By Nick Bernard
Rowan Tofflemire just wants to make a living doing what he loves.
For someone as powerfully creative as him, that means producing a mountain of music during the pandemic. In a time where many of us found our lives stalled and redirected, Tofflemire, who goes by Rovvan in the studio and on stage, managed to release 11 tracks and two music videos, with an EP – more than a single, but not quite a full album – still on the way.
“I don’t like to not do anything for a while,” he told the Echo from his home in Toronto. “Like, I feel unproductive … if I haven’t created anything in the last week. So, like I need to be doing something at least every week. Whether I’m on set or making a song, I need to do something artistically or I’m just not going to make it.”
Rovvan was born in B.C. and moved to Haliburton at a young age. When he was a teenager, he was already winning awards for filmmaking, including first place at the 2017 South Georgian Bay Film Festival for his Haliburton-based horror film Unaware.
At the same time, the Haliburton Highlands Secondary School graduate’s work making music was starting to take shape.
“When I was like 16, 17, me and my friends would just get together, we’d freestyle, just rap over beats,” he said. “And then I went to college and I was still doing the rapping thing. And I was meeting new people, and I was given the opportunity to meet a bunch of other artists. So, I played shows with them in 2019 and they were great turnouts … I might have not even continued making music if I didn’t meet these people.”
Rovvan’s collaborations include tracks with Toronto artists Kano, XO Jumpo, and MMXVII.
While his early material leans strongly into traditional rap, his sound has started to eschew genre, borrowing sounds from across the pop, rock, and independent spectra.
“I’ve always listened to that kind of music growing up … Like [indie rock], indie pop is one of my favourite genres to listen to,” he said. “I like music that has emotion in it.”
“I’m like obsessed with lyrics. One thing for me is that I just know lyrics to every song as soon as I hear it, and rap has those kinds of lyrics in it where you listen to it and you’re like, you’ve got to think about what he’s saying, like that’s a cool simile.”
Rovvan’s upcoming EP is called Closer To The Knife, which he says taps into a lot of the feelings he went through, especially with the backdrop of the pandemic.
“I really like breakup songs … I like the emotion behind them, I feel like you can feel them more,” he says of some of the six tracks that will appear on the EP. “I like that music can make me feel that way, especially if I can write it and base it on my life.”
One of the songs tells the story of an ill-fated romance set to a looming apocalypse, in a track called The End of It All.
“But it’s how I was feeling during the pandemic and like, what is the world coming to? Like, it’s so weird, and I wanted to write a story based around that, because I feel like everybody feels that way right now … you don’t know how the future’s going to go, you know?”
As far as Rovvan’s future goes, in the short term, he’d like to get back to playing live shows again.
“It’s just seeing people sing along … I feel like now I have enough music that is catchier,” he said. “People tell me they hear my songs and they’re like, ‘oh I heard your song, it’s been stuck in my head for a week,’ I’m like ‘that’s perfect, when you come to my show and sing it with me’!”
He’s also in it for the long haul, dividing his passions between music and his work in film.
“I know a lot of my favourite artists didn’t get, really, a lot of traction until they were much older than I am, so I don’t feel like it’s a rush for me to get famous … but if I do, then that’s cool.”
Rovvan hopes to perform again live sometime in 2022. In the meantime, his Closer To The Knife EP comes out on Jan. 14.
You can stream Rovvan’s available discography on Spotify.