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‘It’s an easier way to connect with people’: Heather Rankin on upcoming show at Grace United Church in Digby

Heather Rankin is part of the Maritime Christmas Tour that stops by Digby Dec. 20. CONTRIBUTED
Heather Rankin is part of the Maritime Christmas Tour that stops by Digby Dec. 20. CONTRIBUTED

Maritime performer talks about her latest tour, solo work and love for Christmas music

DIGBY, N.S. - Since beginning her Maritime tour on Dec. 1, Heather Rankin has been reminded of all the reasons she chose a musical path many years ago.

Rankin is part of the Maritime Christmas 2017 tour featuring Tomato Tomato, Dave Gunning and Ray Legere. On Dec. 20, the group will perform in Digby at the Grace United Church and Rankin couldn’t be more excited.

“It’s a really fun group of people,” she said by telephone interview. “Lisa and John of Tomato Tomato are just a gregarious couple, they’ve got great energy and they’re lively. And Dave Gunning is one of the nicest people in the world. We’re just having a lot of laughs and it’s fun.”

The tour, which includes stops throughout Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, is being performed at small theatres and churches. Rankin said performing at these types of locations brings back fond memories of when she started out performing with her family members. For example, at one church venue, in order to cross the back stage, the musicians had to walk outside to get back in.

“I did some touring of small little venues like we’re doing now - these small churches and more intimate settings – early on with the family so it’s really fun to do this again. Collectively, we’re all up there on stage and seeing people get into the spirit of the season and that’s very fun.

“It’s an easier way to connect with people when you’re performing and you can almost reach out and touch them.”

Rankin became a household name in the Maritime music scene when she and several of her siblings formed The Rankin Family. Heather said music was a big part of her life growing up in Cape Breton and that love has continued her entire life.

“I guess I just always knew as a kid that I wanted to be an entertainer. I always wanted to be an actor, in fact, and that’s what I studied after high school. As a kid, I watched the Carol Burnett Show and that’s what I wanted to do – I wanted to be Carol Burnett. As kids we sang together at local gatherings, festivals and provided the music...at weddings. I just grew up doing it and it ended up continuing after university – actually, right after university, we jumped into making a record together. I guess we thought we’re going to try it for five years and it ended up being a much longer commitment. Now, it’s just in my blood.”

Since entering the musical world in 1989, Heather has enjoyed a great deal of success with the Rankin Family, The Rankin Sisters and Rankin reunion. 

By 2012, she committed to going out on her own and by 2016, she had released her first solo record.

“It’s been a tremendous year-and-a-half,” she said. “Really, five years ago I started writing and recording my first record…At first when I started writing and decided to make a record, I couldn’t even say the words out loud that I was going to be a solo act. But I’ve come leaps and bounds and it’s been a tremendous period of growth for me as an artist, as a person. Sometimes, I really miss the family but it’s a good experience to step out on your own and to work with other people. The response has been so lovely that I’m just really grateful.”

Rankin said working with different artists such as Halifax rapper Quake Matthews and with writer David Tyson has diversified her sound. She said she doesn’t stray to far from her traditional roots, but she has seen an evolution in her work.

“I’m willing to experiment outside of the traditional realm and I’ve been writing. I guess that’s been the biggest difference – writing and co-writing with people from different genres and as a result, your music ends up being influenced by where they come from. I don’t have that familial harmony sound, which is a completely different sound. It’s just my voice with the odd line harmonized by a band member.

Rankin continued: “In my show I still do some of the traditional, some of the Rankin songs, some of the tunes that would have been more in keeping with what I created with the family. But some of the stuff on my solo record is a bit more adult contemporary, a little bit more leaning in the pop direction.”

As evidence of the momentum her solo career has gained, Rankin just released her second solo work on Dec. 1 – a Christmas themed album titled ‘Imagine’.

“I was weaned singing church choir music,” she said. “As a young person, we were always involved in the church choir so I have an affinity for Christmas music. Some people hate it, but I love it. I love the harmony, I love some of the really old carols.

“I recorded a record with my sisters 20 years ago, and we toured it for many years. I recently, since I released my solo record, I was receiving invitations to perform in their shows so I was drawing on the material I created with my sisters and it felt like the time to start reaching out and creating some of my own Christmas material.”

Tickets for the show in Digby are $30 and are available at Marshall’s Gifts shop in Digby or by clicking here.

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