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A fine line for Mabou’s Heather Rankin

Cape Breton Post
Renowned singer-songwriter set to release debut solo album
SYDNEY — A veteran of the stage and studio, Heather Rankin is embarking on a new chapter in a career that’s been as diverse as it is successful.

More than 25 years after she rose to fame as a member of The Rankin Family, the Mabou native is set to release her debut solo album, “A Fine Line,” this Friday — kicking off a very busy April for the renowned Cape Breton singer, songwriter and actor.

In the works for three years, Rankin said she’s excited to get the album in the hands of fans.

“I’ve waited all this time and it’s finally here,” said Rankin, in an interview with the Cape Breton Post, Monday, just days ahead of the release.

Rankin said crafting her first solo musical project was a very different experience from recording as a member of The Rankin Family alongside siblings, Cookie, Jimmy, and the late John Morris and Raylene. Stepping outside her comfort zone, Rankin said it was both “terrifying and liberating” to go it alone on a solo album.

“My intention was to explore a variety of different ideas. I could have quite obviously done a record of traditional material or one that really reflected the same place that The Rankin Family music came from, but when I went on the adventure I said ‘I’m going to keep all the doors open,'” she said. “The more I explored, the more I realized that maybe it was important to establish myself and set myself apart from what I’ve always done with my family.”

The result is “A Fine Line,” a diverse, 11-song collection that features seven songs she co-wrote with producer David Tyson, as well as a cover of Tears for Fears’ 1985 hit “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” featuring rap artist Quake Matthews.

“It’s probably the most extreme departure for me on the record, away from my Rankin roots, in that it’s a cover song from a British band and it was from a nostalgic time for me, the 80s,” she said, noting she’s thrilled with how the track and collaboration with Matthews turned out.

Rankin’s new sound and new music will have lots of exposure during East Coast Music Week, set to take place in Sydney, April 13-17. She’s performing at several events throughout the week, including the gala awards show, which she will also be co-hosting with fellow Cape Breton musician Ashley MacIsaac.

“I’m looking forward to it,” she said. “I’ve always been a fan of Ashley and always been impressed with his courage and how he always was able to push the envelope and expose traditional music to a younger demographic.”

Rankin, who has 15 East Coast Music Awards to her name as a member of The Rankin Family, said as a solo artist she’ll feel like a newcomer in many ways at the 2016 East Coast Music Week and is looking foward to the networking and learning opportunities available at the event.

Following her time in Sydney, Rankin will be touring in support of her album throughout the region.

“I’m setting out in May with Kim Dunn, from North Sydney. We’re doing a co-bill of shows in Sydney, Mabou, New Glasgow, Truro and two nights in Halifax. And then there are a couple of summer festivals I’m taking part in,” she said.

Further down the road, Rankin — who divides her time between Halifax and Mabou, where she is co-owner of the Red Shoe Pub — said there are initial plans to step back into the recording studio with Cookie and Jimmy on a new project.

An accomplished actress, Rankin said she also plans to return to the stage later this year. Her stage and theatre credits include roles in “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Hockey Mom, Hockey Dad,” and “Bingo,” for which she received a Merritt Award nomination.

Heather Rankin

Age: 48

Home: Mabou and Halifax

Career: Singer, songwriter, actress, co-owner of The Red Shoe Pub

Upcoming: Solo album release April 1, co-hosting ECMA gala show in Sydney April 14