Ria Mae Celebrates Same-Sex Love in Her Music Videos (Interview)

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Ria Mae is a Canadian singer-songwriter producing music with pop and hip-hop elements. “Red Light,” is the second single off her recently released EP My Love and follows the instant hit “Bend,” which is certified Gold in Canada and has garnered almost 5 million combined worldwide streams. Click here to watch the “Red Light” video and here to stream and download the track.

AfterEllen got the chance recently to speak with the rising star, and we discussed her creative process, what launched her career, and signing a label with Sony Music. And of course, how she earned a spot on our lesbian radar! Her music pulls us into the stories of her relationships, and with something new on the horizon, we’re excited to find out what’s next! Check out what Ria Mae had to say about the moment that really caught the public’s attention.

AfterEllen.Com: Do you write your own songs and if so what is your creative process?

Ria Mae: I do.  I am a songwriter first, singer second. My process changes a lot.  It’s mostly based on a need for alone time.  When I was younger, I used alone time with my guitar to daydream.  Somewhere along the way, I started studying songs and their arrangements becoming fascinated with little tricks I could tell people used to make choruses pop or make a bridge work.  I always start with a daydream of a situation and start writing melody before matching words to the melody.  Every song has a different starting point for me.  Sometimes it’s chorus first.  Sometimes chorus last.  Lately, my laptop has replaced my guitar and my writing is a bit more focused, but a large part is still daydreaming and meditation.  I get a little more productive each year, it seems.  A bit better with my time.  But that alone time — during the process — is what I’m addicted to.

AE: Why did you become a musical artist? 

RM:  I begged my parents for a guitar when I was 14 and I was addicted from the beginning.

AE: What or who have been your greatest influences?

RM:  My mom really nurtured creativity and my Dad really nurtured work ethic.  I’m equally thankful for those two things.  In terms of specific art influences, I think rap music influenced me to talk about my own life in my songs.  I’m so jealous of the rap song format and how you can just say things so directly.  I think my love of punk music influences my live show and my short and catchy songs. Tracy Chapman’s voice… the Beatles’ songs… pop music of every era.

AE: Throughout your music career, what do you think has made you unique compared to other musical artists?

RM: I think if I really try and go outside myself and look in, I think what has made me stand out as an artist whose voice and story is unique is my gender and my shyness coupled with my accessible pop songs and confidence.  I think seeing someone who is very boyish but sort of soft-spoken, and also unapologetic, singing songs that are on the radio — especially about love and attraction — I don’t know… I just know a lot of comments after releasing “Clothes Off” was how people did not expect me to look the way I look after hearing that song (laughs).

AE: What moment happened that really put you on the public radar?

RM:  I wrote the song “Clothes Off” that Sony heard on my local radio station.  Until then, I had no manager or label or anything.  I was just making songs in my bedroom and booking acoustic tours around Canada and the northeast US.  That song and my record deal really changed things for me.

AE: What was your inspiration and experience in the making of the music videos “Gold” and “Red Light”?

RM:  When Alon Isocianu approached me with the idea for the “Gold” video, I loved it right away.  He had written this story before he met me and I loved that it wasn’t a gay or a straight story, it was just a cool story.  I loved his work and had total confidence in him, so that made it easy to get on board.  When you see me fall off the bed, that is legit me falling off the bed from the weirdness of doing a kissing scene in front of strangers.  For “Red Light”, I wanted a tragic and sad story that matched the song and felt that me being in it could distract from the feeling I wanted to get across.

AE: How has the release of these music videos affected you personally?

RM:  I definitely started getting more gay fans after “Gold”, which I loved.  I think I was pretty ambiguous after “Clothes Off” came out.  Gold was the second big single in Canada, so it sort of set the tone for who I was.

AE: Was there a greater message you were trying to spread?

RM:  I honestly never really think about messages.  I just really hate that so much of queer people’s creative energy has to be spent wondering if something is too gay or how mainstream will react.  So I make sure I’m aware of those thoughts when they come up in my own head.  I try and make content that I wish I had when I was younger.  I don’t think either “Gold” or “Red Light” have any new messages that we haven’t heard before.  It’s more so just putting gay stories upfront.

AE: How much of the scenes are relatable to your own life?

RM::  “Red Light” is sort of a combination of two break-ups I’ve had.  The video is very relatable to me.

AE: What can we expected from you next?

RM:  I’m working on a new project right now that will be out later in the year.  I can’t say specifics, but it will be this year.

AE: Is there anything else you would like to say to our AfterEllen readers?

RM:  I would like to say thanks for reading through.   See you on instagram!

Last fall, Ria released her EP My Love to critical acclaim and completed a Canadian co-headlining tour with Scott Helman. My Love is the follow up to Ria’s self-titled album that launched the Platinum-selling “Clothes Off,” the Gold-certified “Ooh Love,” and garnered over 41 million combined worldwide streams. Ria is currently in the studio writing and recording her follow-up EP scheduled for later this year.
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