She’s been a familiar voice on Toronto modern rock radio for several years, and now the rest of the Canada is getting to know Raina Douris as the host of CBC Radio 2 Morning, heard each weekday from 6 a.m.-9 a.m.
Along with her sparkling on-air manner and infectious sense of humour, she’s been a passionate supporter of new music, dating back to her first go-round with CBC as a Radio 3 host. This led to Douris joining the team that launched Toronto’s Indie88 in 2013, and subsequently being named Best Radio Personality two years in a row in NOW Magazine’s reader’s poll.
With CBC Music’s Searchlight 2017 competition having just announced its final four artists—the winner will be decided during a televised one-hour finale on Sunday, April 9 at 6 p.m.—it seemed a good time to catch up with Douris about her recent move and her thoughts on the current state of Canadian indie music.
What are some of the recent trends in Canadian music that have made you personally excited?
To me, the most exciting thing in music has ALWAYS been those artists who are doing things differently, who are breaking out of the system, who are doing things on their own, commercialism be damned. You're seeing more and more DIY collectives, independent labels, artists who are choosing their own paths. That means you're getting riskier, weirder, more experimental sounds. The fearless creativity and weirdness of artists like Dilly Dally or Weaves or Grimes or BA Johnston or Mac DeMarco... where it's not just about getting a radio single—it's about creating something new and different, and REAL.
What's been the biggest change for you moving from Indie88 to CBC?
It was a bit overwhelming going from a place with a staff of around 25 people to a place with thousands of employees that spans across the country. I still don't think I've completely gotten my head around that. There's a sense that you can really do anything at the CBC—but there's also the understanding that what you're doing needs to serve the Canadian public, not just yourself. Also, going from a hosting a local Toronto show to a national show means a shift in how you think about the music you play and the stories you tell. How do I speak to Newfoundland and Vancouver and everywhere in between so everyone feels included? You have to broaden your way of thinking—while keeping your personality.
Things like CBC Searchlight seem to be bringing new and emerging music to the forefront. What are your impressions of this and how have you been involved?
While I'm not personally involved in the Searchlight process in a hands-on way, I think it's a truly beautiful thing. I spent a lot of time looking and listening through entries this year on my own, and it's just incredible to see the level of talent and imagination in this country. It's strange, the Internet has made it both easier and more difficult for artists to have their music heard; with the sheer volume of music out there, programs like Searchlight play an important part in parsing that information, and finding the gems that you might miss if you're just Googling around on your own.
What are your fondest musical memories as you were growing up?
The first thing that comes to mind is being up north at our family's cabin, listening to the music my parents loved. Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Talking Heads, Bob Dylan—they really laid the groundwork for me as a music lover. The second thing would be playing in the school band, falling in love with the trumpet and making it to first chair in high school. Being a part of a concert band connects you with a bigger experience. It shows you that you can fit into a puzzle, and shows you the power of focus. Above all, it shows you that teamwork can create something beautiful that you'd never be able to do alone.
If you could change anything about the music industry, what would it be?
New, fresh perspectives. I think we need more young, diverse people of all genders in positions of power at labels, festivals, radio stations, and media companies in general. The gatekeepers need to change. Risks need to be taken and rules need to be broken. Too often it seems like the music industry is trying to salvage a failed system—pushing legacy acts, leaning on already established megastars or commercial-friendly, faceless, manufactured bands with no story or lifespan or heart—and then complaining that no one buys records, or saying “music isn't what it used to be.” But that's not what music was ever supposed to be about. Music is art. Art is about feeling and ideas—and young people have them.