Do What Makes You Happy: A Q&A with Billy Raffoul

Photo courtesy of the artist.
Photo courtesy of the artist.

Although Ontario native Billy Raffoul is a relative newcomer to the music scene—releasing his debut single “Driver” earlier this spring—the 22-year-old’s command of anthemic blues-rock and sensitive songwriting date back to his early childhood. With acclaimed regional musician Jody Raffoul for a father and a successful writer/artist for a mother, Raffoul spent his adolescence playing the guitar, writing his own songs, and developing what would soon become a rich musical identity. After years of establishing his talent by supporting the likes of Jeff Beck, Kings of Leon, and the Pixies, Raffoul now travels between Nashville and Los Angeles working on his debut LP with Interscope Records.

We caught up with the Canadian rocker to discuss his forthcoming album, lyrical honesty, and his aspirations for performing the record live.

You’re gearing up to release your debut album. What was it like putting together and recording your first full-length project?

It feels like I’ve been putting it together my whole life. I bet a lot of people feel like that with their first one… Some of the songs have been around for so long and others are new. The process has felt like my life up until this point. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

Do you have a typical songwriting process? If so, what does it look like?

No specific process for me. A song can start on guitar, piano, with a melody, or a set of words.

You’re an Ontario native, but spend most of your time now in Los Angeles and Nashville. Does splitting your time between those places influence your songwriting at all?

I wouldn’t say I write different songs in these different places. What influences me are experiences I gain by travelling between both countries and coast to coast.

It seems like you’ve always been surrounded by music and art, what with your father being a successful musician and your mother a writer and painter. In what ways did your upbringing shape your path as an artist?

It allowed me to express myself creatively more than anything. Both of my parents have had nonconventional careers. More than anything they taught [me] to do what makes you happy.

I read on your website that your debut single, “Driver,” was inspired by a time when your family actually gave a lift to a hitchhiker. Are there other tracks off the album that emerged from personal experiences? 

All of the songs on the album will stem from either a personal experience or an experience of someone close to me. When putting them into lyrics I’ve tried to keep them as honest as possible.

Do you have a favorite song on the album, or one you’re most proud of?

I’m the oldest of 5. I might have an easier time picking a favorite sibling…

You’ve recently drawn some lofty comparisons to legends like Jeff Buckley, Neil Young, and Joe Cocker. Are there any artists you cite as influences on your music?

These comparisons are HUGE compliments and frankly I feel they are underserved. Not to say I don’t smile when I see them. Paul Rodgers has been a huge influence on my father and then through him, an influence on me. There are many others but he comes to mind first today for some reason.

Which of the album’s new songs are you most looking forward to performing live?

I would actually love to get to a place where I can perform the album live front to back.

After you release your album, what’s your next move?

Take the music live, everywhere! Where ever they’ll have us, and whoever will listen.

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