Q&A: How Kid Rock Discovered A Soulful Rock Star In The Making, Billy Raffoul


If you look at the top 10 rock songs on the charts right now, you'll see the names we've been seeing for the last few years without surprise: Imagine Dragons, Twenty One Pilots, etc. Not to say that those bands aren't good, but at this point, we know what to expect from them. While some of the newer rock songs are now bordering on heavy EDM influence, as in Fall Out Boy's popular "Young and Menace," there's something to be said of the simplistic fuzzy wailing guitar with a soulful canyon cry voice over top. I'm talking about pure rock n'roll. But where is that on the charts you ask?

Enter newcomer Billy Raffoul, whose debut single "Driver" was released just a few months ago, and his newest single, "Dark Four Door" was released today. A change from the pop and hip hop influenced rock music that's currently festering on the charts, Raffoul's music features mysterious verses, poetic wanderer lyrics, alongside a simple chorus that bleeds soul from your speakers and into your ears. Both "Driver" and "Dark Four Door" are the type of songs that will give you no choice but to feel something.

Billy Raffoul's soulful and raspy voice was the selling point that got him noticed initially. He sang on demos for artists like Kid Rock, and one day, Raffoul's future manager was in the room and happened to ask him to play a few of his original songs. By the next day, he was on his way to Nashville to pursue a solo career. With a rock star for a dad, Canadian rock singer/songwriter Jody Raffoul, Billy has been writing songs since he was a teenager. He says he currently has "over 200 songs" he's written, which may be the reason why he feels like he's spent his entire life writing his first album. With an expected release date of sometime later this year, the only promise Billy has given for fans of that oh-so-cool raspy vocal: "I promise I sing like [Driver] on every song"– a promise that will likely lead fans to buy the album with no questions asked.

While the final touches are being put on his debut album, Billy says he's eager to tour and connect with people through his live performance. For now, it's only a matter of time before we're likely to see "Driver" and "Dark Four Door" creep their way onto the charts alongside current rock giants.

Watch the new video out for "Dark Four Door" below, followed by our interview with the budding rockstar. 

OTW: What is “Dark Four Door” about and what inspired you to write it?

Billy: At the heart of it, "Dark Four Door" is about the little things that stick with you when you are no longer in the life of someone you were once so close to. Some things your brain can’t turn off. Even something as simple as the feeling you get when you see the same make and color of car that they used to drive.  

OTW: How does it sound different/similar to “Driver,” and how does it fit (sonically/lyrically) into the album?

Billy: One of the most stripped down tracks we’ve done, "Dark Four Door" is a live recording of just acoustic guitar and vocals. It and "Driver" are polar opposite records, and the album as a whole lives everywhere in between.

OTW: First of all, the song "Driver" was apparently inspired by picking up a hitchhiker–isn't that dangerous? Weren't you afraid for your life? Have you ever seen a horror movie?

Billy: You know what, I know. There was a split moment where I was [afraid] to be honest, but we were on Pelee Island. Americans come there because they own cottages, and it's a great vacation spot. I don’t even wanna say [it's a] small town because it’s smaller than that. I was driving [and] there was twelve of us piled into the truck. We saw the [hitchhiker] and let him in. We asked for his name and his name was "Kevin F*cking Cool." That’s what he gave us. So, I have no way of finding this man. It turned out he was American. He said some outlandish sh*t that I won’t repeat. We found the last message in his phone because he was out of it. And we texted, “Hey we found your friend."

OTW: Mike Crossey, who is known for producing songs for The 1975 produced "Driver;" what was it like working with him? You also wrote with Simon Wilcox and Nolan Lambroza (Nick Jonas)?

Billy: I co-wrote the song with Simon Wilcox and Nolan Lambroza–they’ve written a whole bunch for Demi Lovato and a bunch of Nick Jonas stuff. They’re a perfect match writing duo group. Nolan, Simon and I wrote the song together, produced some of it–like a demo, and then Crossey kind of took that to the next level.

OTW: For my own sake, and probably someone else out there, who came up with the amazing fuzzy guitar sound and the soulful canyon cries on the chorus of "Driver"?

Billy: That was actually me, I write all my guitar parts. I wrote that vocal bit. It was all in the moment. It was kind of like, 'I want to do something heavy.' It honestly wasn’t something I thought was gonna be anywhere near my first record just because of how vast and different it is. It's not something I thought that would be out in the next few years.

OTW: Will there be more of that sound on the rest of the album? Or what can we expect from some of the next songs you are working on?

Billy: I promise I sing like that on every song. There’s one that’s even more extreme than that. There’s a song called "Difficult" that I produced; it’s vocally similar. I can’t wait. I’m so excited to share. 

The best part about it is, we haven’t finished tracking all the songs yet, and the reception to "Driver" has been awesome. The fact that people are seeing it as rock and roll is so cool and it’s kind of steering me more towards a couple of songs. It’s just a good feeling–we have more freedom.

OTW: I love weird and crazy discovery stories–and yours is pretty great. Do you remember what kind of songs you were hired to sing for Kid Rock? Tell me about how that went down.

Billy: Marlon Young is Kid Rock’s writer, guitar player, good buddy. Him and my dad go way back to 2000 and late 90’s you could say. And he produced one of my dad’s records, called "Like a Star." From then, I was like eight years old probably when Marlon was hanging around. And I grew up listening to my dad’s records. My dad’s a rock star. You know when I started doing my own thing, Marlon’s still writing for Kid Rock. My dad would go sing Kid Rock demos for the whole Rock Roll Jesus record, like all of those songs. He was demoing that and when it came time to do the new record, I had already had an EP out locally, which I hope you never find.

We went in to the studio to do one of those sections and I had brought my guitar. My dad kind of said, "Hey you should have my son sing on one of the songs. You know he’s doing music as well.” So I got in the booth, and I sang in a verse, and we didn’t even finish the song. We derailed the whole thing, and he just spent the day talking to me and recording a voice clip of me. He hadn’t really seen me since I was eight. Recorded a voice clip of me singing an original song, an acoustic song I had written called, "Flowers for Mae. Mae." And, yeah kind of let us in. I made a trip to Nashville, got it like the next day. And, that was it.

OTW: You're going to be supporting Kings of Leon, The Pixies and Nathaniel Ratecliff later this Summer–are you excited for that? Nervous?

Billy: Rewind maybe ten years ago–I’m at the Rock-n-Roll Theater in Windsor and "Only By The Night" had just come out, and I’m in a band. I’m a foot shorter and a lot chubbier. No long hair. And I’m singing to the best of my ability "Sex on Fire," something I hope is never found. It was ten years ago, and now ten years later I'll be at Hyde Park. It’s insane. Absolutely insane.


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