Today, JUNO-Award winning rock star JJ Wilde and SOCAN Award winning songwriter Billy Raffoul unveil the details of their three-track EP Born To Die, available November 19th via Black Box. Recorded at Hamilton’s Catherine North Studios, Born To Die channels the duets of Fleetwood Mac, The Civil Wars, Shovels & Rope and more, expertly showcasing the complimentary rock and roll stylings of each singer.
Of the EP, JJ Wilde stated: “These are pretty emotional songs, in the best way. There are love songs and there’s heartache. We’re both big fans of rock and roll and you can hear it when we’re singing both separately and together on this EP.”
Raffoul adds, “These three songs have so much variety between them. Born To Die is an anthemic rock song, while at the opposite end of the spectrum there’s ‘Colours,’ a soft autumn-themed track. Bridging the two is ‘Let Me Go,’ which is sonically powerful and gut-wrenching.”
Raffoul and Wilde only recently met this past summer in Los Angeles; a chance opportunity in a city neither had seen since the onset of the pandemic. When the two got into a room together, the creative chemistry was immediate and it became one of the most natural, organic songwriting processes either have ever experienced. The title track ‘Born To Die’ – a declaration of endless love – was written in a matter of hours. Returning to Canada to record, the warm and inviting atmosphere of Catherine North Studios perfectly matched the close, conversational tone of the EP. Shares Wilde, “It was really cool to return to Catherine North, because that was where I recorded with my first band. It was very nostalgic to be back there and record music that was reminiscent of my roots.”
Born To Die is Wilde’s second release of 2021 and follows her critically acclaimed sophomore album Wilde, released May 14th. The Kitchener-born artist took home the 2021 JUNO Award for ‘Rock Album of the Year’ for her album ‘Ruthless,’ while debut single ‘The Rush’ earned SOCAN’s Rock Music Award, and historically-marked Wilde as the first female artist to simultaneously hit #1 on all three Canadian rock charts, holding the slot for 10 weeks concurrently in addition to spending a whopping 21 weeks atop the Rock Big Picture chart.
FEMMUSIC interviewed Wilde about her Wilde EP and her tour with The Record Company.
FEMMUSIC: What was the biggest challenge making the Wilde EP?
JJW: It was all done in the pandemic! Usually my producer and I are in the studio together, so having to write and record everything remotely was challenging. It loses some of the spontaneity and takes away the ability to turn to another person in the moment with a new idea. We’re very good at communicating because we’ve worked together before, but it was definitely still challenging. Studios weren’t even open, so I had to record some of the vocals in my apartment! You also sit with the songs longer, sometimes longer than you need to. So you have more time to question and overthink all the little details.
FEMMUSIC: You made Wilde after doing the Ruthless album the year before. What made you want to do an EP vs doing another album?
JJW: I wanted to test a slightly newer sound and I thought doing that in a smaller EP was a good way to go. I wanted to share new music, but also take more time to work on a full-length album, so I got the best of both worlds here.
FEMMUSIC: Tell me about “Stop Dragging My Heart Around” How did that cover come together with the Glorious Sons?
JJW: This song was done remotely, just like the rest of the Wilde EP. I’d been talking about doing a cover of a classic rock song for a while and Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks are two rock and roll legends, it just made perfect sense to me. The Glorious Sons are on the same label as me and Brett Emmons is a huge Tom Petty fan, so it all came together really easily.
FEMMUSIC: You started your tour with The Record Company. What do you most like about touring? What do you like least?
JJW: I love all of it! I love being with my friends, it feels like a little touring family. I love seeing different cities every night. Being able to travel and play songs, just do what you love, is amazing.
I also love meeting people – with Covid, this looks a little different now. Right now, that’s what I like the least – I’m not able to spend as much time with fans as I’d like.
FEMMUSIC: What challenges, if any, have you faced as a woman in the music industry? And how did you overcome them?
JJW: There’s definitely some comments that come your way – people will be misogynistic, they will think of you differently, they will try to tell you what to do. You gotta stand strong against it all. Don’t compromise yourself at all, for anybody.
I have a background in the serving and bartending industry, so I was already familiar with this stuff before getting into music. I don’t think it’s fair that women have to stand up for themselves that way, but we take it one day at a time and keep fighting for ourselves.
FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique?
JJW: It usually starts with a guitar. I feel inspired in some way and need to sit down and get it out. I’ll start messing around on guitar, usually improvising everything and just recording it. I’ll do this over and over again, getting different versions of the same song. Then I pick out the parts I like the best and build the song that way.
That’s just one way though – it changes depending on the song. Sometimes I write out lyrics first, sometimes I sing acapella. I don’t just have one technique – it happens however it happens!
FEMMUSIC: What song, not your own, has had the biggest influence on you, and why?
JJW: There’s a lot! I’d say Adele’s “One and Only” – I absolutely love to sing this one and it used to be my warmup before vocals. Adele’s “Crazy For You” is also important, it was one of the first songs I learned to play on guitar. I was obsessed with it and it inspired me to write, because I wanted to write something like that. Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice” inspired me to learn how to play guitar. It’s a challenging song and it showed me that it may take a while, but I can learn and keep growing as an artist.
In Connolly’s latest track, she addresses codependency, pulls away from the paralyzing and gripping expectations of others (as well as her own fearful thoughts), and steps into the autonomy of being herself and confidently making her own decisions despite what anyone else, even those closest to her, may say or think. “Usually, people sincerely believe that what they’re either encouraging or discouraging is in your best interest, but that doesn’t mean it’s actually right for you. Let them do them and you do you,” she states. “I wanna hear my heart break, make my mistakes, choose what to believe and my own way,” Kara belts in Let Me Go, exuding the type of strength that is so often found in vulnerability.
Cover Art designed by Jack Litchfield on Betsy Newman’s photo
“I tend to write about direct personal experience, but Let Me Go was actually inspired by a friend whose parents were not accepting of who he is and were resisting allowing him to grow into the person he wanted to be. It goes out to anyone who feels the need to break free of a habit, pattern, or person holding them back, anyone in need of a little self-love—flaws and all, and anyone who feels the pull to forge their own path despite adversity. You are allowed to believe what you believe (or not believe what you don’t), to love who you love, to pursue whatever dream it is you want to pursue, and to, most of all, not feel sorry about it,” Kara declares.