Julianna Raye Bio
The Bossa Nova rhythms on Los Angeles singer/songwriter Julianna Raye’s inspired new cd, Dominoes, are so gentle and relaxing you almost take the heartaching beauty of these songs for granted. The songs have a cinematic allure, drawing you in without overwelming the music’s sensual mood. Raye has managed to capture the essence of this classic Brazillian style while maintaining her unique identity; recalling a bygone era while sounding absolutely current. Her tales of love are intimate yet universal, taking listeners hungry for true romance on an evocative and sublime journey. In a stressful time, Dominoes is a deep sigh of relief.
The inspiration for Dominoes came when Julianna fell in love with 60s guitarist Baden Powell’s cd, 3 Originals. "I knew I wanted to capture the way my imagination and emotions were stirred by this music," Raye said. "The cd is entirely instrumental which gave me room to re-interpret the spirit of what I was hearing in my own voice." Leaves Before Autumn was the first song to emerge. But when she met one of her songwriting collaborators, Bill Demain of the duo Swan Dive, the record’s character really began to take shape. "Bill and I spoke the same musical and lyrical language, so writing together was an effortless, joyful process." Regarding another of her co-writers, Joe Pisapia of the band Guster, she says "Joe and I had a deep connection instantly and I knew we’d write something very special. There’s this great Billy Barnes song Something Cool that June Christy sang. I feel like Summer On My Mind is my Something Cool." The most bittersweet of the album’s collaborations is I Carry You With Me, written with her cousin, composer Michael Kamen, who sadly passed away not long after it was written. Says Raye "That song is so poignant… I know he would be really proud to hear it."
The music’s cinematic quality pulled Julianna toward composers like Francis Lai, whose score for Mayerling had a strong influence on her. "In Mayerling, you can hear Lai’s classical influences as well as the pop and French culture of his time. All those elements really spoke to me." A song like Dewberry Wine, she explained, could be the major theme in a film score from that era. "My goal was to create classic sounding, big sweeping melodies as a dynamic counterpoint to the soothing steady Bossa rhythms. Lyrically, I wanted to paint not just a picture, but an entire story unfolding." The result is a nuanced combination of substance and ease enabling the listener to escape into Dominoes’ musical world as one might a novel or a film.
The recording process was equally dynamic. "This record could not have been made without all the players’ incredible focus and intuitive understanding of the songs. There was just something in the air." The session included Bill Demain on guitar, Dave Palmer on piano, Reggie Hamilton on bass and Jay Bellerose on drums, with Ethan Johns (Ray LaMontagne, Kings of Leon, Ryan Adams) producing. Raye describes the experience as both exhilarating and exhausting. "We had so little time to work out the kinks and get a great take we really were on the edge of our seats the entire session. By the end of it, our brains were completely fried!" The pace left no time to hesitate, requiring everyone’s full commitment and Raye found it "magical to sing in the soundscape these amazing players created on the spot."
Dominoes is the latest chapter in a career marked by extraordinary alliances and deeply authentic artistry. Julianna’s debut album, Something Peculiar, was produced by Jeff Lynne (Travelling Wilburys, ELO), who met Raye through her cousin, Kamen. Lynne was so taken by her voice and songs, he offered to produce Julianna’s album. Signed to Warner Brothers by Lenny Waronker, Something Peculiar met with great critical acclaim. It was described by Spin magazine as "a pop rock diamond in the rough… Raye’s luminous voice and cinematic tales of love, dreams and life carry the day." Something Peculiar was also voted one of NPR’s top ten records of the year.
After Waronker’s departure from Warner Brothers, Raye was left without a label home and with a very uncertain professional future; it took over eight years for her to release her next album. In one of those rare, defining moments in an artist’s career, she re-emerged from a process of self-discovery and a string of dissatisfying major label flirtations with the brilliant independent release, Restless Night. Working for the first time with Johns as producer, she crafted an enticing foray into the wearisome search for love amidst the creeping vapors of Los Angeles nightlife.
In true indie fashion, Raye and Johns put together a website, pressed up cds and sent out some packages. Before long, Billboard, NPR and Entertainment Weekly had picked up on the cd with glowing reviews, the latter describing it as "languidly gorgeous." Next came the official thumbs up from harbinger of cool, KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic and a full-page article in defining alternative paper, the L.A. Weekly.
Then Johns ran into the legendary Don Henley at a party. When Henley requested a copy of his latest Ryan Adams project, Johns took the opportunity to slip him Restless Night. Henley was so impressed by what he heard he invited Julianna to open for him on his solo shows for the next couple of years, which included dates with another icon, Stevie Nicks. Raye also toured Europe as a member of Rufus Wainwright’s band (she has also opened his shows), and sang on Wainwright’s Release the Stars. Her songwriting credits include collaborations with Rufus Wainwright, Ryan Adams, Ross Godfrey (Morcheeba) and composers Michael Kamen and Paul Halinger. In addition to singing on Wainwright’s releases she can be heard on Ryan Adams’ cds, Gold, Demolition and 48 Hours (all produced by Johns) and is featured on Van Dyke Parks’ tribute to Haruomi Hosono, Yellow Magic, Robin Danar’s Altered States, and singer/songwriter AM’s Side by Side. Her wide range of collaborators proves that her talent transcends terms like independent or mainstream.
It’s not just musicians who have fallen for Julianna’s voice and songs. Raye’s music has been featured in numerous films and television shows. Dewberry Wine has already been placed in the Charlize Theron film The Burning Plain, due out in 2009 and directed by Guillermo Arriaga, the writer of Babel and 21 Grams. Director Rod Lurie asked her to co-write two songs, Land of Quiet
Poems and Every Eden for his 2007 release, Resurrecting the Champ, starring Josh Hartnett and Samuel L Jackson (which she performed at the Sundance Film Festival). Holding All My Love for You, a song she co-wrote with composer Michael Kamen, can be heard over the end credits to the Kevin Costner directed film, Open Range, starring Costner, Robert Duvall and Annette Bening.
It was in the midst of this activity that Julianna and Johns began conceptualizing and demoing songs for Dominoes. She says of Johns "It’s rare to find a creative partner who cares about music and artists the way Ethan does. His one true goal is to be of service to the music and he's a noble warrior in that pursuit. I trust him implicitly to guide my work to a higher ground and to maintain an overarching vision for the project.” Ultimately, Johns’ production expertise, Raye’s rich, haunting voice and a suite of enchantingly beautiful songs have come together to fashion a singular artistic vision; one that is traditional yet fresh, timeless yet contemporary and wholly sophisticated in it’s simplicity.
"I’ve spent a lot of my time in the music business searching and experimenting. I feel fortunate to have had that opportunity because of all the wondrous places I’ve been led. Dominoes feels career defining. It’s as if this has always been my sound and my voice, just waiting patiently for me to discover it. I believe this record represents my most fully evolved work to date."