Interview with London Based Singer-Songwriter Chloe Ray

Back in January, London based singer songwriter Chloe Ray released her debut EP, The Waiting Room. Although she been on tour since February, I recently got the opportunity to interview Chloe about her EP and find out a bit more about the story behind her work.

AS: Tell me a little bit about when you first started playing music and what made you want to pursue it as a career?

I was always writing poetry since I can remember. My mother had an eclectic music collection so I grew up listening to artists such as Joni Mitchell, David Bowie, Bjork, Alanis Morissette, Jeff Buckley, Nick Drake, Cocteau Twins and The Sunday's to name a few. When I was 14, I wasn't too keen on school, we couldn't afford music lessons and I just wanted to study music, so we made a deal. After one year of 100% attendance my mother bought me my first guitar. I never considered myself a singer until I was at college and a childhood friend passed away unexpectedly and my music tutor told me to go home and not return until I had wrote a song about it. To her disbelief I returned an hour later with my first song and she played it to the class.

AS: The intricate instrumentation that you have produced with the other musicians on your EP is beautiful, have you been playing together long? How did you come to meet them?

My favourite open mic night is at The Brook in Wallington where I have been performing for the last 3 years. Gradually over time the talented musicians I was surrounded by learnt the songs and began to join me on stage, one by one. Andy Brook who owns The Brook and also has a recording studio there said at one open mic night "your ready, let's record an EP" so that Sunday myself and the talented musicians who were regulars at the open mic night made an EP. It felt right to work with my favourite musicians as well as in the same venue I had been regularly performing at.

AS: What kind of reception has the EP gotten so far?

That's a surreal question for me as when I first made this EP it was for my own therapy. I wasn't interested in who was listening or why, I was focused on creating songs that were completely honest and raw in order to give something back musically about my own experiences. The launch party sold out and we ended up putting on another night, which was really exciting. I think that's when I realised people were listening and relating to my experiences. I’ve also had Airplay in the USA on Folk radio stations as well as in Canada, France and Australia. I recently flew to New York where I performed around the city and had some live radio interviews. AS: How did you end up in New York? A lot of my influences at an early age were American singer-songwriters. I recently performed at "The Bitter End" which was where Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith and Tracy Chapman among many others had found their feet in New York. I first arrived there aged 19. I spent my summer working over in New Jersey and ended up in New York exploring the city with my guitar. When I returned I wrote the song "New York" in my hotel room after performing at Sidewalk Cafe. This track took me back in August 2015 when the EP was mastered by Emily Lazar and again in April 2016 to perform.

AS: How much of an impact on your music has the trip had?

I am naturally drawn to the music scene in America; it's heavily folk influenced and its a beautiful country. My new single "A long long time ago" which will be out soon is influenced by a Route 66 trip I completed a few years ago. One track off my EP "New York" is about my experiences there, from literally stepping off the plane to performing in a bar. But "I don't like me at all" is a London based track as well as "Someone good" which is the first track off the EP that I wrote. AS: How was it going back to make the video for your track "New York"? Originally I was going to return to make a music video for "New York" but we already had footage which enabled us to release this video in January along with the track. Therefore I was solely in America to perform and have some great radio interviews.

AS: You site a lot of influences, from PJ Harvey to David Gray and Patti Smith (my own personal favourite!) to Beth Orton. Are there any that had a particular impact on your song-writing, playing style or even just your general musical out look?

Patti Smith has had a huge influence on my vision. She is real and I respect that. She was on the very music scene in New York that I just explored, she worked hard and kept a good name. I once by accident walked into her dressing room in a church in Brighton, I said "this isn't the toilet" she said "nope" I just smiled and said "good luck." Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, I studied their words growing up, some words rhymed and others had a rhythm but I heard every word, I really seriously listened for many years. Nick Drake and Jeff Buckley I'm still trying to get my head around, both are just stunning and I feel lucky that I got to hear some of their work before their passing. I have many influences which helped me to learn how to play and perform as I was completely self-taught. But I think naturally you find your own variation or style when you begin to compose your own songs.

AS: Your EP is entitled The Waiting Room, can you talk me through this concept?

My Grandmother suffered with schizophrenia so growing up we were in and out of waiting rooms. After she passed away I found it hard to cope as I had lost a few people at an early age. I thought I was having a breakdown so I took myself into the same hospital and asked them to assess me. They sent me home shortly after, but it hit me that it was ok to not feel ok and fall down, you may not understand what's happening out there in the world but that's also ok. The waiting room also refers to waiting to make music as well as a slant on the fame game. I envisioned thousands of musicians just waiting, when you can just release your own music now.

AS: I particularly liked Someone Good and then of course I saw your band page with the explanation of the story behind it and I listened to it again and it’s so much more powerful now that I know the sentiment behind it. Your voice in the last chorus is so full of this raw sounding, deep emotion, was it difficult to record something so personal?

It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I spent a long time trying to avoid it and not confront what had happened. Loosing such a close friend to suicide was terrifying. It made me think about the concept of death and how I could become someone better. I wrote this track in one stream of consciousness and that's exactly how you hear it today, almost a conversation. I want it to inspire others to open up about their own fears as well as not give up. If it helps one person through a difficult time in their life then it has served exactly the same purpose as it did for me. When I perform I always focus on the meaning and sentiment behind the songs and I loose myself in that, that's where the deep emotion comes through, when I really re-live that moment.

AS: Where are you looking to go with your music now, where would you like it to take you?

I love how music travels and how free the songs have become. Hearing them in America on the radio as well as other countries is just incredible. For me my dream would be to do this full time, I have always dreamt of one day having the opportunity to sing on Later with Jools Holland. I would like to release an album and tour in other countries internationally. But most importantly I want to continue sharing my own stories and experiences and having conversations with the incredible people who come to the shows.

You can buy Chloe's EP, The Waiting Room, on iTunes and check out her website or follow her on Facebook for more information on her upcoming releases.

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