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Heather Rankin makes her solo debut


Singer surprises with non-traditional pop songs on new album

CBC News Posted: Apr 01, 2016 8:58 PM AT Last Updated: Apr 01, 2016 9:48 PM AT

Heather Rankin came to fame in The Rankin Family, but now has her first solo album out, A Fine Line.

Heather Rankin came to fame in The Rankin Family, but now has her first solo album out, A Fine Line. (Cadence Music Group)

With a brand-new album out Friday, Heather Rankin might be the most famous new artist on the East Coast.

As one-fifth of The Rankin Family, she helped establish the region as a hotbed of traditional music in Canada, winning Juno Awards and gold records in the process.

But now she’s done something she’s never tried before; she’s made a record with just her name on it, called A Fine Line.

“I’m relatively late in life making my first record, but I felt like it was the right time,” Rankin told Mainstreet’s Karen Mair, in Charlottetown on the same day of the album’s release.

“In recent years I’ve been spending a lot of time working in the theatre, I actually studied theatre, and finally had the opportunity to introduce myself to that community, and made some connections,” she said. “But I didn’t want to completely abandon music.”

Heather Rankin’s album A Fine Line was released Friday, April 1. (Cadence Music Group)

si-rankin-albumIn addition to stage roles for Neptune Theatre in Halifax, The Factory Theatre in Toronto, and various others, Rankin also helps run a successful cafe in her hometown of Mabou, Cape Breton.

It took her quite a while to find the time to commit to a full album, especially since she didn’t have the usual sibling support group for this project.

“Terrifying and liberating at the same time,” she admitted. “My entire life in music, I was surrounded by family, so I had lots of support. I never really had the same amount of responsibility. When you set out on your own, it’s all your responsibility.”

“In that way it was a bit frightening, but liberating in that I was forced to grow, and forced to stand on my feet and challenge myself.”

A Fine Line has that famous Rankin vocal sound in some numbers, pop songs with a hint of Cape Breton, but there are others that will surprise everybody.

Rankin has pushed the enveloped on several cuts, exploring everything from modern rock and programmed instruments, to some that feel like they could have come from her stage career.

“When I set out to make this record, I didn’t feel like I had that responsibility to honour the traditional world, I’d been doing that for many years, and I can always go back and do that,” she said. “I wanted to explore, and go on an adventure and leave all the doors open, and engage in whatever came my way.”

What changed was when she found a producer who challenged her to write some of her own material.

MUSIC Rankin Solo 

Heather Rankin and rapper Quake Matthews teamed up on the first single from her solo album, Everybody Wants to Rule the World. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)music-rankin-solo-20160401

“I actually set out with a long list of songs written by other people, including a number of songs by East Coast writers, and traditional material as well,” Rankin recalled. “But then … I met David Tyson [Amanda Marshall, Alannah Myles]

, who comes from the pop world, and we started writing together, and that just seemed like the natural evolution of the process. This is where I ended up, and it’s kind of exciting.”

“I’d never written with anyone, so this was a first for me, a whole new chapter, and he really made that happen.”

The album may be full of songs she wrote, but right now, the one that is getting all the attention is a cover version.

The first single is her updated take on the ’80’s hit by Tears for Fears, Everybody Wants to Rule the World.

It includes what fans might have never imagined — rap in a Rankin song.

“I thought I’m going out on a limb, I may as well go all the way, how can I set this song apart from the original version?” she explained. “And I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to get somebody to rap on it?”

That somebody turned out to be Quake Matthews. “He’s a young, lovely guy, a hip-hop artist who was born and raised in Fairview, Nova Scotia.”

There’s a flurry of activity for Rankin in the coming weeks and months, including co-hosting the East Coast Music Awards gala with Ashley MacIsaac, happening in Sydney on Apr. 14.

In May, she’ll do a tour of Nova Scotia with fellow Cape Breton artist Kim Dunn, and then she plays some festival dates in the summer.

There’s one more piece of business for P.E.I. before that though.

On Saturday, she’ll be at Back Alley Music in Charlottetown. “Come say hi, get an autograph,” said Rankin, as friendly and down-home as you’d hope.

With files from Karen Mair