Surrounded by the colourful decor of Margo restaurant and the familiar scent of Haitian cuisine, singer songwriter Rita Carter and I spoke over some plantains and rice. Notably, her connection to music, her personal journey of self-love, as well as her upcoming album.
Raised in southern Ottawa, Carter’s love for music developed at a young age. “I started writing when I was probably like 5 or 6, my older brother and my sister [and I] would record songs around the boombox,” she said.
Always exposed to music, a young Carter was no stranger to burning cassettes, and transcribing lyrics into notebooks. However, it wasn’t until her freshman year of university that writing truly asserted itself as a passion.
“I was supposed to be writing papers and stuff but I was writing music.”
Unable to read music, Carter relied on unconventional methods to to learn guitar and composition. Through this, Carter was able to find a form of freedom: “I do it to feel free. That’s why I do it”.
Armed with upbeat drums that’ll make you dance and profound lyricism that will pull at your heartstrings, Carter finds a healthy balance between pop, R&B, and soul. With songs like “Genocide” which specifically calls for support for refugees and war torn countries and “Wake Up” speaking on the effects of poverty, and government corruption, Carter cements herself as a revolutionary artist using her words to change and shape the world around her.
Noticeably inspired by classic queens such as Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, and Nina Simone, Carter’s music follows themes of emancipation, unity, strength, and self-love. “As I grow older, I become even more influenced by them. I understand more,” she said. “I’m a mother now—it’s different. I can listen to “Zion” and really get what Lauryn is talking about”.
New motherhood proved to be challenging for Carter who believed it was time to “adult up”. “I remember when I first had my son, I thought I had to just forget about everything. I stopped. I can’t be wasting no time or money on [music]. I need to get a government job build a foundation. I wasn’t honoring my gifts.”
Instead of surrendering hope, Carter found ways to channel her new life into her music. Juggling her musical and professional career, Carter makes a point to teach her black son self-love “I let him know his skin is beautiful, that Black is beautiful,” she said.
Carter’s journey of self-discovery and love influence much of her work. She spoke of her relationship with her hair and her choice to go natural, a story many Black women find relatable. “I used to take my extensions out on Thursday, and you know how you’re supposed to keep your hair out for a couple of days? I would be back in the salon on Friday.”
But children change things. “When I had my son I thought, he has to see me for me, who I really am,” Carter said. The R&B soulstress’ decision to remain authentic also manifested itself through her art. Carter spent the last weekend at the cottage recording her latest album and final addition her trilogy, All of We. Steering away from the fledgling sounds of Piece of Me and the heavily produced beats of All of Me, Carter said this upcoming project involves several collaborative efforts in attempt to create timeless, revolutionary, and conscious music—all of which she believes can help put Ottawa on the map.
“I love my city,” she said. “I just want to see us win, I truly believe we can”. Carter’s energy is electric and she comes even more alive on stage: pushing the whole audience to get up and dance, making the air thick with the genuine joy and talent that oozesfrom her. It is still much too early in production to speculate about a release date, but for the time being you can catch Carter live.
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