Born Cheney Ray, Canadian artist CRAY was studying sociology at Chapman University in Southern California when she had a change of heart. With the support of her mother, she decided to pursue music production instead, and found she had a hidden talent for the art.
The Los Angeles-based musician began releasing singles in 2016. Not long after that, her dreamy, synth-pop style caught the ear of Skrillex and she joined the DJ as an opener for his Japan tour in 2018.
CRAY loves movies, gaming
How was your set today?
Was this your first Lollapalooza?
Yes, my first Lolla and my first time singing live. It was a really awesome, inspiring set today.
Was there anything you were worried about going into it?
Singing live for the first time is super nerve-racking, ‘cause you never know what it’s going to be like. I practice at home in my bedroom or in my studio, it’s not the same when there’s thousands of people looking at you, watching you. It was an awesome, incredible learning experience and I’m so excited for the future and singing more.
We heard you’re a gamer, what do you like to play?
I like to play single-person stories, like “Fallout,” “The Last of Us,” that type of stuff. RPGs. “Skyrim” is one of my favorites, but I also play “Overwatch” too. I also love “Super Mario” as well. I love my [Nintendo] Switch. I bring it on the road everywhere with me.
How did you get into video games?
I couldn’t tell you. I was honestly born into it, I was a kid and I had a game in my hands. So I don’t know when it started, but ever since I was born I was into games right away.
How does your gaming experience translate into the music you make?
The gaming soundtrack is so important for the game, and that always inspired me. I still do have a heavy influence of game music in my music today, so it’s always inspired me and my music.
We read you’re inspired by jazz. As a DJ, how does that translate into your music?
Well I’m starting to [perform] live, and I want to transition to a live band type of thing, so I want to learn piano, I want to learn guitar, I want to learn how to sing, ‘cause I listen to jazz and it inspires me so much, I want to be able to translate that into real music. I want to use real instruments, I want to do it live.
Apart from jazz artists, who else are you inspired by?
Yeah, today Bring Me the Horizon is playing, [and] Death Cab for Cutie. I love bands, I love unique artists. I love the inspiration from that. I hope I can catch their stuff tonight.
How did you get your start?
I was always in the music industry since I was a kid. I was from Canada and the drinking age there is 19, so I was always in the clubs and stuff. Then I went to college and I was like, “What am I going to do? Maybe I’ll just be a manager or something in music,” because I love music but I didn’t know what to do with it. And then my mom was like, “You should learn and at least know what to talk about when you talk about production and music and stuff so you can get ahead of the game.” So I learned how and put some fun stuff out and people loved it. I was like “This is really weird, maybe I should try it.” And here we are today.
Do you come from a musically inclined family?
Not at all. I played piano as a kid, I was in choir as a kid, but other than that no.
Do you have any siblings?
I do, I have a stepbrother, a stepsister and a half-sister. I’m the only one tattooed, and I’m kind of like the sore thumb in that way. I’m the wacky weirdo.
What can you tell us about your tattoos?
I have so many, I don’t even know. I love movies and music, so I have “Beetlejuice” and “The Shining,” and I love Earth and nature so I have lots of spiders and snakes and bees and a lot of bugs. That’s my favorite kind of stuff. So a lot of nature and a lot of words that mean a lot to me.
Do you have a phrase or motto that you live by in life?
I think “Everything’s going to be okay.” There’s a ton of times when you get so down about something, and at the end of the day it will work itself out if you actively work to fix it or get therapy or talk to someone. I think everything will be okay if you actively try to make it better, which is what I’ve been doing in my life.
Do you think mental health is something that needs to be talked about more?
Yeah, especially with artists, mental health is so important. When I was on the road, it was really hard for me, but I went to therapy and that really helped me find peace and comfort on the road. I feel like everyone should go to therapy in general. I feel like we all have our own demons, we all have our own things we need to work on and understand. And it’s always better to learn more about yourself and understand how you work. And there’s no shame in any of that. We all need help.
What’s the best part of your job?
Meeting fans. That’s the best part. It’s so fun. It’s human nature. I love talking to fans, I love talking to people who love music. That’s the best part for sure.
What do you want people to take away from your music?
These are all experiences from me and I write from my heart. These are all stories from my own life, so I hope someone can relate, I hope it helps them through a tough time at the end of the day. I’d rather relate to you than be catchy. I’d rather you listen to it and be like “That really helped me through that time.” That’s what I’m striving to do.
What do you want people to know about you?
That I’m just like you. I’m sad, I’m happy, I go through tough times, I have family drama, I have friends drama. I know [through] social media it’s so easy to see the perfect life of a celebrity, but I don’t think I’m a celebrity, I don’t think I’m famous. I’m just like you guys, and all I want to do is be relatable and show you that you’re not alone in this world. I’m nowhere above you or below you, I’m equal to you.
You recently toured with Skrillex in Japan, so how was that?
It was incredible, but I mean that’s Sonny’s whole thing, I felt like an equal. He’s so incredible and gracious and kind and inspiring, and I felt like that’s how I want to act around my fans and my family and my friends. I am a totally normal person in this world just doing my best and working hard, and I have emotions and feelings just like everyone else. But my life isn’t perfect, I’m not doing crazy stuff all the time, I sit at home and play with my cats, I watch movies and eat Chipotle. Most of the time I’m just like you guys. Anyone can do what I do. There’s people who do what I do even better than me and they just don’t have the platform to do it.
What’s your all-time favorite movie?
I have so many, but “The Shining” is my favorite, I think. I also love “Interstellar” and “Beetlejuice.” I could go on forever about movies.
What’s next for you?
I’m doing live. I’m going to steer away from DJing, I’m always going to DJ for fun, but I have a band and I play guitar and piano and sing. I’m putting out an EP soon, and that’s going to be me showcasing what I want to do for the rest of my music career. So I really just got to get that out there and show the world what I’m doing.
You said once you want to avoid labels, is that something you always want to do?
I mean, I’m signing a label now, so it depends. I really firmly believe in releasing your music when you want to release it. So find a label that lets you do that, never sign your life away, never sign your rights away. If you have creative control, if you’re in a good spot, I never want to be hindered, I never want to be told ‘no,’ I want to be able to do what I do for my fans when I want to do it. And that’s what keeping your integrity is.