MEET ARIN RAY ……OH SO FLY….
22nd January 2020
Singer/Songwriter Arin Ray is the newest name in music. A guy that has worked on creating a sound packed with R&B, Soul and laid back beats, which you can hear on his latest project ‘Phases II’ He was recently in London on tour we chopped it up! Our chat includes his early days, writing for others, working with mate Kehlani and his special relationship for ‘Superstar’ as he calls her Normani!
Max: So we were having a conversation before we starting rolling…about men feeling sexualised at times too, you are a good looking guy who takes of his shirt on stage…. how do you feel about it?
Arin Raye: It’s pretty easy for me. Luckily, I don’t have to come out [on stage] naked, you know what I mean? I come out, do a few songs, do my thing, and they seem to love it. I’m a showman, you know, I’m in entertainment, so I’m going to go out there and give you the best. I’m going to give you what you want because ultimately that’s what’s gonna get me where I want to go. But I actually felt like a piece of meat in Germany recently, I’m not going to lie to you. I wasn’t feeling it, I kept my hoodie on and I was like, man, I probably shouldn’t.
Max: Can you break down the difference between being on stage in London you felt comfortable to take your shirt off in that moment, but in Germany you didn’t why?
Arin Ray: I started doing this in New York, it was the first time I did the open jacket, you know, no shirt under it, fans loved it… But then I found myself doing it every night and I was like, I don’t really want to do it. Also, the tour was kind of getting to me but not in a bad way, just fatigue.
Sometimes you don’t want to take your shirt off. Sometimes you want people to take you serious in a certain musical realm.
But at the end of the day, you know, it’s all about putting on a show. I’m in London, it’s more than 1500 people, felt cool to.
Max : What’s interesting about your journey, you did the X-Factor the same year as Normani who I love. The two of you performed together, you went against the grain and did a One Direction song. When you started performing, it came off so naturally. So talented but yet so very young. When you left that show, it’s really interesting how you’ve stayed in the background away from using that opportunity to create hype. I think it’s actually a really good decision, because it means you can be the artist that you really want to be, rather than someone from a reality show.
Arin Ray: Honestly, the X-Factor taught me a lot about the difference between being an artist and being your own artist. On the show, I definitely wasn’t allowed to be my own artist, so I took it personal – especially when you know, everybody was getting deals. Everybody was getting called, but I got released out of my contract easy
Max: So what happened?
Arin Ray: I got kicked off…. The second year, I made top 10 in that season and then, then I was gone. And I was actually kind of glad. At that point I was 16, turning 17, so it was weird.
The whole X-Factor thing was a weird experience, but I think my transition was cool cause I got to LA and I learned that what I was doing wasn’t necessarily top notch and I had to find my way as a songwriter and that’s what I did pretty much for the longest, for those years that you didn’t see me.
I wasn’t really doing the artist thing, I was writing for people and I was learning how to write songs and finding producers that fit my sound, you know? And that was my biggest thing, to find a sound and not just sound like anyone else.
Max: I remember you saying something along the lines ‘if you’ve got a really sick voice, do not go on these shows’. Can you explain why you feel that way?
Arin Ray: It’s just the whole process, you know, doing the auditions. I saw a lot of people that were there, and a lot of people that were way better than me and they were getting sent home, because of maybe the way they look somebody just thought they weren’t a star. It’s just crazy, the way they judge people. I just didn’t like that, that was my whole thing. I know how the TV works, but if you’re really putting on a real show and you really want to change lives, you put the best people out there. Yeah, I understand the TV ratings and whatever you gotta have there, people that make themselves look like the end products or whatever. But you have to get and put out the best product, I feel, to make these shows successful.
Max: You have spent some time figuring out the game good and bad. How are you finding the fame thing, having to be on social media and do interviews?
Arin Ray: This [the interview] is better than the social media, cause you get to actually get me. I’m not heavily just talking to people on Instagram or Twitter like that – I do my stories and I’ll make my posts, but honestly, talking in person – like this – is the best, because you’ll be able to understand me and my mood and everything. You’ll just get everything.
Max: How do you enjoy the good things that help promoting what you’re doing and somehow, also protect yourself from the trolls out there, social media can be a difficult place at times?
Arin Ray: You’re always going to get crap, but luckily I don’t think I put myself out in the light to get too much crap. People don’t really say bad things to me or about me. I don’t think I’m big enough for people to really hate on me like that all the time. I feel like I put out substance, I put out good music. So if you’re just hating, the fans are gonna come after you. The people that are offended will be like, what are you talking about? You know what I mean? So it’s like, it’s not that big of a deal if you’re not making yourself look like a fool.
Max: When you’re in the studio or you’re rehearsing to go on tour, you seem like you’re at your happiest, what’s that like… You’re in London at the moment and supporting the lovely Ari Lennox, who I adore.
Arin Ray: She’s the one of the most sincere people I’ve ever met in my life. It’s just a beautiful thing, the process is always good you know, rehearsing and preparation, that is the key. You know what I’m saying…. If you practice, you should be good. Usually, that’s how it is with me and my band, I take that seriously.
Max: How do you determine if you’ve had a good show?
Arin Ray: I know when I’m having a good show and when I’m not having a good show while I’m doing it. I could tell that even my first night in London was cool. People would probably be like, Oh it was great. They loved it and it was okay, but me, personally, I was like, ah, my energy wasn’t really there all the way. I was kind of moving around too much. I didn’t really know where I wanted to go, so night two, I felt like I put out a great show, it’s just the differences like, is the sound good, It depends on all the different elements, crowd and their feedback, too – That first night I felt a bit iffy with the crowd in the sense of getting them, you know, to like me or whatever.
Max: The fans loved it… you have said you are a perfectionist, does that mean you find it hard to pat yourself on the back for your wins? Do you take a moment and think, yeah, my video has a million views, on the music side, it’s been received really well. Let’s celebrate everyone?
Arin Ray: I don’t ever really do that. I mean, after my show last night I was hyped, but otherwise, it’s cool to get a million hits, but can I have 10? Or a hundred? It’s like a goal, and then I’m like, alright, dope – next. That’s how my energy shifts. Some people are like, ‘Oh you should probably enjoy it and be like, that’s cool’, but I’m just giving other people time to do what I want to do, so instead I just keep working.
Max: Does that come from the fact that you had to really work hard for it? You’ve watched other artists in the studio, waiting for so many people. Is that why you’re now very focused and almost like, not playful with it?
Arin Ray: I’ve seen so many artists like go up and go down and I don’t ever want to be one of those artists. If I’m going to go out, it’s going to be on my own terms and I’m going to always put out good product. I’m always gonna make sure that it looks good and sounds good.
Max: The people you’ve chosen to work with – they are dope but aren’t necessarily mainstream. You know Mereba, EarthGang, Ari Lennox- these are names that a lot of people still don’t really know much about. Is it nice surrounding yourself around musicians that perhaps are going against the grain?
Arin Ray: That’s how you win, man. You don’t just win by just getting with every person that’s like the hottest person in the world. You see so many people brought out by Drake or The Weeknd, and then you don’t hear about them anymore. I like to work with people who really put out great stuff or literally things that are incredible – you know, they’re incredible musicians, incredible artists, and they care about their craft the same way I do. Mereba, the whole Dreamville team feels the same way, Earthgang are so talented and real musicians. You know, I pride myself on working with people who really truly love what they’re doing. They’re not here for the antics.
Max: The track with Kehlani has done incredibly well in the U.S. She’s definitely somebody who seems to be her own woman. You seem to surround yourself around with the people that disrupt the system a little bit, and boy do we need that. What is it about her that just connects with you?
Arin Ray: She’s just cool people, a good person, you know. She’s a great musician I’ve known her for a while now, we both have kids. My son is three, her daughter is a little under a year, maybe a year. We chopped it up of like, you know, when we were doing the records and stuff, you know, I was around her daughter it was cool.
We are both parents, but we met each other as teenagers, and it definitely wasn’t what we were doing back then, now, it was just cool to be able to relate in that way you know, I gave her pointers and she gave me pointers.
Max: I think it’s nice that you don’t have an ego as a writer and you were happy to take her input on the song.
Arin Ray: It’s cool, she’s a writer I respect her craft and I respect what she does and for someone to fill a part of the song is always great because they’ll want to do it better, means they care. She was invested in it and she was ready to it and was excited about it. She wrote a longer verse. It ended up almost being like a Kehlani song.
Max: What I didn’t realize is that in your early days when you were writing, sometimes you would just give your songs away and I don’t know if people know about this. Looking at you, you see this man in front of you now looking like the star and selling out shows with Ari, but there was a time when, a few years ago, you were giving your songs away. Can you explain why you did that at that time and how did it help you?
Arin Ray: I was just trying to make money, trying to figure out a way into the industry, get people to take me seriously. I was in a place where I wasn’t competent in making music for myself, so I was putting that out there because it sounded like it could go to someone else.
I would’ve ever have given Chris Brown a song of the Platinum Fire or Phases One, you know what I mean? So it’s like, I write differently for other people [than for myself] so I can separate it.
Max: Did you feel like being taken advantage of, or looking back, do you think that it got you where you are now?
Arin Ray: I mean I needed those lessons, but you definitely get taken advantage of as a writer, even a producer. They get the song. There, it goes, whatever – gold, platinum, they get their bread, I get bread. But if they don’t do the business right, I get nothing.
Max: That’s insane. Any tips that you’ve learned that you can share with people that are exactly where you were four years ago?
Arin Ray: Just know your business. Honestly. Handle your business, make sure you’ve got people around you who are just going to take care of you, make sure you know you’ve got all the publishing, do splits and just know you have the control.
Honestly they want the song, they’re either going to take it or they’re not going to take it. So you demand what you want and if they really want it, they’re going to get it and they’re going to give you what you want. So now, me going back, I would’ve just changed the way I did that. But being young, you’re like, ‘Oh man, I just want to get on’.
Max: I feel like you’re still learning lessons and I love that you wear it on your sleeve. You’re not sitting here and faking it. Feels honest and authentic. Do you feel like you’re more confident now in who you are as an artist and as a man?
Arin Ray: For sure, I grow from experience. I write from experience, everything is experienced. I’m way more confident as a singer because I work on my voice and I’ve learned to like it. I’ve learned to be a father, I’m way more confident being a father. I didn’t really grow up with my dad, but I know how to be a great father. I know I’m a great father and I’m still learning. The good thing is, I know I still have work to do. I can still always learn. There’s never going to be a time where I’m like, aw, I’m just it. I think that you can always learn. It comes from experience and what you actually deal with and what you decide to deal with and you let yourself go through certain things. Cause people would do a lot of damage for no reason. They let a lot of things happen just on the account of, ‘I can take that’. And me, there is a lot of things I won’t take.
Max: So many people I know have flocked to LA dreaming of making it big. Being encouraged especially the ladies to sell their image online to create a fanbase. Sometimes getting more likes for the way they look in a bikini than their music.
Arin Ray: It’s just literally, almost like, if I were to do like a mumble rap song or something like that, you know what I mean? It’s for likes. It’s what people are doing. I think that’s what LA is, and I don’t even wanna be, is like this land of followers.
Honestly. People follow what other people are doing and they do it. If you figure out your way to connect, it doesn’t have to be you taking your clothes off. It doesn’t have to be unless you want to do what you do. That’s my thing. Be sexy. If you feel uncomfortable with doing that, don’t worry. because people are just going to see you as that. I can go through my phone and I would not know your artist if you just have them in bikinis and rocking like that. Bro, where’s the content? Where’s the music? Where’s your plan? Where is you? Like, what are you doing? And really make yourself part as an artist. Now, if you want to be an IG model, or if you want to be a model, yeah, that’s the thing for you. Go do it because there is money in that. People get paid.
Max: If Instagram shut down tomorrow, I think people would be lost.
Arin Ray: A lot of people would be out of jobs. It would hurt, but you know that’s the power of social media.
Max: There are a lot of badass women that are beautifully talented and incredible that you’ve managed to work with. I want you to just give, like, no more than three words on what you think of them please.
Arin Ray: Yeah.
Arin Raye: Cool.
Max: Justine Skye.
Arin Ray: Cool.
Max: OK, I’m going to make the rule now. You can’t use ‘Cool’ again…. Nicky Minaj.
Arin Ray: Superstar.
Max: Ari Lennox.
Arin Ray: Sincere.
Max: And Normani.
Arin Ray: <silence> big smiles….
Max: When I was watching your audition and you would give each other a pep talk – and oh my God, Normani, I didn’t know you were so cute together. You were like, ‘Listen, if I go for your hand. you just go with it.’ You’re on stage performing and you know, you do the One Direction and that part where they say about flicking their hair. She does it so damn cute. It was really nice to see that beginning journey for both of you and she’s doing her thing. You’re doing yours – and I know you’ve stayed close.
Arin Ray: Yeah, our mothers are really close. Her mom is like another mom to me, so it is a little different with us.
Max: I would love to hear a track with you too because I know Normani is fully doing her R’n’B thing. It feels like it has to happen. Have you spoken to her about it?
Arin Ray: We talked about it but you know it’ll happen when it happens. I kind of try to stay away from that thing, you know, cause it’s a lot of stuff that comes with that. ( seems like he doesn’t want to ride on her success and truly cares about her)
Max: At the same time I do think if you have a connection with somebody and it’s genuine, and both of you being popular or famous, so I think that you shouldn’t let that stop you either. This is cute, you’re all coy and all shy when you’re talking about her. Well I’m going to leave it that subject alone now
Arin Ray ( smiling and looking like he has a soft spot for Normani)
Max: Tell me any more shows planned in the U.K?
Arin Ray: Yeah.
Max: And music, Phases Two, right?
Arin Ray: That’s right.
Max: How about British music, you had a chance to check anyone out?
Arin Ray: Mahalia just followed me, she’s incredible. Jorja Smith is the baddest in the game to me, honestly. I seen her on the Kali tour… She’s got it all, I really respect what Jorja is doing, I would love to do some music with her.