June 24, 2014 marked Ray Goren's music recording debut, with the release of LA Sessions, a five song EP penned by Goren and produced by Eddie Kramer. This exciting event is celebrated by fans, friends, and family members alike. Many have logged into Goren's Facebook and Twitter accounts to express their well-wishes and heartfelt sentiments:
"Awesome!!! So incredibly happy & excited for u!! ! I've very much enjoyed seein your growth since the first time I saw u blow the LBC jam @ Ashley's up:)) what an exciting journey lies ahead... Huge congrats!! Look forward to seein u soon... Peace N Luv."
"Thank you Ray, I can't tell you how cool this video is but also how cool it is to watch you blossom or more like explode into this absolutely amazing young artist. Your original music is great and most impressive and a glimpse of things to come."
"From first to last note, LA Sessions is a hit parade, with Goren strumming to his own beat, as the young composer cleverly integrates jazz, rock, pop, rhythm, and blues elements into one distinctly modern soundtrack." Read the full review in Bluebirdreviews.
It was shortly after reviewing LA Sessions when I had the good fortune to speak with Ray by phone, from his home in California. During our 34 minute conversation, I discovered Ray is modest, intelligent, and full of wisdom. He is driven by an innate passion for songwriting and instrumentation, being heavily influenced by multiple musicians and genres. When Ray's not practicing or playing out, he's listening to others. He is goal-oriented and knows exactly where it is, that he wants to be five years from now. Ray's mannerism is that of a seasoned professional: He graciously answered my every question with poise and sense of humor, simultaneously.
D: Congratulations, Ray, on the release of LA Sessions. I love it!
R: Thank you.
D: How does it feel to have this accomplishment under your belt?
R: It feels great. I'm proud of it. But I also have to keep in mind that I have to keep working. I did that; now I have to keep working.
D: Do you come from a musical family?
R: Not at all! I'm the only one who likes music in my whole family.
D: That even "likes" music?
R: Well--does music.
D: And no one is musically-minded like you are?
R: Not one of them. (He chuckles.)
D: What about your extended family: grandparents, aunts, uncles?
R: Nope. Nope. Nobody.
D: What is your earliest musical memory? Where did you start?
R: I started playing piano when I was really, really little. And...I
just always remember going to jazz clubs and playing some jazz on the piano.
D: Where does the jazz club come in? From your parents? A friend?
R: No, no, no. I really didn't go to clubs when I was five or six years old. We'd go and I'd play. I'd sit in at Cleopatra's Needle, in New York City, where I used to live.
D: So...you started to play piano at five? Did you take lessons?
R: I was self taught. (His tone is naturally modest.)
D: What about vocal lessons?
R: Yes. I take vocal lessons. You have to take vocal lessons. It's different. If you don't take vocal lessons, 9 out of 10 times, you learn to sing in a way that leads to nodules, and crap like that.
D: Well...I love your voice. You have a beautiful, smokey timbre.
R: Thank you. Thank you so much.
D: Are you concerned your voice will change?
R: It already has taken a huge drop. I adjusted to it just fine.
D: What attracted you to the guitar?
R: I saw BB King, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck and Albert Collins, all on the same stage. And I said, basically, 'Screw the piano. I want to play guitar.'
D: I don't blame you. And you're self taught on the guitar, as well?
R: That's right. And now I have a teacher. But I was mainly self taught.
D: Do you play everyday?
R: Of course. You don't have a choice. I love playing, so I want to play everyday. And you also need to play everyday. I usually play about 2 - 2 1/2 hours, then vocals for 1/2 - 1 hour, and then songwriting forever how long.
D: You started playing professionally at 10. Has your age been an advantage or disadvantage for you?
R: It's been both. I really don't like it when people say, "He plays good for his age." That's...if I'm good, I'm good for anybody. I'm not 'good for my age'. That comes in as a disadvantage. Also another disadvantage is you're not allowed to get in some places. And...also (He chuckles)...I guess there is more cons than pros. And also people don't look at you as an adult, really, when you're playing. Well...at least when I was younger. But now... I kinda look three years older than I actually am. So people are--"Okay. He's older." But when I was young, like 10 or 11, it was hard for people to take me seriously. Now they do, though. I'm taller than most. I look like them.
D: Who has been your single greatest music influence?
R: Jimmi Hendrix, Michael Jackson, Donny Hathaway, D'Angleo and Bruno Mars.
D: Well! That's quite diverse. I can definitely hear the Hendrix in your play; and Michael Jackson and Donny Hathaway, with the way you deliver. The soul is in your voice.
R: Thank you.
D: Who are some of the musicians you've experimented with recently?
R: Just people in the LA area. I mean the guys on the record were huge! Able Laboriel, Jr. who you saw on the Grammy's playing with Paul McCartney. He's his touring drummer. And Paul Bushnell who plays for Tim McGraw, and many others. So those are the guys playing on the record. And...I was doing most of the keyboard parts. And then Amaire Johnson was also on the keyboards. So there were two keyboard players: me and Amaire.
D: The keyboard work is fantastic.
R: Thank you.
D: Two years ago you met legendary producer Eddie Kramer. How has that affected your life?
R: Well...Eddie is just an amazing person and amazing human being, as well as a master at what he does. And that's why he is where he's at. Not only is he amazing and super talented, he's a master of sound and a master of what he does. You can be a master of what you do and then be a complete...I don't want to say it, but I'm gonna say it. You can be a complete ass and you're not going to go anywhere because nobody likes to work with you. Eddie is, also, aside from music, just a sweetheart. He's a great man.
D: So he's become a friend?
R: Yes. Most defintely have.
D: And a part of your family?
R: Exactly. Because we connect to each other really well.
D: Do you think the key to success for LA Sessions was that you and he connected?
R: First and foremost, I hope more success comes. But good songs, I really think, is the key to any great album. Writing good songs. And the second most important thing is everybody's chemistry.
D: Do you find the writing and recording process a daunting task or something you relish?
R: I enjoy writing. Sometimes I enjoy writing even more than playing, really. Cause it's just basically about your emotions and what you feel at that moment. And you're creating something. It's really like having a baby: During the studio you're watching that baby grow. It's a fast-growth process, obviously. But watching it from just you alone on the acoustic guitar, acoustic piano, to now--you're putting a band to it. So (it) just learned how to walk. It's about 4-years-old. Add stuff to it...and it's all of a sudden a teenager. And then you mix and master and it's an adult.
D: Wow. That's a beautiful way to describe the process.
R: Thank you.
D: Do you prefer to write on the guitar or the piano?
R: Honestly. Piano.
D: Is it easier or more your style?
R: When I write, I just relate to the piano a little bit better. I don't know why. It just happens. But I write on the guitar, too.
D: You cut your 'blues' teeth on some of the greatest guitarists: Albert King, BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughn. When you look at today's modern players, is there anybody that stands out?
R: I personally think everybody stands out. A lot of people are unbelievable in their own ways. I really love John Mayer 'cause he has good songs. I mean...I personally don't feel that every song has to have a guitar solo on it. I feel the opposite. I feel, hey...when I write I'm not thinking--'What's the highway for a guitar solo?' The guitar solo is last priority. If the song isn't necessary for a guitar solo, you don't put a guitar solo on it. So I have a few songs without any guitar solos. And that's why I love John Mayer so much, because he has songs like "Stop This Train" and "Who Says", or something like that, where it's just 'wow'. He can have a strong song without a guitar solo. But I'm not taking anything away from guitar solos either. I LOVE GUITARING and guitar solos. That's why I also love songs like "Good Love Is On The Way", which is super rock and bluesy.
R: I have a team and the team said they loved them. There's also another single coming out soon.
D: You've been posting a lot about your feelings behind "Stop Waiting". Would you care to discuss this?
R: I usually don't talk about my songs and what happens. I like to leave it to the listener. But this one I'm okay to talk about. What happened is: I heard about a teenager killed by violence and I imagined his mom getting the bad news. I said to myself, 'What can I do besides sit down and shake my head?' I realized I can sing about it. I sat to write and the song just came. I felt I had to get that message out.
D: Do you mind answering two more questions, Ray?
R: No problem.
D: Where do you see yourself in five years? What are your goals?
R: I see myself at the Grammy's, making millions of dollars, and selling out Madison Square Garden.
D: What is your 'dream' gig?
R: I'll give you my top three. This is not in any particular order: Madison Square Garden; the Staples Center; and Superbowl Halftime Show.
D: You dream big, Ray.
R: Yeah...I do.
Thank you to Ray Goren for the opportunity to review LA Sessions and conduct this interview. I'm a fan!
LA Session's is available at iTunes.
Photos and video courtesy of Ray Goren. All rights reserved. 2014.