Posted On 21 Mar 2018
Raye Zaragoza is an award-winning singer-songwriter and performer whose multi-national heritage (Native American (O’odham), Mexican, Taiwanese and Japanese) deeply informs her music. This perspective can be heard in her anthem ‘American Dream’. The powerful and thought-provoking single is inspired by the destruction of Donald Trump’s election, the lack of mainstream media for Standing Rock and the struggles Zaragoza faced growing up as a female multi-cultural youth in the US. Inspired by numerous elements which have impacted Zaragoza’s life, she tells the tale of her great grandmother and how was forced into a boarding school to be raised by a European woman, separated from her parents and siblings.
Zaragoza reveals, “Her story haunts me, because so many people don’t realize the awful things that have happened in this country just within the past 100 years. The only way to move forward is to acknowledge that ‘change is a choice that can start with you.”
Her previous release “In the River,” a response to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota. The quiet yet powerful track resonated strongly with listeners and went viral in late 2016, garnering half a million views on the video, national media coverage and a Global Music Award and Honesty Oscar.
Raye’s debut album, Fight For You (independent, 2017), displays her compassion, dedication to justice and equality for all, and keen eye for the seemingly small daily moments that become our most meaningful memories. About the record, Raye says, “This album is about finding yourself and finding your voice. It’s about maturing and realizing that you can make a difference if you so choose.”
Raye performs her music all over the United States as well as across Europe, where she spent five weeks touring in summer 2017. She’ll be returning to tour Germany in January 2018. Her music has been featured on Democracy Now! and on numerous lists of the best modern-day protest songs, including those by Paste Magazine, What Culture, and Overblown. She has also performed live sessions for Paste and Daytrotter.
“I love the emotional accessibility of her voice and the socially conscious lyrics.” – Danny Goldberg (Managed Nirvana, Bonnie Rait, Beastie Boys & more)
“In the wake of the scandal of the Dakota Access Pipeline…many protest songs have surfaced. This one in particular stands out, a heartfelt song by Native Americana artist Raye Zaragoza” – Paste Magazine
Connect With Raye Zaragoza Here:
Learn more about Raye Zaragoza in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! So where does this interview find you? What’s on tap for the rest of your day?
I am currently at home and leaving soon to sing at the International Women’s Day rally!
Overall, how do you think 2017 was for you and your career? What are you most excited about for this year? What is one big goal you have for 2018?
I released my debut album in 2017 – and I am very proud of that! I am excited to be supporting Dispatch on their Summer Tour this year. My goal for the year is to reach new audiences and meet people who connect to my music around the world.
Growing up, did you ever think that this would be the kind of life that you would have? Has music always been a big part of your life? Can you recall your first ever musical experience?
When I was a kid, I was always listening to music. I had a Walkman, and would walk around the playground thinking to myself “writing a song is the coolest thing anyone could ever do.” I can’t recall my first EVER musical experience but I’ve been singing since I was very little. My Dad was playing Cheif Sitting Bull in Annie Get Your Gun on Broadway when I was a kid. When I was 6 years old, I sang the wrong words to “You can’t get a man with a gun” on national television during an Annie Get Your Gun event. That was an interesting early musical experience..
How do you think growing up in your hometown has influenced your sound and who you are as a musician?
My ‘hometown’ is New York City. So in many ways, I’ve never really identified with having a hometown. I have to share my hometown with literally a hundred million billion people! Haha. But growing up In New York City definitely made me grow up very fast. I was independent at a very young age. This definitely made me a self starter and got me ready for an entrepreneurial singer-songwriter life. I also write a lot of songs about New York. It’s the most inspiring place in the world to me. The streets and the people on them are songs waiting to be written everyday.
Let’s talk about your latest video that was just released called “American Dream.” What was the inspiration for the song? How creatively involved were you with the making of the video? How do you think this track shows your growth as an artist?
“American Dream” tells the story of my family and challenges the outdated concept of the American Dream with its white picket fence and house in the suburbs, because it’s never been truly inclusive of all American people. In the last year alone, the American people have been under a constant barrage of distressing news, a “fake news” war waged by our President against the free press, and day after day our country feels increasingly divided. Hatred and fear have an overt national presence like nothing we’ve seen in our lifetimes. I wrote American Dream to express that it’s time to rise up, turn off the television and take a stand. We can rewrite the American Dream into a new storyline that looks out for all of us. I honestly wasn’t sure that I wanted to make a video for this song. I couldn’t think of a way that I wanted to visually tell this story – because the song is so simple but says so much. Out of the blue – George Thomas emailed me asking if he could direct a video for me. He sent me a treatment for what is now the ‘American Dream’ video, and I just about broke into tears. I felt like he really understood the song, and the message. The video was truly his vision, and he did an amazing job conveying my sentiment and story. I see this track as my backstory as an artist/human, and telling this story has definitely made me grow as an artist.
What was it like releasing your debut album “Fight For You” last year? Did anything surprise you about the overall process? Were there any unexpected challenges?
It was really an amazing experience writing, recording, and releasing “Fight For You.” It was a very independent release. It would not have happened without my supporters – all of the funding came from them. I also have so many talented friends that I could not have done it without. There were definitely some unexpected challenges. I think as artists, we’re so focused on the musical creation of the album, and we don’t realize that there’s a lot you have to do that doesn’t have to do with music at all – so many emails!
Where do you find that you sing the most these days, in the shower, in the car, in the studio or elsewhere?
I pretty much sing all day long without realizing it. I live alone, so I basically narrate my whole day with singing to myself. I never realize it until someone is around and points it out. I also play a lot of shows so most of my singing is done onstage!
Where can fans see you perform next? What do you think makes for an ideal concert for you?
I love intimate concerts but I also love larger ones. They are both wonderful for different reasons- I think it’s great when people can see me in both contexts. I will be opening for Dispatch this summer around the country, and playing lots of shows before then as well. Full tour dates at rayezaragoza.com !
We are living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious how you think being a musician gives you the most joy in life today? How do you think that music is going to reflect these challenging times?
Music is my way of communicating change. And I think being a singer-songwriter is the most effective way for me personally to spread love and tolerance. Making music for me is both healing in these trying times, and also a way of taking action. I hope my music can continue to inspire people to take action as well.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? What musicians would you absolutely still love to work with in the future?
I would love to co-write with Joni Mitchell, Carole king, Joan Baez and Buffy St. Marie! They are all incredible and have inspired me so much.
What do you hope your fans take away from your music?
I hope my supporters listen to my music and know that they’re not alone. We are in this together. And I hope I inspire them to use their voices to provoke change as well.