The Steel Woods
This week I am happy to be able to bring you the very talented Kayla Ray. She is just as nice and sweet as she is talented and I believe you guys will enjoy her as much as I do. Please remember to like this page to ensure you never miss an upcoming interview and share this post to help spread Kayla’s music.
Round 1 – What is a lyric from a song, either yours or someone else’s that means a lot to you and why ?
Kayla Ray – As a songwriter I suppose it would be easy to pick out something of my own I try my very best to give as much of myself as possible to each tune I write. However, as an avid fan and a true lover of songwriting in its craft form, I would like to pick something other than my own.
In particular, I would like to focus here on the great Townes VanZandt. In his tune “Tecumseh Valley” the first and last line he uses is simply, “The name she gave was Caroline, the daughter of a miner. Her ways were free, and it seemed to me that sunshine walked beside her.” The song then twists and winds and introduces the young woman as the lovely hard working heroine of the story. However as fate would have it, her father dies and she journeys so far deep within her grief, that she becomes a prostitute. And though the field of occupation she chooses is usually looked down upon, Townes never once acknowledges the societal shame put on this line of work. Instead he insists that she brought, fire, grief, anger, and passion all to the table in anything she attempted. You cannot help but love and admire the woman because of his depiction. The woman then takes her life under a flight of barroom stairs that, when I close my eyes I can see and feel because of the incredible gift Townes had. The story is so tragic you almost forget that this grief stricken woman was once an innocent girl venturing away from home to find work just to send the money all back home. But Townes, wisely knowing of this, gently reminds us at the end of the tune that, “The name she gave was Caroline, the daughter of a miner. Her ways were free, and it seems to me, that sunshine walks beside her.”.
Townes, in all of his infinite wisdom was able to, in just under 4 mins, wash clear the reputation of a woman that would have likely been forgotten or worse, disgraced by the passing of time. I think his intention was to preach the thought that we shouldn’t be so quick to judge. What treasures he would have missed had he not had the foresight or, boyish ignorance to have had his head turned by the captivating Caroline, be her flesh and bone or, preverbal.
Round 2 – Who is your favorite song writer or all time?
Kayla Ray – Whooo you’ve got me all excited! I love to dissect tunes! Picking 1 is far too hard. I often say I have a top 5 that rotate based on my mood ha!! I’ll visit two of them here. These are my thoughts for today. Catch me on a rainy Tuesday somewhere quiet with a jukebox and where beers are a buck fifty and I’m sure I will have changed my mind.
1. Merle Haggard for his incredible ability to just tell you the truth. His vocal delivery, was soaked through and through with the emotion of the moment no matter how light and cheerful or, how painful. Some examples of this are tunes like “Hungry Eyes”, A tale of growing up poor and watching his mother suffer because of the things she didn’t have. “Rainbow Stew”, A fun sarcastic look at politics that is still relevant today, “My Favorite Memory”, a beautiful recollection of time spent with a lover that will never escape him, “Sing Me Back Home”, about a prisoner facing execution but needing to hear just a few songs so precious to him, they would evoke powerful memories of his home. “I take A lot of Pride in What I Am”, a journey of a hobo, “Going Where the Lonely Go”, a good old fashioned drunken heartbreak song and, he also co wrote the beautiful Clint Black ballad “Untangling My mind”. These don’t even skim the tip of the iceberg! The other great thing about Hag is that, even though he wrote the bulk of his catalogue, he didn’t let his pride over take him when presented with a good tune. He covered a fair amount of tunes as well. They all seemed to be picked with much attention to detail rather than the thought that one would sale more than another. His process seemed to pay off.
2. Though it seems a little bit typical, I have to include Townes VanZandt here. His use of metaphor to communicate different emotions and life lessons is something that seems other worldy. I also love his tunes because each and every time I listen, I learn something new.
Round 3 – If you were dying and only had time to hear 1 last song, what song would you want to hear and why that song?
Kayla Ray – You are killing me Fairbanks! One song you say. Well, I guess I would have to choose the old gospel tune “Precious Lord Take my Hand”. The writer Thomas Dorsey sings, “Though my days grow drear precious Lord, linger near, though my life it’s almost gone. Hear my cry, hear my call, take my hand lest I fall, Precious Lord, take my hand lead me on.”. These verse lyrics have been some of the only steadfast hope I have had to look to in many trials in my lifetime. Rev. Dorsey is so important to what I do because he was the very first writer to implement blues changes to gospel tunes. In his early life far before becoming a reverend, he was one of the hottest blues circuit piano players around. Obviously a seeker of truth, the melodies followed him to each chapter of his life. Without Thomas Dorsey there would have been no Hank Williams and without Hank Williams…. Well, you catch my drift.
Oddly enough my childhood pastor taught me this song and the lessons behind it. He taught me my first open chords. He was a circuit musician in his youth. I would walk a mile from my grandparents home with my guitar to the church after school on Wednesdays and he would teach me country songs secular and all, in his office before he helped with choir practice. He loved Hank Williams and his alter ego gospel singing Luke the Drifter. He understood, that my gospel had nothing to do with bricks and mortar, tradition or in some cases hypocrisy, rather melodies and messages. This applies to any higher power of your choosing. I am not convinced they are not all the same dude..
Round 4 – What advice would you give to younger musciains that dream about one day following in your footsteps?
Kayla Ray – Every time you get a chance to do what you love you are successful. Every bill you can pay while using your gifts deems you wealthy. We live in a society that is warped by greed and popularity contests. Music wasn’t intended for this purpose. If you truly love your craft, do it because you love it and not out of longing for any of the seemingly flashy perks that can come along with it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a ton of really cool experiences and I am forever thankful for that, but, the true reward is getting to meet so many amazing people and to get to chase what you love in a world that is full of people who never get to experience that brand of freedom. Also, never stop working to improve your craft. If you maintain this attitude you will always have something new and exciting to look forward to, no matter how slow the work gets.
Round 5 – What is some of your favorite hobbies outside of music?
Kayla Ray – You mean there is a world outside of music?!! Just Kidding. I really love to gather people together and cook. I like to make people feel at home and welcomed. This is ironic in this chapter of my life since I am mostly traveling, but when time allows it, I really enjoy it. I come from a long line of southern women who take a lot of pride in their cooking. I am no different.
Last Call – Open message to say anything you want to the your fans and the people reading this.
Kayla Ray – Thank you. Thank you for allowing me to do what I love. I am truly living my wildest dreams and I cannot thank you enough! So many of you have become like family to me and I can’t tell you how much that means to me! I cannot wait for this next album. I appreciate your patience with the process so much! We are almost to the mastering phase and I am way past ready to get it to all of you! And, always feel free to reach out! I work pretty much independently and I do my best to answer everyone’s messages. I love hearing from all of you! Your kindness keeps me ticking! Peace, Love and Hag!