Aurora Shields

“My largest, most vocal and most supportive fans are the LGBTQ community.”

Canadian singer-songwriter Ralph has just released her debut album, A Good Girl, a collection of synthpop jams which includes bops such as: Gimme, Girl Next Door and For Yourself, the latter of which pays tribute to an iconic Drag Race quote.

In celebration of the album’s release, we caught up with Ralph and discussed her passionate queer fanbase, her love for Drag Race finalist Kim Chi and why she doesn’t want fans to think she’s “tokenising” the LGBTQ community.

Oh, and we’ve also been given the exclusive video premiere of her fantastic new anthem, Tables Have Turned (directed by Danielle Nemet), which you can view below.

How has the reaction been toward your debut album? Has the reaction been how you expected? 
I don’t really know what I expected! I think so. I think yes, and maybe a little more than I expected. It’s been really cool. A lot of positive feedback, even from people I know who never really talked to me about listening to my music, like guys from Toronto who are like, ‘I really like your album.’ I’m like, ‘Cool, that’s hilarious, I didn’t know you listen to my music, so that’s cool you’re connecting with a song or two!’

Which songs have fans connected with in particular?
I’ve got a lot of really good feedback about Gimme, that seems to be a fan-favourite. It’s a fun, feel-good song that isn’t too emotional. There’s been a lot of good feedback about Cereal too, because it’s a really relatable, emotional song. Also, For Yourself, especially from the queer community. A lot of my queer male fans messaged me about it because it borrows a line from RuPaul’s Drag Race, so that’s been the connective line. And I think it’s because the broader message of the song is something people have felt empowered by, which is the whole point. I love getting messages from people about their personal stories. It’s really wonderful.

I love Gimme. I think Tables Have Turned is my personal favourite…
Yeah, Tables Have Turned is another. Live wise, because we have a choreographed dance, it has become a fan-favourite. It’s so funny, whenever we do the dance live, the audience goes wild! I think it’s because they don’t really expect it, like all of sudden, there’s this new element on stage. I definitely want to do more choreography in the future.

What has been your biggest challenge so far as an artist? 
There’s always a worry when you do single releases that people won’t be excited when the album drops, because they’ll be like, ‘Oh, I’ve heard four or five of these songs already.’ And everybody has different rollout plans and tactics. Some artists release singles and they don’t have those singles on the album, but we’re pretty confident in the single release and then having those singles on the album. I think the biggest challenge is trying to figure out how many singles you release before an album, before it feels like you put out too much. That’s also another thing, how much content do you put out before you feel like you’re over-saturating? How many videos do you put out? Or do you assume there’s never too many videos, because people love content?

Who were your biggest influences for the album?
When I was going into the studio, I listened to a lot of Demi Lovato, because her last album was so well produced. It was an immaculate album, and it had a nice blend of really catchy pop songs that had an R&B vibe to them. Dua Lipa also. Each song is so fucking good off that album. I personally listen to a lot of R&B too, like I’ll be inspired by a Kali Uchis song, a Mabel song, or a Jorja Smith song. I know that I’m not fully that, but there’s tons of elements from that genre that I wanted to incorporate. Each song has a different influence behind it, like For Yourself is more of a retro vibe, Cereal is way more acoustic, stripped down song, Gimme is like a 90s Britney Spears song…

Your real name is Raffaela. Did you consciously choose a traditional male name for your music career?
When the project started, it was with a male producer and it was a twosome, kind of. He didn’t want any part in the image, he was just producing the songs, and we were trying to pick a name we both agreed on. We didn’t agree on anything, which is pretty representative of our relationship, and that’s why we are no longer [laughs]. Somewhere, I have a songbook with a list of potential names I wrote down. Ralph was weirdly the only one we could semi agree on. I wanted something that felt ambiguous and a bit mysterious, so I liked the idea of Ralph being a male name, and I think it makes the project a bit more interesting.

In the past, you’ve said you wouldn’t be here without the LGBTQ community. Can you tell me a bit about that?
Honestly, my largest and most vocal and most supportive fans are the LGBTQ community. Both men and women, but predominantly men. They’re the ones on Twitter who are so kind and complimentary and go out of their way. And they also have like, a social media community, where they all talk about the album and the project, and they don’t know I saw it. It was this genuine kind of support.

At the shows, the majority of the room is gay men, and within my eyesight you can see from the first four rows are these amazingly outfitted, exuberant and supportive queer men. It’s so wonderful and shocking to be accepted and to be a guest within their world. I’m really grateful. As an artist, you thrive off of that. Truly. Some days when you’re feeling tired and haggard, and you see men shouting “Yaaas! Queen!” – like, you’re not gonna see straight men and women aren’t gonna yell that shit. They’re the ones who make me feel the best, truly. And because you all show me support, I try to show my support towards the community as in trying to make sure my videos are inclusive and representative.

I saw on Twitter that you’re a Drag Race fan…
I would say that I’m a big fan and a casual viewer. It’s so hard to watch them all, so I’m on my way! I’m trying my best! I’ve seen the ones available on Netflix, the ones everyone’s seen. I feel like a bit of a poser, like, ‘Oh! I love Drag Race!’ And people are like, ‘Oh what season do you like? You’ve only watched it because it’s available.’ I plan on tour to download all of the episodes and just binge from the start to the very finish, but I will tell you that I have a soft spot for Kim Chi. She is the sweetest human. I have a really hard time watching the episodes where she falls on stage. It’s so frickin’ sweet. My roommate and I watch it together, and he’s a massive fan, and he moved out because he’s a little jerk [laughs]. So my Drag Race buddy left, and now I have to take it upon myself to start from the beginning.

A gay friend of mine made a comment the other day, she was like, ‘Yeah, well it’s become super heteronormative thing, but these people aren’t actual fans who go on Reddit and watch all the episodes’, and I don’t wanna be that person. I don’t want anyone to ever feel like I’m tokenising the queer community. That’s something I’m very conscientious of. Out Magazine premiered my last video and it was a bit uncomfortable because they first thought I was a queer artist, and I was like, ‘No no no no. I’m not trying to use my connection to the community as a way to get my foot in the door.’ That article had more to do with the fact that my director Ally is queer, so I don’t want anyone to think I’m trying to be part of a community that I’m not.

My final question for you: if fans come to a Ralph show, what can we expect?
We do a lot. I’m a big mover on stage. I love to dance. It’s pretty high energy. We do a couple slower songs, but it’s a fun show. I try to incorporate the audience with singing with me a little bit more, and I try to have a fun look for every show, and I encourage you all to do the same! At the end of the show, I love talking to fans afterwards for like an hour and a half. When we did the show in LA, the bartender kept bringing me drinks and was like, ‘This is so nice, you never see artists talking to fans for this long.’ But if have the time, and there’s people who wanna chat, I love to connect.

Watch the video for Tables Have Turned below. 

Photography Aurora Shields