Redray Frazier was born in Harlem and raised in Queens and New Jersey in an exceedingly musical family. His father is a Baptist minister, his mother a classically trained vocalist, one of his uncles a saxophone player, and everyone else was always at the ready with a tune.
“At family gatherings, it was really something else,” he says. “If any one person sung any one line at any time, there would be a three-part harmony joining in.”
Music wasn’t Frazier’s original career plan, but a knee injury disrupted his athletic ambitions.
“I knew that I wanted to do something that gave me that same rush of running down a football field, or getting a basket,” he says. “Music was right under my nose the entire time. And I finally realized, okay, this is something that I can do.”
He formed a band with his brother and cousin, and played every party he could.
Frazier worked with a few different groups, and in 2007, he released his solo debut ‘Follow Me’, a half-acoustic, half electronic-music experiment.
“It was so Frankenstein-like. I was just getting some demo songs together to play clubs,” he says. “I never meant to release it as a record.”
But he liked the way it came out, and decided to put it out officially. Another person who liked the way it came it out was David Byrne. After hearing the album, he invited Frazier to sing and play guitar on his ‘Everything That Happens Will Happen Today’ tour.
“The chance to learn from David,” he says, “that’s something you can’t pass up.”
Once we heard of RedRay we also decided we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to speak to him.
EP: What’s the RedRay Frazier story?
RF: I’ve been around the block. I grew up in New York and New Jersey, found my way out to Portland Oregon, went through some major ups and downs in the music industry. Went from having two major label deals, to losing two major label deals. Never losing passion for music or becoming jaded though. I guess I’m that dude that just does what feels right. I always have been.
EP: Who and what are your musical influences? And why?
RF: I grew up in my father’s church where I was exposed to deep gospel music pretty early in my life. I had a lot of great music around me all the time. From my father’s choirs to family members just singing and playing at home. It wasn’t just about gospel music though. My mother was a classically trained vocalist, my uncle was a jazz saxophonist, my aunt was a concert pianist, and my older brother and cousins had great funk and soul record collections. I guess that would mean that my family influenced me the most.
EP: Who has inspired you most in life? Musically? Personally?
RF: I’ve been inspired by a lot of things and people. I met Dizzy Gillespie on a flight from London to New York pretty early in my professional career and became friendly with him. Even though I wasn’t a jazz musician, he was very supportive of what I was doing and that developed into a mentoring type thing. What really inspired me about that was that he was 70 years old and still kicking ass! Touring kept him young for sure. I’d have to give most credit to my parents for musical and personal inspiration. They were thorough and tough, but they had to be. They grew up during the civil rights movement. They taught us strength, courage, and to follow our dreams.
EP: Music has played a MASSIVE part in your life – do you feel there is anything else you could ever have done?
RF: Well, I was pretty good in sports growing up but I don’t think I would have ended up on anyone’s NFL draft board. However, I dig fashion. I do some fashion styling and I take that pretty seriously but music has been and always will be my focus.
EP: Do you feel family support is important to your musical career?
RF: It’s where it all comes from. It’s what makes all of this seem possible and all I’ve ever known, so yes.
EP: How cool is it that you connected with David Byrne! Are you still in contact? Tell us about that. How did that come about?
RF: It’s very cool. He’s an amazing artist and person. I met DB sometime in the mid 90’s. My brother Paul was playing bass with him and continued for about 15 or so years. Paul was responsible for linking us. David was looking for some singers to add to his line up. Paul said that I might be interested, so I then directed him to my MySpace page and I seemed to fit what he was looking for. I had and awesome role in his band. I got to play some acoustic guitars, sing and dance. A fun time for sure! I toured in his band 2008-2010. I feel fortunate to know him and to have learned from him. I don’t talk to him all that often but if he’s in Portland, he’ll reach out and when I’m visiting NYC with some free time, I’ll do the same. He was nice enough to give a listen to my new ‘Blood In The Water’ record as I was going through mix phase and wanted some fresh ears on it. He said some really nice things about it. Even mentioned hearing some Curtis Mayfield and Bill Withers in it. That kinda blew my mind.
EP: You’ve released ‘Blood In The Water’ independently. Is it important for you to have creative control over your work? Why?
RF: It’s extremely important for me to have creative control, but releasing it independently is just how I chose to do it this time. I didn’t want to go through the process of shopping a deal this time around. I was ready to make this record, so I did. I still think there is a label somewhere out there for me. I have a pretty clear direction of how I want my music to sound, and I think there are people out there that will really dig it. If a label feels what I’m doing and wants to help further this project, then I would absolutely listen. If not, I will still keep making the best music that I can.
EP: What’s your take on the current state of the music industry? And what advice do you have for anyone just getting into it now?
RF: It’s wide open. I love that if you have song writing skills, you can get your songs out there. The only thing that can hold you back is you. There aren’t any excuses, and it’s not about being superstar. There are a lot of ways to play music and make a living. You can’t be lazy though. Keep your head down and do the work. Work on your song writing. Practice your instrument. Keep your vocal chords ready at all times. Have something to say. If you don’t love it, it’s probably not for you and you should find something else.
EP: What would you have done differently, and why?
RF: That’s a little difficult to answer since everything is still unfolding. As far as I know, everything is falling right into place (wink wink). Let’s revisit that question this time next year.
EP: What question do you wish someone would ask you in an interview, but nobody ever does?
RF: I don’t do that many interviews so no real patterns have yet developed but maybe something to the effect of, “what goofy things do you do when no one is looking?” or “what issues keep you wake at night?” or “there are so many tensions in our country, do you draw from current events, and do you ever use your art to express your thoughts on those issues?” I’m usually pretty nervous during interviews, so I don’t usually think about what wasn’t asked, but more about how I stumbled all over the answers.