The local artist shares how Toronto influences her work, what she’s most excited about for this year’s JUNO Awards and the festival she’s hitting this summer. 

2021 JUNO Award winner, and 2022 nominee, Savannah Ré is ready to celebrate. After a hiatus, the JUNOs are back in-person — and taking place at the Budweiser Stage in Toronto on May 15, 2022. That means the return of fanfare events, red carpets, and must-watch performances from some of Canada’s best talent.

After virtually accepting the Traditional R&B/Soul Recording of the Year award last year, Savannah is once again nominated. Not only that, but she will also appear at the ADVANCE x JUNO Talks: Influential Black Women in Music panel discussion.

Although her rise through the industry may seem meteoric to fans who are still getting to know her, Savannah has put years into her craft. It’s been a journey that’s included coming up in a Toronto R&B generational gap that left her to figure out a lot on her own, and eventually, surrounding herself with peers who continue to help Savannah reach her full potential.

2022 JUNO Award nominee Savannah Ré
Savannah Ré in conversation with Meghan Yuri Young

Meghan Yuri Young: You released your first EP in 2020 and you were immediately nominated for a JUNO Award in 2021. Now, you’re back here in 2022, but you're still considered relatively new on the scene. Can you tell those who are still discovering your music about yourself?

Savannah Ré: Absolutely. I'm sure there are a lot of people that don’t know me! I'm just getting started. So, I am from Scarborough — originally by way of Montreal — which a lot of people don't know.

I've been making music for a really, really long time. My first project, I scrapped the whole thing! I was like, “No, I hate this.” And then [my debut EP], Opia, was like, “All right.” It took about three years to make. It was my whole life, up until that point, put into eight songs. To think about that is so crazy, so nerve-wracking. So, I'm one project in, but there's a lot more coming. I'm a lyricist, I'm a songwriter, I'm an artist.

 

MYY: Well, you’re not only nominated again this year, but you’re also going to be part of the ADVANCE x JUNO Talks: Influential Black Women, alongside some legends. What feelings come up being tapped to be part of that conversation?

SR: Love it. We need more spaces — safe spaces — to communicate. ADVANCE has done a lot for me. I've always felt accommodated and seen. When they asked us to perform, I was like, “Absolutely.” It's a no brainer, you know? I'm definitely excited to hear all the panelists speak and also to be able to contribute my part.

2022 JUNO Award nominee Savannah Ré
2022 JUNO Award Nominee Savannah Ré

MYY: I came across this great interview in The Ringer. In it, you mentioned there was a before and an after in terms of your experience within the music industry and the Toronto music scene. Before, there was no unity. And after, where you are today, you're seeing more unity.

SR: Totally. I think it was just the timing, right? There wasn't a whole lot of us here before. There was a generational gap because there's the people that came before — there's Kardi, there's Maestro, there's so many — and they were all close. There was that hip-hop unity. But when it came to R&B, it was very sparse. Of course, we have Glenn [Lewis]. Then, as for the women, we have Tamia, we have Melanie Fiona, Jully Black, Deborah Cox — the originals! That’s a person who’s embraced me. I actually had the opportunity to do sessions with Deborah.

 

MYY: She’s going to be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame at this year’s JUNOs.

SR: Yes, and there’s just so much humility. Jully Black, too. She's been really integral. She took me to my first studio session ever, you know, in a real live studio. I felt very embraced. But I do feel that when it comes to women, especially Black women, we’re not supported as much. What happens is we're unable to support each other because it starts to feel like there can only be one. At the same time, it’s not something we're admitting to anymore.

I'm cool with all of my peers. We’re all close friends. I don't feel that sort of like, “Oh, I gotta keep all of this in.” I never had that emotion because that's not what was given to me.

2022 JUNO Award nominee Savannah Ré
2022 JUNO Award nominee Savannah Ré

MYY: In addition to being a musician and a singer, you also dance, you're also a visual artist. There’s so much more to your creativity. So how does the city feed that? 

SR: Man, Scarborough, Toronto, it’s who I am. The melting pot of people, I was surrounded by every culture. All of these things have influenced how I move in the world, the type of music I make, the way I speak, the way I sit, the way I talk. You know, you usually can recognize when somebody is from Scarborough or from Toronto. It’s the swag. 

When I go to the States, people are like, “Wait, where are you from?” You carry it on your back. I'm so proud to be from here. I feel like we're just getting started, as far as our exports and all the music. We're in every area now — the directors, the singers, the artists, the everything. It's an exciting time to be from Toronto.

 

MYY: Speaking of exciting times, what are you looking forward to this year at the JUNOs? 

SR: A few things! I’m looking forward to seeing Haviah [Mighty] perform ‘cause she eats. She peels the stage every time. That’s my girl. I’m looking forward to Deborah getting her flowers. Ma’am, come on! You know, Jesse Gold, he’s amazing. I think he’s doing opening night. And then, I’m just looking forward to seeing all these awards! I’m looking forward to the whole thing, being a guest, being able to sit and share this moment with other people.

 

MYY: Finally, I have to ask, what are you looking forward to doing in the city now that summer is just around the corner?

SR: I like to eat. So, I’m also looking forward to being on patios without restrictions. I’m excited for the Toronto Caribbean Festival. I’m looking forward to Toronto just being alive again. There’s so much to do here. We have great everything — food, entertainment, everything. I’m trying to do it all.

This is an excerpt from an interview originally published on Now Playing Toronto. See More Than 24 Hours for the full interview with Savannah Ré.

Beyond tuning into the 2022 JUNO Awards on May 15 to see if she walks away with an award, you can catch Savannah at two JUNO events. On May 12, she’ll be at Artscape Daniels Launchpad for ADVANCE x JUNO Talks: Influential Black Women in Music. On May 15, she’s taking part in JUNO Fan Fare at the CF Toronto Eaton Centre, where fans get to meet, interact, and take photos with some of their favourite Canadian artists.