The very cool thing about being a dedicated artist is that the bottom line—the branding, packaging, consistency and so on—means nothing when compared to vision.
Folk singer Christina Maria is a great example. While her original brand, Christina Maria, was working well, earning her top seeding in the 2010 Peak Performance Project alongside solid West Coast indie acts like 2011 Juno-winner Greg Sczebel, Aidan Knight and Adaline, she wasn’t afraid to throw caution to the wind and chase a new dream.
“I think I was falling into a lot of habits with acoustic guitar. I just found, for me, it was getting a little bit stale,” she said.
As a more traditional singer/songwriter, she crooned about loves lost and found, but when she started melding different sounds on a synthesizer, throwing in jagged, rock-style electric guitar riffs, and adding the kind of catchy pop melodies used to chart a single, it was evident change was in the wind.
Like a good Madonna, Christina Maria soon birthed Rykka, a fresh musical persona to work under.
The moniker doesn’t mean much. It’s Northern European and she is Swiss-Canadian. Currently dividing her time between her ancestral homeland and North America, the connection to her roots is likely appealing, but ultimately the choice is the product of a random Internet search of baby names.
“Rykka” is nonetheless a very apropos label to begin life with her new baby, an album that took a full year of daily work to write, record and produce.
“I was trying out a lot of different sounds and beats and it took me a long time to get my grounding in the music,” she explained.
One part Arts & Crafts-style coquettish pop, one part thunderous drums, this record boasts an endless stream of creativity in 12 songs, each apparently written from the animals’ point of view.
The work is intended to speak to the damage human beings are doing to the Earth and act as a bridge for people to understand how our collective behaviour affects the natural environment.
This animal perspective was always in the plan, but refining which sounds to use in the effort was apparently more of a challenge.
“I’ve been changing a lot because I travel so much and really just try to let things influence me,” said Rykka.
There are artists who don’t want to have their sound pinned down to a particular genre, but for this 27-year-old, it’s her spirit and lust for the open road that cannot be confined. Moving as often as every two months, she would like to be known as a nomad and finds it endlessly frustrating that the world can’t accept her global perspective and lifestyle without a labelling her from somewhere.
She’s found an artists’ collective, a farmhouse in Switzerland where she can freely go to write in a natural environment that splendidly sets the stage for her work. It’s also a place to get to know the extended family her father’s father left behind to immigrate. And yet, as a Vancouverite by birthright, she’s also very fond of the West Coast, hopping around Western Canada at will, picking up work along the way.
“I’ve been full-time doing music for 11 years and it’s been awesome,” she said, just before launching into a stream of places she would like to tour, including France and the United States.
Unfortunately, touring takes an immense amount of planning and means pre-booking months, even years in advance. She’s currently setting dates for a German tour a year from now with hopes a tour south of the border will be in the cards before its time to write another album.
This album, titled Kodiac, is already receiving praise from critics, though it has yet to be released. “Every single song on this album has a memorable chorus,” writes Canadian music blogger Michael Thomas of GrayowlPoint.com.
“If you’re interested in finding a female vocalist that is commercial and yet manages to not sound at all like any of her Top 40 female contemporaries, then you’ll like Rykka,” says Kat Hariton in her review for Lithium Magazine.
Kelowna falls exactly halfway through her upcoming tour dates to celebrate the album release. To decide how you like Rykka for yourself, head to the Streaming Café June 15. Show at 7 p.m. There is no cover.