Precisely when the moment of realization will occur is anyone’s guess.
It might be as Andrea Ramolo and Cindy Doire are stepping up to collect a prestigious award. Maybe they’ll be on a plane zipping towards their latest European tour. Or maybe it’ll come much, much later, while the pair is gleefully tossing back margaritas and baking their septuagenarian skin on a beach somewhere, recalling their glorious past.
One thing’s certain, though. Ramolo and Doire – collectively rootsy folk/pop duo Scarlett Jane – will remember the release of their poignant and astonishingly assured self-titled second album as the time when their status as musicians and performers of the highest order was cemented.
Their 2012 debut, Stranger – re-mixed and re-mastered to widespread notice and radio play in 2014 – was stunningly beautiful, leading to ecstatically received Canadian and European shows. That it built on Ramolo and Doire’s acclaimed and overlapping solo output (an impressive five albums between them to date) gave the pairing even more propulsion.
Their debut earned Scarlett Jane two Canadian Folk Music Award nominations for Best Emerging Artist and Best Vocal Group. Their song “Wild Fire” took them to the semi-finals of the prestigious world-wide International Songwriting Competition.
Their almost immediate success as a duo came as no surprise to fans that knew them each as individual artists. Occasionally the pair would tour together and it soon became obvious that there was a musical chemistry that needed to be explored.
Both women shared a fondness for prose and poetry as well as a mutual love for blues, country, old-school soul and rock ‘n’ roll and became fast friends while embarking on separate solo musical careers. By the time they decided to start collaborating, Andrea had already released two solo albums while Cindy had three – two of which were recorded in French, giving her a following in both French Canada and France.
Scarlett Jane, the brand new album, goes even deeper (and higher and lighter and darker) than their debut, presenting a collection of breathtakingly personal songs bolstered by a mostly understated instrumental framework designed to showcase Ramolo and Doire’s buttery and mellifluous voices.
If Scarlett Jane’s tightly knitted harmonies don’t flatten you, their lyrical candour – the musical equivalent of a slightly tipsy girlfriend laying it on the line – definitely will.
“This album is pretty damn honest,” Ramolo confirms with a laugh. “You really get to know the character and heart of Scarlett Jane. But this whole project was actually born out of heartbreak.
“Scarlett Jane came together when we both left relationships around 2011. Every time we shared a stage, audiences didn’t understand why we didn’t already exist as a band. The breakups felt like the universe telling us, ‘OK, this is your time to do this.’”
Adds Doire: “If we think about these songs too much it freaks us out because we do reveal a lot of information in our songwriting. Sometimes the songs can certainly pull on our hertstrings and cause one of us to break down on stage. We live real life in front of our fans.”
“It’s been dynamic from the beginning,” says Doire. “We know how to push each other to the limit in order to get the best out of each other.”
Written during an intense woodshedding holiday to Cuba in 2013 ahead of Stranger’s re-release, and recorded in early 2015 with producers and friends Colin Cripps and Chris Stringer at Ontario’s famed Bathouse Studios and in Toronto, Scarlett Jane presents stories like postcards: vivid, immediate, rich in detail.
Witness the first single, ‘Little Secret,’ which places the pair’s sunny, multi-layered vocals against a neon scrim of chiming guitar. That buoyancy is countered by more sombre tracks like ‘Broken Open’ – a candlelit ballad that glides by on the barest of ambient instrumentation – and the almost incandescent, slow-burning ‘We All Just Wanna Be Loved.’
“All of our songs are co-written; every song filters through both our minds and hearts,” adds Doire, who also speaks (and frequently sings in) French. “We feel there is more clarity because we are going through this creative process together. Creating something we both fully penetrate and relate to forces us to fine tune what we are trying to communicate. It takes our songwriting to the next level.”
Such openness inspired tangible devotion in fans, which Doire and Ramolo happily discovered when they sought to underwrite the new album through crowdfunding. Not only was the campaign successful, it showcased the pair’s wry humour, so evident in person. To wit: a promotional video in which neither Doire nor Ramolo could keep a straight face. And for a pledge of $10,000, Ramolo and Doire promised – wait for it – babysitting services.
No one took them up on that particular offer but the crusade did expose one very keen, highly placed Scarlett Jane fan who – rather like our heroines – knows a thing or two about breaking hearts on record and busting guts on stage.
“Jann Arden bought two pairs of our cowboy boots for $500 apiece,” beams Ramolo. “We were so grateful. It’s an honour to have her as a fan.”
“We certainly felt a little apprehensive about crowdfunding since we didn’t want to bother our already supportive fans for money,” Doire allows. “But as it turns out, it was so great to have them be part of our process.”
“Plus,” says Ramolo, “Cindy and I were both independent road warriors for a long time, booking our own tours, doing our own marketing, bringing our music to every nook and cranny across Canada. So why not reach out to the people who are going to buy the album anyway?”
“Somebody said something beautiful to me recently about what we do as artists,” Ramolo continues. “She said, ‘You put yourselves out there in front of the world and you’re so honest about what you’re going through in your music. It really helps people like me process certain emotions and get some sort of release.’”
“For us, sharing our lives and our sorrows helps us to feel connected, too” adds Doire. “We can feel happy being sad because we know we are not alone.”