14 Jul Cray Talks Twitch, “Peaches,” and Life on the Road [Exclusive Interview]
Cheney Ray has always gone by the name Cray. While growing up, her mom always dubbed her as an original. In school, she listened to a lot of music, and this developed her love for it. She never chose one thing to be good at, but she played a lot of sports. When you live with something, you adapt and learn how to live without it. At first, Cray wanted to be a photographer before becoming a musician. Before she knew she could make music, she downloaded Abelton, made a rap beat, and kept going. She doesn’t really care about being remembered, but she wants to make an impact now. Whether or not her fame lasts, she wants her music to touch people and help people. Now, she uses her talents in writing, singing, and producing to create songs for her fans.
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You grew up in Vancouver, but you were born in Arizona. Do you consider yourself a Canadian or an American? What are some of the best things about Canada?
I’m dual. I’m literally half and half. I feel like, seriously, half of me is American and half of me is Canadian. It’s seriously down the middle. I say pasta still and Canucks are my favorite hockey team, like all those types of things are Canadian. The culture side, knowing America really well and living here more, makes me feel like my years of growing up were more like becoming an adult. The teenage years were fun and all, but now it’s my career. Everything in my life revolves around the US.
I have to say Tim Horton is pretty cool. The people are super multicultural. Like, I was the only white girl in my high school and in my graduating class. I think it taught me a lot about multiculturalism and respecting other people’s cultures. I feel like that’s really awesome to be growing up in the area. And, also, it was a smaller town, and I really liked it. It’s polite, and my values are really Canadian, just in the sense of family and the way it was about. In smaller communities, I knew everyone that went out. Like, I knew the entire scene. I saw the same people, saw the same bands, and saw the same DJs. I feel like that was also a pro and con because coming to LA I see so many different people which I’m blessed about, but sometimes, I don’t know anyone. It’s a new scenario, which is cool, but sometimes I want the familiar vibe, and sometimes, I want something new. So it’s good to have a bit of both.
You wanted to be a photographer before becoming a musician, but being a photographer didn’t make you enough money. You also mentioned you want to be an artist manager. Do you still feel this way now that you’re an artist?
No. I mean, sometimes, I’m like if I was a manager, I wouldn’t be touring right now; I would be at home in bed with my cat. Sometimes, I think of that, but then I would think about how I can be creative. I think being creative, making music, making art, and being able to do that is so important to me and having a voice for my fans and stuff and giving them advice and trying to help them is so important. As a manager, you don’t really get that chance, so I feel like being behind the scenes is great because you get to be at home, nobody knows you, it’s quiet, and you get those vibes. But on the other side, you can’t use your voice for anything. But on the other side, when you’re touring, everyone knows who you are, everyone’s in your business, everyone wants to know what’s going on; that’s overwhelming too. But I’m so glad I did my journey. I’m here for a reason, you know? I feel like I’m so creatively-oriented and free-spirited that I’m not so intense on schedules and times. I still love photography; I still do it a lot. I still take photos of shows and stuff when I can, but sometimes, I just couldn’t see a future with it, so I picked something else up. Thank God for that.
What was the inspiration behind your song “Peaches,” and how did you create it?
Well, I’ve always written lyrics, and I’ve always been a really good writer for that, but I just didn’t know how to use my voice. I didn’t know if I could sing. I was like, I don’t know if I could do this, but I was like, I might as well just take a chance. I used to sing in high school in a choir, so I was thinking maybe I’m not that bad. I went to a singing teacher and started gaining confidence in my voice.
“Peaches” was actually written a long time ago about not getting credit for being a woman or for being a creative person; people wonder who got you there. It was kind of just about all the bricks they throw. I’m going to use it as ammo and come back better instead of throwing it back. It’s just about being strong and not letting anyone make excuses for you. You just got there because you got there. I think that’s really important.
It’s been a little over two years since you released your single “4Never.” What were your expectations while producing this track?
I mean, honestly, my expectations were so low. I recorded that vocal on an iPhone, so it sounds horrible. I was super shocked by it. I was just like I’m going to try. I don’t know how to do vocals yet, I’ve never sung before, and I’ve never mixed or engineered vocals. I literally dragged and dropped and just hoped for the best. And it turned out really well. It got me confident thinking, “Okay, you can sing.” I was making trap beats before, which I love and I still love, but I wanted to change my tune. I’ve grown older. People don’t realize that as an artist you grow older, and you change tastes. As much as I love that stuff, I was gearing towards writing and singing and making those type of songs that I can really put all of my creative juices on.
How did you get the opportunity to go on tour with Anna Lunoe and Nina Las Vegas for HYPERHOUSE? How did that tour change your career or your outlook on your career?
Oh my gosh, dude! Anna got me really confident in the scene. She’s always supporting the underground. Seriously, she’s always asking for who’s an artist, who’s doing cool stuff, always asking to this day. She literally hit me up and asked if I want to be on the HYPERHOUSE tour, and I was like, “Oh my God, this is the coolest thing. Like, yeah, sure!”
The first time I was on tour I was so scared, but they are such amazing powerful women. I was like I can do this because I was like could I ever make it as a woman? Is this going to happen? And they gave me complete confidence that I can kick ass. I experienced tour life with the best people. It was a very welcoming mom vibe, and she took care of me. She told me the advice I needed to know. It was amazing!
Mental health on the road is a topic that doesn’t seem to get discussed a lot. What have you learned about yourself while touring in regards to taking care of yourself?
Mental health is really important to me. It’s probably #1. I don’t do well on tour. I’ve toured the most I’ve ever toured this year, and it’s been pretty hard. Just getting the balance of things, being healthy. I’m a big routine person. When you’re on the road, it all changes, and you’re on another schedule. The meals aren’t constant, the sleep isn’t constant, you don’t know where you’re going, and it’s hotel rooms to hotel rooms. All that stress is just really hard, and you can’t really find a home base. It’s hard for me to be creative; it’s hard for me to make music on the road. I’m tired, and I’m stressed. I’m right now getting used to the road. I haven’t found my tune yet of how I’m going to be on the road.
When I’m in there for the hour I’m doing it, it’s the best thing ever. I’m hugging fans, and I’m like this is amazing. But then two hours after the show, I’m in the hotel room alone, and I’m like, “Damn, this is lonely. I miss my family, I miss my friends, I miss my boyfriend, and my cat.” But then you go on stage, and you’re doing it. And after, it’s a crash. There’s a high and a crash.
So, finding that balance is really important. I play games, I bring my switch with me, and I facetime my boyfriend and my family a lot. I try to always sleep early. I don’t really party. I party when I’m home, but I feel like on the road, I wouldn’t be able to keep up. It would be another thing to juggle. There’s also a therapist I talk to when I’m too stressed out. Being on tour is really extremely hard, and I think it’s really important to be able to realize that and see that it’s okay to figure out what I need to do to make myself more comfortable on the road.
What do you think was your biggest struggle to get to where you are today? How did you overcome this?
Now, it’s balancing tour life, but before, it was getting noticed. No matter how many times I’m tweeting, it’s not hitting the right people. I didn’t really know anyone here; I was from Canada. I knew no one here. I was like, “How am I going to meet people?” So, that was a struggle, but when I got there, now touring is the biggest thing. Because it’s too hard to make music on the road. I have to be in the studio or at home. Now, I’m writing a lot on the road and singing instead of producing. So, I’m doing one part on the road. Then, when I’m back, I produce because I can’t do it all at once.
I kept trucking. I kept doing it, following other small producers, just trying to make friendships there. I went out a lot because everyone was networking. Just meeting like-minded people helps get your name out there. For young producers, I would say to meet other people in your area who are doing the same thing you’re doing so you can help each other get there.
What are your top three proudest achievements over the last few years?
Writing, singing, and producing “Peaches” was a big one because I was really insecure if my voice was going to be okay or if my writing was going to be okay. So, being able to make that creative song with all my talents was really big for me; so that was awesome. I went to Japan with Skrillex, and that was probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done, just because it’s a whole new culture. I look up to Skrillex, and everyone was vibing; it was a very cool open environment. I inspire to be like that. Just playing festivals is a big one too. I’ve never thought I would be able to do that.
How do you as an artist make an impact on your fans now?
I have a thing called Real Talk with Cray. It’s on my Twitch channel. I stream it, so I get into these huge long rants about life advice. I help people with whatever they need help on. I love doing that, and I always respond to people who are needing help or ever reach out. I just put a positive message out there. I try not to talk about drama. I just want to talk about music and what I’m doing and try to make people laugh. That’s the biggest thing I can do. And, also, my lyrics, that’s why I can’t take lyrics from other people. I write from personal experiences; they’re all about something I’ve gone through. Lyrics are really important, and people don’t think that they are, but they actually respect people.
You’re really active on social media. You interact with your fans on a regular basis and invite them into your discussions. How has that direct fan relationship had an impact on your career?
Every time I see someone get a Cray tattoo I’m just like, what the hell is going on? I’m like, are you okay? Does your mom know this? The best is when kids hit me up saying your advice has helped me stay alive or get the crush I want to date me, or your song is really giving me strength during this time. All of that is so meaningful. It makes everything I do worth it. It makes the touring worth it. I read all my messages. I try to read through everything, even though it’s a lot, and all of those messages really keep me going.
What advice do you have for artists just getting into music production?
Make friends with other producers! Hit up people who are just as small as you and rise together and use each other’s connections together. Put music out and hit up every local promoter you know. Post on social media what you’re doing. I think as long as you’re being creative and you’re trying, it’s not going to happen overnight. Music’s hard, and entertainment is hard. Just keep going. Also, have a side hustle. I streamed on Twitch to keep making my music career happen, so I was streaming games to pay for rent and to pay for music. Never just give up completely. Balance a little bit of both for a while until you feel confident.
You’ve always been a gamer, and you stream on Twitch. What are some of your favorite games to play?
My favorite game ever is Fallout. I play a lot of horror games like Outlast and stuff like that – a lot of indie horror games. My fans love when I get scared. Jurrasic Park, Jurrasic World, I play basically everything. I just don’t play Fornite. I played it, and it’s fun, but I don’t want to stream it because my viewers don’t really care about watching that kind of stuff.
What is your favorite horror movie?
The Shining. I have a tattoo, “All work and no play.” Also, Beetlejuice. It’s not really a horror, but when I was a kid, it was. I love Beetlejuice. I’m a big horror buff so, basically, the Halloween series when it comes out. There’s a new one coming out, so that’s exciting.
Pesto Boyz is a fun group that everyone wants to be a part of. How did the Pesto Boyz movement start?
It’s such a goofy thing. My best friend Tucker and I were on stream, and we were drunk, and I don’t know what we were doing, but I was like, “Where my Pesto Boyz at?” I think I ate pesto that night. Seriously, it was that casual. And the next day, people were tweeting Pesto Boyz, Pesto Boyz, and we were like, let’s just see how far we can take this. And it took off. Now we’re getting Pesto Boyz tattoos, we have merch going out, we make videos, and it’s just fun. I think people just like to be a part of something fun, and we have a good message. We just want everyone to be included, and if you don’t like pesto, you can still be a Pesto Boy. It’s just a fun thing that was created out of nothing.