Raz Tilley sparked my attention some 3 years ago when seeing and hearing her sing on several of her video's. The thoughts and reasons as to why someone begins a music blog; Simply to try their hardest to share music to others they would otherwise perhaps never have encountered amongst the haystack.
Raz Tilley is one of those artists who has her feet firmly on the ground with the knowledge and experience of both life and music; meaning Ms. Tilley has, and continues to develop a variety of mixed genre's and fusion without pinning herself down into that little square box. This I believe, is true art in the form of writing and performing based on experience and emotion enabling the artist to truely create what they are meant to and what they feel at that particular time.
Tilley is a multi-instrumentalist of saxophone, guitar, piano and blues harp whenever the opportunity arises, including having played with some of Brisbane's finest musicians.
Among her many capabilities as a multi-instrumentalist, Tilley also writes and self-produces her work, (which many artists take on now-a-day), but the difference with Raz Tilley, is she does it well....very well.
I guess this would also derive from her background as having not just a degree in Music, Drama and Education, but topping her class in her final years, leaves me thinking, not only is she talented, but a very smart cookie that resembles very close to the perfect and complete package as artist.
I interviewed Raz recently to find out more about this young woman and her music, and as you will see, and most probably agree, her vast appreciation of music from many genre's and era's are refreshing with a slight twist of lemon. (which I like)
Music Talks/Tracey: As a singer and multi-instrumentalist, who was it that inspired you to become actively involved in music.?
Raz: I was always pretty fascinated by music and instruments and seeing my dad noodle away on his guitar (when he wasn’t crazy busy working). It made me curious as a young kid. I can distinctly remember the catalyst that made me want to learn the saxophone. I was playing around on a Sunday afternoon and I heard Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street solo and knew I had to try that. With piano it was more of a case of my parents thinking it was a great idea to do something outside of school that promoted a love for music. Also, as a child growing up with intelligent parents, I was allowed and encouraged to watch The Simpsons and, of course, I wanted to be Lisa Simpson.
MT: You began at quite a young age, can you tell us how important it is for any artist, regardless if they are independent or not, to have a great support unit around you.
Raz: I think support is imperative to success and integrity. I know it’s cliché to say, but I truly have been blessed with a wonderfully encouraging family who have given me every opportunity and some good friends and fellow musicians who have provided me with a platform to perform and never doubted my passion for music.
MT: Usually many artists who write their own songs are either inspired by an event, a thought or an experience. Are you inspired often and can you tell the story and what inspired you to write ‘Silent Ones’?
Raz: I suppose that random things have inspired me along the way. I still don’t pretend to understand the creative process, which is quite exciting in a weird sort of way. When you sit down to write and create it can either come naturally and simply, or, at other times, it can be a longer slog and very mechanical, drawing on the technical aspects of playing an instrument and compositional tricks and norms.
Regarding Silent Ones, I thought about one of my very close friends whom I met in high school. She was and still is an incredible person with insight beyond her years. Even as teenagers. I consider myself very lucky to have been accepted into her small circle and became a great friend. Silent Ones is about these people who impact our lives significantly, yet to others might go unnoticed because of their quiet and sometimes introverted demeanour. They might be the real “listeners” amongst society who take things in deeply and contemplate, rather than just give their 2 cents. In a world full of social commentary and virtue-signalling, they are the ones actually doing something real.
MT: You refer to your music as “wtf-alt-indie-folk-pop-rock-country-blues with a touch of soul, a taste of swing, a tang of Latin and a trace of funk.” I’ve noticed that each song differs greatly from another, yet there is a great common link between each song making your sound unique in itself. When you are asked to place a genre into your category for music on distribution platforms...what on earth do you put?
Raz: Haha, well, it’s always been a bit of a joke and tongue-in-cheek reference to how the music industry/agents desperately want everyone “pigeon-holed” into a genre, to make it easier to label or market them. But it’s a difficult one when you really don’t fit a mould. I’m no maverick, don’t get me wrong, but my music has influences from a myriad of styles and genres that I both admire, have performed and enjoy listening to. Therefore, saying I’m “pop” is so broad and generalised, it doesn’t seem right to characterise my music as just pop. Also, what is “pop”? It stands for popular, which is ironic. Throughout the history of written music, to a certain degree, the dates of composers dictated the type of music they wrote. I mean, broadly speaking, I could be really pretentious and say it’s all Baroque music re-invigorated for a modern audience. At the end of the day, we still just steal all their chordal progressions and want to arouse emotion in our listeners.
MT: I read that your mother strapped headphones around her stomach while pregnant with you, playing Mozart, Beethoven and Bach. Do you believe in playing classical music to babies to enhance their learning abilities?
Raz: I believe in playing music in general to babies and children. I love seeing a kid just dance along to a song without inhibition. Studies have shown that classical music has a plethora of educational and developmental benefits for children and adults alike. I find those who listen and appreciate classical music have better insight into emotional intelligence. Ultimately though, I think music should be around us all the time as a pleasurable and fundamental part of the human condition. Without music, the world is deafeningly loud.
MT: The relevance to Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven in ‘My Therapy’ is very clever as we hear the common thread throughout the song with the inclusion of guitars and solid drums turning this into a rock ballad production at its finest. How do you come up with these idea’s as both a singer and producer?
Raz: Thank you kindly- that’s very nice of you to say! I can never really escape my classical training and start in music- nor do I want to. All music, like fashion, is cyclic – I mean, there’s only 12 notes to be used, someone’s got to do some re-hashing. I also think music from the great composers is as close to perfection as anyone will get notation-wise and the chordal structure of these pieces is so closely linked to our modern-day pop song, that it just makes sense. There are some hilarious examples and practical comedy about this as shown by Australian trio Axis of Awesome’s Four Chord Song and standup/musician Rob Paravonian’s rant about Pachebel’s Canon in D. For me, I was playing and reading Classical music from a young age, along with notating and composing my own little melodies and developing an ear for the works of my favourite composers. Beethoven stands out as quite the Romantic and obviously hugely important for any pianist to study. His music is highly emotive and uses beautiful, often sad motifs. The Moonlight Sonata, or Adagio Sostenuto (first movement ), is iconic and recognized by musicians’ and non-musicians’ alike. Structurally, the opening triplet musical device just lends itself to writing a ballad around it and I’ll admit the lyrics formed around the melody easily. I throw my hands up and admit I often “borrow” from the greats. I have more recently, written another ballad that manipulates Saint-Saent’s Le Cygne (The Swan) from The Carnival of the Animals suite.
MT: You have performed with the some of the greatest artists of all time including the likes of the late Wilson Pickett as well as Ray Charles at the very tender age of 14. How did you land such a great gig?
Raz: I have been very lucky to have parents with great musical taste and appreciation. I was always brought along to shows they would go to see at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre. One such performance was an opening by Wilson Pickett, followed by the late, great Ray Charles. Sadly, it would be some of the last performances for both of them- so I’m even more grateful I was able to attend. It was a complete fluke that I was asked on stage by Wilson Pickett. He called out to the audience to have someone help him sing the call and response to Land of a 1000 Dances. I don’t know why he chose me, other than maybe because I was about 30-50 years younger than the majority of the audience members.
MT: What do you remember about your performances with Wilson Pickett and Ray Charles?
Raz: All I remember was being so excited to get up on stage with 2 legends of music and this was a school night, so I felt like such a rebel! It was truly a once in a lifetime experience and I’ll always hold it dear to me.
MT: I believe you were one of the very unfortunate to have lost your home in the great flood in Queensland caused by the Wivenhoe damn in 2011 where people lost their lives. This must have been tragic for you. Did you manage to salvage anything and how did you get through that time and re-create your life’s work of music?
Raz: The floods were devastating indeed, and so many people in and around Brisbane were adversely affected by the floods. It’s a horrible sight to see your possessions end up on the scrap heap and defiled by mud and water damage. I think, apart from the house, which had to be completely gutted and rebuilt, and the grief my parents went through, the hardest thing was seeing my piano reduced to nothingness and unsalvageable. I think everyone directly affected did their best to move on and get their lives back on track as much as possible, and with the music it was hard to want to write anything that didn’t seem too depressing or morose. To that end, one of the great things about song-writing is the ability to create something beautiful out of tragedy and loss that hopefully listeners can relate to whatever their circumstance.
MT: Indie music seems to be making greater headway into people’s homes slowly, while the larger corporations, labels and services continue to try to dominate and monopolize the industry. As an independent artist, do you feel that there is a chance for indie’s reaching people who usually would have only listened to the commercial artists signed to major labels?
Raz: That’s a great question, to which I don’t know the answer. Independent music really has a much better fighting chance of being heard nowadays, compared to, say, 20 years ago. Social media and other streaming services allow for the globalisation and sharing of artists who previously wouldn’t stand a chance without the support and reigns of a major label. It’s still true today, but I think audiences are discerning enough to seek out new artists too.
MT: As a teacher of music, is there anything you teach about the difficulties and rollercoaster ride the music industry entails? If so, what do you say to your students to encourage them?
Raz: Being a music teacher is such a joy and privilege because I get to inspire students of all ages and demographics of my passion and engage with them creatively. I don’t tend to talk about the music industry as everyone’s experience will be different from my own. I do, however, say, do what you love and the benefits of your investment of time will be obvious and highly self-gratifying. I don’t really want to discourage or dissuade anyone who dreams of making a name for themselves in the industry. I am there purely to teach and inspire and share my love of the amazing world of music.
MT: What are your plans for 2019?
Raz: This interview of course! Haha! I’m looking to do some more videos for my songs that haven’t been released yet and edit them for various media platforms. Also, I always like to play as much music as I possibly can, whether that be originals, covers or even accompanyist jobs. I also do a bit of stand-up comedy. I’m off to Melbourne in April to see some of my favourite comedians in the annual Melbourne International Comedy Festival and hopefully experience some wonderful art while I’m there.
Links To Raz Tilley