Halifax pop star Ria Mae may have released her debut studio album seven years ago, but Friday night she’ll grace the Marquee Ballroom’s stage for the very first time.
It’s the first in a two-night engagement of sold out shows for the local talent.
Mae has come a long way since the launch of her first album, Under Your Skin. Her career first took flight two years ago with bumping radio hit Clothes Off, a platinum Canadian single.
“I’m feeling pretty good about this. Growing up in Halifax, I always wanted to play the Marquee. It was the big thing. So when we sold out the first show in four days, it was so cool to add a second,” she said.
“This is a dream come true for me. Also, my band is from Vancouver, and they love Halifax. This means they don’t have to move the drum kits after night one. They’re in love with the city, Pizza Corner and donairs.”
She and the band can often be found at her teenage haunt, Freemans Little New York on storied Quinpool Rd.
“We’ve been known to have some meetings at that spot. I went to high school across from there, so we definitely enjoy chatting over garlic fingers,” she said.
The last time Mae was in Halifax was for her November 2017 CD release for My Love, and the time before that was at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium with Symphony Nova Scotia.
“So with places like the Cohn and the Seahorse, we just had never been here to the Marquee. It’s pretty amazing to have made it to such a big venue,” she said.
With hit songs Ooh Love, Bend and Hold Me all taking airtime on local and national stations, Mae still isn’t used to hearing herself on the radio.
“It’s still so cool. I did a talk at Sackville High School not long ago, and heard one of my songs in my rental car on my way there. To hear myself and my friends Neon Dreams on the radio is incredible,” she said.
In mid-February, Mae dropped her new single Trixi, to accolades and fanfare.
“I feel good about it. I was sneaking it into sets when I was playing shows out west. I figured if it didn’t connect, I could pull the plug,” she said.
“But I just love telling stories, and the beat is so fun live. I think the response is cool, and the track surprised people.”
Mae is making sure to subvert expectations whenever possible, and can’t be pinned into one genre.
“When I released 'It’s Not Me, It’s You' as an acoustic, it was at a time when people assumed my music was just going to get poppier. I like surprising people and doing weird stuff with my music,” she said.
Mae, who writes her own lyrics and has been doing so since she was a teen, used performance as a way to channel what she was coming up with.
With Juno love, as well as a nomination for Songwriter Of The Year in 2015 at the ECMAs, she is happy to be recognized.
“If I shopped my songs to other singers, I would have just ended up a songwriter. Performance was a way for me to put my songs out there. But it also got me out of my shell,” she said.
“I was so awkward and shy, and it took me longer than other artists to get comfortable on-stage. But having my own fanbase is so nice.”
Mae, an out LGBTQ+ artist, now finds herself as a model to fans and the music industry that you can be true to yourself and be successful.
Her music video for Gold shows a lesbian relationship for the sake of discussing relationships candidly, and for gay-positive purposes.
“I can’t say I didn’t think about being pigeon-holed because of my sexuality. But in order for that to change, I have to wear my sexuality proudly. I need to be accessible,” she said.
“I have kids and parents at my shows, and I wear my queer identity with pride, and won’t hide it away. I never appreciated finding out artists I looked up to hid that they were queer. I know why they would, and empathize, but I want to help change perspectives.”
Mae is playing two sold out shows at the Marquee on March 8 and 9, 2019.