Posted on May 4, 2016 Aaron Cameron
Last month saw the release of A Fine Line, the debut solo album from Heather Rankin.
Rankin – the youngest of the Rankin family – will be performing May 11 at Glasgow Square Theatre with Kim Dunn co-headlining.
One may have expected a Heather Rankin solo album before now, as both Jimmy and Raylene Rankin began releasing solo material during the group’s early 2000s, pre-reunion period. She, however, was following a different path, one that included work with Carly Simon, theatre pursuits and managing the Rankin sisters’ Red Shoe Pub. In short, she may be late to the party but it’s a party she didn’t mind being late to.
“I never really felt any pressure to do a solo record to be perfectly honest,” Rankin said. “It was something I never really thought that seriously about until in recent years when (The Rankins) started touring again. I’d been writing a little bit and a few people had been giving me the nudge saying I should continue doing it… It was just something I never really saw myself as, a solo singer. Sometimes life makes decisions for you and leads you in directions you never expected to go.”
The notion of releasing a solo album meant not only competing with her past and the Rankin Family back catalogue but also audience perceptions of what a Heather Rankin album should sound like.
“I think I had a lot of insecurities about stepping out on my own,” Rankin said. “I’ve always been surrounded by family in whatever musical endeavours I’ve taken part in. I guess once I said it out loud I was committed to it. You’re always afraid it will be a failure, at least that’s the way my brain thinks. It’s really hard coming from a situation that’s very successful and stepping out on your own.”
She continued, “People have expectations. The Rankin Family shows were so lively and there was so much variety with five people and all the different voices and different elements we brought to it. It’s a high bar and I think all of those reservations are just a natural thing coming out of that kind of successful situation.”
Rankin eventually paired up with David Tyson, co-writer of ‘Black Velvet’ by Alannah Myles. Rankin said working with Tyson made her see things from a different point of view and he encouraged her to write more songs. In the end, Rankin co-wrote seven of the album’s tracks.
While A Fine Line does have some of the traditional seasoning a Rankin Family fan may expect, it also floats through modern pop sounds, old standards and show tune-esque material.
“I know it’s a departure,” Rankin said, “and at first I was afraid of that because the safe thing would have been to make a traditional record or make something that was much more in the direction of what I did with the Rankin Family; but it also would have been very predictable and not really a period of growth for me.
“I’ve learned to step out of that comfort zone and explore other genres a bit more and although the music does run the gamut from pop to show tunes to the direction of what I would have done with the Rankins, it does have a thematic thread that runs through all of the music.”
That sense of unpredictability – and thematic thread – is extended to the album’s lead single, a cover of Tears for Fears’ ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’, which includes a guest spot from Halifax hip-hop artist Quake.
“We had a lot of discussion about that,” Rankin said, “and quite honestly I thought it was the greatest departure from what I’d always done. I thought why not come out with a bang. We could have easily started off with ‘We Walk as One’ which is very much in the direction of what I did with the Family but again, why do what people are expecting and what’s more predictable?
“…When it was suggested it was so out on a limb that it made me embrace it all the more because when I set out to make this record I didn’t want to close any doors, I wanted to be open to all opportunities and ideas.”