"I think music in many ways puts you more closely in touch with your inner self. Music is really a very emotional thing, and being involved in music, whether in its creation, or listening as a fan of music puts you in closer contact with your higher self. That produces profound change in our lives."
Ray: Angelic Music Shines Like The Sun
From the rainbow vistas of Niagara Falls, to the snowcapped mountains of Colorado, to the high deserts of Arizona, Ray Roehner has lived, and performed, across the U.S. He had a career in cancer research … a life long journey into animal welfare and contributing to animal causes … promoted bands and contributed to music endeavors … authored a book on reptile care … was involved in public management of an NFL team … and on and on. He has said he’s lived a thousand lifetimes in one. But music has always been one of his biggest loves. In this new endeavor, Ray continues his journey into an eclectic music project with a goal of producing music that makes people feel good about their lives. He hopes he might have an impact on yours… Ray's new eclectic album Fly To The Sun (2023) project by innovative band Fly To The Sun crosses over into several musical genres, including prog rock, progressive pop, art rock, R&B, and more. Featuring Ray (Vocals, flute; Universe Records), Jennifer Batten (Guitar; Jeff Beck, Michael Jackson), Billy Sheehan (Bass; David Lee Roth, Mr. Big, The Winery Dogs), Andrew Giddings (Keyboards; Jethro Tull, The Animals), Gregg Bissonette (Drums; Ringo Starr, ELO, David Lee Roth), Joe Deninzon (Violin; Kansas), JJ Sansaverino (Guitar) and other very notable musicians.
(Photo: Ray of Fly To The Sun, the band explores a synergistic universe of rock & all genres)
The outstanding production work by Andrew Giddings (16-year keyboardist and producer with Jethro Tull) has brought a wealth of expertise, arrangement experience, and keyboard excellence into the project. Carol Roehner is lead producer on the project, and her music capabilities, organizational skills, and intellect have been the foundation of the project. Working on the project with assistance from producer/ composer/ musician Alex Grata, Ray as executive producer decided to create songs that are unique and appealing to a wide range of musical tastes. The songs have an upbeat musical structure and positive lyrical content. Ray has always been a staunch follower of progressive rock music icons like Jethro Tull, Yes, Pink Floyd, Queen, and other rock legends that pushed the envelope into uncharted musical territory and had a huge impact on his life. Assembling this band of world class musicians to join him, Ray decided to produce music that will have a positive impact on listeners, hoping to help them feel good at a time in history when “feel good” songs are sorely needed.
Interview by Michael Limnios Special Thanks: Blilly James (Glass Onyon PR)
How has the Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
I try to avoid political discourse in our music, simply because you ultimately alienate at least 50% of the fan base. I try to be accepting of all points of view in our music, so everyone can just enjoy the music. Having said that, the counterculture and anti-war music of the 60s and 70s produced some of the best music ever. But I believe it is important to be inclusive of all points of view and allow people to have the right to live their lives and believe what they wish. I think it is important that we all come together as a people…we are one family living on this tiny pinhead of a planet spinning through the universe. We need to love each other and care about each other. I hope this ideology continues to evolve and that people start caring more for their fellow man, and stop with all the divisiveness and animosity that we see today. One of our music’s goals is to get people to feel good and have a happy outlook on life and our world.
How do you describe your sound and music philosophy? Where does your creative drive come from?
Our sound is very eclectic and has influences of many genres, including rock, progressive rock and pop, R&B, art rock, etc. It’s a big blend of many styles of music because we wanted to produce music that everyone could enjoy. There’s something for everyone in this album. We built a band not only of tremendous musicians, but also people who wanted to be part of something very unique and special. I believe there’s nothing like this music these days because we do have such a wide variety, rather than just one specific genre. My creative drive comes from the desire to build an album that could change the world, even if just in a small way. I use the Beatles as an example, because they truly did change the world, in a big way. All these years later they still are having a profound impact on the world, both musically and in a societal way. I love Ringo Starr’s message of “peace and love”, because he continues to try to impact the world in a positive way. Our music has similar messages, and if the album were to get big, I’d love to have it affect people in a way that gives them hope and happiness.
"Well, I’ve experienced many changes in music through the years. Personally, I miss the big production music of the creative bands of yesteryear. Bands like Yes, Jethro Tull, Genesis, Queen, Pink Floyd, and on and on. Those great bands put such tremendous work into their productions, and their creativity level was astounding! Today’s music has many great artists, but the trend toward repetitive electronic riffs played over and over in a song kind of drones on me." (Photo: Ray of Fly To The Sun)
What moment changed your life the most? What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?
Again, the Beatles come to mind, because seeing them perform on the Ed Sullivan show as a young child changed my life and made me a huge music fan. In just that one show, they changed the world forever. As for my life highlights, musically I would say this current album has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. Getting to perform on this record with some of the foremost, legendary musicians of our time has been a thrill beyond words. Each band member, and project team member, is very special in so many ways. That was my goal in putting together this band project. I wanted not only great musicians to join in, but I wanted people with a vision of positivity and strong work ethic that wanted to produce something unique and meaningful. This is not a typical record by any means. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and the amazing synergy of these great people produced something that is beyond my wildest dreams. Everyone who hears this album says the same kind of thing. It is moving, creative, professional, and wonderful. I love the comments we have gotten from around the world. Our hope is to get it to the masses so more can experience what we have put together.
Currently you’ve one release with many guest musicians. Do you have any stories about the making of the new album?
Well, I could write a book about this band project! It has been magical right from the start. A new band can be difficult to assemble, especially since I tried to get the very best musicians in the world. Everyone I asked to join accepted my invitation enthusiastically. What was most gratifying about that, was that I knew each of our members was very busy working with other bands and projects, and yet they decided to work on Fly To The Sun because they saw the specialness of it. Every single musician involved didn’t just play a part that fit a song. They put a lot of thought and planning into each piece they played. Every note of each track has so much feeling, not to mention the incredible technique and skill they put into each track. This wasn’t just some record that was thrown together for the sake of making an album. Every song has their signature as if it was in a way a culmination to this point of all their training and hard work through the years. Our band is the benefactor of years of experience and training of each and every one of them. And not just of the band members, but of the whole team. Our web designer, our art director, our publicists and radio promoters, our wonderful advisors and friends, the producers, the mastering and audio engineers… they all came together to produce a work that rivals any of the great music projects out there. As executive producer, I am honored to have them all be a part of something so special. (Photo: Ray Roehner, Sedona recording artist and founder of Universe Records)
"Think of how good you feel when you have a wonderful, friendly, positive interaction with someone. It really is wonderful. Imagine if the whole world was like that? It could be such an amazing place. We need to work at that somehow. We need to care about each other. I think music is an extremely important avenue to foment that kind of feeling. I hope our record has that kind of impact."
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
Well, I’ve experienced many changes in music through the years. Personally, I miss the big production music of the creative bands of yesteryear. Bands like Yes, Jethro Tull, Genesis, Queen, Pink Floyd, and on and on. Those great bands put such tremendous work into their productions, and their creativity level was astounding! Today’s music has many great artists, but the trend toward repetitive electronic riffs played over and over in a song kind of drones on me. It might be good to dance to, but is it really the kind of music where you can sit back and listen to over and over? When I think back to music like Tull’s “Thick As A Brick”, Yes’s “Close To The Edge”, the great Beatles records, and so on, I remember them as musical works of art I could listen to over and over again, and I did! I hope the future music comes back to that level of creativity. It was a wonderful era of music to experience, and that’s why so many young people these days are starting to listen to music of that era. They understand and hear the specialness of it.
What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?
I listen to many types of music. I appreciate the variety of styles and the artistic aspects of it all. I guess I wish that music would be more accepting of others. I don’t particularly like personal attacks in lyrics. We need to love each other and accept the rights of others to live their lives as they choose, as long as they don’t hurt others. The great Frank Zappa once wrote, “Do as you want to, do as you will, just don’t mess up your neighbor’s thrill.” I ascribe to that same philosophy. When it comes down to it, we need to understand that life is short, and we are one big family on this planet. Think of how good you feel when you have a wonderful, friendly, positive interaction with someone. It really is wonderful. Imagine if the whole world was like that? It could be such an amazing place. We need to work at that somehow. We need to care about each other. I think music is an extremely important avenue to foment that kind of feeling. I hope our record has that kind of impact.
"I love Ringo Starr’s message of “peace and love”, because he continues to try to impact the world in a positive way. Our music has similar messages, and if the album were to get big, I’d love to have it affect people in a way that gives them hope and happiness."
(Photo: Ray of Fly To The Sun)
Life is more than just music, is there any other field that has influence on your life and music?
I am a very devoted animal lover. I love all animals, in fact, if I have a bug or even a scorpion in the house, I try to capture it and put it outside to live its life. My friends think I’m crazy! But I think all life is special. In fact, one of my goals if we are successful with this album, is to donate to animal rescues. They do such great work and are so underfunded.
I also love sports, especially football, which I played on a semi-pro level when younger. I love the competitive nature of sports and how it makes you strive to improve and excel as a person, not just physically but mentally and emotionally. That affects my music because I am never completely satisfied… I’m always working harder to make our music as good as I can make it. I listen to song mixes thousands of times to make sure they are as good as possible. So my sports activities helped in that regard. It’s a form of perfectionism. I think that all musicians are perfectionists by nature. I love that about musicians, because they are always striving to be better and better. That’s why I love when children get involved in music or animals. It grounds you and makes you want to strive to be a better and more complete person.
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experiences in the music and life?
I think music in many ways puts you more closely in touch with your inner self. Music is really a very emotional thing, and being involved in music, whether in its creation, or listening as a fan of music puts you in closer contact with your higher self. That produces profound change in our lives. Having perfectionistic goals in life can be a good thing. It makes you want to be as good as you can be, whether as a musician, or with your friends and families, or on your job, etc. My drive to make our music as good as it can be carries over into all aspects of my life. I wash my floors in my house a lot for instance, not necessarily because they need it, but it makes me feel good that my home is clean and orderly. I’m not OCD.
I’m just… a musician! While I’m far from perfect, I like to look myself in the mirror, knowing I’m always trying to be a better person. I hope when people hear our music, they think of themselves in the same sort of way. Life is short, and we can do so much to make our world a better place in our own microcosm. If everybody starts to have that same mindset, the possibilities of our world are limitless.
(Photo: Ray Roehner, his dream to bring his music to the global stage has come to fruition)
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