Last week I posted a quick review on Chloe Ray’s debut EP ‘The Waiting Room’ but just who is this new singer from London, and what makes her tick. Musicvein had a chat with the singer/songwriter to find out more.
Tell me about your influences?
“Well from an early age I sort of was interested in music and stuff and I remember my mother had a large record collection, so my influences were from listening to the records she was playing at the time. I used to nick my mum’s records and take them up to my room. The first one I remember playing was by Nick Drake called ‘Five Leaves Left’, I just couldn’t stop listening to it, it had such a huge impact on me. There was something I really loved in it, the honesty, something dark and mysterious – it captured me so much it made me want to learn the guitar. I used to sit with a tennis racket in my room and pretend I could play so things just started from there for me. I then stumbled across Alanis Morissette’s ‘Jagged Little Pill’- my mum had just gone through a break-up with my father at the time so that was just on repeat quite a lot.
When I eventually got my guitar, I started working my way through that whole ‘Jagged Little Pill’ album, I taught myself to play. That then led to me finding Joni Mitchell, Jeff Buckley and The Sundays, I was listening to a lot of different styles at that time.”
So you say you are self taught playing the guitar, how do you know you’re playing the right chords?
“Well the interesting thing about Nick Drake was that he made up a lot of his own chords, it was quite hard to try and copy him. I didn’t have lessons because we couldn’t afford them so I was just playing around with sounds and trying to discover what my sound would become. I didn’t know at the time that I could sing either, I was happily strumming along. I did have music books though and would sit for days trying to figure out the chords and what I was playing so it just progressed from there really.”
Tell me about your first guitar?
“I got my first guitar when I was 15. At school I wasn’t pushed to do music, I really wanted to but at the time they did a lot of classical music and not really what I was going for, we didn’t really meet in the middle. I had a moment where I refused to go to school and would stay at home with my tennis racket pretending to play. My mum eventually said that if I went to school for a year and had 100% attendance, she’d get me a guitar. So I actually did! I recall there was one day I was late and I begged the teacher to mark me in on time! When I finally went home with my attendance report my mum took me to the guitar shop (I’d already been in and picked out the guitar I wanted) and brought me what I’d always dreamed of owning. It was a budget guitar but it was so amazing, I’ve still got it cause it means so much to me and that’s what I learned on.
Incidentally in that same guitar shop I got my first job too. I was 15 and I said to the owner ‘Oh these guitars are really dusty’ so he said ‘Do something about it then’ to which I replied, ‘Give me a job then!’. I started that very weekend, every Saturday I was in heaven playing an array of guitars. The owner knew that I played more than I cleaned but he was OK.”
Great story, so Chloe how do you get into the creative zone to write?
“I give a little time to providing the right environment to write but I don’t force the songs. Some of them flow through me and other ones I just think, OK, I know what they need to be and take it from there. I’m still learning a lot but right now I’m just really comfortable enjoying the songs arriving and trying to present them as honestly as I can. I also don’t tamper with the lyrics or change them around, they just come out as they need to be, almost like a conversation, that’s how I like to write – snapshots.”
So what inspires you?
“Life inspires me, watching people, taking note of conversations. I’ve got another track I’m in the process of sorting out and it’s coming from travelling and conversations in life, experiences. All the things that I didn’t get to say or might have thought about later.
One of my songs on the EP ‘Someone Good’ is about a friend that passed away quite suddenly, it’s a big deal of a song due to the impact that it had on my life. He committed suicide and yeah it was a big thing for me to deal with. So through processing that I sat down and thought let me try and weigh up what’s going on here, I thought of his point of view as well as mine and it’s a song where I acknowledge what happened but it’s also my understanding of us all wanting to be someone better and the ways of doing that. I recall our last conversation and it was that someday you’re going to be someone, someone good, hence the title of the song.”
What made you travel to NY to do the EP out of all places in the world?
“I’ve been working with an amazing, amazing producer Andy Brook from 84 Records, he’s just incredible and has been helping me out. He made me decide to record this EP back when I was 15, when I got my first guitar. The story is really organic the way that we made this, I was comfortable with him recording me, we went into his studio ‘The Brook‘, got everyone together and went from there. Once we recorded everything Andy asked where we should we get the EP mastered. I immediately went online with the thought and intention that I wanted to work with an influential lady, someone whose worked with and been involved in some way with the greats that I grew up listening to. I came across the grammy nominated Emily Lazar, she’s mastered Jeff Buckley’s album, Alanis Morrisette and David Bowie‘s too so straight away I knew that this was right for me. We sent the tracks over, Emily said Yes and it was the most amazing day of my life.”
Tell me more about the tracks on the EP?
“Well I have been back and forth from the states from an early age and the track ‘New York’ is obviously about me stepping off the plane at the age of 19, I didn’t know where I was going or staying but it was just something I had to do. I was playing anywhere and everywhere I could. I remember one night I called a bar and spoke to the manager there he told me they were fully booked. I still took a taxi straight down there and said to him I’ve just spoke to you on the phone…! He said ‘OK London, you’ve got one song!’ (laughs as she reminisces) yeah he called me London, but I didn’t mind.
The waiting room was based around experiences with my grandmother. She had mental health problems, which wasn’t a big deal for us as it was just normal. We did spend a lot of time though in waiting rooms with her. She didn’t get help until the last 2 weeks of her life at which point she started taking medication but I preferred her how she was before, I mean I loved her regardless but she was different you know. I grew up with her teaching me a lot and one of the things was that, you can have all these feelings within you but at the end of it you can’t control what goes on in the world, you can only be who you can be. You might not understand yourself and feel like you’re cracking up sometimes but actually that doesn’t matter, we’re all going to fall down, it’s OK to be whoever you want to be.”
So where can people catch you?
“We’re just finalizing it all but I’m going everywhere! Playing all the places I can. I’m at The Spice of Life in Soho on 27th March, that’s going to be really cool because I haven’t played in Soho yet. Then I’ll be heading back to the states in April and do another circuit.
I also use Periscope, I wasn’t sure about it at first but then I thought why not? I have friends in America who enjoy my stuff and its incredible to be able to play to anyone out there worldwide! We just let the camera roll and whoever joins in online joins! I’ve been doing a few interviews after the shows so we’re going to collate them and do a mini blog at the end of the month.”
And finally your hopes and dreams for 2016?
“Erm, just to keep being courageous and moving forward – the sky’s the limit I suppose. I’m hoping to do some festivals and also make an album by the end of the year, I’m certainly ready for that. I really want my music to speak for itself and I’m truly grateful to all who have supported me so far, you’ve all been great.”
Follow Chloe on Twitter @MissChloeRay and visit her website www.chloeray.co.uk