A harsh winter in Canada is just one reason that Heidi Raye can’t wait to move to Nashville full-time.
The talented singer and songwriter is a native of the Western Canadian province of British Columbia. Her current single, “Good Either Way,” produced in Nashville by the veteran Music Row studio wizard Eddie Gore, is bubbling its way up the Canadian charts.
“My vehicle is still in Nashville,” she said in a phone conversation from Canada in late March. “To me it is home. Once I moved to Nashville, I realized it was a place I would call home.”
One of her Nashville housemates is in the road band of Blake Shelton, subject of a popular recent Nashville Music Guide cover story.
Like many Canadian artists and songwriters here, Heidi has to go through the sometimes stressful process of getting a work visa.
“It’s already been sent in,” she says of the visa. “We’re just waiting for the yea or nay. I’ve been coming to Nashville for four years, usually for 2-4 weeks at a time.”
The “Good Either Way” single has been her most successful Canadian radio hit by far, and its Retro feel has been a key.
“It’s just something really different, old school,” Heidi says. “All the music directors say it sounds like Dolly years ago.”
She’s been an indy artist handling her own radio promotion for years. With the harsh Canadian winter this year, that meant often being quite creative.
“I’ve done some local station visits in January, but had lots of minus-40 degree days up here,” Heidi Raye says. “Vehicles don’t start, and there’s three feet of snow. There are cars stuck right, left, and middle.”
So what did she do to promote “Good Either Way” all across the gigantic country of Canada?
“I’ve done a lot of call-in interviews,” Heidi says. “I call the station, and do it over the phone.”
Dave Rowe, who played upright bass with Johnny Cash for years, adds his bass magic to “Good Either Way.”
Fact is, this artist from Western Canada is a huge fan of American country, and has been since she was a little girl.
“George Strait and Reba were my favorites,” she says. “My parents are big George Strait fans. I think I knew every George song by the time I was like 10 years old.”
She had also started singing in church at age 3. Growing up in the tiny community of Fort St. John, British Columbia, she lived on a farm and says, “a lot of people that grow up on farms learn responsibility. There are always chores like chopping firewood.”
Her first instrument was piano. Guitar has come more recently, and she often writes on both instruments. An early background in musical theater helped both her stage presence and confidence, along with a love and passion for 1980s and 1990s country artists like Brooks & Dunn.
Songs such as “My List,” “Never The Bride,” and “Last Flame” opened a lot of eyes at Canadian radio and on Music Row.
She also has learned her way around the Row very well the last couple years. Her self-titled debut album was recorded here, and produced by Emerson Drive’s Arlo Gilliam. That record was released in April of 2009, and both “My List” and “Never The Bride” impacted the Canadian country charts.
That fall, her song, “Last Flame” from that first album was entered in the Music City Song Writing competition, hosted by MCA Nashville standout Josh Turner. The song earned Top 25 honors in the contest, which quickly helped her establish her Nashville credentials. The song also scored Honorable Mention in a Billboard contest.
Heidi has also had great success in Canadian music competitions, including Canada’s equivalent of “American Idol.” She’s worked for years with other Canadian artists like TCM Records standout Craig Moritz, and the band Emerson Drive.
Her debut album and singles have helped Heidi Raye earn opening-act shows for country stars including Jason Aldean, Neal McCoy, and many more.
“I know it sounds cliché, but music is kind of the only thing I’ve ever done or worked towards,” she says. “I never had to think, what should I be when I grew up?”
That kind of focus has helped Heidi Raye come a long way musically and geographically, so don’t be surprised if soon she’s impacting American country radio as she’s been doing in Canada for years.
By Phil Sweetland