Raffaela Weyman, better known as the independent pop machine Ralph, described the scenery as she drove from Austin to Houston en route to the final show of her American tour.
“A lot of pro-life posters and that kind of stuff, yeah, my favourite,” she said, sarcastically.
“There’s a lot of signs for biscuits too. A lot of signs that are advertisements for restaurants and it’s all ‘Biscuits and gravy.’ They love biscuits in Texas.”
Weyman was on tour supporting Christian-pop duo Joan, and will now come home to Canada for a run of headlining shows.
Weyman described the American leg of the tour as incredibly receptive and positive, though she sometimes worried about how her politics might be interpreted by Joan’s faith-based fandom — especially in Texas.
“I don’t know if I’m going to talk about [being] pro-choice on stage tonight or not, we’ll see,” she said.
“I did it last night and it was received well, but I think tonight I might just cool my political talk.”
Still, Weyman said she relishes the opportunity to expose the unfamiliar to her particular brand of dance-pop — slyly political, defiantly independent and unquestionably accepting.
“I have a lot of new followers who are like cool young teen girls but if you look at their Instagram bio it’s like ‘Love Jesus,’” she said.
“There’s my audience — my queer, dancing men — and then the combination of the Joan audience, which is always young girls.”
Weyman’s work as Ralph has always explored an acutely modern take on pop stardom — she’s in control of every aspect of her gradually blossoming career, a far cry from the machinations of the industry at large.
“I just love being in control of what I’m putting out there — you know, the music videos, the aesthetics, the photography,” she said.
“I would have a really hard time with someone else being like ‘This is what you’re going to look like, this is what you’re going to do for this video.’”
It was this desire for artistic control that led to Rich Man Records, her newly-minted record label.
A collaboration with manager Laurie Lee Boutet, Weyman described Rich Man Records as both a guarantee of artistic independence and a chance to cultivate and support the Canadian pop scene.
“A lot of the deals that you get from [major labels] are quite controlling offers, and you lose a lot of your control,” she said.
“For me, that’s always been something that’s really scared me is like, losing my masters and losing the creative integrity.”
Weyman said she sees her new label as an opportunity to give a leg-up to the independent pop artists who, like she once did, have questions about how to make it in a cutthroat and rapidly moving industry.
“There’s no real certainty for your future,” she said.
“I love the idea of being able to work with other artists, and foster and nurture up-and-coming pop musicians.”
“It’s so challenging. I was asking all the time, like ‘How do I get my foot in the door? How do I start? How do I get people to notice me?’”
However, the future of Ralph seems bright — Weyman said she’s taking her time to release new music as she expands her creative and professional wings, building security rather than racing to keep up with the pop machine.
“We don’t want to put out a song to just put out a song,” she said.
“Right now, our logic is like ‘You know what, the next song that we put out, we want to feel really fucking good about it.’”
Ralph plays the Good Will Social Club March 16.