At just 22 years old, Kelowna native Janel Rae is releasing her second studio album on Feb. 11.
Born and raised in Kelowna, Rae always knew from a young age that singing was in her future.
“I think whether I wanted to or not, it was going to happen,” said Rae. “When I was five, my mom finally decided to put me into singing lessons and ever since then, I wouldn’t stop. That’s how I live my life was through song.”
Janel’s mom, Janice Filipiak, acted as her manager growing up and would try to find every opportunity she could. One of them was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to sing with country star Kenny Rogers at Prospera Place when she was 11.
“I auditioned, I got in, I remember shaking his hand and being so excited and standing on stage. At the time I didn’t know who Kenny Rogers was, what he was doing so I think not only getting to know him through that but also getting to perform for such a large audience was pretty thrilling.”
After graduating from KSS in 2017, she went to Randolph College in 2017 for a program focused on acting, singing and dancing. She squished the program into just two years and graduated in 2019.
“It was very intense and high demand,” said Rae. “It was quick but it was jammed-packed.”
During her time at Randolph College, she won a Governor General award for her outstanding marks. Every other year the award is given to a Canadian student who excels in the arts, journalism, or sciences.
Soon after graduating from Randolph in 2019, Rae got a three-month contract for a part in a Toronto play titled Broken Branches.
Through that experience, she made many friends including musicians, directors and cinematographers and got excited about the idea of making music videos.
Rae had some songs already written and made a goal to write a song and produce a music video for the song every month for the next year. She quickly created a team and made this a reality. She would write a song and create an idea for the music video and discuss it with her cinematographer.
All those songs and music videos came together to make her first album, Bath Talk, which was released on Dec. 28, 2020.
“I’m a very visual person and a lot of my process is based on soundscaping,” said Rae. “I could see the music video in my head as I was making the song.”
She added that she loves movies and likes to use them as an influence for her work.
Rae completed a couple of music videos during the winter in late 2019 and early 2020 but it became more difficult when the pandemic hit.
“Once you’re not seeing the people you work with every day and you’re not sure how to make it work, then you have to rely on yourself,” said Rae. “One of my music videos I just shot with my iPhone.”
A couple of weeks before her first album’s release, Rae went on a spree of writing where she would compose a new song almost every day.
‘I was going on long walks, listening to these incredible songwriters, mainly in the ’70s. I was focused on that era.”
During the week between Christmas and New Year’s in 2020, Rae was making demos for all these new songs she had written. Meanwhile, her first album was just coming out.
“It was an interesting feeling being in a new chapter and then hearing your old stuff and trying not to question if your new stuff is too different.”
Joni Mitchell is the artist she looks up to the most but she also listed off Fiona Apple, Bjork, Supertramp, Kate Blush, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and Billy Holiday are just some of the artists she truly looks up to for her songwriting.
On top of writing songs, Rae was working at a restaurant in Toronto but got laid off when the pandemic started. She came up with the idea to use her talents to her advantage in a different way as she became a music teacher.
She teaches mainly singing and voice to all ages but also teaches piano. Her youngest student is five and her oldest is 61. Every lesson has been virtual so far but she hopes that one day she can teach in person.
The majority of her students are from Kelowna as well.
“It’s really cool. I grew up and learned in Kelowna and had such amazing teachers so it’s nice to feel like I can try to continue that legacy.” Janel Rae teaches.
On top of that, she also teaches music remotely for a school in Hartley Bay, B.C. Mondays through Wednesdays is when she hosts her music lessons while the rest of the week she focuses on her own music.
Her second album, Dinner With Stranger, is set to come out on February 11. On top of the excitement of it, she has had some thoughts about touring.
“I’ve been thinking about what it would mean to tour this new album and of course, if I were to tour it in the summer, Kelowna would be a destination,” Rae stated.
The night the album comes out, Janel will be hosting a virtual listening party at 5 p.m. Pacific time over Zoom. During the event, fans are encouraged to enjoy their dinners while listening to the new album, Dinner With Stranger.
“Obviously the pandemic, there’s tremendous struggle but there’s also ways like being able to connect with people all over the world so the virtual listening party is a great way to have everyone involved.”
In keeping with her last album release, Read has already started on her third album.
“When you’re holding onto something for so long, it starts to eat at you and you grow and you change. I’m ready to write something new.”
Dinner With Stranger will be available on all platforms on Feb. 11. Clove, the first single and music video is available now.