Edwin Raphael interview – “17-year-old me would be astounded!”

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Edwin Raphael never intended to be up on stage pouring his heart out. After growing up in Dubai and finishing a degree in degree in marketing and economics, his parents had high hopes that he’d move into a successful corporate career, but something inside told him that that trajectory wasn’t right for him just yet.

“I kind of left home when I was 18,” he says. “I came to Montreal to go to business school because my dad had kind of grew me to become this like business kid since I was a kid. So I finished high school and I just didn’t really have any intentions. And I just like, I’ll just study business and sort of figure it out from there. And then I came to Montreal and I was completely blown away by the music scene here. I definitely listened to music and I was into music and I played a bit of music in my bedroom, but my parents didn’t know I could sing or anything. It was like a wild thing. Cause I came here, started going to these underground shows and stuff. And I was like, whoa, this is pretty crazy because the culture here is so different from the music culture that I grew up in. And so it was super exciting to feel that for the first time, for sure. And yeah, I started writing a lot more songs and started singing them, played some open mics and stuff, recorded the first couple of songs. And then next thing, I call my mom, like yeah, I’m writing music and I guess I’m putting some music out and they were like, what’s going on? Is he still going to finish school? And I was like, yeah, yeah, I’ll finish school. I know you guys want me to finish school, but I’m mostly going to take a little dip in the music scene and that’s kind of how it started.”

Raphael recently released “Have You Been Told”, a track that “steers through the fixation of constant repetitive cycles from a place that is ‘all blown up’ to ‘all so bare’,” says Edwin. “It’s the conflicting pursuit of stimulation vs stability. The phrase ‘have you been told’ suggests the idea of keeping the devil on your shoulder at ease by satisfying it in small doses as well as constantly sort of reminding yourself to check yourself. Essentially the song explores a medium ground where there is a balance between the two.”

The single arrived complete with a video directed by Raphael, Jonathan Frydman, and Ben Del Vasto. “The music video matches both the spiralling instrumentation of the song and Raphael’s lyrical vision, showing him navigating between two different worlds,” notes Complex

“The vision for the music video was to find a visual language that expressed what I felt when I heard the song,” says Bel Vasto. “As production went along the vision changed slightly but what remained and what was later found in the editing room was the story of our protagonist existing in two different settings/worlds, with fragments from each informing the other.  A mix between a dream and a journey.”

Frydman adds, “Edwin and I really tried to put forward a strong narrative for the song and with the song being this hypnotic loop, it was essential to flow in tandem with the various melodies on display. What we came up with was a storyline where the protagonist finds himself in between two places connected through a portal (the painting), where he realizes neither world is quite right as much as he’d like to believe it. The balance has to be found within oneself.”

Edwin recently played his biggest ever show, opening for The Franklin Electric at MTelus, and this week he’ll headline Bar le Ritz. TICKETS HERE

After that, he’ll be performing at this year’s Osheaga Festival in Montreal and also has a brand new album almost finished.

The album’s been in works since the pandemic. It kind of started right as soon as the pandemic started. And I went through one of those phases where I feel like a lot of people in the pandemic were like, it’s so hard to write songs, nothing’s coming to me, and I just could not relate because I was banging out songs all the time. I was just like, oh my God, I’m going through this huge creative surge. And I ended up writing like 30, 40 songs. I also like to keep things in theme, and so now we’ve cut that down to like 13, 14 songs and it’s just this wonderful sort of earthy, experimental, like it’s a lot of different vibes, I can’t even explain it. It’s not like any of the older music, but you’ll hear it and you’re like, that’s Edwin for sure. But there are so many layers to everything. It’s all about like, finding that perfect loop that you want to live inside. And then just enhancing that loop so much that you’d never want it to stop. And that was kind of like the feeling we went through and something, you know, to just live in like everything else is kind of blocked out. And you’re just in that loop and as soon as the loop hits, it’s like a quick kind of sedation, you know. That’s what we kind of went for.

Edwin tells me there are definitely a lot more electronic textures on the record but he strived to keep the earthy sound he’s become known for. His career as an artist may not be the one his parents anticipated but when his recent record hit 10 million streams, they sent their son a framed gold record to congratulate him.

For now, he’s more than happy with the direction life has taken him. “17-year-old me would be like astounded,” he says.

Watch the full interview below:

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