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How Andrea Ramolo made Quarantine Dream during lockdown

There are as many methods of writing a song as there are songwriters. Some will write first thing in the morning, only stopping once they have to talk to somebody. Others, being night owls, prefer to work late into the night to get into a creative mood. Toronto singer-songwriter Andrea Ramolo works best while she’s moving.

“I mostly write when I’m walking or driving,” she explained at the 2022 Summerfolk Festival in Owen Sound. “When I’m in motion, it comes to me, or when I’m really upset and usually at night. It never happens in the morning unless I have a songwriting session.”

Writing songs means more to Andrea than just putting words on a page that nicely rhyme.

“For me writing is healing. That’s always been my ‘go-to.’ That’s how I started as a songwriter,” she said. “I wrote through my mother’s first bout with breast cancer. Life continues to pose challenges because that’s life; it has the ups and joyous moments and the downs.”

A big down faced by Andrea, and everyone else around the world, was the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown. Out of that experience Andrea released her album, Quarantine Dream, a collaboration with producer Sarah MacDougall featuring co-writes with Kinnie Starr, Madison Violet and Hill Kourkoutis, which were created online.

“I think that was one of the pluses that came out of the pandemic,” she said. ” We had to be resourceful and find ways to continue to create and to be ‘in community.’ I wrote my first over-the-internet song with Madison Violet called ‘End Of Time.’ It was right at the beginning of the pandemic and we were all in shock a little bit and figuring out how we were going to live through this. It’s a song about longing to be ‘in community’ and friendship.”

The song, ‘Free’ was a co-write with Kinnie and Hill.

“Kinnie lives in Haida Gwaii,” Andrea said. “We got to write this beautiful tune together, and we became really, really great friends through the songwriting process.”

Faced with the prospect of not being able to record the album with her many friends, as she has in the past, Andrea relied on producer Sarah MacDougall to bring the album to fruition.

“She’s a dear friend of mine and an amazing artist as well. We had a lot of fun getting to know each other, and she did a brilliant job on the production.”

Working so closely with Sarah on Quarantine Dream, Andrea learned a lot, and it’s given her the idea of producing the next album herself.

“It’s probably going to be pretty stripped down and back to the roots of just my songs,” she said. “There’s something simple and beautiful in that simplicity.”

But before she gets to that, Andrea is involved in an ambitious music and film project.

“The Canada Council granted me an amazing opportunity to make an ancestral folk record with a world music folk band, Kalàscima, in southern Italy,” she explained. “We’re making a documentary of the recording process and of the history of the ‘healing dance’ and the music of the south.”

The film will premiere in June in Toronto with a six-song EP released at the same time.

“I really hope to bring the band over for the premiere,” she said. “They did Folk Alliance in Montreal, which is where I met them. They were playing the ancient instruments like the Zampogna, which are Italian bagpipes. This is an ancient music they play from a time when the musicians were the healers, and they were paid like doctors.”

There’s also a very personal element to this project for Andrea.

“My great-grandfather was the town healer,” she said. “He was called ‘Il Mago,’ which means ‘The Magician.’ He would use herbs and prayers, move rain clouds and heal animals and children. So it’s going to be a real interesting exploration of my roots.”

For more on Andrea Ramolo and Quarantine Dream, go to andrearamolo.com.

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