Wely Wails To Voice Champion

By Charelle Evelyn on June 29 2015

Geographically, it’s not that far from Rae Wely’s childhood home on Kelly Road South to the Treasure Cove Casino’s show lounge.

But the distance between hiding in a closet, singing Tiffany’s I Think We’re Alone Now, to earning a standing ovation and being crowned the

Season 2 winner of 101.3 The River’s Voice competition may as well be measured in light years. Wely, founding member of three-piece band Circadian Rhythm with Melody and Tony Tabora, walked away with the prize on April 17 after two rounds of online voting culminating in a live performance and vote by the audience and judging panel. As The River’s Voice, Wely took home more than $1,000 in prizes as well as a chance to record a song at Cheslatta Records, which will then be played during the radio station’s New Music Monday lineup.

“About six or seven months ago I was actually driving down the road and I heard (2014 winner) Lee-Wai’s song on the radio and I thought that would be so cool to have your song on the radio,” Wely said. “And now this happened.”

Soured by previous bad experiences, Wely – who has no formal vocal training – wouldn’t have entered the competition if it weren’t for a promise she made to her grandmother. “She watches The Voice, she watches American Idol and she’s always like ‘you can do this, you can do this,’” Wely said, shortly after hearing her name announced as the 2015 winner. Wely not only did it, she commanded it, with a voice that judge Rick Kelly – afternoon announcer on The River – said ran the gamut from raspy to sweet with “some naughty in there, too.”

Fellow judges Elissa Meiklem from the Prince George Folkfest society and Coldsnap Music Festival, The River’s music director Jen Schluter, and station program director Ron Polillo were equally effusive about Wely’s performance. “Two words come to mind: power and passion,” Polillo told her. “I really feel that when you’re performing.” On the night of the finals, the top four contestants each performed three songs. By the end of Wely’s set of an original song, and covers of Sia’s Elastic Heart and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way (rearranged to sound more like a 90s acoustic chick rock anthem) – third in the lineup – she was the first to have earned a standing ovation.

In its second year, The River’s Voice was more geared to listener input, said promotions director Khaira Black. “So instead of us picking the Top 8, we put it to a vote online.” And with the success of last year’s inaugural winner Lee-Wai Yu and his band Bright City Heights (who have two songs on The River and were featured prominently as part of the Canada Winter Games opening ceremony), interest had skyrocketed.

“It definitely has opened up a big door to getting our band recognized in the B.C. music scene,” said Yu, who was on hand on the night of finale with his bandmates to serve as the night’s house entertainment. “It opened the doors in terms of just getting our name out there and the opportunity to play on the radio. Getting that experience is something I don’t think many people get to do. It really helps your chops.”

Competition was so fierce this year, leading organizers to make the finale a Top 4 instead of a Top 3. Eventual runners up Demmy Hawkeye, Genevieve Tucker and Erika Callewaert all gave strong performances that filled the room.

“There were only 13 votes between No. 1 and No. 4,” Black said of the margin. Tickets to the live finale sold out in minutes, she added. “We had people lined up outside the door before we even opened our doors in the morning.” Can’t wait to hear Rae Wely? Head to Circadian Rhythm’s Facebook page for upcoming performances.




Journalist, west coast native, music lover. Made in Canada.

A2015Norm Coyne