Infectious. That’s the first word I’d use to describe Lindsey Ray’s music. Her debut album Goodbye From California brims with well-crafted songs that don’t skimp on the melodies. Popular music once represented more than just the latest trend and Ray’s voice would sound wonderful on a radio station in 1975 just as it does today. Following the same path as many other indie artists scrambling for a foothold within a fragmented music industry, television provided an avenue of exposure. Songs on Target and Yoplait commercials and placements on several cable shows helped establish Lindsey Ray as a songwriter and performer to watch in the next few years. Last month, her first tour rolled through a small bar in Las Vegas. Going on first, Ray played unaccompanied in front of a handful of drinkers. Despite the surroundings, she poured her heart into each song and played it like she was headlining Madison Square Garden. It worked. I wasn’t the only one smiling and buying her album at the end of the set. As winter melts away for most, Lindsey Ray’s music is a refreshing soundtrack for the coming Spring. Kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule, here’s Lindsey Ray’s chat with Essential Junk….
You spent January touring with Bleu and Taylor Locke & the Roughs on the Menage A Tour 2011. What did you learn on your first tour and how did three distinctly different artists end up together on the road?
Well I already knew Bleu before the tour came about. He and I had written songs together in the past so we already had a relationship and had spoken about touring together at some point. It was really just a matter of timing, and the time was finally right to do it and I’m so glad we did. I had a blast! It was quite an adventure. I’d never been to a lot of the places we went like Portland, OR and Seattle, WA and I love traveling so that made it extra special for me. As far as what I learned goes, I think being on the road and playing night after night in a different city and having to bring it every night no matter how long the travel day was or how tired you are, just solidified my love for what I do. Turns out I LOVE the road and can’t wait to get back out there and do some more touring!
What song on Goodbye From California are you most proud of?
Ooooh tough question! I’m proud of all of the songs but I guess if I have to pick I would say Better Off because it’s a very personal song for me and it also just so happens to be the only song on the album that I wrote on my own. I spend so much time co-writing these days that I often forget how special it can be to sit by myself and write on my own. There was a night where I was home alone sitting at the piano and this song just kind of fell out of me. I was thinking about my father who passed away in July of ’08 and the song just kind of wrote itself. It’s a very specific memory I have of a moment I had alone with my father at the end of his life where I did my best to assure him that he had nothing to be scared of and that he was headed somewhere wonderful where he could rest and let go of it all. It’s a comforting thought for me to think that someday when we leave this world we’ll be in a better place, and that’s really all the song is about. I think it was also my way of comforting myself through the pain of not having him here with me anymore and you know what? It worked! It’s like I wrote myself and anyone else who has ever lost a loved one, a little lullaby and all I can do is hope that they felt it.
Featuring music in commercials and television shows has become a sought after way to reach new audiences. With radio taking fewer chances on emerging talent, is television the new path to exposure as a recording artist?
I certainly think so yes. I myself have discovered several artists that exact way. You hear a commercial with a great song and you want to know who sings it! And if you’re watching a show that you love and there’s a dramatic scene that’s being enhanced by a song you’ve never heard before, chances are you’re going to be curious and look it up. I also think that people enjoy feeling like they discovered something on their own without the media and radio shoving it in their faces. It becomes a much more personal experience when you discover the music and artist yourself and I think it’s a great way for artists like myself to find fans that are really invested in their music and that will follow their careers through the years.
‘Goodbye From California’ opens the album and addresses your move from Maine to California. How difficult was the coastal transition and do you plan to stay in Los Angeles?
Well as much as I love Maine and being from Maine, I always knew that eventually I would leave and go to either LA or NY and when the time finally came to do so, it felt 100% like the right move for me. It really wasn’t a difficult transition at all. I had already been traveling back and forth to LA from Maine for about 8 months before my move so I already had friends here. It felt like the natural thing to do. I love it here. I love that I’m surrounded by driven talented people and I’ve been fortunate to have made some really amazing friends here. I’m sure someday it would be nice to settle down somewhere else but for now I’m career-minded and this is the place to be!
‘Monkey And the Tree’ and ‘The Honey And the Bee’ are sort of companion pieces with ‘Monkey’ looking ahead at a wonderful relationship and ‘Bee’ revealing that the person is still a little out of reach. How many of these songs are written from personal experience?
Every song I write is from personal experience. Sometimes it’s looking back and remembering a situation where I was crushing on someone that didn’t even know I existed like in “The Honey and the Bee” and other times it’s imagining a future of growing old with someone you love like “Monkey and the Tree” was. They’re not all necessarily things I’m going through in the moment that I write them, but they are definitely all pulled from my life experiences.
The ‘Spinning Me Out’ single for Facebook revealed a more club influenced side to your music. Was this a one off project or are you interested in exploring new territory on future recordings?
I actually never intended for “Spinning Me Out” to be a song that I released myself as an artist. As much as I’m an artist myself, I also really love the craft of songwriting and I write all kinds of songs spanning all genres. I may write songs that are country, dance, r&b and pop all in the same week. It’s something that I really love to do and I have a lot of different styles that come out of me. When I got together with Swedish producer Kei-One, I loved this particular track that he showed me and I wrote “Spinning Me Out” with the intention of pitching it to a dance artist. It just so happened that the recording we did of me singing the song was very well received and i thought it would be fun to see how my fans reacted to it. There’s a game on Facebook called NightClub City that chose to put the song in the game and the reaction I got from people was incredible. I gained something like 35,000 fans from all over the world in a matter of a few weeks! It was insane and so much fun to watch it happen. I certainly plan to write many more songs like this in the future but I’m not sure if I’ll be releasing them myself or not. I’m always working on evolving my sound so we’ll see…
Growing up with a lot of records around the house, who were the artists that you kept coming back to?
I actually didn’t grow up with the kind of records that most of me peers did. I didn’t hear The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. Instead I grew up with a lot of country music, George Strait, Garth Brooks, Reba McIntyre, etc and a LOT of jazz. Lots and lots of Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and Big Band in my house. I’m more familiar with the old standards like “All of Me”, “Fly Me To The Moon”, etc than I am with classic rock. That usually shocks people but it’s true. Of course I did listen to pop music like everyone else. I was nuts about New Kids On The Block, Janet Jackson, Madonna, Debbie Gibson and Paula Abdul. They were my idols. My father LOVED Patsy Cline so I grew up with her greatest hits album on repeat and “Crazy” was always my song of choice at family gatherings when we sang around the piano. I was also OBSESSED with Natalie Cole’s jazz album Unforgettable when I was 10 years old. I used to want to make that exact album when I grew up and for a while I did sing jazz when I lived in Maine. I had a couple of different jazz trios that I would front for private parties and fancy restaurants. I still think I may make a jazz album someday when I’m a little older. I’d love to do something with a big band behind me like Frank Sinatra used to do. We’ll see. Check in with me in 10 years or so.
What was the first concert you attended where you had a feeling of wanting to do that when you grew up?
Well to be perfectly honest I knew that this was what I wanted to do long before I ever attended my first concert. We have pictures of me singing with a microphone before I was even out of diapers. I honestly can’t remember ever not wanting to do this. The idea of singing on a stage and putting on a show for people has always seemed like the best possible thing I could do with my life. It’s where I’m my happiest and where I feel the most like myself. With that said if you’re curious about what my first concerts were, the very first was a band called Asleep At The Wheel which was a swinging country band and the next was…..wait for it….Tony Bennett. Country and Jazz. What did I tell you?!
Looking ahead at the rest of 2011, what projects are on your horizon and will you head out on the road again this year?
Right now I’m writing like crazy and trying to decide what my next batch of songs that I plan to release will be. I’m having a lot of fun experimenting with different styles these days so I’m taking my time figuring out what I want to do next. As far as going out on the road goes, I would love to get back out there! No solid plans for when or where yet but hopefully soon!