“I think there must be some scientific reason why physically doing something with my body helps shut off or distract the left brain enough to allow the right brain to flourish and tap into the creative flow.”
Figuring out “who you are” as an artist can be really tricky to navigate. The industry wants artists to be easily definable so that we can be easily marketed. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and it can certainly be used to our advantage as indie artists who often double as our own marketing teams. It’s great for people who have carved out their own specific niche and a clear-cut sense of their musical and visual style.
But for artists who have more of a wide range of interests, a love of various styles, and the skills to do it all with equal authenticity, that pressure to put yourself into one particular box can be stifling. There is no right or wrong way to be, even if the music industry may tell us differently.
Lindsey Ray is an inspiring example to all of the artists who fall into the latter category. She has figured out how to avoid the pigeon-hole trap and has built an incredibly successful career by embracing her versatility and making it her super-power. Rather than be squished into one box, she has created many different artist personas, allowing herself to be the unabashed chameleon that she is.
As Rayelle, she lets out her playful and sassy indie-pop side. As Olly Anna, she explores her own brand of self-empowered hip-POP as a rapper/singer. As Lindsey Ray, she is a heartfelt and wistful singer/songwriter, and the list goes on. She also writes songs for other artists including Mariah Carey, Demi Lovato, and DJ Tiesto.
Thriving in so many different styles, it’s no surprise that her songs have powered advertising for brands including but not limited to Target, T-Mobile, Lexus, Special K, Kohl’s, JC Penney, XBOX, McDonald’s, and most notably an international spot for the release of Samsung’s S10 mobile phone in 2019. Lindsey’s songs have been heard in promos, trailers and popular television shows including Grey’s Anatomy, So You Think You Can Dance, Selling Sunset, Love Island, and HBO’s hit show Insecure among many others.
We admire Lindsey for all of the reasons above, but also because she is a uniquely warm and genuine person who is just a joy to be around. And her music is infectious as hell. We’re thankful she took the time to talk to us about her creative process!
10 Questions: Lindsey Ray on Creativity & Songwriting
1. When you sit down to write a song, which elements tend to come first (melody, concept, title, lyrics, chords, beat, etc.)?
I tend to hear the music/beat in my head first, then melody, and lyrics last. When it comes time to write the lyric I write the very last line of the chorus first since that will be the main tag and the payoff lyrically that I’m aiming for throughout the rest of the song. That’s the meat of the song in my opinion. Once I know what that is, I can write the rest of the chorus. Once the chorus is done, I focus on the line that will take me from the end of the verse or the pre-chorus (if there is one) to the top of the chorus. I think about what lyrically and melodically needs to happen to set up that first line of the chorus. I follow this same thought process as I work my way back to the verse.
2. How often do you write? Do you have a regular routine, or do you do it only when you’re feeling inspired?
I don’t necessarily have any regular routine, no. I either write when I have co-write sessions booked or when I’m inspired. With my schedule as busy as it is these days, I find that I’m writing almost every day, whether I intend to or not.
3. Do you have any practices that help you find inspiration and collect ideas?
I find that when I don’t have writing scheduled, I write more. There’s something about not having the pressure to be creative that has always opened me up. I get new ideas for songs when I’m cooking, walking my dog, hiking, cleaning house, etc. Basically ANYTHING other than sitting down at my piano or computer TRYING to write. It comes much more easily when I’m distracted by other things. When I’m writing lyrics to a track, I play the track enough times that it gets stuck in my head and then I take a walk. I’ve even written lyrics while working out! I think there must be some scientific reason why physically doing something with my body helps shut off or distract the left brain enough to allow the right brain to flourish and tap into the creative flow.
4. Have you ever felt creatively blocked and what did/do you do to overcome it?
The only time I’m ever blocked creatively is if I’m putting too much pressure on myself or if I’m in a mental space where I’m too focused on trying to please/appease the other writer(s) in the room. I struggle with a bit of social anxiety and being a people pleaser so unless I’m very comfortable with the people I’m co-writing with, I can get preoccupied with trying to win their approval and that really kills my creativity and pulls me out the dreamy headspace I need to be in to write. I’ve overcome this issue by being very picky about who I collaborate with and making sure that I build a real human connection with my collaborators before any writing is attempted. I very much enjoy writing either 100% on my own or to a track that’s been sent to me. For me, it’s all about releasing any pressure or expectation of a particular outcome. I have to get into a headspace where it’s about having fun and exploring all the options. When I approach songwriting from that playful place, it comes very easily and is MUCH more enjoyable of a process!
5. Do you like to collaborate with other artists and in what capacity does collaboration work best for you?
I guess I kind of just answered this question but to elaborate on it, I DO enjoy collaboration when it’s with people I can be fully myself with. The energy has to be right. I have a small group of producers that feel like siblings to me and when I’m with them, I have the best time and always come up with something great. I’m an incredibly sensitive person so the vibe in the room is everything. If I’m comfortable, I will love the collaboration. If I feel like someone has an air of superiority or coldness, they won’t get the best out of me and I won’t go back to that person in the future. It took me a lot of years to figure that out about myself but now that I have, I’m happier and much more productive.
“The only time I’m ever blocked creatively is if I’m putting too much pressure on myself or if I’m in a mental space where I’m too focused on trying to please/appease the other writer(s) in the room.”
6. Are there any non-musical things you do that affect your art?
I strongly believe eating well and exercising daily has a big effect on my creativity, simply because they keep me healthy mentally. I exercise every morning and it helps me get all the excess physical energy out of my body so I can be more focused when I get to work.
7. How do you know when a song is done?
Once I’ve lyrically said everything that needs to be said to support that tag line in the chorus and once I feel like it has the right amount of hooky melodies/parts.
8. What do you think your strengths are as a songwriter and how do you play to those strengths?
I’m a very literal writer so I believe one of my strengths lyrically is making sure everything makes sense and flows from line to line. I think my other strength is melody. I love playing with the rhythm and delivery of a melody and coming up with the non-lyrical vocalese parts of a song that everyone can sing along to and will hopefully remember after just one listen. I play to these strengths by trusting my instincts and sticking to melodies that come to me easily. I almost always write to the initial melodies I hear in my head when playing chords on the piano or writing to a track. If it’s a melody that feels obvious and I can remember it without having to record it on my voice notes, I know it’s the one.
9. What do you think your weaknesses are as a songwriter and how have you worked around them or worked to improve them?
I’ve often felt like my weakness is that I’m not poetic enough lyrically. I admire lyrics that read like poems. That style of writing doesn’t come as naturally to me. I’ve worked to improve that by first getting very clear about what the meat of the message is that I’m trying to communicate, and then thinking of imagery and metaphors that will help me say it in either a unique way or very honest way. I think a very simple lyric can FEEL poetic if it’s delivered in a raw and honest way.
10. What is one important lesson you have learned through your experiences as a songwriter?
That comparison is the killer of happiness and the thief of creative joy. There will ALWAYS be another writer/artist/producer having more success or who I perceive as better at their craft than I am. I used to let that discourage me, but I don’t do that anymore. I’m now experienced enough to know that what I bring to the table creatively is unique and special in a way that only I am capable of. I don’t need to write, sing or produce like anyone else and I don’t try to. I’m still incredibly inspired by others around me, but I don’t judge myself based on anyone else’s talent anymore. I just want to keep evolving and becoming better at doing what I do and leave it at that.
11. BONUS Question: How are you finding your creativity in the time of COVID-19?
I’m actually finding this to be an incredibly productive time for me and I’m really grateful for that. The alone time I’ve had at home has given me an opportunity to spend time digging into production and developing my skill set in that area. I’ve also spent more time just playing piano for pleasure and not necessarily trying to write a song. And of course like I mentioned earlier, the NOT TRYING has actually led to writing lots of new songs. I’ve also felt driven to write songs that will give people hope and keep optimism alive. There’s so much anger and fear in the world right now and I feel a responsibility to fight against that energy with songs that remind us of how capable we are of love and resilience. That desire and purpose has kept me creating.
Favorite song to dance to: “OMG” by Sampa The Great
Favorite song to make out to: “Short and Sweet” by Brittany Howard
Favorite song to cry to: “Either Way” by Chris Stapleton
Favorite song to work out to: “Are You Down?” by Arjana
Favorite song to drive to: “White Winter Hymnal” by Fleet Foxes
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