Artist Interview // Meet Rayana Jay, Richmond’s Sultry Songstress

Just over two years ago, Rayana Jay unveiled her 21 EP, a four-piece offering featuring lead single “Coffee.” From the moment I pressed play, I was mesmerized by her impressive vocal work. The Richmond songstress went on to appear on Caleborate‘s breakout album Hella Good and P-Lo‘s Before Anything, continuing to captivate listeners with her alluring voice.

After keeping the ball rolling with Sorry About Last Night, which taps talent from the likes of Mikos Da Gawd and Elujay, Rayana is gearing up for her next project titled Morning After. The first single from her forthcoming EP, “Magic,” is a dancefloor ready track produced by ROMderful. Whipping basslines and a steady groove allow Rayana to command the track with ease. It has that type of energy that makes it easy to keep on repeat for hours on end.

Ahead of the projects full release on July 21, I had the opportunity to chat with Rayana on Sorry About Last Night, her inspirations, and plans for the future:

Who is Rayana Jay?

Rayana Jay is just a soul from the soil. I’m a singer, a lover, a story and truth teller.

How did you get started with music?

I started in my church choir at a very young age. I think as soon as I started talking, my mom threw me into the choir stand. As I got older, I went on to direct my church choir. I was always writing little songs and poems in my spare time; I still stumble across old notebooks and cringe at how corny I was. While in high school, I was told about a place called Youth Radio in downtown Oakland, and the rest is really history. That’s where I saw my first professional studio, that’s where I was offered the time and space to try the music thing out, and I loved it immediately.

Was music always something you wanted to pursue?

I don’t think I had plans to go as far as I am now, but music has definitely always been on my mind. I actually wanted to be a veterinarian when I was younger, then when I was going to college, I wanted to be a AFRAM teacher. Music was always going to be in the plan.

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Rayana Jay // Photo by Lauren Formalejo

Back in October you dropped Sorry About Last Night. How did the project come together?

Sorry About Last Night just happened. After meeting Evangeline, who would later become my manager, and putting together “Sleepy Brown,” we just decided it needed to happen. Two months after dropping “Sleepy Brown,” Sorry About Last Night was practically done. It felt natural and it felt as if I’d had those songs already written for years how they just poured out.

What kind of personal growth have you experienced since 21?

I experienced my first real heartbreak when I released 21 and I think for a long time I was really jaded and guarded and didn’t really want to do too much of anything. Since then, I’ve become more forgiving, softer, and more attentive to the real love around me. I’ve learned to cherish friendships more. I was freshly 21 when that project came out, and I was new to the whole adulting thing that I was supposed to do, but now I do think I’m more responsible and more focused on future goals.

Can you tell us about the process behind “23,” your track with ESTA.?

That was really brought to you by a blessing we call the Internet. ESTA. tweeted that he was looking for singers to work with and Mikos, who I’ve made a lot of great music with, looped me into the tweet thread and in the next 5 minutes, Esta had DM’d me. He sent over a bunch of great beats and the one called “bleu” was the one that hit me. I wrote “23” almost instantly and was in the studio maybe the next week to record it. It was fun to do and ESTA. has been one of my favorite producers for a while, so to be able to make that song was a dream come true.

You were also part of a stacked line-up for the Women in Music festival—can you tell us a bit more about your experience has been like and what the festival means to you?

The WIM festival was one of the most eye opening experiences I’ve ever had the honor of being a part of. To see all of these amazing and talented and sometimes overlooked women from the stage and behind the scenes come together to just love and shed light on each other—it was heartwarming. Knowing that my manager and DJ turned an idea into a weekend that has changed the Bay forever—my heart is full of pride.

What’s been the biggest challenge for you in your music career so far?

Every time I write a song, it’s like I had a baby and i’m a very protective parent. Putting your art, your child, on display for everyone to see and judge and pick apart is one of the scariest parts of it all. You love your kid so much and the moment one person has a negative critique, it hurts. I’m very sensitive—that’s another one of my biggest challenges.

Any dream collabs?

Gucci Mane, Migos, Young Thug, Anderson .Paak, Solange, Xavier Omär.

How do you define success?

Success is when you do things only because you want to and not because you have to. It’s that moment when you no longer worry about what tomorrow brings because you know you can handle whatever it is; success is happiness. I think I’m successful. I think the big issue is when people make success synonymous with wealth; if you’re rich but unhappy, how successful are you?

Any advice for the aspiring musicians out there?

Just do it and do it from the heart. Make the music you needed to hear when you were feeling low all those years ago. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. The world needs your story, and only you can tell it, so get to it.

What’s next for you? Anything else you’d like to add?

Just working on my album and hopefully we get to the U.K. this year.

Keep up with Rayana on Twitter and SoundCloud, and expect Morning After on July 21.