are.”
Writing songs since her teens, Nicole has perfected the art of storytelling through her lyrics. With the confidence that comes from great songs & experience performing on a variety of stages, she can hold our attention when she performs and make us feel her emotions. It’s simply something Nicole was born to do.
“Honestly, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to perform,” reveals Nicole. “My mom always tells me I used to try to make up songs as a baby before I could even talk. Growing up, I was always involved in performing, from dance to singing to musical theatre. The stage has always felt like home to me. Sometimes it feels like the place I can be more myself than anywhere else. I was lucky to be able to go to many musicals and concerts with my family growing up and no matter who was on stage or what they were singing I just always remember being so inspired but also kind of jealous. I wanted to be the one up there performing. I remember feeling a sense of determination to get there myself.”
From the “Broken Boys” music video where she shows off her acting skills as a mechanic to the “Feels Like Yesterday” music video where she celebrates the 1990s with all its styles and proudly states that she and her friends are “still singing Britney like a couple of kids”, Nicole always appears comfortable & dynamic in her music videos.
“I have had an absolute blast working on the set of all my music videos,” says Nicole. “I think the coolest part of making a music video is being able to express the song visually. I have always liked being able to tell the story of the song through visuals and create a little 3-minute movie to express the emotions. Sometimes I have such a clear vision for the music video and it is so cool to watch it come to life. Sometimes the picture isn’t as clear in my head but the benefit of working with a team, like Roadhouse Productions, is getting to see how they visually interrupt my music and how they bring it to life on the screen.”
Nicole is gearing up to release her next single – a beautiful, bittersweet ballad: “Now & Then”. I’ve seen Nicole perform this song at songwriter rounds and it goes straight to the heart. Her voice captures the regret in the song and makes listeners think about their own special person from the past.
“This is such a special track that I am really looking forward to sharing,” states Nicole. “I wrote this one with Craig Brooks, after bumping into someone from my past and reflecting on how their life might have turned out. I have been playing this one in my live shows for the last year and it continues to be the track that really resonates with people. I am excited they will now have the produced track to enjoy whenever they like. Douglas Romanow did a beautiful job producing it in a way that truly captures the emotion of the song. It is also the title track for my 4th record which is coming out on February 17th.”
As Nicole looks forward to a busy & creative 2023, including HarmoniaFest & her All Woman songwriters series at the Moonshine Cafe in Oakville, she shares this wisdom for upcoming artists that has served her well in her own music career:
“The biggest piece of advice I can give is to believe in yourself. If you can’t, nobody else will. This industry isn’t easy and artists face a lot of rejection. In order to get through that and stay positive it is imperative that you believe in yourself and the music you are making.”
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Dave Woods is a monthly columnist for CMAOntario, hosts the popular podcast & social media page “In The Country with Dave Woods” and runs various songwriters showcases, including Country Nights In The City at The Moonshine Cafe in Oakville.