Canadian singer and songwriter Billy Raffoul has only been on the public music scene for two years, and he’s already making waves. Besides collaborating with big names like Avicii, Kygo and American Authors, he’s already toured twice, first headlining his own local shows and second as an opener, performing around the US with artists like Julia Michaels and Parachute. He’s also only 23 years old.
Despite this crazy amount of success in such a short time and at such a young age, at the time I’m writing this, Raffoul doesn’t even have his own Wikipedia page. Fame will be coming, however, and coming soon. In just a matter of time he’ll be selling out amphitheaters on a global headlining tour, but for now, he remains the buried treasure of the alt-rock scene.
Raffoul first fell in love with music from the influence of his father, Jody Raffoul. Jody himself is a solo artist and hometown legend, having opened for the likes of Joe Cocker and Bon Jovi. Because of his father’s own musical talent, Raffoul grew up immersed in music.
“The Beatles were like Jesus in our house,” Raffoul says on his website. Besides The Beatles, other icons like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding played formative roles in influencing Raffoul’s eventual style and sound.
On his 10th birthday, Raffoul received his first guitar from his father and began teaching himself to play, and, at age 16, he purchased his first real guitar. At that point, however, his interest in music was purely recreational, limited to music appreciation and several forays into songwriting.
It wasn’t until he was in high school, watching his dad headline a show for 4,000 people, that he really wanted to be a performer.
“I remember in that moment thinking, ‘This is cool,’” said Raffoul. “I had appreciated music and written songs up until then, but I didn’t think I wanted to be a live performer until that one show.”
And live performer he became. His first paid performance was for truck drivers at a local truck stop, and for the next three or four years, he would play nearly every night every week in both American and Canadian bars.
These local performances developed into the occasional hourly-wage job as a demo singer. One seemingly normal day, Raffoul went in to sing on a few Kid Rock demos and the producers in the booth asked to hear some of his original work. He played a few songs for them, they recorded it on their iPhones, and sent it to Raffoul’s now-manager. Soon after, he signed with Interscope Records, and the rest is (recent) history.
Now, when Raffoul is not touring or collaborating with other artists in the industry, he is working on his debut album, a highly anticipated project that is expected to be garner the same success as his singles and debut EP, “1975.”
“1975” contains strong songs with soulful lyrics carried by his rich, gritty voice. The EP contains his most popular song, “Driver,” which first introduced his unique voice (and iconic mane of hair) to a broader audience.
While “Driver,” “I’m Not a Saint” (another strong selection from his EP) and “Difficult” (one of his released singles) are all powerful punches of a musical ensemble, the rest of his original songs tend to fall on the chiller, quieter side. His voice, intense and raspy, gets gentler and softer with these songs, guaranteed to serve chills to your spine.
Lyrically, Raffoul stays within common themes of love, sex, and longing — however, the lyrics themselves are usually creative and sweet, offering an occasional fresh perspective on age-old muse.
For example, in “Acoustic,” Raffoul sings, “Let me see the real you / Baby, take off all your make-up / Undress me to the naked truth / Until we’re both uncomplicated.” The clever play on words, with both the physical and emotional stripping, is a clever twist, toying with listeners’ expectations surrounding the word “undress.”
Additionally, the stories that inspire songs are always fun to hear. The song “Driver” was inspired by a hitchhiker Raffoul and his father picked up after the two of them had played a gig. Later, Raffoul brought the story to a writing session with a few fellow songwriters, and they adapted the story into song. “We turned it into something a little more sentimental,” Raffoul explained, “in that maybe I’m not singing about someone being lost on the side of the road, but maybe someone lost in life who doesn’t know where they’re going or what they’re supposed to be doing.”
While Raffoul has been putting out new music fairly often (remember, he’s only been formally releasing music for two years), fans are just beginning to see signs of work from his forthcoming album. I went to one of his live shows a few months ago, and he played at least three new pieces from his new album—one in particular, “Swimming in the Deep End,” is my favorite, and I go back to my camera roll often, just to listen to it.
I don’t know how long I’ll have to wait to hear that released as a single, if at all, but the first single, “Lovely,” from his new album drops this Friday. Fans can certainly expect to be amazed, as usual, at his soulful sound and powerful vocals, and hopefully this album will give him the recognition he deserves.