The first time I saw Rayana Jay perform was as the opening act at Local Sirens, an every-few-months show hosted by Women's Audio Mission that features eclectic lineups of local, all-female bands.
Jay took the stage with her DJ, Red Corvette, who started a track. And then Jay's smoky, soulful voice took over the room. Her music is instantly danceable R&B, with an unconventional edge: her voice bounces between melding to the grooves and breaking into its own rhythm -- something like a slow, sensuous rap. By the second or third song, you'd be hard-pressed not to be dancing.
Between songs, Jay regularly takes a few moments to joke with the audience. On this particular night, she asked if anyone knew what it was like to go through a bad breakup -- cue audible moans, because oh, don't we all? The EP she released earlier in 2016, Sorry About Last Night, was based largely off of her own difficult breakup, she explained. It's catchy, and well-produced, but raw: pretty much the opposite of slick. Turns out people notice authenticity.
“I try to make sure that my music and my writing is always as honest as it can be. I write from experience, and I know if I went through it someone somewhere else has gone through it as well," she tells me a few months later, adding that people often say they were drawn to her music because they recognize their own lives in her lyrics.
"I don't like to sugarcoat anything, so you're going to get the love story and you're also going to get the heartbreak," she says. "You're going to get the drinking that came after the heartbreak. You're gonna get all of it. I write the songs that I would've wanted to hear when I was going through it.”