Midway through January, I reviewed Ray Montana’s ‘My Angel’. In return, I received a lovely email from Ray, thanking me from the bottom of his heart for my piece. Now, in turn, I managed to get a hold of Ray in L.A. to ask him about his journey through music, his dreams and inspirations.
Here’s what we talked about:
Raz Mataz Magazine (RMM): What got you into music in the first place? Was there any single incident or inspiration that you can say put you on the road to musicianship?
Ray Montana (RM): I was actually living out on the streets at the time when the thought of becoming a recording artist came to me. I was sleeping on the floor of a friend’s house, literally, but because sleeping on a hard floor was just killing me, I went to see another friend who just happened to have a recording studio at his place. He offered me the couch in the recording studio to sleep on. My first night there, before going to bed, I prayed asking God to help me get my life together – I needed a way out of the depression. As something to get my mind off the stress that night, my friend walked in with a group of people to record. I stood close, listening from the next room. When I later walked into the studio, everyone looked over at me and thought I was a singer. They began to ask me if I sang or rap – I said no.
My friend looked up at me and said, “Ray you should try,” and that night I started to write a song right there on the spot. It was titled ‘My Life’ and that was the start of my real life. That’s what I want to do: inspire people and create music. It made and continues to make me happy. It also helped me forget about all the negative issues in my life – it gave me the hope I needed.
RMM: Where do you take your style from? What influences do you pull from to create your unique sound?
RM: I listen to all types of artist and music, from soul to reggae to hip-hop, rock and roll. Honestly, there is not one single type of music that inspires me. I love all types of music. I just love to make people dance and have a good time, so anything that does just that works for me.
If I had to say one artist who inspires me, I’d have to say Elvis Presley. After finding out I was born on the same day and month as Elvis (January 8), I really started to dig his sound. I can seriously watch his ’68 comeback special on YouTube a million times. He and other legends. . . man, the list is too long. And then there are times when just simple things that happen, while relaxing or watching a movie, that inspire me. I wrote songs after watching the movies The Notebook and Scarface, ha ha.
RMM: What did it take out of you to get to where you are today? What sacrifices? Have you ever had anything suddenly and surprisingly handed to you?
RM: It takes a lot of faith. I didn’t have parents to support me or family to support me – I had to do it on my own. I started from nothing, just a thought in my mind and a lot of prayer. I truly wanted to better myself.
I had to sacrifice a lot: from moving to Los Angeles not having anyone here to help me. I had to make my own moves. I had to overcome thoughts of giving up. I had to block out any and all negative thoughts. That alone is hard. . . it’s so easy to give up.
As for sacrifices, well for one, going without eating, without having any friends, nobody to push me, but me. In the beginning, it was rough. I remember standing in front of Lil Jon’s house in the Hollywood Hills, on what seemed to be the hottest day ever, in the sun, just to give Mark Vinten my CD and him never showing up and then having no ride home. I had to sleep in a park overnight until the Metro started to operate the next day. Man, nothing was handed to me. I wish I could say it was. Now, looking back at what I went through, and still go through at times, it seems crazy. But in a way, I am happy I went through what I did – it only made me more grateful seeing the outcome and where I am at today. Mark Vinten has produced and engineered all my music since then.
RMM: Does your faith play a large role in your music?
RM: Without a doubt. Nothing I have done so far would be possible without having faith. First you have to believe and know 100 per cent in your heart that you can do any and everything you want. You can achieve any goal in life, but it all starts with having faith in yourself first.
RMM: What was your inspiration for ‘My Angel’?
RM: ‘My Angel’ was inspired by two of my past relationships. I wrote down the issues I went through in both relationships – at the time thinking I had found love and the perfect girl and finding out I was totally wrong. I wanted to write a song that you could dance to and have a good time, but also one that you could just chill and listen to, and feel the story of my past love life. It’s funny, when Andre Fennel and I recorded the song, neither of us thought it would end up getting so much love all around the world. It was too simple of a song for us to write but we did our best in turning a negative into a positive for sure.
RMM: How was it working with Andre Fennel?
RM: Andre and I are very close. We are really brothers from different mothers. Man, he and I have come a long way in our 10-plus years as friends. We have only had one argument that I can remember. Once, I was working at a warehouse – my first week on the job in the shipping department. Andre had no job at the time and he needed some money. I risked my job and snuck him in and he helped me pack boxes. I gave him money out of my own cheque and we would always dream of becoming famous artists. He and I will always be good friends; there is no questioning that.
RMM: What words of wisdom might you give to aspiring musicians?
RM: You can do it! There is nothing, not a song, not a stage, nothing you cannot do. All you have to do is tell yourself, “It’s mine.” Act as if you have already achieved your goals, and the path to achieving that goal will be made for you. All you have to do is believe – what the mind can believe, it can achieve! It’s truly that simple.
Have faith and everything will fall into place. And that goes for everyone, not just musicians. Be thankful and grateful for your talents and life everyday. Wake up and thank God for the air you are breathing and know 1,000 per cent in your heart that anything you want in life you can have. Just have faith and think positive. No matter the situation you are in, when you think positive you will get a positive outcome.
As it says in the bible: “Whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, Believing, ye shall receive” (Matthew 21:22)
RMM: What do you have coming up that we should all be looking out for? Any big future plans?
RM: The ‘My Angel’ music video is coming – I promise. I am working with Aaron Kraft of AirKraft Productions along with Kris and Joe Garcia, co-founder of Fresh Focus, and with Leah Totten’s Dance Crew, The Boss Dance Company in Toronto. Those girls are putting together some serious dance moves for the video.
I also recently signed a contract with my first agent, Mia Bezener at Riverlight Talent. With her by my side, I am looking at acting and modelling, as well as more music outlets. I’m looking to gain more exposure in the entertainment world. I am so very excited for what’s to come.
RMM: Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans and to anyone out there who may be able to find something special through your music?
RM: To my new fans, and old, I love you all. I thank you with all my heart for your continued support and prayers. Thank you, thank you, thank you all. Honestly, without you, there is no me. I appreciate all your comments, all your positive feedback. I can’t thank you all enough. You all mean the world to me. Stay positive and may you all achieve your dreams – gracias y mucho amor a todo mi publico latino.
And with that, our interview came to a close, but what clearly remains open is Ray’s heart; open for all. An honest and generous person, Ray has clearly overcome much, in the most genuine way he can, to become the rising star he is today.
So dream big everyone, because your dreams may well come true, and the worst that could happen is you may well wake up. So dare to dream, and believe in yourself: You’re the only person you’ll spend every minute of your life with, so make the minutes count.
For more on Ray Montana, visit www.raymontana.com.