Nick Ray Talks New Alt Pop Album ‘Circles’
Nick Ray is a producer and singer/songwriter from New Orleans, Louisiana, who has the bold ability to showcase songs that blur genres between Pop, Soul, Alternative, EDM, and Hip Hop. Now in 2017, Ray unmasks his brand new, focused, electronic alt-rock sound on debut record Circles. Our own Travis Gallagher had a chance to speak with Ray about his inspirations for the new album, his artistic process, and the advice he would offer to young producers today.
The last time Open Labs caught up with Ray, it was right after his Month 3 win of the yearlong Stagelight Monthly Music Contest II presented by Linkin Park. “November” was a dynamic hip hop track written alongside native Louisiana rapper LOC.
“To be recognized by a company like Open Labs and for us to be posted by Linkin Park was beyond incredible. We’re both pretty much blown away that we even got that far,” Ray says today. “But as far as recognition, it is the most we have received out of anything we have done musically.”
When asked about the late Chester Bennington, Ray replies: “It made me realize how short life is; Chester was such a huge presence. It really just hits home. When somebody that big passes, I guess it really just makes you slow down and take a look around you to appreciate the small things in life.”
Few people knew, but at the time of the Stagelight contest Ray was already months into work on his next full length album, Circles. The new record took almost two years to craft and plan from start to finish. Working out of just his home studio, he composed everything from his first chord to his completed Circles concept. Ray even created a visual marketing campaign to officially release his new record across all digital platforms. “It’s the hardest I ever worked on something,” says Ray. “Up until this date, it’s the best material that I’ve recorded so far.”
“Circles is about a distorted relationship. Sometimes people find themselves wearing masks,” says Ray on the video produced by So It Goes Productions. “I went to them with an idea in my head. I gave them a certain direction and they took care of everything else.”
Circles is a beautifully shot and produced video that, through kinetic cuts and swiveling angles, presents leading actress Hedy Rose as a mysterious and mystical crafter of masks. The rural setting brings memories of fables we may have been told as children, as Ray faces the mask maker, shedding his own mask in the process. The visual effects are professional-grade and help usher the viewer into that almost intangible emotional space between two people that are breaking away from their own masks and toxic personalities.
This isn’t Nick Ray’s first time alternating between frontman and music producer. He’s produced all his own music over the years including The Playback, an album collaboration with rapper LOC and a solo EP titled Four White Walls. Ray patiently spends time experimenting and learning just how to make these thick, spaciously produced records, while still reinventing his own sound along the way. “Circles, the record itself, is my take on all my influences,” Ray says while reflecting on his inspirations. “I wanted to find a way to try to mix them together. I’m a big nineties kid, the grunge era had a huge impact on me and I’m also a big hip hop fan. So people like Timbaland and Dr. Dre have been a big influence on me. I wanted to find a way to take all those things and make it into a more modern approach.”
Now that Circles has released, Ray plans to focus on performing these new songs for new fans. “The next six months I want to tour as much as possible,” Ray says as Travis wraps up the call. “I want to do my best to get this record out to as many people as possible.” When speaking on the possibility of collaborating with anyone in the music industry, Ray says he’d love to get into the studio with none other than Open Labs partner Timbaland. “He’s somebody that’s always been on the top of my list,” he says. “He’s one of the biggest influences I’ve had as an artist.”
Ray’s advice for anyone just starting out: “Patience and not letting yourself get overwhelmed with the process.”
Listen to Open Labs’ full conversation with Nick Ray recorded with Stagelight here.