Q & A: 4x CMAO Nominee Nicole Rayy on her Fiery new Single, “House of Cards”, Improving the Representation of Women in Country Music Industry & her Goals for This Year

Canadian country artist and 4x CMAO nominee, Nicole Rayy is a powerhouse in the country music industry. With over 10 years of professional experience, she’s performed at notable festivals including the Calgary Stampede and the World Music Festival in Shanghai, China (2015-2018) . Also the founder of Harmonia Fest & All Women Music, she’s established herself as a prominent advocate for supporting and uplifting women in music.

Earlier this year, she released her latest single, “House of Cards”, Penned by Catt Gravitt (Kelsea Ballerini, Kelly Clarkson) and Rayy herself, the song speaks of a tumlutous relationship that feels more one-sided and ultimately wasn’t meant to last. A song that clearly resonated with many, as it’s just shy of 400K streams on Spotify alone.

Recently, I spoke with Rayy about her fiery new single, improving the representation of women in the country music industry and more.

Kyla Pearson: For those who are unfamiliar with your music, can you tell us a bit more about your path to pursuing a career in music?

Nicole Rayy: It has been quite the journey so far, this year I am actually celebrating ten years in the country music industry! It all started with my first album, recorded at Cherry Beach Sound, “Only Everything.” From there I was introduced to a woman who really helped me navigate the early days of my career, Anya Wilson. She introduced me to my first manager, Janice Starodub, who really pushed me to discover my individuality as an artist and was by my side while I released my second album “Dig”, produced by Douglas Romanow. After she passed, I pushed on to carry out the plans we had for the next steps of my career which led me to my third album “All Woman”. An album that inspired me to create more opportunities for women in the music industry including my live show “All Woman Music” and my all-female festival “HarmoniaFest”. I am now lucky to be working with another amazing producer, Brian Howes, on my current music and I am excited to be working towards my fourth album which I feel will be the most authentically me.

Kyla Pearson: What is the primary message you want to share through your music? Why is this message important to you?

Nicole Rayy: Empowerment! I am a big advocate for women’s empowerment of course, but I want to spread empowerment to all. In the social media world, we live in it is so easy to compare ourselves to others 24/7.  I am guilty of doing it, but I am working on not feeling guilty about loving and caring for myself and blocking out what other people are doing. It’s an ongoing process of course, but it’s a journey we all deserve to take. I want everyone to feel their strongest, more confident selves. Even with my songs that are about something sad like heartbreak I always like to include a message of empowerment, something positive listeners can lean on and take away from the song.

Featured: Official cover art for Canadian country artist Nicole Rayy's latest single, "House of Cards".

Kyla Pearson: To kick off 2022, you are releasing your latest single, “House of Cards”.  Can you tell us a bit more about the inspiration behind the song, as well as the songwriting and recording process? 

Nicole Rayy: “House of Cards” was written by myself & hit US songwriter Catt Gravitt (Kelly Clarkson, Kelsea Ballerini) and my producer Brian Howes. It was recorded at the beautiful Armoury Studios in Vancouver, BC.

My producer Brian set up the write with Catt over zoom. I felt an instant writing connection with Catt and she was on board immediately when I told her I wanted to write a badass babe country-rock song. Catt said she had been thinking about the title House of Cards and I loved it! I absolutely love what we came up with, a song about a very passionate but dangerous relationship told through the metaphor of something fragile, a house of cards.

Kyla Pearson: What do you hope fans will get out of the song?

Nicole Rayy: This song is about a very passionate but dangerous relationship. One that is unstable and is bound to fall apart at any moment. I think many of us have had the experience of being in this type of relationship, one filled with heat but that we know isn’t good for us. I hope my fans can take away a positive from this song. I hope it will give them the courage to walk away from that type of relationship. Or that it will help them realize it is okay to put their feelings above all else and make relationship choices that best serve them. 

Kyla Pearson: You also plan to release an official music video for the song (Which isn’t released yet at the time of writing). Without spoiling anything can you tell us a little bit more about that? What was the filming process like?

Nicole Rayy: This video is different from anything I’ve done before. I really wanted it to showcase the passion and danger of the relationship that is discussed in House of Cards. This is the first time I have put this type of heat into a music video. Aj Astle from Roadhouse Productions did an amazing job bringing my vision to life. Especially the way he captured lighting an actual house of cards on FIRE! 

Kyla Pearson: This year, you’re celebrating being in the music industry for a decade. Looking back, what is one of your most memorable moments? What is one lesson you’ve learned on your journey thus far?

Nicole Rayy: There are a lot of things I am proud of in my career but I think one of my most memorable moments is performing in Shanghai, China (4 times) at The World Music Festival. When I began my singing career, I hoped it would take me on great adventures but I never knew it would put me on stage on the other side of the world!

So much has changed and grown since the beginning of my career, especially my motivation and determination. I always knew that I wanted to be a singer growing up but I didn’t understand what it would take until I released my first song. After that I was so determined to learn, grow and do whatever it is I needed to do to make things happen for myself. 

I have learned a lot of lessons about myself, songwriting, and techniques to improve my singing, but I think the biggest lessons I’ve learned on my journey are in business. I didn’t know much about the music business or business in general when I started my career. At some point, I thought that aspect of my career wouldn’t be something I would have to deal with too much, that I would always have help with it, but in the last few years that is something I have taken into my own hands and learned so much about.

Kyla Pearson: You also run All Woman Music, a platform that supports both emerging and established voices of women in the music industry. Can you tell us a bit more about it, as well as your goals to expand its impact this year?

Nicole Rayy: This industry does a very good job of making us feel isolated or that everyone else is our competitor instead of our ally, especially for women. It has had me fooled before. And I got to this place where I was sick of that feeling. There are so many female artists who inspire me, who I love and I wanted to be part of a community with these artists, not a competition. This is what led me to start All Woman Music. It started as an online show, once a month, showcasing females from all across the country and giving them an opportunity to perform their original music. I try my best to keep up with when artists have a new release coming out so I can have them on the show to promote it that month. But I am also always open to recommendations and ladies reaching out to me themselves!

All Woman Music has grown into an in-person live show at The Moonshine Café, giving Ontario females more opportunities to share their music with an attentive listening audience. I hope this year to continue to grow the show and the audience and really help female artists reach a wider fan base.

Kyla Pearson: In relation to the previous question, one is one thing the country music industry as a whole can do to help uplift women in music? What is one change you’d like to see within the industry over the next 5-10 years?

Nicole Rayy: Give women more opportunities! For years now, women in the country music industry have been told by labels and booking agents that there is only room for one on the roster. I’ve heard many times that the audience wants to hear more male artists so that is what the radio has to play. An explanation that even if was true at some point seems like old news. I think the fact of the matter is that we all love music that we know. The songs we’ve heard a thousand times, the ones that bring back memories and transport us to another place. If radio or playlists don’t give the audience a chance to fall in love with songs by women because they only have room for one at a time, the results won’t change. If the industry made more room for female sung songs, and not just because they are women but because they are talented and deserve to be heard, I think the results of “what they need to play because the audience demands it” would be vastly different.

I am glad that the conversation has opened up on this very important topic but I hope within the next 5-10 years there will be more than just words, there will be more action to give women the opportunities.

Kyla Pearson: Moving forward in 2022, what is one goal you hope to achieve by the end of the year?

Nicole Rayy: In 2022 I hope to continue to grow as an artist and make bigger and better music for my fans. I am working towards completing my 4th studio album as well as adding some more tunes to my Christmas album this year. I know the state of the world is still uncertain but I certainly hope to get on some big stages this year and connect with new fans. I will of course be continuing my work fighting for more opportunities for female artists, and throwing the third annual HarmoniaFest!

Kyla Pearson: Lastly, do you have any upcoming shows that fans can catch and hear you play “House of Cards” live? 

Nicole Rayy: YES! I am excited that live music is making its comeback again and that I have upcoming shows in my calendar. Head to www.nicolerayy.com/shows to see where you can catch me next.

Listen To “House Of Cards” Now:

Stay up to Date With Nicole Rayy:

Works Cited:

Rayy, Nicole. Interview. Conducted by Kyla Pearson, Jan. 14, 2022.

Unknown. “Featured: Canadian country artist Nicole Rayy.”. Photo courtesy of Nicole Rayy. Accessed Jan. 14, 2022.

Unknown. “Featured: Official cover art for Canadian country artist Nicole Rayy’s latest single, “House of Cards”.”. Photo courtesy of Nicole Rayy. Accessed Jan. 14, 2022.

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