Billy Raffoul Talks New Music: “It’s definitely the most adventurous we’ve been.” (11/16 at WCL)

You may have caught Canadian singer/songwriter and guitarist Billy Raffoul earlier this year at World Café Live, when he opened The Music Hall for pop rockers American Authors on...

You may have caught Canadian singer/songwriter and guitarist Billy Raffoul earlier this year at World Café Live, when he opened The Music Hall for pop rockers American Authors on their Best Night of My Life Tour (This August Raffoul and American Authors even followed-up the tour with a collaborative single, “Perfectly Imperfect.”)  Well, Billy Raffoul is already preparing to return to World Café Live, this time as a headliner at The Lounge, where he’ll be performing Thursday, November 16th as part of the I Wish You Were Here U.S. Tour, which kicks off October 10th in Michigan.  The dates are in support of Raffoul’s fourth full-length, For All These Years, which hits shelves October 20th.  Last week I got a chance to chat with Raffoul via Zoom, where we discussed his new album, some of his favorite music, and his upcoming live dates, which actually kick off this Thursday in South Africa.

Izzy Cihak: You’re gearing up to release your fourth album, For All These Years, in October.  What can fans expect of the release?  How do you think the album compares to previous releases, both in terms of sound and just the process of writing and recording it?

Billy Raffoul: The sound has been ever evolving.  We’re finding ways of, I think, getting better and just learning more.  This is gonna be the third album that I’ve worked on with my friend and fellow collaborator, Justin Zuccato.  So, from a technical standpoint, I think we’re in a better place than we’ve ever been.

Sonically, it’s definitely the most adventurous we’ve been.  There’re slow songs and quiet songs and live recordings, but then there’s also a big, full rock sound on songs like “Michael” and “We Could Get High,” at least as far as my studio recordings go; there’s a lot of live recordings that happen to sound like that, but this is the first time I’m actually putting them out on a studio album.

The sounds, all around, are more adventurous.  The spectrum’s wider.  The only common thread through the whole thing is my voice.  I’ve always said I’m going to make a very cohesive record, and I have, especially with the last full-length, but I’m just inspired by so many different things, and I like so many different sounds and bands.  The live influence is there, too.  We’ve been able to tour post-pandemic and see what reacts well with the audience, and that’s why some of those rock songs are on the record.

Izzy: You recently released “Tangerine” as a single, and have a really cool like live video for it.  How did that particular track come about?

Billy: I had a writing session with Kevin Fisher from Los Angeles, who is a super talented writer and just a great dude.  And I kinda had this little idea for the lyric that I brought in, and we kinda hit it off.  We didn’t even write, really, we just talked and went and got a coffee, and were talking about the concept of the song, and came back and didn’t even write the words down.  We knew what we wanted to say, and I was kind of just singing it over and over again, and then set up a microphone, and what you hear is like the third take.  It’s completely live.

Izzy: I try to avoid asking artists about their biggest musical influences and, instead, ask them about some of their favorite albums.  What are some of your favorite albums, whether all-time favorites, or things that you’ve discovered more recently?

Billy: Oh, geez!  I mean, there’s so many, too many…  I could break them up into categories.  From a singer/songwriter perspective, I think Blue by Joni Mitchell’s up there, or [Neil Young’s] Harvest, and [Cat Stevens’] Tea for the Tillerman.  Rock records?  There’s truly too many [laughs], but I’m a big fan of the first two Badfinger records, the first solo record from John Lennon, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, Hey Jude by Wilson Pickett, which is obviously a cover of The Beatles, but that album had a big influence on me.  More recently, I love the Wunderhorse record, Cub.  That’s an incredible record.  There’s lots!

Izzy: You’re getting ready to kick off the I Wish You Were Here Tour next month.  Are there any dates you’re especially excited to play, whether because you’re excited about the venues, or they’re just cities where you always play good shows?

Billy: There’s always these spots that we go to and we just always have a great crowd, or that are good music cities.  The Ferndale/Detroit area of Michigan we have circled, because it’s the first show and it’s kind of like a hometown thing for us, because it’s so close to where we’re from, so that’s definitely the one I’m most looking forward to.

Izzy: What can be expected of the live show when you’re back at World Café Live, in terms of setlist and just the general vibe of the night?

Billy: There’s gonna be a lot of energy, and we’re definitely gonna hit the popular songs that some people show up and want to hear, like the “Acoustic” and “Easy Tiger” fans, and then also run the gamut on the new record, the rock moments, and then the intimate moments.  Expect a little bit of everything and, overall, hopefully a great live experience and a good time.

Izzy: You’re going to be playing with Lucy Gaffney and The Indiana Drones, who you’ll be on tour with at the time, and who are both so cool.  How did you connect with them?  And what are your thoughts on each act?

Billy: Lucy I have not met.  I’ve heard her music, we share the same agent, and I thought she was awesome, loved her voice and her writing, so I can’t wait to share the stage with her.  And then The Indiana Drones is a band that is mastermined by Justin Zuccato, who is my longtime high school friend and in my band, and produced this record with me.  He plays bass in the band live, and we make the majority of the music together in the studio.  I can’t say enough about him.  He’s just the most talented person I’ve ever met.  It blows my mind, all the things he can do.  So, he’s gonna be playing a stripped-down, acoustic set of some of his original songs from The Indiana Drones.

Izzy: For your headlining shows, you regularly play a mix of a lot of both barrooms and listening rooms, like here, but then you also play a lot of really big clubs and theatres as a support act.  Do you approach performing differently depending upon the particular setting or venue type?

Billy: Yeah, for sure!  There’s a different mentality when you go into a support slot.  You’re just kind of trying to cast a net and catch as many people as you can, and also warm up the crowd for the headliner.  But you wanna walk away with more fans, ultimately [laughs].  I don’t know how to describe it, other than the mentality’s completely different.  The pacing is different.  Obviously, I’m just trying to go out there and give a good show, but there’s an element of something to prove when you’re the opener that you don’t have when you’re the headliner.  Now it’s about going out there and giving these people who have already purchased tickets and brought friends and brought family, and they’re in the door, and you want to give them what they like about you, and push it a little bit, so they can see growth and you can kinda leave them wanting to come back.  But when you’re the opener, you really just wanna wow people who don’t really know who you are.

Izzy: Finally, what’s next for you?  Is there anything you’re planning or especially excited about after the new album drops and these dates wrap?

Billy: We’re just gonna be touring more and more, and immediately getting out the next album.  We have a bunch of unreleased music, some really cool collaborations with other artists that haven’t been announced yet that I’m excited to get to.  So, there’s lots more music in the can already.  I’ll be touring South Africa next week and Western Canada at the end of September, and then we hit this I Wish You Were Here Tour, and we just wanna keep it rolling next year and get back over to Europe and Germany and play bigger rooms in some of these markets we’ve been touring for a while.

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.