Around these parts, she’s known as that diminutive-size, flaxen-haired girl with the guitar and seriously powerful pipes.
And now the rest of the country is catching on to the talents of Raquel Cole.
If the name doesn’t ring a bell that’s because the Vernon-raised musician recently changed her name from Warchol to Cole, as according to her namesake, dad Dave Warchol, it’s easier to pronounce and spell.
Cole is gearing up to perform under her new moniker when she gives a holiday concert at Silver Star’s National Altitude Training Centre Friday, Dec. 27.
“Vernon will always be home. There’s something special about this place, especially in the summer and at Christmas” said Cole.
In fact, it has been since last Christmas that Cole performed in concert locally, with fellow Vernonite Jodi Pederson at the Powerhouse Theatre. She was also seen busking on Vernon’s 30th Avenue this summer, playing for the Downtown Vernon Association’s Curbside Live.
For the rest of the time, the Vernon Secondary School graduate, now 20, has been busy writing songs in Nashville, entering international song competitions, and performing at music industry events.
“I love Nashville. It has grown on me now that I am working with all these great songwriters. I have found my niche,” said Cole, who describes her music as country that crosses a few genres.
“I never thought of myself as a country artist, but I just love the fans, so now when I call myself a country artist, it’s like the missing piece of the puzzle… I’m still a girl with a guitar, but I am much more focussed now.”
Cole isn’t kidding. This past year has proven to be a whirlwind for the young talent.
In February, she was chosen as a top 10 artist for Variety’s Got Talent, a B.C.-wide singing competition.
In Nashville, she worked with producer Chad Carlson, who has been nominated for a 2014 Grammy for Taylor Swift’s Red album (he won two Grammys, for Album of the Year and Country Album of the Year, for Swift’s Fearless in 2010) on six new songs.
She has also recorded and has been writing with Jimmy Olander of the band Diamond Rio at his home studio in Music City. (Cole is represented by the same management team as Diamond Rio.)
“Nashville is known for its publishing companies, and a lot of independent artists often find themselves in small studios in people’s homes to write songs,” she said, adding, “I also love writing with (Nashville songwriter) Bruce Wallace. We often record the songs on my iPhone and they sound good.”
The work has paid off as Cole’s music has been capturing the attention of industry types in both the U.S. and Canada.
Her song, Leaving Home, placed in the top 30 of the Music City Songwriting Competition, which was judged by A&R (artists and repertoire) representatives and label owners. In May, USA Today picked Cole’s song, Gone, for their exclusive weekly playlist as one of the week’s most intriguing tracks.
She was also showcased as a featured SOCAN artist on the international radio show, Billy Block’s Western Beat.
“Before anyone has become famous, they have played his show,” said Cole, adding, “It’s great to have people hearing my music.”
Back in her home country, Cole made her first visit to Toronto in October for Indie Week Canada, where independent artists perform at judged showcases around the city.
Cole played three shows, including a large showcase at the city’s Cadillac Lounge, where she placed first. At the finals, held at the Tattoo Rock Parlour, she came in second overall.
“It’s more of an industry festival,” said Cole, adding some of the representatives she met there were from Gibson Guitar.
“They let me use one of their guitars. It was cool because the day after the showcase, Gibson tweeted with a message that said ‘you make country music proud.’”
Cole also played to country fans around these parts when she joined fellow Canadian artists Deric Ruttan, Jason Blaine and Chad Brownlee, the latter a Kelowna native and former junior hockey player with the Vernon Vipers, at the Your Town Throwdown Tour when it stopped in Kamloops and Kelowna in November.
“I’d written with Deric before in Nashville, but never met Jason or Chad before. They were really nice,” she said. “It’s funny as Jason and Deric both have booking agents in Nashville, so I had to go all the way to Nashville to get a gig back home.”
More recently, Cole entered CBC Music and Hockey Night in Canada’s quest for the next great hockey song.
Her song, aptly called Hockey Night in Canada, has already beat out more than 1,000 entries to make the top 50. Online voting for the top 10 was being determined as of yesterday. (The results were unavailable at press time.)
Cole has a lot more to look forward to in the coming year. She heads back to Nashville after Christmas to continue writing and will be joining Diamond Rio as their opening act when the band plays Regina in February.
“After that we’ll see what happens,” she said. “I’m going to try to get into Canada Music Week (a fan and industry festival, based in Toronto) and I have applied to South by Southwest (another fan and industry festival in Austin, Tex.),” she said.
But first, locals and visitors to Silver Star Mountain Resort can catch Cole in concert Friday, Dec. 27 at the NATC starting at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $15, available at www.raquelcole.com or by contacting Silver Star’s guest services and information desk at 250-558-6019 or firstname.lastname@example.org.