How I Made It

Ralph, Musician

FLARE #HowIMadeIt celebrates 100+ talented, ambitious and driven Canadian women with cool jobs. Want what Ralph has? Here's how she did it

Ralph headshot

(Photo: Gemma Warren)

Ralph; Toronto; @songsbyralph

Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?

I would tell you I’m a musician. Even though I’m not an amazing instrumentalist, my role in Ralph is so much more than just “a singer/songwriter.” I make music.

Where did you go to school and what did you study?

I went to University of Toronto and University of Copenhagen for film theory and English literature, so I basically watched movies and read all day. That’s where I discovered my love for Ingmar Bergman and Dario Argento.

What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)

I was in a band with five of my male best friends fresh out of high school. I played the tambourine and sang harmonies. Looking back now, I think we were pretty bad. But our shows were always packed and we would make like $20 each, and I always felt amazed that I was making money at all—getting paid to sing with my friends felt like a sweet dream.

What was your BIG break? How did you land it?

Having my face on the Spotify billboard at Dundas Square was probably one of the most unreal moments I’ve had as an artist so far.

Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?

I remember being out shopping the first time I heard my own music playing. It was ‘Cold to the Touch’, and the girl at the counter was singing along. I was so excited, so I tried to say, “This is my song,” but she didn’t get it and it was super awkward. Regardless, it was a memorable moment because I realized strangers were actually listening to and liking my stuff.

What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?

In the early stages of Ralph, I wasn’t connecting with the songs but kept convincing myself I was happy. I was working closely with a producer who I butted heads with, but I was too nervous to end the relationship because we’d spent so much time and money on the tracks. I spent a lot of time in this limbo, thinking I’d lost my love for making music, until I had a meeting with a big Canadian producer who asked me, “Are these your best songs?” and I couldn’t say yes. The next day I cut the ties with the producer and ditched the tunes. It was uncomfortable and scary, but was the best decision I’ve made to date. It shaped the project and it shaped me.

Name one piece of career advice you always give.

Don’t sleep with your bandmates.

What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?

It’s okay to sleep with your bandmates.

Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?

I’ve had male musicians ask for my info to talk about future shows together, then they send me a message with five winky-face emojis asking me to come to Montreal to get to know each other better. It’s insulting but I feel empowered each time I walk into a meeting with my badass female manager, or hire a female director for my music video. I’m really lucky to have many strong women on my Ralph team, it makes me feel like the gender gap is capable of closing.

Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?

I’ll let you know when those royalty cheques roll in—that’s where musicians really make their money. Until then, I pick up shifts at my friend’s designer consignment store, VSP.

What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?

That we’re lazy. Just because we all want to be self-employed and successful, doesn’t make us lazy. Maybe it makes us delusional, but not lazy.

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