When Laurie Raveis met Dennis Kole at the Crown of the Continent Guitar Festival in Bigfork, Montana five years ago, little did she know they would eventually become a performing duo. They would eventually meet up again at a blues and rock jam class where Raveis, carrying her red Strat, was the only female in the class of 12. “We just really hit it off. Totally unexpected. After class, we’d stay late, and I’d play the drums and he’d play guitar, and then we’d switch. He’d play drums, I’d play guitar, and we wound up singing together, too, for a couple of performances.” Corresponding and writing songs via email and flying cross-country with Raveis in Boston and Kole in Bellingham, the duo Raveis Kole was formed. Together, the two describe that they write music that will “touch your head and touch your heart.”
Cover Photo: Laurie Raveis with ‘Luna’, a Rick Toone Custom Guitar.
Photo by: Dennis Kole
Based in Bellingham, Washington, Raveis Kole released their debut album Electric Blue Dandelion in 2016 to rave reviews and high rankings in charts like Adult Contemporary FMQB and Radio Indie Alliance. The duo released their new album Electric Blue Dandelion – Nashville Sessions in August of this year which was recorded in Nashville and produced by Raveis, Kole and Jeff Silverman (Allman Brothers, Prince, Rick Springfield).
The album features some of Nashville’s top musicians on original songs written by Raveis herself, or by Raveis and Kole together, including their new song “Into Me You See.” The Chris Isaak classic “Wicked Game” takes a reggae twist featuring Eljai. The 10 songs featured on this album are full of beautiful melodies and lush instrumentation where violin, accordion, hand percussions, sitar guitar, baritone, and high octave guitars were utilized to create a surreal, dreamy sound. Raveis’ powerful vocals harmonize perfectly with Kole creating soulful and heartfelt music.
The duo recently opened at the Crown Guitar Festival in Montana where they first met five years ago. Guitar Girl Magazine chatted with Raveis about Raveis Kole’s new album which recently debuted No. 11 on Billboard’s Heatseeker chart and No. 18 on Billboard’s Americana/Folk Albums, their songwriting process, the Crown Guitar Festival, and empowering female musicians.
You have a new album Electric Blue Dandelion – Nashville Sessions, which is a follow-up to 2016’s album Electric Blue Dandelion. Tell us about the new album.
Electric Blue Dandelion – Nashville Sessions was created with some tremendous musicians down in Nashville where we got to add in different instrumentation that actually supported our more organic, intimate sound with hand percussions, violin, and accordion. It’s very easy to see Dennis and me through this production meaning if you come to one of our shows and it’s just the two of us, the duo, it will sound like us. The production does not take away from how we sound when it’s the two of us, so the foundation is my guitar, Dennis’ guitar, my voice, and Dennis’ voice. Then it was built around that. By adding the layers of the different instruments, it just makes it fuller. But, if you strip it down, I think that’s, for us, the sign of a good song. You can still get the essence of the song and the meaning and the textures – just with two instruments and two people, that’s pretty good.
We try to be like a mini orchestra when just two of us play, so we try to really respect that, but also want to create more of a band, a fuller sound. So, when I’m playing on the guitar, if I’m playing a lower part, Dennis will play a higher part, and my voice will be in the middle, so you’re getting a fuller sound than if we’re all trying to take up the same middle, sonic space.
As far as some of the songs on this new album, “Electric Blue Dandelion” is a metaphor for a loved one who is in the process of passing, one who is so close to you that it feels like they are rooted into you like dandelion weed. The electric blue represents the beauty and uniqueness of that person as the transition is coming. I used nature as a way to describe the pain of losing someone you love in the lyric while mixing in strong driving rhythmic chords along with some unexpected choices like the major 7 chords to emphasize the beauty also present in loss, the transformation and letting go.
“Into Me You See (Here & Now)” is a song about making a commitment to another person at a time when you are fully aware of who you are and have the willingness to share all of your true self. The forward stepping feel of the verses, like walking down the aisle, moves into a dreamy section where I choose suspended chords and color notes to give the interlude air and beauty like a classical Debussy piece. In the crescendo of the last verse, the music and vocals build with warmth and presence. I hope people get married to this song!
“Aloha” is a true story based in our hometown of Bellingham, WA where three motels; Aloha, Macs and The Villa Inn, were pervasive in the local news for illicit activities, drug sales, and overdoses. I read the news stories day after day and felt compelled to see for myself. So, I’d park outside the motel to observe and absorb the happenings. I felt the loss and desperation which I translated into chord voicings resonating dissonance and desperation. In addition, Dennis created a haunting guitar lick which helped define the hooky, signature, moody vibe. Of note, in Hawaiian, “aloha” is used to say both hello and goodbye.
How does Electric Blue Dandelion – Nashville Sessions differ from your previous recording?
It has a much more organic, intimate feeling. It’s acoustic-based. The first album was a tremendous experience. We went down to Austin to record it, and it did quite well. It was more of a retro rock sound, which was fabulous, and we played a lot of the instruments on it, but it wasn’t really true to how Dennis and I perform as a duo. It was a whole production. What is really the heart of our music though is me on the acoustic guitar and Dennis playing more jazz guitar. We do play lots of different stringed instruments, but if you see the two of us play, we wanted to recreate that sound, so it was more authentic to what you would see live.
You talked about bringing in the different layers. You have the sitar guitar and the baritone. Are all of these instruments you play yourself, as well? –
Yeah! For the instruments that we can play, we play. I can play guitar and stringed instruments, so I played baritone and sitar guitar. Nothing too fancy, but I can definitely play enough. I’m not gonna play the violin though because that would probably not turn out as well. I play quite a bit of electric guitar, but over the last couple of years, I’ve really just been playing acoustic mostly.
It was recorded at our co-producer, Jeff Silverman’s studio, Palette Studios, in Nashville. The musicians were friends of Jeff’s that he’s worked with, and he realized the kind of vibe and intent of the album which was very acoustic based. Also, he brought people in who weren’t afraid to add their own stamp on it, if you will, so everybody’s DNA is in the record, meaning we didn’t completely direct exactly what people played. We wanted them to feel inspired and add what they felt the song meant. We did talk to each player and tell them the intention of the song, and since we were there as co-producers, we wanted to ensure the integrity of the song was kept. That was the most important thing to us.
How do you and Dennis collaborate on the songwriting process and what is the inspiration behind your music?
As you’ve probably talked to so many people throughout your career, you realize the writing process doesn’t have to be any one way. Usually, for me, there’s something that I’m trying to understand how I feel about something or processing something that’s happening in the external world and just really trying to understand it on a deeper level. Intellectually, I may think I understand something, but when you say it your head, sometimes it’s not as easy to understand in your heart how you’re feeling about things; so, to connect the two is, sometimes at least for me, the challenge. Songwriting takes on this … how do you work your mind? What words describe the feeling?
But, then to really go into your body and say, “How do I feel about it within my body?”, that’s a whole other aspect of it. I think that, for me, seems to be deeper, and sometimes it’s hard to explain how I’m feeling in my body. So I utilize a metaphor, which leaves it open, because sometimes if you want to use the word happy, maybe in your body there’s more than just happy going on. It might be 90% happiness, 10% sadness, that kind of thing.
But, it comes in all forms. I could be strumming on the guitar and thinking about something. Usually, the words and the music come at the same time. Say I start to come up with something on the piano, I will try to do different methods to come up with different sonic colors that express an underlying meaning of the words that I’m trying to get at.
Dennis is more literal than I am, so he’ll say, “I have this idea,” and he’ll read the words to me or he’ll play it. He’ll sing it with the words, and then I may suggest a layer on top of it, like a bigger theme, or a bigger color and then it evolves off of that. We’ve even done songs from a songwriting exercise where we take two random words and we smoosh them together. It’s a heck of a lot of fun.
We have just all different ways, there’s no magic formula. I think it’s where you are at that point in your life and what’s inspiring you and the willingness to grow and learn and realize you can write a song on the piano, you can write a song on the bass, you can write a song by walking in the woods and just getting the rhythm of walking. There are so many great opportunities to explore different ways to communicate and share and connect with other people through your music.
Is there one particular song on the album that speaks to you? And, if so, why?
They all speak to me so that’s hard to answer!
I understand completely. Did you want to try to talk about any one in particular song that you would like to maybe explain or share with fans? I always like to hear stories behind the songs.
Honestly, the one that is the least radio-friendly that I do love is “Precipice Forgiveness.” I love all of them. But, “Precipice Forgiveness” is the concept of making an effort to forgive somebody and have the ability then to get back into the natural flow of life. It’s this epic journey on the process of forgiveness where it doesn’t happen the first time you try it, intellectually. You have to go up on that precipice one, twice, three times, however long it takes until you’re really ready to forgive that person. It was something I tried in my life, and I had never made an effort to forgive somebody. Then I thought, “Gosh, I love this person, but they really hurt me, so I’m gonna give it a whirl, really try” and I did. So, the song is about that process. And forgiveness, at least for me, didn’t happen overnight, it took a year of trying with big effort.
So, the song couldn’t be three minutes, right? Radio friendly. It’s more like six and a half. It’s not a song I could have written before that time, so if you’re listening and you’re ready, then you’re like, “Yeah, that’s the song that needs to happen now.”
That’s great. I’m sure there are a lot of people that can relate. Now, just a little bit about your musical background, your first instrument, and when you start playing guitar.
I started with piano when I was younger. My parents got lessons for me, and then I moved on to guitar just learning chords and teaching myself. My mom had an old Gibson acoustic, and I would just strum that and kept up on that throughout school and so forth. Probably like a lot of people, I didn’t have time to really pursue it after school, got a job, all that good stuff. I picked it back up when I was in my 30s and went at it wholeheartedly with a fire in my belly. It was at that time where I thought, acoustic’s fun, but what about electric? That sounds really fun. So, I got my first Strat and joined a band in Boston and it was great. I was in an all-girl band and some others and we just had a really great time just learning to play music. I would practice, literally, three hours a day. I can’t even explain. I had to do it. I had to play guitar. I had to get better. I was just so motivated. And when I tell you I was into it was, I was really into it, and I still am.
Do you still practice every day?
I do. It’s been a little harder when releasing an album and really trying to get everything the way that you know it should be. Of course, I practice every day, but I have not been able to practice three hours a day for a while. But, I’ll get back there. I read a book about how it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become really good at something. That really changed the way I thought about things, how it’s so much better to practice something in short segments, super slow to get it ingrained and get it correct than to just try to play a whole song without really analyzing it.
Do you play other instruments besides guitar?
Not as well as guitar, but I can play the piano a little bit. I can play drums, and I can play bass guitar.
Let’s move onto your outlook on empowering females and young girls. You have a female empowerment anthem titled “Hey Girls.”
Yes, I do! The guitar is interesting because it was for quite some time, and I think that’s changing and I hope it’s true that it’s changing, has been mostly an instrument that we see men playing. That sense of a guitar and this kind of freedom that is allowed when you’re playing the guitar, I think, is empowering. Why wouldn’t women be able to have that kind of empowerment and freedom, too? I feel like we do have more examples of women today playing the guitar, and so to encourage a young girl that wants to play the guitar and let them know, hey, you can do it, is great. I feel like empowering females not only with guitar but honestly, with anything that calls out to them to authentically let them be themselves, to express themselves, is an awesome endeavor.
The guitar is just one way of many to say, “Hey, look, you have seen a lot of men playing guitar, but guess what? You can, too.” And I guess it reckons back to when you’d see women in professions that were mostly help-oriented, whether it was teachers or nurses, and I think women seem to be naturally gifted in those fields. I know there are men, too, but it doesn’t have to be just that. If you feel like being a, I don’t know, an airline pilot or whatever it may be, that was mostly something you’d see men doing, or what’s another one … a CEO of a tech company. If you wanna do it, I think it’s nice to see examples and to empower people to be able to go on that path.
What about your involvement with the Bellingham Girls Rock Camp?
I’ve been a volunteer before, so I helped with the guitar class. They have different types of music classes for the girls, so you can do guitar, drums, bass, but I was one of the coaches for the guitar class specifically. It was such a great experience getting the guitar in people’s hands and saying, “You can do it.” It was just a lot of positivity, and then to see them at their final show and see the confidence they gained. Everybody’s super supportive and just having them write their own songs. It was about breaking through. It’s females breaking through and it was a tear-jerker, quite honestly, because you’re thinking, “They’re so young and they see it, and they’re writing this song and they did it within a week, and how often does that happen?” To see them in front of an audience and all that they learned. Just to give them that experience, I don’t think they’ll ever forget it and, as you get older, you look back on those memories of when you were like, “Yeah, I could do that. I did it.”
You and Dennis performed recently at Crown Guitar Festival on the opening night?
Yes, and it was fabulous. We got to kick off the whole event and played for three other events. We also played in downtown Kalispell with some of the scholarship winners. The Crown’s pretty amazing because they attract these world-class artists from all different genres, so it could be jazz with Pat Martino or Lee Ritenour and then you can go see somebody like Nathan East who plays with Eric Clapton to the classical duo SoloDuo who’s number one in the world. There are singer-songwriters like Justin Townes Earl, Jim Messina, Poco and Rusty Young, and so, it’s just like “wow” with all these people in one place. It’s awesome!
And then being able to play different shows while we’re there and opening up and kicking off the whole concert that night. We played the same night as Cory Henry and his band the Funk Apostles – he’s a three-time Grammy winner. And then Edgar Winter! As far as the female representation, I think it was just me, Liz Longley, and Lynn McGrath, who is classical. Over the past years, they’ve had Ana Popovic, Shelby Lynne, and others.
Any parting words of advice for a young female wanting to enter the music industry?
I think the best thing I could say is to make a little time every day to practice – it’s worthwhile. Be consistent with it whether it’s 10 minutes, half an hour, an hour, whatever it is because you will get better. I would also say have some fun with it, too. Mix it up. Practice where you’re going slow, then try to learn a scale and do it correctly, and then do some fun things. If you learn other people’s music, that’s also a great way to learn about different chords and different ways to utilize the chords, different transitions, and different structures. I think that just opens up your toolbox.
How about your guitar collection? I hear you have quite a few!
Oh my gosh, I have so many. Maybe I should just limit it to my top 10!
Sounds good to me!
I usually play a Taylor 816ce and I love it because the bass end of that guitar is a little more prominent than other Taylor guitars and that’s why I went for that model. Dennis and I also visited the Taylor factory, I think it was about four years ago, and that was pretty awesome. I also play a Martin and a Gibson. I also have a Guild and a McPherson. So, I’ve got a lot of flavors covered.
Martin Special Edition CEO 4R
1967 Gibson ES 330 TD
Gibson Les Paul Goddess
Gibson Les Paul
Jerry Jones Sitar Guitar
Rick Toone Custom: Luna
Electric Blue Dandelion – Nashville Sessions track listing:
- “Aloha – (Nashville Sessions)”
- “Into Me You See (Here & Now)”
- “Electric Blue Dandelion – (Nashville Sessions)”
- “Holding Onto a Rainbow – (Nashville Sessions)”
- “Fearless (All In) – (Nashville Sessions)”
- “Precipice Forgiveness (Flow is On) – (Nashville Sessions)”
- “Thanksgiving (Feel Like Home) – (Nashville Sessions)”
- “Dawn Breaks Through – (Nashville Sessions)”
- “It Must Be Ok (We Starve) – (Nashville Sessions)”
- “Wicked Game (feat. Eljai) – (Nashville Sessions)”