Long, long overdue conversation with a very talented artist: Jay Ray. For those of you who don’t know him yet, he recorded a song with Marko Saaresto “Striven”. He is an artist to watch! Believe me, you did not wait in vain dear readers. What an interesting and inspiring life he is leading. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I am thrilled to have Jay Ray on PotF – Misfit Heart. What better way to finish the year?
[Misfit] It took me a while, but I can honestly say that I am irrevocably hooked to your music. You have a very distinctive signature which gives you an authentic musical identity. It is what I love about your music.
[Misfit] When did your musical journey started?
[Jay Ray] Thank you! I’ve always loved singing. We sang A LOT with my brother in our teenage years I started playing around with music making softwares at the same time I started practising playing guitar. Soon after I started my first band. I think I was 17 years old. We played covers from bands like Metallica, Blink 182 etc.
[Misfit] What was it that made you realise, that’s it, this is what I want to do with my life?
[Jay Ray] Well… to be honest, even with my first bands I always wished that my band would make a breakthrough and I would get to make music for living, but for years I didn’t take it that seriously. I was working in a regular day job, up until 2010 when I decided to quit my job and dedicate my life to music. I was ready to live with minimum income just to do what I love. I sold my house, my car and everything I could so I could live with minimum expenses. It was the only way to have enough time to be able to learn all the necessary skills needed to start producing my own music.
[Misfit] Your music is quite far from what you used to listened to (“trance and stuff” as you wrote on your website). How did you choose the kind of music you’d like to play? Or did it just come naturally?
[Jay Ray] Yes I still love all kinds of electronic music and you definitely you can hear many of those elements in my music as well. My love of metal music started probably in the early 2000 when the actual “nu metal” boom started. Linkin Park was the first actual metal band that hit me very hard and it’s still one of my all time favorite bands. I spend a decade listening and playing metal music. After that my taste for music has just expanded a lot.
[Misfit] Scratching the surface of some “shouting” (I am not at all savvy in the right terms ), there is an incredible musicality to your songs. How do you find the balance and manage to get your message across?
[Jay Ray] I always try to have versatilily in my vocals. Same goes with my song writing. I know a huge part of my fans love the heavier stuff more and other parts like the “softer” stuff. As for the balance in each song… I don’t tend to analyze it that much and just let the song kind of write itself in that sense.
[Misfit] Your lyrics seem to be quite personal and yet I am sure I am not the only one who can relate to them. Do you decide on a particular theme when you write, or the theme comes afterwards?
[Jay Ray] I always choose a theme for the song before I start, just to get the feel for the whole atmosphere of the particular song. When the instrumentals are done I start writing the vocal melodies based on the bits and pieces of lyrics I’ve got at the time and slowly but surely it all just starts to come together.
[Misfit] Your lyrics can be heart-breaking, and your voice brings the emotion emphasizing the words. Do you ever consider that creating has a healing power somehow? How do you relate to your art? On a personal note, ”Beyond the Past” brought tears to my eyes, am I over-sensitive?
[Jay Ray] I receive comments that my songs have touched some people and have helped them with their depression for example. That’s always very amazing to hear and I definitely believe that music can have healing powers. Many times when I feel sad, I can put on some of my favorite songs to make me feel better and if I play a very emotional song I can tear up pretty easily, so I guess I might be over-sensitive as well 🙂
[Misfit] I might be completely wrong here, but when I listen to Self-Resonance, your excellent debut solo album, I hear a mix of anger and vulnerability in your songs. What would you say Self-Resonance is Focusing on?
[Jay Ray] “Self-resonance” refers to a personal journey to self. The album deals with a lot of the heavier things I’ve had to go trough in my life but there’s also songs which are more about my perception of the world.
[Misfit] As you say on your website, you launched your career by winning remix competitions. It is a rather unconventional way to start a musical career, especially for a singer. What can you tell us about this period? How did you come up with the idea of using your own vocals in your remixes?
[Jay Ray] Making remixes was just was just something I felt drawn to. I thought that if I would sing the remixes myself, it could make them at least a little bit more special. It also gave me much more room to make my own melodies to the songs. It turned out to be really beneficial to me because after releasing my first remix of Celldweller’s song “I Can’t Wait”, many more people started to find my music. This remix became quite popular right after the release.
[Misfit] Aquiline Scope recently released a pretty cool remix of Heartless. Were you at all involved or did it come as a total surprise? Aquiline Scope really nailed this, what went through your mind when you listened to it?
[Jay Ray] I wasn’t involved in it but he did asked us to send the actual stems (multi tracks) of the song to him, so he could remix it, (that’s how it usually works :)) so I knew it was coming, but I think the remix was really beautifully done. He seems to be pretty talented on those cinematic scores. I hope someday he gets a chance to make music for movies as well.
[Misfit] As an independent solo artist, you wrote on social media that “you are doing this work mostly on your own and without the support of a label”. You seem, however, to have the right flair for surrounding yourself with talented musicians.
[Misfit] The second first name that comes to mind is Paul Udarov. How did you get to work together?
[Jay Ray] I’ve known Paul since I released my first remix 2011 (Celldweller remix). The competition was hosted by “FiXT Remix” website, which no longer exists and Paul’s remixes became pretty popular too. Some of his remixes has millions of views on YouTube. He makes awesome instrumental tracks, so one day I suggested that I would try writing some vocals on them. I just think Paul deserves much more attention.
[Misfit] I cannot disagree with you here 😊
[Misfit] Lost Chance, from Self-Resonance, is a powerful song and the video brings me shivers without fail every time. What can you tell us about that Lost Chance (song and video)?
[Jay Ray] I’m glad to hear that. My goal is always to bring the emotions out in all of my songs and I think “Lost Chance” became a pretty sentimental song as well. The video is a story about a soldier who had to leave his family and it just goes really well with the song.
[Misfit] Six years later, you guys are back together for the breath-taking Heartless. It sounds like there is still a lot of “introspection” in your lyrics, what inspired you this song?
[Jay Ray] The story of the song is pretty interesting. The idea for the lyrics came actually from the fact that Paul had a serious illness in the past that was followed by a period of depression. When you have depression, sometimes it might be difficult to feel anything. More difficult to feel love for example. So in the song we used robot heart as a metaphor for when you don’t feel things like a normal human being.
[Misfit] I often wake up with Heartless playing in my head, which is kind of fitting the design for the lyrics video somehow. A bit daring yet very aesthetic, who is behind the design? Would it be safe to assume that this could be the theme of your new album? Maybe something like, unveiling what’s in your heart without filter?
[Jay Ray] It was actually Paul Udarov who did the Heartless single cover and the video was animated based on his design. I personally loved the final result and it was everything I expected. I feel like this futuristic style of graphics complement my music perfectly.
[Misfit] Any chance we’ll hear more of Paul Udarov on your new album? Or would it be telling?
[Jay Ray] I really hope to work with him again in the future, as it seems like our collaborations became pretty popular 😊 Nothing has been decided yet but I’m always open working with Paul. It’s just a matter of finding the right song to work on.
Entropy Zero, Jimmie Strimell
[Misfit] Entropy Zero and Jimmie Strimell are two other interesting collaborations. What can you tell us about them?
[Jay Ray] Entropy Zero is a solo project by composer “Maks_SF”. He is well known for his game soundtracks. I did two tracks with him; “The Edge” and “Flame of Fate”. They both were made into a mobile game called “Demolition Derby 3”.
[Jay Ray] The latest collaboration with Jimmie was a little dream come true. Jimmie has a past singing with Dead By April and I’ve been a fan of his for 10 years so I didn’t think twice about suggesting this collaboration to him. I’m very happy he wanted to work with me.
[Misfit] How involved were you in the creative process on The Edge with Entropy Zero?
[Jay Ray] Maks made the instrumentals for both “The Edge” and “Flame of Fate” and I was free to do with the vocals whatever I felt like. These songs were made particularly for Demolition Derby 3 game so my approach on the vocals was a bit different than usual. It was a challenge I enjoyed.
[Misfit] What is the biggest challenge of making music for a game?
[Jay Ray] I personally haven’t made music particularly for any games, but many game companies have used my songs that I have already released before. This ”Demolition Derby 3” case was exception, but even in this case it was mostly Maks who did the songs for the game.. I just made the vocal lines for couple of these songs 😊 But I think there is a little challenge always. The soundtrack has to meet the game’s atmosphere and mood perfectly.
[Misfit] Latest single, “Cold Light” featuring Jimmie Strimell. Another powerhouse of a song. I have to ask: what do you mean with my favourite lines below? “Forget you ever gave up When you lost control”
[Jay Ray] There’s a kind of re-occurring theme in many of my songs which is basically to follow your dreams no matter what and never give up. No one is perfect, we all loose our path from time to time and things might not always end up the way we planned but there’s always going to be another chance to try again. Chuck it up and move on is what it means.
[Misfit] This is what I love about artists like you, anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Thank you for constantly reminding us.
Working with Poets of the Fall
[Misfit] Since they are the ones who put you on my radar (and consequently on my playlists), there is no way around memory lane with Poets of the Fall. How did it all start between you and Poets of the Fall?
[Jay Ray] I was working on Striven and I started feeling that the song could really benefit from having another vocalist. In the beginning I was actually thinking about female vocals when it hit me that the melodies would fit Marko’s voice perfectly. When the demo of the song was finished, I decided to contact Olli and ask if there was any chance for the collaboration. I was so stressed out when I waited for the answer from Olli and I couldn’t sleep well. When he answered that they were interested in doing this and they really liked the song, I was shocked and just thinking, “Is this really happening?” Imagine being a huge fan of some artist and suddenly he wants to work with you. It’s like being in a dream.
[Misfit] I know exactly how it feels like, oddly enough 😄
[Misfit] Striven, as I have written before, is a gem. I have always wondered though, why only Marko Saaresto and not the entire band?
[Jay Ray] The song’s instrumental was 100% finished when I asked Marko for this feature, so all we really needed was Marko’s golden voice to give it a final touch 😊
[Misfit] Your voice and Marko’s are a match made in Heaven, could you bring us back in time when you guys recorded the song?
[Jay Ray] Well, it wasn’t just a typical long distance collaboration because I actually had a chance to go and meet the guys at their own studio. It was cool that we actually had a chance to have a discussion about all the details before he went in and recorded the parts. I had a structure and the melodies ready for the song and Marko had his own suggestions so it was a real project.
[Misfit] How were the lyrics written? What did you wish to convey with them?
[Jay Ray] I usually write lyrics with Harrison from GONEBAD. I just like his style of writing and we’ve know each other for 13 years and we’re both solo artists so he knows where I’m coming from. He makes sure everything we write stems from my perception and that it’s something I can stand behind 100%. “No matter the cost, despite the worst odds” is where the song started and that is just how I’ve felt since the beginning of my career. I finished the song pretty easily I would say. The best feeling in the world for a musician is when you get into that state of flow and everything just comes out naturally and flawlessly.
[Misfit] What did you take with you from this experience?
[Jay Ray] Overall, I got the see what it’s like working with artists of that experience and skill level. Also this collaboration stands as a proof that everything is possible. If you really want to work with someone, you shouldn’t hesitate to try and make it happen, as long as you have a true passion for it.
[Misfit] Anything else you’d like to share about your collaboration with Marko Saaresto?
[Jay Ray] I can’t speak highly enough of him. Marko is just an amazingly sympathetic and humble person. I still message him once in a while just to ask how’s things which is usually “really busy”😊 I hope I get a chance to see him again one of these days.
[Misfit] Aren’t we all? Really busy, I mean 😅 I am sure the opportunity will present itself, you said it yourself, you’ll have to make it happen…
[Jay Ray] Yes we all are busy. At least we think so 😅 I personally also think that social media is making us very busy and our smartphones. It’s because these platforms are amazingly addictive. That’s why I have a blocker in my phone and computer so I don’t use those apps too much 😄
[Misfit] What does the future look like for Jay Ray?
[Jay Ray] Simple answer: I try to finish as good quality music as I can as much as possible 😊 But yeah, there’s always a lot of work. Making music is just half of what goes into being a solo artist. The other half is doing promotional stuff, which is of course probably the most important part after the music is done.
[Follow-up] I guess it goes that way for all type of artistic work these days… even blogging 😉
[Misfit] Since you released two singles already, I assume that there is a new album in the making. When can we expect it, so that we may mark our calendars?
[Jay Ray] I made a social media post where I mentioned that right now my plan is to release singles. It works the best for me and it also allows me to release new music more often.
[Misfit] A ceaseless flow of quality music instead of an album is great too, I won’t complain about that!
[Misfit] Any plans for a tour maybe?
[Jay Ray] That’s something that isn’t completely out of the question but right now I don’t feel like I have to tour in order to build my career. I would love to play some good shows but I’m still planning to release more music before I start seriously considering that possibility.
Questions for fun
[Misfit] Favourite band?
[Jay Ray] Too many of them 😄 but I still love bands that have nu metal vibes. This love rooted in me from the early 2000s. Also, nowadays it is super difficult for me to find any new bands that I really like. A couple years ago I found a band called “Starset”. They have a style that I really like, electronic rock. You should definitely check them out!
[Misfit] I most definitely will.
[Misfit] Favourite instrument?
[Jay Ray] Guitar.
[Misfit] Favourite movie(s) / series?
[Jay Ray] I’m a huge Star Wars fan, a real Star Wars nerd. I love all kinds of Sci-Fi stuff.
[Misfit] I believe we all need to be a certain type of movie nerd at some point in our lives, it’s relaxing 😊
[Misfit] Favourite books and why
[Jay Ray] Mostly if I read books, they are somehow about diets or other health stuff. I became very passionate about those things after having tons of health problems as a youngster because of the poor diet. Luckily now I have fixed most of those problems.
[Follow-up] Any book you’d like to recommend to our readers?
[Jay Ray] The last book that I read was called ”Why we sleep?”. The author of the book is Matthew Walker who is a pioneer of sleep research. The book really shows how magical powers sleeping really has. The quality sleep is even more important than healthy diet.
[Misfit] What do you do for fun? (Except making music)
[Jay Ray] I am super passionate about fishing. I even have other Instagram account for fishing 😄 I think half of my free time goes on my fishing trips. I have also won some fishing competitions 🙂
[Misfit] Favourite food?
[Jay Ray] All healthy foods, but I have special love for forest berries. I could eat tons of them.
[Misfit] Tea or Coffee?
[Jay Ray] Neither of them anymore. I am highly sensitive to caffeine so, it ruins my sleep very easily. But I still love both of them.
[Misfit] I find herbal tea – without caffeine or theine – a great substitute 😄 Have you tried that?
[Jay Ray] Yeah! Herbal teas are awesome and caffeine and theine free, as you mentioned. I mostly drink Mint (also helps for stomach issues) and chamomile (helps me to relax).
[Misfit] City or village?
[Jay Ray] Village.
[Misfit] Sea or Mountain?
[Jay Ray] Sea. Nowadays I live right next to the sea. It was always a dream of mine 😊
[Misfit] What country would you like to visit?
[Jay Ray] Japan. The culture and everything there really fascinate me.
[Follow-up] Indeed a fascinating country.
[Misfit] What country have you visited and would want to go back to?
[Jay Ray] I have visited only Estonia, Russia, Sweden and Ukraine. My relatives live in Ukraine as my mother is from Ukraine. I love that country and would love to visit it much more often.
[Misfit] Let’s hope you get the chance soon again then. And please, give us a shout next time you’re in Sweden, we’ll have a cup of herbal tea or something 😉
[Jay Ray] I will surely let you know. Herbal tea sounds great 😉
[Misfit] Thank you, Joni for taking the time to answer our questions.
[Jay Ray] For sure! 😊
For more interviews on Misfit Heart click here.
Next interview will probably be early 2022. I cannot promise when though, day job and many people to contact (though a few ideas and hooks already set up 🙃 so you never know)