For our sixth CMB Spotlight, we want to introduce you to singer/songwriter, Caleb Ray. Caleb shared with us a little bit about his songwriting process, his influences, his new album This Little Light, and more.
CMB: How did you get started in music?
Caleb Ray: I've been playing guitar and singing since I was about 10 years old. I dabbled in many different styles of music: from rock, to blues, jazz, funk, pop, and punk. I performed many coffee shop gigs during high school, but it wasn't until my freshman year of college that I really decided to pursue music wholeheartedly. All throughout college, my band and I would go to class Monday through Friday, and do concerts on the weekends. It was exhausting, but fun!
During my senior year, my band and I recorded The Wake Up EP, and after graduating in 2010, I decided to dive in head first and pursue my dream. It's been an incredible journey, and I've made a lot of new friends, and have played with some incredible bands and artists. This last November, I just released my debut album, titled This Little Light. So far, the response from people has been incredible, and I'm absolutely stoked to see what happens next.
CMB: What would be your top three musical influences?
Caleb Ray: As of right now, I'm bouncing between Switchfoot, MUTEMATH, and Ben Rector. Lyrically, Switchfoot has had the most impact on me. I've been a die-hard fan of theirs since I was 11 years old. Musically, I'm very much influenced by MUTEMATH. Those guys work so hard! I love their electronic-rock sound, and they way they all go 110% at every show they do. Vocally, Ben Rector has been a huge influence on me. His voice is so smooth, so raw, and so clean.
I imagine that pulling together elements from all 3 groups would create something truly epic. I'm also a big fan of Needtobreathe, and I love their raw, gritty sound and the heart that's behind their music. I think that puts my over my 3 band limit, though. Oops!
CMB: What would be your general process for writing a song from start to finish?
Caleb Ray: For me, songwriting is a slower process. I like to create the music first, and then write lyrics around the sound I'm creating. If I'm lucky, I maybe come out with 2 or 3 new songs a month. I like to sit on each one for a while, and really process it, really think things through. The result is usually a song that is very well thought-out.
I really become invested into each song, and I feel that if I'm going to be singing these songs for the rest of my life, then I would want to (1) make sure I really believe in what I'm singing, and (2) enjoy what I'm singing.
CMB: Let’s talk about your new album, This Little Light. Where did it all start?
Caleb Ray: This Little Light started about 5 years ago. My friend, a kindergartener at the time, called me up and asked me if I would be her show-and-tell for school. So, I came to her kindergarten class and sang the old classic "This Little Light Of Mine." Everyone did the hand-motions, and it was really fun!
While I was singing, and watching all the children sing, I was floored with the reality that there truly isn't anything little about the light of Christ. In fact, there is nothing more powerful than it! I went home that day and wrote the lyrics: "It's like a wildfire through the trees, it's like a spark in gasoline, this little light ain't hard to see, this little light belongs to me."
CMB: What would be your biggest piece of advice to us as a believer when writing and creating original music?
Caleb Ray: I believe that every good writer is also a good listener. Listen to people. Listen to their stories. It feels like everyone in our world is dying to be heard, and that there is a real shortage people who actually want to listen. Many of my songs were inspired from conversations, or from people's stories, and the spiritual truths that were deep within them. Most importantly, listen to God. He is constantly speaking to us. Keep your eyes and ears open.
Take your time. Enjoy what you write. If you feel like it's not ready, then don't perform it, and don't record and release it.
On my latest album, I had to really force myself to be honest. I often get so caught up in the thought of "Would radio stations or record labels want something like this?" that I forget that my #1 goal is to make art that pleases God. So, I was very intentional about being honest with myself, and that resulted in some of the most brutally honest lyrical confessions.
I think that our generation is very good at detecting what is genuine and what is not. If you're not being real with yourself during the writing process, I think that people will be able to sense it.
CMB: Can you tell us a little about your local church community where you worship?
Caleb Ray: I'm a worship leader for Salem First Church of the Nazarene in Salem, OR. I'm about to celebrate my 2nd year of leading there! My church family is so wonderful; they are always so supportive of what I do, and they really allow me to be myself (which might be difficult at times, because I can be pretty weird).
A lot of my time there is spent giving guitar and bass lessons to some of our youth. I believe that it's important to invest into the younger generations, and to raise up and inspire new worship leaders.
CMB: Thanks again for sharing your music with your fellow CMB-ites. Where should people go to find out more about you online?
Caleb Ray: Thank you for having me on here! I would encourage my fellow CMB-ites to go to my website, www.calebraymusic.com, and like me on Facebook, or follow me on twitter. I also have a sampler of my new album available on Noisetrade.