Kalyna Rakel has always done things her own way. After early success at 16 with a video on Much Music, she walked away from a pop record deal in Europe to teach herself guitar and play music on the street. Since then she has recorded four independent albums and played her songs for thousands of people all around the world.
Her songs come straight from the heart, sung with a voice that has been described as Amy Winehouse meets Janis Joplin. With her tour van, Daisy, and Handsome, her steel resonator guitar, the stories in her songs evoke the raw sound of the travelling blues. Her latest record, ‘Before & After You’, is a two-part concept album telling the story of love gone good and bad. Featuring some of Canada’s top musicians, including legendary guitarist Kevin Breit, the album ranges from distorted garage blues to dreamy ethereal folk. The record comes with a 24-page comic book of Kalyna’s original drawings, featuring the album’s lyrics to tell the stories of the songs.
Whether she is playing for tips on the street or on a festival main stage, Kalyna delivers her songs with an honesty that can move a crowd to tears. As her following continues to grow, she remains true to her music and grateful for the opportunity to share her stories.
In her own words:
“I wanted to make a video for the single “Who Knew” that would be memorable while drawing attention to the lyrics and story of the song. I floated the idea of a standard lyric video, hiring an animator to generate the text and put it to music, but it felt a little synthetic for the sound and feel of the album. In the end, it felt truer to the earthy sound of the album to take a marker and construction paper and draw out the lyrics myself, by hand, in the kitchen.
“The idea for the constantly moving paper came when I was listening to the bass and drums on the song and thinking of how to capture that constant sense of forward motion. I wanted people to feel like they were watching one never-ending piece of paper and try and make sense of how the whole thing was put together.
“The first step was to split all the lyrics into little one-sentence snapshots and to plan out how to write them and which words and visual elements to emphasize. Next it was about figuring out different ways to move from one frame to the next. If you look at the video the movement gets more and more involved as it progresses, going from shifts to spins to flips to rips to match the intensity of the different sections.
“Once the video was all mapped out it was a long night and morning of cutting pieces of construction paper to the right size and writing the lyrics out along to a recording of the song slowed down to about 10 percent speed. We split it into sections (verse, chorus, etc.) and there were a few little adjustments to timing in post-production but it was important to me that it was fairly organic and that it felt like the whole thing was drawn in time to the song.
“I like the challenge of doing things in real time as it creates a rawness and intensity that you don’t get when you can fuss over every little detail. If you look carefully there are a few points where words are rushed or squeezed in to fit the borders. I love that, perfection is boring!
“With ‘Who Knew’ I wanted to take a budget of $12 and a lot of coffee and make a video that pops off the screen and tells a story. I like the video and I hope you do too!”