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‘It’s an easier way to connect with people’: Heather Rankin on upcoming show at Grace United Church in Digby

The Digby County Courier. By James Mallory

Maritime performer talks about her latest tour, solo work and love for Christmas music

DIGBY, N.S. – Since beginning her Maritime tour on Dec. 1, Heather Rankin has been reminded of all the reasons she chose a musical path many years ago.

Rankin is part of the Maritime Christmas 2017 tour featuring Tomato Tomato, Dave Gunning and Ray Legere. On Dec. 20, the group will perform in Digby at the Grace United Church and Rankin couldn’t be more excited.


“It’s a really fun group of people,” she said by telephone interview. “Lisa and John of Tomato Tomato are just a gregarious couple, they’ve got great energy and they’re lively. And Dave Gunning is one of the nicest people in the world. We’re just having a lot of laughs and it’s fun.”

The tour, which includes stops throughout Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, is being performed at small theatres and churches. Rankin said performing at these types of locations brings back fond memories of when she started out performing with her family members. For example, at one church venue, in order to cross the back stage, the musicians had to walk outside to get back in.

“I did some touring of small little venues like we’re doing now – these small churches and more intimate settings – early on with the family so it’s really fun to do this again. Collectively, we’re all up there on stage and seeing people get into the spirit of the season and that’s very fun.

“It’s an easier way to connect with people when you’re performing and you can almost reach out and touch them.”

Rankin became a household name in the Maritime music scene when she and several of her siblings formed The Rankin Family. Heather said music was a big part of her life growing up in Cape Breton and that love has continued her entire life.

“I guess I just always knew as a kid that I wanted to be an entertainer. I always wanted to be an actor, in fact, and that’s what I studied after high school. As a kid, I watched the Carol Burnett Show and that’s what I wanted to do – I wanted to be Carol Burnett. As kids we sang together at local gatherings, festivals and provided the music…at weddings. I just grew up doing it and it ended up continuing after university – actually, right after university, we jumped into making a record together. I guess we thought we’re going to try it for five years and it ended up being a much longer commitment. Now, it’s just in my blood.”

Since entering the musical world in 1989, Heather has enjoyed a great deal of success with the Rankin Family, The Rankin Sisters and Rankin reunion.

By 2012, she committed to going out on her own and by 2016, she had released her first solo record.

“It’s been a tremendous year-and-a-half,” she said. “Really, five years ago I started writing and recording my first record…At first when I started writing and decided to make a record, I couldn’t even say the words out loud that I was going to be a solo act. But I’ve come leaps and bounds and it’s been a tremendous period of growth for me as an artist, as a person. Sometimes, I really miss the family but it’s a good experience to step out on your own and to work with other people. The response has been so lovely that I’m just really grateful.”

Rankin said working with different artists such as Halifax rapper Quake Matthews and with writer David Tyson has diversified her sound. She said she doesn’t stray to far from her traditional roots, but she has seen an evolution in her work.

“I’m willing to experiment outside of the traditional realm and I’ve been writing. I guess that’s been the biggest difference – writing and co-writing with people from different genres and as a result, your music ends up being influenced by where they come from. I don’t have that familial harmony sound, which is a completely different sound. It’s just my voice with the odd line harmonized by a band member.

Rankin continued: “In my show I still do some of the traditional, some of the Rankin songs, some of the tunes that would have been more in keeping with what I created with the family. But some of the stuff on my solo record is a bit more adult contemporary, a little bit more leaning in the pop direction.”

As evidence of the momentum her solo career has gained, Rankin just released her second solo work on Dec. 1 – a Christmas themed album titled ‘Imagine’.

“I was weaned singing church choir music,” she said. “As a young person, we were always involved in the church choir so I have an affinity for Christmas music. Some people hate it, but I love it. I love the harmony, I love some of the really old carols.

“I recorded a record with my sisters 20 years ago, and we toured it for many years. I recently, since I released my solo record, I was receiving invitations to perform in their shows so I was drawing on the material I created with my sisters and it felt like the time to start reaching out and creating some of my own Christmas material.”

Tickets for the show in Digby are $30 and are available at: or Marshall’s Gifts shop in Digby.


CM Radio – Dec. 6, 2017 – Holiday Music with Heather Rankin & Sultans of String

Canadian Musician Radio. 

We’re getting into the holiday spirit this week as we welcome Heather Rankin and Sultans of String on the program. Heather Rankin is fresh from the release of Imagine, her solo Christmas collection featuring some holiday favourites and fresh new compositions. She talks about how the John Lennon song that inspired the album’s name (and appears as its final track) is fitting for the holidays, how the season contributed to her and her family’s musical upbringing, and more. Then, Sultans of String frontman Chris McKhool talks about his band’s eclectic new holiday release, Christmas Caravan. We chat about how guest artists like Nikki Yanofsky, Alex Cuba, Crystal Shawanda, and Richard Bona were tapped for the collection, interpreting Christmas classics in various world music styles, and more. Plus, Andrew and Mike discuss their favourite contemporary Christmas releases, which may or may not include a rant on Mariah Carey’s classic “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”

You can listen HERE.

Holiday gift guide: essentials from Canadian artists

Canadian Beats.

The holidays are finally here! If you’re like me, you’ve been obsessing over peppermint mochas and plotting gift ideas before Halloween was even over. But if you’re just starting to get your gift ideas together or are looking for the perfect present, consider picking up these items from some of our favourite Canadian artists.



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Stream Imagine Now on Spotify:

Review – Heather Rankin

Canadian Beats

Heather Rankin undoubtedly has music running through her veins. From growing up in the tiny community of Mabou on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island, Rankin has had a lifetime of making music. Both as a solo artist or a member of one of the beloved groups; the Rankin Family or the Rankin Sisters, Rankin has always kept her focus on making great music. Rankin has now released her first solo Christmas album, Imagine. The album captures the essential meaning of Christmas through her voice and carefully arranged classics. The album boasts 10 tracks, and in addition to the obvious classics; “Silent Night,” “Once in Royal David’s City,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” Rankin ventures out to write and collaborate on five of the albums original tracks.

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Five Questions With… Heather Rankin

Dec 01, 2017 by Jason Schneider. fyi music news

For Heather Rankin, a member of Cape Breton’s celebrated Rankin Family, Christmas has always been a joyous affair. With that foremost in mind, she made Imagine, her first Christmas album, available Dec. 1 on iTunes and through Imagine mixes well-known Christmas classics with brand new compositions, along with a few unexpected but entirely appropriate selections such as the John Lennon-penned title track.

Overall, the album highlights Rankin’s ethereally sweet and evocative voice, along with her growing confidence as a songwriter with a melodic touch. It’s an album she hopes will become part of the soundtrack of family holiday celebrations through its blend of the timeless and contemporary.

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CBC First Play: Imagine

Heather Rankin released her first solo album, A Fine Line, in 2016, after decades performing and recording as part of Cape Breton’s renowned Rankin Family or Rankin Sisters. Just one year later, Imagine, will be her second solo release — and first Christmas album, apart from 1997’s Do You Hear…Christmas with siblings Cookie and the late Raylene.

“The goal of this record was to create something classic and beautiful, music that people will want playing in their homes for generations to come,” Rankin said via press release. “Music to listen to while having dinner or gathering with family and friends. I wanted to share songs that were a very special addition to the celebrations.”

But Rankin also says she wanted to put a “stamp on holiday music,” which means traditional carols like “Silent Night,” “Once in Royal David’s City” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” sit alongside newly written tracks like the album’s first single, “Wrap it Up,” as well as “Olde-Fashioned Christmas” and “Dark Eyes (Lullaby),” the latter featuring co-writing from Alex Cuba. The closing, and title, track, is a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

A nice touch on two of the traditional carols — “Once in Royal David’s City” and “Silent Night” — is the addition of St. Michael’s Choir School, which, when paired with Rankin’s holiday-perfect voice, is a charming addition to a Christmas soundtrack.

Imagine will be released Dec. 1, and you can pre-order it here.

Heather Rankin’s new winter album due out Dec. 1

 November 24, 2017 – 2:19pm 

It’s been 20 years since the last time Heather Rankin got into the holiday spirit on record, with her sisters Raylene and Cookie on an album that became a Canadian Christmas classic, Do You Hear.. .

The timing seemed right to return to crisp, wintry sounds and her new release, Imagine, due out on Dec. 1, is a gorgeous evocation of Christmas and a compendium of the complicated mix of emotions the annual event often brings. There is nostalgia, and a nod to the party element that arises as we blow off steam at the end of the year, but Rankin wanted to go deeper on a record where more than half the songs are new compositions that carry a deep personal connection to a time where there can be as much sorrow and anxiety as joy and celebration.

“It’s not a happy, frolicking representation of the season, and I think that comes with age,” says Rankin over the busy hubbub of Java Blend cafe. “It becomes a time that’s more about reflection and gratitude than it is about celebrating gifts and parties. And that comes into play in some of the writing.”

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By JOHN R KENNEDY. Wednesday, November 22nd 2017 – 9:05 am
Heather Rankin knows there’s some irony in making a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine” the title track of her first solo holiday album.

“It was a conscious decision,” Rankin insisted, on the phone from Halifax.

Lennon’s famous song, released in 1971, expresses hope for a world with “no religion” filled with “people living for today.” He wrote: “Imagine there’s no heaven / It’s easy if you try / No hell below us / Above us only sky.”

Rankin explained: “I was raised in the Catholic church but I consider myself to be an open and accepting person and I’m still learning. The point of celebrating the season has evolved. The reason has evolved.”


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Digby church to host a unique event

The Digby Courier. By James Mallory.

DIGBY, N.S. – The audience at a church in Digby is expecting to increase exponentially as a unique opportunity presents itself next month.

Tomato Tomato will be stopping by the Grace United Church on Dec. 20 as part of its Maritime Christmas 2017 tour. Special guests at this show include Dave Gunning, Heather Rankin and Ray Legere.

Reverend Alex Constable of the Grace United Church says the opportunity to welcome more people from the community is a wonderful gift.

“I think it’s something that we can give and use this God-given space to benefit people and to fulfill needs that are there,” he said. “Culture and art is a very real need – it forms communities and helps give meaning.”

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