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UMUSIC Exclusive: 1 on 1 with Rêve

Posted on September 01, 2021

In a change of pace from our usual content, we slowed things down for a 1 on 1 coffee break with Montréal’s Rêve! We got a chance to ask the rising pop star about her music, songwriting and the concept behind her artistry. Join us in learning about an artist who is already making huge waves as we get to know a bit about the dreamy Rêve!

We are so curious, how did you decide on the name Rêve?

We didn’t want to use my full name Briannah Donolo because it’s kind of a mouthful. So they’re like, okay, if you have to go by a moniker or if you have to go by like a stage name, we should choose something French because you’re from Montréal. And we were thinking – we as in my management and I – because I just couldn’t care, not that I couldn’t care less about our name, but I’m like, “the name will find its way to us.” I just want to make the music and I want the name to feel like the music sounds. So I was overthinking and overthinking and overthinking it, and I was just writing these dreamy ballads. And I was like, okay, maybe Rêve is the name and it just kind of stuck. At first, it seemed stupidly simple, but it just kind of works. And so we went with that.

The name Rêve comes from dreamy ballads, you say, which is much different than “Still Dancing.” Is that the other side of Rêve?

Yeah, so the side that people haven’t seen yet is the side of Rêve who cries in her pitch black room and writes ballads. But that’s who I am to my core. A lot of the music that you’re hearing now and what you will be hearing all started out as ballads.

“Still Dancing” started out as a ballad? Revolutionary. How did it become the pop-smash we know today?

I only really had the chorus and the pre-chorus down before I went into the studio with Banx & Ranx. We finished the song but I initially wrote, “I don’t know, who needs to hear this…” – that whole part was all done on the piano before and I just kind of brought that with the cords to the producers and we really built on that. We just took it and ran with it.

Wow, with “Still Dancing” originally on the piano, is this where the TikTok mashups came to be?

It was just something that we wanted to do for fun. We were like, oh let’s see what chords and what trending songs work over “Still Dancing” and how we can you know, bring people into the world of Rêve through that. Hopefully, if you like Harry Styles and Dua Lipa, maybe you’ll like this. So it was a kind of technique to draw people in and draw people from different fan bases before the release of the single. 

You say you have been writing music for your whole life, what sparked that?

Oh my, I was three-years-old and I used to drag my Fisher Price piano up and down my house. I would try and match the notes from my Fisher Price, like literally the toy, to the actual piano and that’s how I started playing. I just basically messed around with it a little bit and started learning by ear. And that was the start of everything – the vocals just happened to really work. It was just like a natural, kind of step two. And I, you know, I was really the weird kid in school growing up. I had a gap that I could stick a fork through. I loved astrology and Tarot – and before it started coming up in mainstream because my mom is like, super spiritual. I went to school and I told everybody I was a witch. I got made fun of and I would go home at night and write really angry songs on my piano. That was my form of therapy, and it stuck through my adolescence and became something that I couldn’t separate myself from. So yeah, it’s been since I was a kid. And it’s literally saved my life, like many times.

And during those times, which artists did you look to as inspiration?

Well, I remember my mom used to listen to a lot of Janet Jackson. I used to love the musicality, like Stevie Wonder I used to love growing up. My mom was more R&B and Motown, and my dad was more classic rock, so inspo from both those ends. But then I remember listening to Kylie Minogue and the Spice Girls and performing that in my room. I used to cry in my closet listening to Avril Lavigne’s first album – all of that kind of jazz.

With all those inspirations, when creating “Still Dancing,” did you have an initial concept/genre for the song?

I had no idea, to be honest. It was based off of a line that somebody said in my kitchen, and we were having a dance party during quarantine. I think it was probably my roommate, and I was like, “Fuck, we’re sad, but we’re still dancing.” And I was like, “Oh, shit, that sounds like a great lyric.” So I put it in my notes and saved it for a rainy day. I remember just sitting outside and writing the pre-chorus; not knowing what I was going to do with it and who I was going to bring it to because at the time I hadn’t even met Banx & Ranx yet. That was in May and it just sat in my notes file. Then finally, when we got together in September, I was like I have the start and it feels appropriate because it’s a quarantine dance anthem. And if we can slap a house beat over this and make it like really, really cool, I’d be thrilled because I think it could really resonate. And so they were able to just transform it and it was born so naturally; it just felt so natural that it would be a dance song.

Did you have a distinct aesthetic you wanted to pair with “Still Dancing”?

I think that the music kind of dictated all the styling because I’ve always been a huge fan of Berlin underground fashion. It’s all just like a lot of black, a lot of texture, a lot of cutouts, and a lot of hardware too. I’ve always been pulled in that direction and it really fit with the vibe of the song. So it was just like, okay, let’s lean into that a little bit more. And the story behind the red isn’t so like rock and roll; it’s the fact that I’ve always just wanted to be Ariel and was like, maybe this is gonna be the moment where I can dye my hair red and live out my mermaid fantasy forever.

You’ve been getting a lot of support from your hometown of Montréal. The Montréal Canadiens even played you on-air. How has that been for you?

I screamed! I was like, “Oh my god, this is crazy.” I found out that it was happening around 3:30pm on the day of the game. They were like, “P.S. we’re gonna be using your song today.” And I was like, I’m not gonna tell anyone, I’m just gonna let them like discover it. And then as soon as they played it, my phone just blew up and I was like, oh my god, full circle, this is so cool. But yeah, it was awesome. Especially because I used to do the anthems for the Canadiens. So it was nice to come back to hockey in some way since it’s such a big deal. I’m not like a crazy hockey fan – I mean, my sisters played hockey, but I’m the most un-athletic person in my family. I like to watch hockey though, it’s very much a part of the Montréal – just being a Habs fan – and so it was super cool to hear my song during the playoffs, magic moments. It was so wild and of course, my parents are always going to be the ones that get to me. Like for my dad to text me, “I’m so proud of you. Hockey Night in Canada.” Wow.

With all of these amazing moments since your debut, have there been any huge changes for you?

It’s absolutely insane. The support that I’m getting from my hometown is just so so special, like even across Canada, it’s been wild. And waking up every day and, you know, I don’t know how to say this eloquently, but there’s so much anxiety leading up to your first release because you have all these big dreams and you really don’t know where it’s gonna go. When it’s finally out in the world, it’s just like a little bit of the pressure is off. But the pressure is still on because you’re like okay, now what’s next? I don’t know. It’s been a relief, but a bit more anxious too at the same time.

Let’s talk “SKIN 2 SKIN”

My second single is called “SKIN 2 SKIN” and it’s just a very primal song about sex. It’s unapologetically sexual. It samples a really famous song from the 90’s and so in the first like five seconds of the song, you hear the sample and you’re like, boom, I’ve heard this before – then it’s a completely different song. But yeah, it’s one of my favourites. The video, definitely my favourite one that we’ve shot, involves eight feet of hair. It’s really exciting.

Is there someone you wish to collaborate with now that Rêve is here?

Totally. I mean, I would love to collaborate with people like Dylan Francis, Gorgon City and Banx & Ranx. I would love even to do a feature on the Banx & Ranx tracks. RÜFÜS DU SOL is another one of my favourite electronic groups. There are so many people that I can’t wait to reach out to and hopefully get to collab with!

What were you doing prior to jumping into the music industry? What made you take that leap of faith?

Well, it’s always found its way back to me. Of course, my parents have always supported me. But it’s always scary when your kid’s like, “I’m gonna go run off and be a rock star.” They’re like, “Please have a plan B, don’t do this to me.” But yeah, there’s been times in my life where being a starving artist was a real thing. I was like, shit, I don’t know how much longer I can live like this, I need to get my shit together. There’s been many times in my twenties where I was just like, you know, I’m getting older. It’s not cute anymore to be like, I have nothing out. But I’m a musician. So I was working a corporate job that was absolutely soul sucking. And then one of my friends sat across from me when I had dinner and he was like, “You’re literally a shell of the woman that I met. Because you’re at this corporate job, and all these great things in music are happening, just go for it. You’ve never fully committed in your life. Imagine if you focused all of your energy on to the thing that you love. What could manifest? What could be?” And so we were sitting at dinner, both bawling our eyes out over a bottle of wine because it’s hard to hear. He went to the bathroom and by the time he came back, I had booked my U-Haul and I was like, “I’m moving to Toronto next month, I’m just gonna do it.”

So you came to Toronto ready for a new beginning, what was your first step?

So I had my connections in the music industry. I got myself into a session, like I was doing seven sessions a week at one point just to write and really refine myself, my sound, and to show people that I was a serious writer – not just somebody who comes to Toronto once a month. So I really put my head down and worked. I was working a shitty bar job that refused to pay me – awful, awful, awful. Then COVID hit. And so it was both a blessing and a curse. Because, obviously, it’s a curse for the reasons that everybody knows. But it really allowed me to do a lot of soul searching and connect with people who, you know, wouldn’t necessarily have the time of day for somebody like me, but now had all the time in the world because of COVID. And so we did a lot of those zoom nights. During that period, I met Banx & Ranx, my producers, over zoom and we just really connected, and started collaborating on multiple things. After collaborating so much over COVID, they were like, okay, we really want to executive produce your project. And so, by the time that Universal came aboard, we already had our full team in place and ready to go. So it was kind of a blessing in disguise for me. I’m a firm believer that the universe will never throw you something you’re not ready for. Everything happens for a reason.

Aside from music, are there any other hobbies you enjoy?

I mean, music is a huge part of it. Because when I’m not in the studio, I’m probably writing…but I love fine wine. I also love to cook. Wine was a huge, huge, huge part of my upbringing because it’s very much a part of the French culture – and my Dad’s Italian. So we grew up drinking wine and learning to appreciate wine. It’s something that always stuck. I find sharing a bottle of wine can be something so romantic; it’s so complex and there’s so many different flavours and different sides. There’s such a rich history behind a lot of wine, I really love that aspect of it. And I love to cook, so it obviously goes hand in hand. But yeah, I find there’s something really special about cooking because you’re actually nourishing the people that you love. I love everything about it and really taking the time to create an experience. Some of my favourite nights are just cooking for my friends. Obviously, we couldn’t over COVID but now that we’re able to again, I’ve just been having people over for dinner, making like a six course meal, just really investing in quality ingredients from local farmers and the market – you really taste the difference. It’s just such a bonding experience. 

With that, we want to give a huge thank you to Rêve for sitting down with us 1 on 1, and we hope you enjoyed getting an inside look!

Be sure to check out Rêve’s singles “Still Dancing”, “SKIN 2 SKIN” and the new SKIN 2 SKIN (Billen Ted Remix).