Given the challenges artists face these days in order to survive, let alone build an audience and release material, it’s extremely pleasing to see a performer develop from an initial release to their debut album. We hope there is plenty more to come from Raveloe in the years that lie ahead, but the Exit Light album is both cause for celebration and cause for us to check in with the artist just before the big release.
SNACK caught up with Raveloe (Kim Grant) to discuss Celtic Connections, musical connections, escaping, and bringing an album together with friends.
With your debut album Exit Light set for release, are you ready for a lot more questions about the origins and meaning of your stage name?
It’s a thing I’ve contributed to, by changing it after the first year. I changed how it’s pronounced, and it has haunted me ever since, but that’s quite alright, because there are also new ones that I’d never even thought of, like ravioli. Yeah, the list goes on.
Has having a stage name helped you?
I think so, because it contributes to creating this world in which the songs unfold and take place, and I like that. It also allows me a bit of separation for other projects I get involved with; I like to keep that world separate. It’s something I’m going to stick with.
We often read that artists have a lifetime to write their debut record. What was your timeline?
It started in 2020, when some of the songs were forming – so over two years, because I finished recording it last December.
A lot of music fans possibly don’t know the lengthy lead time many albums have between recording and release. How has this period been for you?
It’s funny because my relationship to the songs and the album has fluctuated. During the recording, I was so excited, and fully in the process. It took a couple of months of being in the studio all day, with a few days off in between – at first I gave it my everything, and then afterwards, for about a month, I was burned out and I disengaged a little bit from it.
Then there were little moments of feeling that excitement rekindled – but also, moments of doubt crept in, where I overanalysed things and worried if this was how they should be. It was up and down until a few months ago, when I allowed that excitement to come again, and I accepted what it was at that time. And that’s what it is, and I’m happy with that.
Now, I’ve been excited for the past few months, because I’ve been making music videos and engaging with the music in a different way. I’ve been thinking about how the stories might translate to people as they’re listening.
When you played Celtic Connections back in January, you played ‘Countertop’ from the album. How has it been, drip-feeding the songs when playing live?
It’s nice, because as soon as I write something, I want to perform it. I don’t do well sitting on things and not playing them because they’re not released, I want to share as I go. Also, I think a song is most raw when it’s just written and you’re really feeling it – it’s a more visceral experience to perform it when it’s fresh.
Do you feel that now you have an album to release, you need to consider your setlists more, with respect to what you have available?
I don’t consider it that much; maybe someone on a major label has to consider it more. A nice thing about being on a small label and with no management is that I just make decisions as I see fit. Lloyd [Meredith] from Olive Grove is supportive, and Andy [Hannah] from Bright Dead Things is doing my PR, and he’s also nice and supportive.
As an example, I’m releasing my album not on a Friday. If I was on a big label, they probably wouldn’t let me do that – it’s not the done thing. But I like the date, and I want to go with it.
With ‘Countertop’ being the opening track on the album, do you think this sets the tone for what’s to follow?
I think so, because it is the beginning. But even that one song documents coming back home, and finding my way to that home, whatever home means or symbolises. The theme of running away is present in the whole album. It’s an acknowledgment of that urge to run, and what happens when you sit in it instead – and to stop doing that, and see the transformative healing that takes place when you do stop running away. It’s not always the literal running away and getting on a bus, like that one was.
The album title, Exit Light, is taken from ‘Ghost Beach’, from the line ‘I keep seeing the exit light above every turn’. It’s easy to run and hide, but maybe harder to take a look.
On the album, and with your previous releases, you seem as comfortable writing about nature as you are about city life. Would you say this is a fair reflection of you?
Growing up in Motherwell, a post-industrial town, there’s a lot of concrete and grey. There were some green spaces, and I romanticised that as a kid: we would go to the River Avon in Hamilton on the weekend, and it’d be so exciting and would fill me. Part of me wishes I grew up in the countryside, but I love cities and being around people. I love both, and that’s true to my upbringing and how I live my life now.
What was the recording process for the album?
I had a band in the studio, and we recorded off the floor for a lot of the songs. There was me, a drummer, bassist, and we got that energy from recording that way. I also got other friends involved to add other layers. It was me and Gal [Paul Gallagher, producer] in the studio adding bits – for example, with ‘Clouds Are Release’, we played with a couple of different amps at the same time. One was in a different room and we’d play back through the other amplifier, playing with texture. When playing a solo, we’d wait for a golden take where it all comes together, rather than chopping. Having fun with feedback and distortion.
I remember, I was sitting down doing a lead – not a solo. I don’t do solos, I’m not a shredder – and Gal saw me through the window and pointed out that I should try it standing up. It was at that point I was really feeling the sound and playing with it; that’s where the energy from the guitar comes into play, and Gal’s production is great. I think he likes crunchy things as much as I do.
What were your influences for the album?
I sent Gal a playlist of inspiration for the album, and it was wide-spanning. Songs: Ohia was on it, Big Thief, Bill Callahan – I like using distortion, and the microphone, and texture, to tell part of the story. I think all those artists do that, but there were other ones I can’t think of right now!
Is there any track on the album that stands as the centrepoint, perhaps bringing everything together?
‘Ghost Beach’, because that’s where the title comes from, and it’s one of the later songs I wrote for the album. It seemed to connect dots of different themes throughout the album, so yeah, ‘Ghost Beach’.
What do you hope to achieve with the album?
Part of it has already been achieved: I wanted to capture the songs I had been writing, and that’s done, it’s out of my hands. Now, it would be amazing if some people happened to connect with it, in some sort of way. That would be wonderful. I think the aim of a lot of artists is to find connections in the listener – music has always been huge in my life, as a listener before as a musician.
When you released your debut EP, Notes and Dreams, back in early 2021, did you expect to reach this stage?
It’s been a goal of mine for a really long time to release an album; I didn’t know that would be my trajectory at that time. It’s been helpful to get funding from Creative Scotland to make it happen. That was a catalyst in being able to do that. I’ve been lucky, on my journey, that people have been supportive of me making music – it helps. I’d make music no matter what, but the fact folk have been so supportive of what I’ve put out has helped me get to where I am now.
Any time I’ve seen you live so far, it’s been a solo set, and yet a lot of the songs on the album sound huge. How do you go between the different states of size and scope of music?
I always want to hold that space in my songs. I love to play in a band with different textures, and I’d like to play that way more often than not, but I also love the stripped back, bare bones of a song. There’s something in that. I also like how a song can appear in a folk guise and then, suddenly, it’s something else. Or I don’t think it is something else; it’s just wearing different clothes.
The sonics change mostly because I’m playing with my band and I’m experimenting more with distortion.
A lot of the people who play on the record have played with you in other projects. How is that process?
It’s really nice to make music with people I regard as my friends, and there’s a sense of trust, friendship and wanting to explore different sounds. It did influence me, as whenever I asked a friend or musician to get on board, I wanted to create a space to let them contribute whatever they wanted to. I suppose that shaped the sound.
When you play with musicians in one band, playing the songs of other songwriters, is there a dynamic shift when you’re playing your own songs?
Not so much, not too much of a dynamic shift. The dynamic we have in Poster Paints, it’s not hierarchical – it feels like there’s space for us to add parts if we wanted to. There’s a supportiveness and openness, which was cultivated in a different setting. It was nice, and I was so happy they wanted to be part of this. I respect Simon [Liddell] and Susan [Bear] and I respect everyone on the album. It was just nice.
Even though it’s your project, and you’re the songwriter, how helpful was it to have people you trusted involved with the music?
Really helpful. I’m so grateful to Jill O’Sullivan for adding beautiful violin to the tracks and stepping into the open air of improvisation: that brought so much beauty to the songs she contributed to. I asked if she’d be up for doing whatever she felt like, and she made full-of-life parts that gave the songs beautiful energy.
The same for Jason Riddel, who played piano and added vocals on the album that contributed to the textures. Simon, Susan: they all made beautiful contributions that brought my vision to life, and beyond. Also, the main band – myself, Paul Kelly, Peter Kelly – they added so much, and Gal played some instruments and parts too, that was fun. They all brought so much to the table. I want to acknowledge the people that were part of it.
How was the relationship between you and Gal, the producer? Was there a clear leader. or did this change about?
That changed about. We spent a lot of time together in the studio – we joked about that, our reality became working as a musical unit! Gal is really good at encouraging me to express myself. He doesn’t try to steer things in a way that might be counterintuitive to the song or to what I’d want. We have a good collaborative relationship: he’s up for trying out things, messing around, which was fun, and he encouraged me to be experimental, which transferred onto the record. I recorded sounds outside in Castlemilk, in the forest, which we layered in. It was fun, working with Gal.
The initial promotion of the album centres on in-store gigs and support slots. Is this a deliberate way to launch the record?
I think it’s nice. Firstly, I’m organising a lot of these things myself, so it makes sense to go along and do support tours – it opens you to people you wouldn’t normally play to. I’m a relatively new artist and I wouldn’t necessarily say I have a huge following, so it’s nice to put myself in a situation where I can meet different people and have audience members hear me when they normally wouldn’t. I think it’ll be a nice way to play the songs and get ready for a full band tour, see the response to the songs.
On social media, you were looking for gigs to fill some dates around existing gigs. Is this still the case, and can we help you promote this?
That’s cool, yeah. I’m going down to London on the 8th December, so anything around then, after the 3rd and before the 8th or after the 8th, yeah, give me a shout!
We spoke at the start of 2023, and it was your first time going to Celtic Connections. For 2024, you’re returning as a headliner. How does that feel?
It’s quite surreal. It’s really lovely; I’m super excited. I can’t wait. And I have Quincey May Brown, who is going to come and support me. I think it’ll be a lovely night. It’s so surreal for last year to be my first year going, and now to headline – I feel very lucky.
What goals do you have for 2024?
I’m hoping there will be more full band shows and a bigger tour, later in the year. That’s the goal, to go a bit further. And hopefully some festivals, if things work out.
Exit Light is released 11th November on Olive Grove Records. Raveloe plays Glasgow’s Hug & Pint on 19th January 2024, as part of the Celtic Connections festival. Tickets here.