I just met a woman who has raised the bar on ye old measuring stick. Not content with forging a successful career working behind the scenes in the Film/TV industry, Lonnie Rathie decided after her last exploit (a blockbuster Hollywood movie) that music was where her destiny lay. So she packed up her Vancouver base, and moved to New York City, far from her hometown of Calgary. Once there, she lost her naivety but gained a following for her roots/folk inspired sounds.
With a voice that echoes of soothing lullabies and a more than burgeoning skill at the guitar (a skill which she humbly downplays during our interview), Lonnie gathered around her a group of musicians, both in Canada and the States, and played and toured and needed a break. She found herself in China, teaching young Chinese children how to speak English. Part of how she did this was by singing them songs and eventually getting them to sing along with her and Johnny Cash.
Suddenly, she is married and living in Australia, after first jetting back and forth between China and NYC. Her husband has family here and it is here that Lonnie plays again. She has already gigged around Sydney, culminating in a recent performance at The Excelsior.
I had arranged to meet Lonnie Rathie at a café in the City. This was all well and good, except that I had chosen a table right next to a road that seemed to invite a lot of buses. So it seemed we were having exhaust fumes with our coffee. When Lonnie arrived she was smiling and already in fine form, telling me, “Your hair looks fine,” (which it did) when she caught me playing with it in my reflection.
She was dressed casually and with her smile fixed on her face, she was immediately at ease. Once we got to the subject of her music, I discovered that she felt “happy songs are harder to write than sad ones”, a fact which she revealed on her MySpace page recently. She intoned, however, that we were not to worry because she tells me she is already working on “Love Song for Geoff #4” so it’s not proving too much of a problem.
Listening to a selection of her songs, a personal, story-telling aspect becomes clear. For example Behind the Scenes potentially reflects her experience with the Film/TV world. Not forgetting House of Blues, in which a young woman decries her fears of a wasted life pursing music. Confirming neither hypotheses, she says sometimes her songs come from places and people she did not realise she was focusing on, or, like Heaven (a song which has been popular with her fans), “just came to be”.
The only thing her music seems to lack, according to Lonnie, is a band, “not just for the sound, but for the fun, the atmosphere and sense of community”. She mentions she is very keen to find herself some fellow musicians here in Sydney. She has already returned Stateside for a gig with her bandmates there. Her main goal (beside her newly adjusted marital existence) is to “keep playing as much as I can” and for her to find her feet in her adopted home country drawing on “her many random experiences”. Considering her vast scope of resources so far, I can only imagine what she’s got planned next.
Lonnie is markedly different to many of the female singer/songwriters we seem to be bombarded by. She has, in her conversation and manner, but more importantly in her lyrics and her music, an honesty and wisdom that only come with time. And by all her jet setting and the trail of music she has left in her wake, it is clear that Lonnie Rathie has done as much as she can to occupy the time which she has, and set her sights on musical designs for the future that beckons…