mr. Ray is an accomplished musician who has been successful in the area of Kid’s music for 20 years now. Standing by his motto that it’s “music for the kid in all of us”. mr. Ray is young at heart, so this is the perfect platform for he and his young, family-oriented audience. With his latest release titled ‘No Room For Bullies’, mr. Ray is hoping to shed some much needed light on this subject through song. And his music is designed to help in coping with the act of bullying, which will prove to be priceless and beneficial for kids dealing with this problem. Here’s to a Bully-Free zone with the help of mr. Ray!
J Rae: So mr. RAY you’ve been writing/performing children’s songs for 20 years now with well over 100,000 copies sold. So what is your secret to success in this genre and what made you want to write & perform kids’ music to begin with?
mr. RAY: Hello Jimmy and thank you for the opportunity to chat with you!
In 1994, my ex was temping as a teacher at a preschool & asked me if I’d like to come in and sing to the kids that particular day. I went in…sang “Yellow Submarine” and some classic kids’ song and the director poked her head in the class and right on the spot said, “I will pay you to sing to my kids on a part-time basis” I said absolutely. As far as ‘what’s the secret….’ I think I am in reality, I’m just a stretched-out 6 year old that happens to relate to kids. I find it fairly easy to keep creating songs & entertaining them without it ever seeming like it’s a chore….for me…or for them.
J Rae: You were a Top 10 Best-Selling Kids’ Artist in 2013 according to Billboard Magazine, which is awesome so congrats on that! But why do you think so many young kids attract to your style/brand of music?
mr. RAY: Thank you on the congrats! I never really thought about it, but if I had to guess, I would say I have a warm, inviting voice…not saying I’m technically a great singer or anything….and that my songs just resonate in some strange way with kids. Let’s not forget the parents, too, because between the ages of 2-6, most of what kids hear & see is still filtered through them first….Pretty sure they can hear the influences I’ve subconsciously instilled in my music, and they can also hear, along with their kids, that I’m never singing ‘at’ them, but rather ‘to’ them, ‘with’ them….never condescending.
J Rae: Before the Kindie Music (Kid & Indie) craze, you were a member of the Stone Pony House band back in the 80s. Playing in Asbury Park, NJ at that time seemed like a pivotal moment in your musical life. Would you care to delve more into this for the Skope readers?
mr. RAY: It was a fabulous, musically-enriching time for myself & other musicians. Those years, I really learned how to play with other musicians…in other words, to be a part of something to get a song across, always listening to what the other band members were playing. It was a real ‘scene’, for sure.
J Rae: With your regular stint at the famous Stone Pony in Asbury Park back in the day, you caught the attention of many including “The Boss” himself Bruce Springsteen. You and the House band used to play with Springsteen all the time and Bruce even stated that you guys were his “favorite group of musicians to jam with” when he was off tour. How did it feel to know that Bruce Springsteen was your #1 fan at that time and what was it like playing & jamming with “The Boss”?
mr. RAY: I was/am such a huge fan, that the first time, I must’ve hovered on the stage like some cartoon character. When Bruce Springsteen walks on stage with you and plays for 2+ hours….your eyes are never off him. He can halt a song midway for dynamic effect and you better be prepared to stop on a dime or your note is left hangin’ like some bad fruit on a tree for all to hear. He, along with being in a band with Bob Bandiera, from Bon Jovi, really helped me become a more aware musician. Immeasurable schooling! That was my college experience, man.
J Rae: Curious to know if Bruce Springsteen is a personal, close friend of yours to this day and if you’ve had the chance to meet up or play together recently? If so, how did it go?
mr. RAY: I can’t say he’s a close personal friend, though I’d love to be! Last time I performed with him was a few short years ago at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, NJ. It was a benefit with Jon Bon Jovi and I was part of the backing band….rhythm acoustic guitar & vocals.
J Rae: I see you’ve had the pleasure of performing & touring with tons of great acts over the years such as Bon Jovi, Meat Loaf and Matchbox Twenty just to name a few. What were these experiences like and what band or artist was your favorite to play & tour with?
mr. RAY: I was part of a rock/pop duo called Blue Van Gogh and we toured with Matchbox Twenty.
As mentioned, I’ve shared a stage with Jon Bon Jovi a number of times, due solely, from being a sometimes-member of Bob Bandiera’s Jersey Rock n’ Soul Revue. I was a full-fledged member of Meat Loaf’s band from 1998-2001. It was a wonderful experience touring most of Europe – places like SSE Wembley Arena were a thrill…Letterman, Jay Leno, The View…so much fun.
J Rae: In regards to your original band called Blue Van Gogh, curious as to what type of music you covered, how did the group originate and do you still play together from time to time?
mr. RAY: That was an indie band that got dubbed ‘alternative’ when it was hip to be dubbed that. I formed it with my ex-wife, Patti Maloney, a wonderful singer & lyricist. We had a 5-piece band and she & I wrote all of the tunes. We were signed to Edel Records out of Hamburg Germany. We haven’t performed together in many years.
J Rae: Jumping back to your Kindie Music, I read in your Bio that you have an original music program called Songs for Seeds that was voted the 2010 Best Music Program in NYC by New York Magazine. What’s this program all about and what inspired this project? And why do you think it’s been received so well from kids/families all over the world?
mr. RAY: Apple Seeds, an indoor playspace located in Chelsea, the Flatiron district of NYC wanted to create a program that got very young kids interested in music called Songs For Seeds. They hired me to write all of the songs & music for it and it’s become very successful, I might say. We had a very kindred-spirited partnership, creatively-speaking. At its core, it’s simplistic, yet creative enough to find a common balance & interest in a few different cultures like here in the US & in India.
Hillary & Bill Clinton were seen boppin’ to my Songs For Seeds tunes at Madison Square Park just last Thursday July 16th with the Apples Seeds band.
J Rae: I see that you’ve also signed a book deal and license original songs to a kid-safe tablet as I’m sure the Skope Universe would love to hear more about these exciting ventures from mr. RAY!
mr. RAY: The thing about this genre of music, is that there are so many opportunities for licensing my songs due to their family-oriented, yet sometimes quirky nature. The tablet company, Ematic, licensed 15 of my original songs as a musical backdrop for their kids version.
The book, titled “FIND YOUR MUSIC”, is authored by Don Hoffman, who’s sold over a million (done in best Dr. Evil voice) books through Scholastic. He basically took my song, “ROY G BIV”, about the colors of the rainbow, and turned it into a story about a boy up in the sky that eventually finds his muse by learning to play an instrument….darn! Gave away the ending! Ha.
His company has recently merged with a cutting edge interactive company called Brightline and will be released in print, e-book & app form some time before the end of 2015.
J Rae: I wonder if playing/performing kids’ music and seeing so many youthful faces on a regular basis maybe helps keep you young at heart or maybe even make you feel younger? Do you wanna grow up and are you a Toys “R” Us kid? Sorry, couldn’t resist! :)
mr. RAY: Ha! You nailed it. I’m convinced these beautiful little human faces & spirits have kept me from giving into growing old before my time. Every day I feel blessed to be doing what I’m doing. Ya better believe I’m a Toy R Us kid! Even played there once or twice!
J Rae: For someone that’s never been to a children’s concert, like myself, what’s it like and what’s the overall vibe?
mr. RAY: The kids….AND the parents….are so into music, it’s like going to see your favorite band…everyone knows the words, sings along…the only difference is, the juice isn’t spiked and most of the crowd is 2 feet small.
J Rae: You have a cool memory with James Gandolfini (RIP)/ Tony Soprano at a benefit concert you were playing at and I know the Skope readers would love to hear more about this memorable event!
mr. RAY: Oh man…I never missed a “Sopranos” episode….and being a guy from Jersey! I was invited to entertain an event for CAAP Children Affected By AIDS. He and his then-wife, were both on the board. From the stage, I watched him checking out my act with his son. After my show, he came backstage and said to his boy, “Who’s that?” …pointing towards me…his son exclaimed, “mr. RAY!” Then James looks at me and goes, “Big fan.” I almost fell down. What an honor to have a few precious moments like that with he & his young son.
J Rae: Your latest album titled ‘No Room For Bullies’ has a target audience of 9-12 year olds /tweens and is a topic that is very relevant and very real. Hat’s off to you for bringing attention to this epidemic in our society that needs to go away. Maybe this could be the new anthem to help put an end to bullying for good? What would you say to any kid out there who is currently being bullied and also what would you say to the bully?
mr. RAY: Thank you, Jimmy…
To the victims, I say….don’t keep it to yourself. That’s how it becomes an epidemic, more pervasive. The hardest thing is coming face to face with our fears…as adults! Imagine what someone 11 years old has to go through….having very few emotional tools to work with yet. They think telling another about the experience is weak and will lead to more stress & danger. Parents need to ask their kids, as I do to my 10 ½ year old…is anyone bullying you? Do you see other kids getting bullied?
To the bully I say, have a look at yourself…what makes you like this?
I wanna thank you, Jimmy for the interview. Fabulous questions and I love your site. Take good care!
By Jimmy Rae (firstname.lastname@example.org)