When Quote the Raven’s Jordan Coaker and Kirsten Rodden-Clarke met singing in an amateur choir in 2011, in their hometown of Conception Bay South, Newfoundland, they had no idea that it would chart a path for their musical careers. Paired together to sing a duet, Coaker and Rodden-Clarke, who were the group’s youngest members, quickly found easy harmonies. “People said our voices blended well together,” recalls Rodden-Clarke.
Soon after, she began joining Coaker when he performed his own songs in downtown St. John’s, and later introduced him to the American folk duo The Civil Wars. The pair, who are musical rather than romantic partners, quickly bonded over the band’s singing style. “That was the be-all-and-end-all,” laughs Coaker.
In the years since, Coaker and Rodden-Clarke have taken a “path of least resistance” approach to making music. “Things have, hilariously, fallen in our lap over the last eight years,” says Coaker, pointing to everything, from serendipitous meetings to lucky breaks, that have given the pair a leg up.
“Things have, hilariously, fallen in our lap over the last eight years.” – Jordan Coaker of Quote the Raven
Quote the Raven’s 2016 debut EP, Misty Mountains, not only earned MusicNL nominations in both the Rising Star and Folk/Roots Recording of the Year categories, it also enabled the pair to connect with producer Chris Kirby – who then produced their first full-length album, 2018’s Golden Hour. It was that connection that secured their place at a songwriting camp, where the duo worked with everyone from Charlie A’Court and Keith Mullins to Gabrielle Papillon and Ian Janes.
“Every song we wrote that weekend, and whatever group we were in, there was magic in the air,” says Coaker. “We wrote 14 songs in four days.”
Coaker and Rodden-Clarke have also found a songwriting rhythm of their own. Coaker, who’s been singing since he was 17, tends to take the lead on melody, with Rodden-Clarke earning the title of “The Editor,” for the role she plays in refining and paring down his songs. “I’ll have, like, 10,000 verses written, and then she’ll come in and change a couple of things – and it works!” says Coaker.
Rodden-Clarke, who began singing at 16 after her piano teacher suggested it, then easily finds harmonies to blend with Coaker’s voice. “It’s natural for me,” she explains. “We know when we have a song that works for us.”
At the same time, both Coaker and Rodden-Clarke – who describe their sound as “pop/Americana” – admit that they sometimes feel like musical outsiders in their home province, where a demand for traditional music still dominates. “It can be hard to introduce new sounds or genres,” says Coaker, stressing that he doesn’t mean to sound negative. “There are only a few places [in St. John’s] where we feel we can go and have a good crowd.”
By contrast, the pair loves being on the road, especially when it affords them the time to make stops in smaller places. They’re particularly fond of Newfoundland’s West coast, where they always make a point of stopping on their way to catch the ferry to the mainland. “We’ve found there are nooks and crannies where people really appreciate us coming out,” says Coaker, who adds that they have no plans to leave the province they call home. “It has boosted our morale over the years.”
Quote the Raven (the band’s name is a nod to Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem) has also delighted in watching their online audience grow in recent years, especially after two songs were added to the Folk and Friends playlist on Spotify. As of June 2019, their single “Laser Beam” had already been streamed more than 195,000 times. “It’s been crazy,” Coaker laughs, “because we came at it with no expectations. The power of the internet blew us away.”
But both Coaker and Rodden-Clarke, now working on their next album, emphasize that they’re not letting the attention go to their heads. Instead, they say they’re grateful for every opportunity they get to share their music – both in Newfoundland, and beyond.
“For now, we’re going to keep following this path, and keep doing things as they come,” says Rodden-Clarke. “But I can’t see why we wouldn’t still be doing this in 10 years. As long as people genuinely love what we are doing, that makes us love it even more.”