Holy string section! The sweeping arrangements of orchestral music has been pleasing crowds everywhere for hundreds of years, in part due to their intricacy and another their ability to capture a wide range of energy and emotions, from epic to peaceful, burdened to hopeful.
And although orchestral music has been a partner to film for a shorter amount time, its partnership is strong, helping pull out emotions into a scene and drive narrative — from the big, booming entrance of a story’s antagonist to the rom com moment in the rain.
We’ve pulled together a smattering artists making some of the most thought-provoking and magical orchestral music out there. Whether you’re looking for powerful, cinematic scores a la Austin-based composer, Keen Collective, or reflective, revelatory journeys like those crafted by Wisconsin-based composer, Matthew Hollingsworth, the options are endless (and beautiful).
Sugaray Rayford wants you to know his shows aren’t for eating cheese and drinking wine. They are raucous experiences, a celebration of music, dancing and good times. He refuses to call his shows “concerts,” preferring to talk about them as parties. Semantics aside, it’s hard to deny that Rayford’s brand of soulful electric blues is anything but infectious. His church-honed vocals have unquestionable gospel influences, infusing his music with a certain sincerity that is increasingly harder to find. Rayford’s latest musical brainchild, The World That We Live In, marks his fourth album released and might just be his most intimate project yet.
Fresh off recording his first live album, we caught up with Rayford to talk about his influences, vulnerability when writing, and letting his music lead the way.
Marmoset: What drew you to music at such a young age?
Sugaray Rayford: I started in gospel in a church in east Texas. I first started singing in the choir when I was five and I started playing drums around seven, but yeah, I started pretty early.
Having said that, when did you know that you wanted to pursue music as a career?
Well, actually, it's weird. I told this story so many times. I stopped playing music at about 16-17 and I didn't play music for over 20-some-odd years. I didn't touch the drums, keys, sing or anything. I went into the military, had a son, and it wasn't until I met my current wife – she was the one who pushed me into doing music. That must have been around 2000.
You mentioned getting started in gospel, who are some of the artist that have influenced you?
I was really into choir music, like The Mississippi Mass Choir. I didn't realize how fortunate I was back then to get to see and be on stage with people like The Jackson Southernaires, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, The Winans, people like that.
Can you talk a little bit more about your new album The World We Live In?
It was weird – the way it came about was weird. Lucas Sapeo, the owner of Blind Faith records, had seen me some years before in Lucerne, Switzerland with the Mannish Boys. They contacted my manager, who was my wife, a few years later while I was on tour and when I got home I thought I would finally get to be home for a while. She let me be home for a couple days before she sprung it on me and told me I had to go to Italy to record an album with Lucas Sapeo.
Before I knew it I was in Rome with people I didn't know. We got to the studio and I realized it was a great analog studio. And, once I heard the songs, I was just like, “Okay, this is the sound I've been hearing in my head.” I couldn't believe that someone else was able to read my mind. The whole process was a lot of fun because it allowed me to do a bunch of different things vocally.
What is your favorite part of the songwriting process?
Most of the time, my songs are about things that have happened years or sometimes even decades before. Almost everything I've ever written is about something that's actually happened to me or about the thoughts that have actually been going through my mind. It's overwhelmingly joyful when the thoughts come out and then are put to music. That process is just euphoric.
A lot of what is written about you mentions your live shows and the energy you bring to them. What do you try to bring to your shows, and what do you hope people will get out of them?
My biggest thing I always tell people – and I'm notorious for this – is that this is not a concert; it’s a party. My whole idea of music has always been that for the couple hours that I'm on stage, my job is to try to make you forget the problems that are outside the venue, whatever is going on in your life. And for two hours, I want to give you a reprieve of smiles, thoughts and feelings. I want you to leave there sweaty and having danced the entire time. If that happens I feel that I accomplished what I came there to do.
I don't like concerts. It doesn't matter if there are 300 people or 130,000. It should be a party; what you came for was to party. Not that I’m talking bad about jazz music, but this not a jazz concert. When I perform, it's not one of those things where it's time to eat cheese and drink wine. No, it's time to put on your dancing shoes, come out here sweat, dance, have a good time, cut some jokes, tell some stories – it's a party.
Was there ever a time during the songwriting process where something didn’t start off sounding huge but ended up changing and exceeding your expectations?
My bass player, Ralph Carter, who used to write for The Eddie Money Band, wrote the title track of my first album The Blind Alley. It wasn’t until years later when we were performing it that people really knew the words and were dancing to it. Also the song, "Live to Love Again," off the Southside album – a lot of those songs were songs that I had already written with Ralph maybe three to four years before even my first solo album, but I was too afraid as an artist. Songs like "Call Off A Mission," "Live to Love Again," "Slow Motion."
For Blind Alley, since it was my first solo album, I wasn't confident enough to express my bare naked thoughts. I was so worried about what people would think or say about the lyrics and the subject matter. But by the time I had started writing the Southside album, I was very competent in who I was and what I was doing, and what I wanted to say. That's the first album that's all original and it has the songs written and played the way I wanted them to be played. I had this thought in my head that either you got it or you didn't. That was amazing for me. It took years for me to wait for that process, to get to that point where this is my voice this is what I have to say. You either listen or don't, that's up to you.
It seems like you work with quite a few bands. You have your own band and you contribute to others as well. Having worked with so many people, what does successful collaboration look like to you?
Music is something that you love but it's also hard work. It has to be something that I enjoy or someone that I admire, and I'm so humbled that they would want to do something with me. So earlier this year I did some back up for The Temptations’s new album. I feel very humbled that people would want my big mouth on their album. I don't know what success means. As long as we're happy with what we’ve turned out — and so far I've been very lucky that the things I've done I've been very happy with.
What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
As my grandmother would say, “life is short, so enjoy it as much as you can.” It's really weird, because you have to get to a point in life where you realize you have to start listening to people and do the things that you really love and want to do. Because you only get one go-around, so the last thing I’d want is to be on my death bed saying, “I wish I would have…” or “I could have…” I want to say, “I remember that, that was fun.”
So life is short, enjoy it, that's what it’s made for.
Last question here for you. You said you're going to have some time at home, but musically what is coming up next for you?
Well, we recorded my first live album on this tour. When I get home, I will be putting that together to put out my first live album. I'm getting ready to start going into the studio at some point. Then start writing for the next album. I've been continually moving towards this stack soul sound — the sound has been in my head when I play my record with the band.
I'm not going in it with any expectations. I'm still gonna write stories that are true to me so that when I'm singing them I can give the right feeling and people realize it's not just words, it's actual true stories put to music. I'm just gonna let the music dictate what the next step is.
It can be hard to keep track of all of the shows coming through town — that’s why each month, we pull together a list of some of of the artists from our community who are stopping by a stage near you soon. Check out some of the artists and show details below — we’ll see you there!
Thursday, November 30 at Mississippi Studios
9pm. $10-$12. 21+.
Friday, November 24 at Tractor Tavern.
9pm. $20. 21+.
Thursday, November 16 at Bimbos 365 Club.
8pm. $25. 21+.
Wednesday, November 29 at Beat Kitchen.
NEW YORK CITY
Tuesday, November 14 at City Winery.
When you think of songs from the public domain, you probably think of big bands, crooning vocals, and wax cylinders. Instead, Distance’s re-imagination of the 1919 classic, “The World is Waiting for the Sunrise,” originally written by Eugene Lockhart and sung by Ernest Seitz, uses big contemporary builds and edgy synth tones combined with the smooth, anthemic vocals of Frankie Simone to turn a more than 100 year old composition into a danceable, electro-pop song.
“The original is pretty light on lyrics. So, to put my own twist on it, I decided to use a heavy drop because it’s so different from the original structure of the song,” said Graham Barton, Distance (and Marmoset) composer. “Almost like adding an exclamation point to the original -- helping the song fit in today’s modern EDM form, while also keeping it’s own uniqueness as it ventures off melodically.”
“The World is Waiting for the Sunrise” premiered on Your EDM today and will be available, along with nine additional re-imagined songs, on December 1st. Read more about the other singles by The Helio Sequence, Ural Thomas and The Pain, and Dear Nora in Transference and stay tuned for more announcements before its release.
Some days, between all of the producing, it can be hard to catch Marmoset Original Music Producer, Tim Shrout to hear 1) thoughtful reviews about the best pizza in town, always and 2) what’s been playing through his headphones outside of wrapping magical production feats every day. That’s why we asked him to pull together a playlist with some of his favorite Marmoset songs of late. And as the days are getting shorter, the leaves are getting sparser, and the impending 8 month rainfall is looming over Portland, it’s hardly a surprise that Tim’s playlist centered around a theme: autumn.
“I'm really drawn to the production and tones on these, and something about them feels appropriate for the transitional autumn days we've been having in Portland recently,” Tim says. “The second half of the mixtape is all instrumental, slower, and more sparse. I'm drawn to these songs as I think about the weather getting colder, experiencing fewer daylight hours, and a general sense of turning inward as we move through fall and into winter.”
From the light and playful instrumentation of Lapland’s “Where Did It Go” to the calm, meandering electric guitar of “Melted Crystal (Instrumental)” by Kikagaku Moyo, and more, sit back, relax and let this mellow soundtrack carry you through the fall season.