Q & A: Raphaela Nehme Will Have You Believing in “Happy Endings” Again With Her Latest Single

Independent Singer/Songwriter Raphaela Nehme will have you believing in love again with her latest pop-country single, “Happy Endings”. Inspired by Emily Henry’s New York Times bestselling novel, Book Lovers, the memorable, Hallmark-esque tune will have you rooting for the small-town girl & evil queen alike.  

Recently, I spoke with Raphaela about her latest single, how her multicultural & worldly experiences have influenced her music and more. 

Kyla Pearson: For those who are unfamiliar with you and your music, can you tell us a bit more about your journey to becoming a pop-country singer/songwriter?

Raphaela Nehme: I was born in Ottawa, but my parents are Lebanese. They moved back to Lebanon when I was still a baby and I grew up there until the age of 19. I always knew I wanted to move back, either to Canada or to the US. I always felt like an “alien” in Lebanon, not identifying with a culture where Arabic music is dominant, especially if I wanted to make it as a songwriter who wrote English songs. 

My mum is an opera singer, so music was always a part of our household. She put me in music lessons when I was about 7 years old. I started piano lessons, but I got bored with it at some point and decided to let it go. And then when I was 13 years old, my best friend showed me that she had started playing guitar. So I kind of learnt some chords with her and then that was about the time when I discovered Taylor Swift who was starting to be known. The first song I heard by her was “Teardrops on My Guitar”. I remember seeing this singer with curly hair like me and she was just writing songs. It kind of inspired me to be like, well, why don’t I try to do the same? So I locked myself in my room for a whole summer. I learnt to play and sing at the same time. 

When I had my first heartbreak because of a former crush, so I decided to write my first song about that. Songwriting became a thing for me, and when I was fourteen, I started recording an EP that had seven songs. Luckily enough, I had the support of my parents which allowed me to start going down that lane. 

At 19 I moved back to Ottawa by myself to pursue my university studies. I kind of gave up on music for a while, because I was told enough times that it wasn’t ‘realistic’. I convinced myself I should give up on it. I was still writing songs at the time, but I just thought I wasn’t good enough and that my voice was not good enough. 

Fast forward to the pandemic when I was at my lowest point, and I had an epiphany moment. I decided that I was going to do something about my sadness/depression so I decided to buy a recording kit and start posting weekly covers on my YouTube channel. A few months later, I was confident enough to start writing my own songs once more. I also met the producer I would go on to start recording my first 3 singles with, namely Fifth Street, South of France, and now Happy Endings. 

Kyla Pearson: You lived in Lebanon until the age of 19, before immigrating back to Canada. How has your multicultural/worldly experiences influenced your sound and the stories you share through your music?

Raphaela Nehme: I have never tried explicitly to infuse my cultural background into my music, but I kind of realized that that happens without us even trying. Those experiences are just a part of us, whether we like it or not.

I speak 3 languages (English, French, Arabic, and a bit of German). Inevitably, this has had an influence in the way I may structure my melody or write lyrics. I have always faulted myself for having an accent or not being able to write the “country” stories that people love to hear in country music. I recently realized that that’s okay, because I write about other places in the world I’ve been to or places I want to go to. 

For example, I speak the French language as well (if not better than) my mother tongue Arabic. I wrote a song called “South of France” even though I’ve never been to the South of France because I dreamt about it and about what it would be like to go there. So whether it’s in the way I pronounce a lyric, choose a setting for a place I’ve been to (or not!) and/or write from the perspective of a main character in a book, I think all the things that make me “me” ultimately impact what I choose to write about and the melody to accompany it. 

Featured: Independent pop-country singer/songwriter, Raphaela Nehme.

Kyla Pearson: On April 7th, you’re set to release your fairytale pop-country love song, “Happy Endings”. The song was also inspired by Emily Henry's New York Times bestselling novel, Book Lovers, something that isn’t often seen in country music. Can you tell us more about the songwriting and production process? Were there any challenges in taking on such a fresh take/unique spin on the genre?

Raphaela Nehme: The process for this song was interesting because when I first sat down on the piano and started playing a melody that was repeating in my head, it wasn’t my intention to write from the POV of the main character in the book. But when I decided to try and put lyrics together, they flowed out of me very naturally and the coziness/ romantic undertones of the melody made me feel that this structure would be perfect as a tribute to this book couple I fell in love with. 

It was actually refreshing to write from another perspective, because I could be someone else for this short period of time. For some reason, that felt easy and natural. I guess we all wish we could be someone else at some points in our lives.

I was also very certain of the production direction I wanted it to take, which was a leading guitar melody accompanied by pop sounds that would allow it to live in between the two worlds of “pop” and “country.” So my guitar teacher Jon Park-wheeler helped me take the melody I had come up with on the piano and change it to fit for guitar, which I absolutely loved, and played on the track. 

Thankfully, I also work with a great producer who trusts my instincts whilst adding his own touches to my songs. It’s very important to work with someone who allows you to express yourself while simultaneously challenging you to go in a different direction sometimes. So for Happy Endings, I would say the process was the most seamless out of all 3 singles I’ve released to date.

Kyla Pearson: Happy Endings shares the message that sometimes, you need that one person to support you and love you for who you are in a world that doesn’t see you the same way. How important is this kind of support in the music industry, especially as an emerging indie artist?

Raphaela Nehme: This kind of support can make or break an indie artist in this day and age. The music industry for emerging artists is such a fragile ecosystem. I compare it to feeling like I’m walking through a forest, lost, trying to pick up a stone and wondering which one will turn into gold and lead me to the right path that will allow me to make a real career out of this. 

You also need friends, family & a partner, who will believe in you and understand all the time and effort you are putting into something that isn’t a sure thing. They have to believe as much as you do, that all these countless hours spent will lead to something as much as you do, otherwise it’s very tough to keep the faith.

Thankfully, for the most part, I have that. I have a partner who is giddy like a child when I show him new material I’ve come up with. He will tell every stranger he meets about my music, which I find absolutely adorable! 

You also have to navigate through people in the industry, who a lot of the time, just want to make a buck out of your dream without actually believing in you. So for me, it’s been very important to find the right people to work with who actually want to see me succeed, and I think with each new single I release, I am slowly but surely getting there.

Kyla Pearson: In terms of sound, Happy Endings differs from your previous two single releases, “South of France” and “Fifth Street”. What inspired your new signature sound?

Raphaela Nehme: I think with the evolution from the first two singles, I naturally took a path towards what would ultimately be the sound for “Happy Endings.” 

For example, with “Fifth Street”, we wanted to establish my identity as a pop/country artist. We aimed for a song that had full band sounds and signature country elements. 

I knew that the second one – South of France – would be different from that and would need more pop sounds in it, and I credit my producer Jason Wilkinson with the experimental alt-pop/country direction it took which was different from what I initially envisioned, but ultimately loved. 

Then for the third, I knew I didn’t want the classic country sounds nor the experimental direction of the second, so I naturally opted for what felt right for the song–A mix of country and pop sounds that would embody the sweet, cozy and romantic mood I had felt while reading Book Lovers.  After hearing the finished product, I realized how much I loved that sound–I could see myself releasing more songs that had a similar feel to it.

I am someone who loves to dream. I’ve always been a dreamer, so productions that encapsulate and make listeners feel that type of way as well are what I dream of creating more of!

Featured: Official cover art for pop-country singer/songwriter, Raphaela Nehme's latest single, "Happy Endings".

Kyla Pearson: According to you, what is the ideal setting for fans to listen to the song?

Raphaela Nehme: I would imagine any place they consider cozy. Ideally with a hot chocolate in hand, a warm blanket and a pet to keep them company! A place where they allow themselves to dream up their most romantic, fuzzy dreams and allow themselves to just be mentally free of day-to-day challenges, if only for a few moments in time!

Kyla Pearson: What is one goal you hope to achieve with your music by the end of the year?

Raphaela Nehme: I hope to have enough songs released that I can create my first EP or album! Ideally 10 songs, but if not, then 7 of them! I am currently working on numbers 4 and 5 at the same time, so I am confident we will get to 7! I also want to film my first two music videos and hopefully have a merch store by the end of the year.

Basically, I want to get to a place where I can think to myself, ok this is real, I am really doing this thing and I am on my way to somewhere I never thought I would be just a year ago. I can make a living out of my music and have listeners who actually look forward to it when I put out a new song!

Kyla Pearson: Lastly, do you have any upcoming shows where fans can hear you play “Happy Endings” live?

Raphaela Nehme: I don’t have any shows scheduled right now as I am trying to focus more on the online presence of this whole music thing, but as soon as I do, I will announce it on my social media and update my website with details! 

Listen to "Happy Endings" Now:

 

Stay up to Date With Raphaela Nehme:

Works CIted

Nehme, Raphaela. Interview. Conducted by Kyla Pearson, Apr 2 2023.

Unknown. “Featured: Independent pop-country singer/songwriter, Raphaela Nehme.” Photo courtesy of Raphaela Nehme. Accessed Apr 2 2023.

Unknown. “Featured: Independent pop-country singer/songwriter, Raphaela Nehme.” Photo courtesy of Raphaela Nehme. Accessed Apr 2 2023.

Unknown. “Featured: Official cover art for pop- country singer/songwriter, Raphaela Nehme’s latest single, “Happy Endings”.” Photo courtesy of Raphaela Nehme. Accessed Apr 2 2023.

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