Politics, BFFs, & LA vs NY.
Raye Zaragoza (she/her) is an award-winning singer, songwriter & peacemaker whose multinational heritage (Native American (O'odham), Mexican, Taiwanese and Japanese) deeply informs her music.
What does “raise the female voice” mean to you?
Whenever I am at a music conference, live show, or recording session—unless it’s an event specifically focused on females—it is always mostly men in the room. Us women in the music industry need to have each other’s backs and help lift each other up.
How do you use music as a force for peace?
I think peace is a product of acknowledging the realities, feelings, and experiences of all people. Peace doesn’t mean that there’s no struggle, but it does mean that we acknowledge the struggle of others and work together to uplift the world. As an artist, it’s my goal to uplift these voices and bridge the invisible gaps that make us believe we are so different from one another.
"In The River" became the protest anthem for Standing Rock. It takes a lot of work to get inspired, write a song, record it, and release it in time to give voice to a movement. How did you make that happen?
That is a great question. I wrote “In The River” in September of 2016, before Standing Rock had really ‘gone viral.’ No one in my community here in Los Angeles other than my native friends knew about Standing Rock, and this was incredibly frustrating for me. I wrote, recorded, filmed, and released my video within one week. I felt a real sense of urgency, and knew I needed to get my message out as soon as possible. Luckily, I had my friend Justin Hergett help record it and my brother filmed the video.
Do you feel a sense of responsibility to tell stories about your Native American heritage, and if so, does that ever feel like a burden?
“Burden” is never the word. I think so many Native American youth have felt that they are a “burden” on this country because of the history of forced migration and isolation. My goal is to express to all youth that you are never a burden—you are beautiful the way you are—no matter what your background is. I am Native American, Mexican, Japanese and Taiwanese, and I used to be very ashamed of being mixed race. I now realize that my heritage and family history is an important part of my story, and I will continue to share it as long as it is a part of me.
Do you get pushback from listeners for being political?
All the time. But I get way more support than pushback. And my core supporters are always standing up for me. I believe in what I am doing with all my heart, and that’s all that matters.
Okay, LA or NY. Go.
New York, always. My heart will always live there - but it’s really difficult to survive there as an artist. Rent prices are so high. Even though LA is getting pricey as well! When I was living in New York, I was bartending 4-5 nights a week to make ends meet, on top of pursuing music. In Los Angeles, I am able to play music full time. Also...you can’t beat LA weather.
Do you ever dream of becoming an expat and just leaving it all behind?
I don’t! Being half indigenous to North America, I feel very connected to this land. And feel it’s my duty to stay here and fight the injustices happening on this homeland. But of course, I would love to play many shows aboard and all over the world.
When music-making gets hard, who do you turn to to keep you going?
When music gets hard, I always turn to my best friend Kalina. She was my best friend before I even started playing music, and always knows how to cheer me up when I’m down. So grateful to have a friend like her.
What is your favorite thing about yourself today?
My favorite thing about myself is my ability to listen. I’ve been working on it for years, and feel like it’s such an important part of being an artist, friend and human.
Who’s one artist on your playlist we need to start following immediately, and why?
Ah! This is such a hard question - they are all amazing and so inspiring. I guess if I had to choose one, I would say FAARROW. I recently spoke on a panel with them about “Immigration, Forced Migration, Identity, and Creativity” at Girlschool LA and was so moved by their story, message, and music. Definitely follow FAARROW!
Raye's Upcoming Shows
Raye's Charity of the Week
I always chose to support National Indian Childcare Association to support indigenous youth and help lift their voices.