Vocalist, composer and multi-instrumentalist Elijah Ray brings a touch of Hawaii to Spirit Festival with his unique charms, deep message and eclectic repertoire. His riveting performances are both musical and raw, engaging his audience in an experience that is spiritual, sexy, sweaty, gritty and ecstatic.
How closely is music related to spirituality for you?
Music and spirituality have always been one and the same thing for me. My earliest memories of music were in the gospel church as a baby… I can still remember the big choir, the soul, everybody feeling the spirit and lifting up their voices together! I think some of that must have rubbed off on me, because that’s the feeling I love to create when I play music. I love feeling people come together and connect to spirit in whatever way suits them.
I also noticed, as a young child, that when I would sit and play the piano I could connect to something greater than myself, and this would change the way I felt… it would also change the particles in the room. This is a very subtle aspect of music, the spirit of it – the intent behind it. If you look into study of cymatics, you can see how clearly sound and vibration create shape and geometry. Music… is quite literally how the Universe expresses and creates itself. Just look at the word Universe: Uni = One. Verse = Song. If that’s not spiritual… I don’t know what is!
How do you write your music? Where do you draw your inspiration?
I let the music write me. And I mean that; often the lyrics of the songs that come through are exactly what I need to hear… and step into. I love the feeling of being so completely taken over by a song that I literally become it. The music guides me as much as I guide it. It’s a two-way conversation.
As for where I draw my inspiration from? From everywhere! Everything I experience is a potential inspiration for a song, and such is the way when you are living and breathing it… I write about relationships, nature, the human condition…
How does the place where you live affect the music you make? Do you think there is something intrinsically ‘Hawaiian’ in the ethos of what you do?
Definitely. I’ve been honoured to call Hawaii home for the last 12 years, and yet for the last few years my life is primarily lived on tour. Hawaii is one of my roots, and even though I’m rarely home these days, the spirit of Aloha is with me, and in the music. That being said, over the last years of touring, I’ve developed roots in other places too, all of which I draw from musically. California, Australia, New Zealand, Ibiza, Bali, and Peru are just a few of the other communities I call home. This diversity is what inspires me. This is life in the Band of Light.
What has been your most surprising composition?
The SoundLight volumes. They always surprise me, because they are improvised in the moment…each volume, of which I have released five so far, is recorded completely live and channelled, if you will. Yet there are some pieces in those sessions that sound like symphonies that were composed before hand… perhaps they were, on some distant star…
How do you want your music to affect people?
My intention is to make music that connects people to themselves. Music that makes people feel so GOOD that they forget to look at their phones all night, because they suddenly fall in love with the other people around them! I want this music to INSPIRE people to live a love-centred life. That’s what I want.
As a solo troubadour how do you make such a big and full sound? Do you miss having a band? What are the benefits of self-reliance as a musician?
Well one of the blessings of this day and age is that there are tools available that allow artists such as myself the ability to create infinite layers of sound, through live looping. One of the ways I create the big sound is through loop pedals, which enable me to express all the parts that a band would express, by stacking layers of myself. That being said, I equally love playing with the full Band of Light! I’m actually putting together a new superhero band later this year to support my upcoming new album…
What should we expect from your performance at Spirit Festival?
Expect a few surprises… and rainbows!
Elijah Ray plays Byron Spirit Festival in Mullumbimby 31 March–1 April.