The communion between an artist and a room full of people endures as one of the most sacred forms of connection without comparison. As emotion and energy transfer back and forth, this interchange of feelings might be the closest thing we have to true magic in our physical world. Billy Raffoul writes music with this moment in mind.
Guitar in hand and microphone on, his voice echoes with a graceful grit that comes right from the gut as he tells stories straight from the heart. After generating hundreds of millions of streams and earning acclaim from American Songwriter, Paste, and more, the award-winning Ontario singer, songwriter, and producer continues to captivate on his debut EP for Nettwerk.
"With these songs, the goal was to get them to a place where we see them on stage," he observes. "I write music to experience sharing it with other people. We simply want to keep growing as musicians and get more people in the room."
Music surrounded him as a kid back in his hometown of Leamington. His father Jody Raffoul rose to prominence as a popular regional draw, performing at a prolific pace. Billy picked up his first guitar at a young age and spent countless hours on the instrument. "Music put food on the table for my family, and it was always there," he notes. "I don't look it at any differently than if you're dad's a lawyer and you become a lawyer."
In ninth grade, he took the stage for the first time with a talent show rendition of "Blackbird" by The Beatles. "I hope there's no video," he laughs. "There weren't as many cell phones back then, but it could've been on someone's camcorder!"
During 2017, Billy made his debut with the single "Driver." Following the 1975 EP, The Running Wild EP, and Live In June, he unveiled the full-length A Few More Hours at YYZ in 2020. The single "Acoustic" generated over 60.7 million Spotify streams as "Easy Tiger" surpassed 19.4 million Spotify streams.
The same year, he maintained this momentum with International Hotel. Inciting widespread tastemaker applause, American Songwriter raved, "International Hotel is the kind of album that lingers long after its last notes fade, an incisive imprint that suggests an important new voice is here to stay," and Paste praised his "rough-shod, whiskey-honeyed rasp." Along the way, he shared bills with everyone from Kings of Leon and Kaleo to X Ambassadors and NEEDTOBREATHE. Reaching another level, 2021 saw him garner the SOCAN Songwriting Prize for the single "Western Skies."
Despite the Pandemic lockdown, he focused on writing and recording as much as possible. He collaborated with longtime creative cohort Justin Zuccato remotely and in-person (once it proved safe), piecing the EP together over these sessions.
Now, "Better" introduces this chapter. Delicately plucked acoustic guitar underscores his grizzled delivery as he promises, "I want to love you better."
"I initially recorded a demo of 'Better' as a sister track to 'Acoustic,'" he reveals. "After a few months of working with Justin last year, I don't know what brought the idea back to my mind. I played it for him, and we finished the track the same day. The song had a long journey. For me, it's about treating someone with kindness regardless of everything else. It's a simple, familiar, and feel-good song."
On its heels, he cranks up the volume on the raucous and rollicking "We Could Get High," where a boisterous guitar riff uplifts his infectious and intoxicating chant. Upon returning to the road in the UK post-COVID, he previewed "We Could Get High" live, and by the third chorus, the audience had joined in.
"At the time, Justin and I were writing rock 'n' roll for fun," he goes on. "It's heavily inspired by Bruce Springsteen and my dad's music. Lyrically, it's pretty cheeky. My partner was the Prime Minister of our high school, so that's what it's about."
Meanwhile, "Wish You Were Here" hinges on cinematic piano and soft harmonies co-written with his brother Peter. "It's a straightforward song about losing someone," he adds. "We actually wrote it an hour after watching Christopher Nolan's Interstellar."
Elsewhere, "Jim Carrey" nods to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with its pensive and poetic lyrical ruminations and eloquent songcraft. "It focuses on the traces and residue of an old relationship," he reveals. "In the movie, it's so easy to get your brain wiped and forget everything. Obviously, we don't live in a world like that, so we're forced to constantly walk around memory landmines. You might see something, and you can't help but think of someone from your past."
Over finger-snaps, "Bliss" illuminates yet another side of his artistry as he "tried to write a love song making fun of writing a love song." Then, there's "Alligator." He sinks his teeth into a soundscape punctuated by punchy percussion, handclaps, and an off-kilter, yet disarmingly hummable guitar melody.
"The guitar is almost spooky," he grins. "It sounds like the walls could be melting. We went to Florida for a weekend, and it was our first time going back into the world after COVID. All of a sudden, we're in a club with like 5,000 people having a great time. It was crazy, but I left with this 'Alligator' idea."
In the end, Billy's songs will resonate through your speakers and from the stage. "When you come to a show for the first time, I hope you walk away feeling good," he leaves off. "If it's your second or third time, I hope you see us evolving — even if it's slightly. Maybe you'll want to come to a show after hearing the EP. I'm extremely fortunate to still get to do this. It's been a tough couple of years for everyone, but I know I'm lucky to be able to go out and play."