Rayelle and Olly Anna are ones to watch — And they’re the same person.
Rewind almost a decade ago and I was meeting Lindsey Ray in my first ever songwriting session in LA. We’d go on to become fast besties– travelling together, collaborating (she co-wrote my favourite single ever, Bound To You) and even playing a few shows. I’ve always known she was a star. Her voice is otherworldly and her writing is even better. She taught me how to write good songs. I’ve watched her write for Mariah and Demi but I always knew she was a star herself.
Lindsey has always bridged genres. She jumped effortlessly from soul to rock to hip hop until she finally landed on all of them simultaneously. Why can’t you have two projects with different genres and different names happening at once? Lindsey can. Rayelle and Olly Anna have only been alive for a few years now and you’ve already heard them all over your TV’s. Samsung, Insecure, Insatiable, Blockers, Kohls. The list goes on. Rayelle is alt/rock/pop and Olly Anna is hip/pop but they have a few things in common: great songs, undeniably solid and swaggy vocals and a message of empowerment a lot of artists (and humans) could probably use right now. You don’t have to choose. You can be it all.
How does it feel to see your songs in massive commercials and trailers all over the world?
L: It feels incredible! It’s a mix of totally surreal (like it’s not actually me that I’m hearing on my tv) and at the same time it feels like this huge wave of validation that all the years of hard work, energy and time invested in believing in myself and my dream hasn’t been in vain. I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve sobbed tears of joy over hearing my songs in ads, trailers, promos, etc. It never gets old and I never ever take it for granted. I know how fortunate I am to be a able to do what I love for a living.
Where did Olly Anna and Rayelle come from?
L: They came from a place inside of me that just wanted to enjoy making music again. It’s so easy to get caught up in what you think is expected of you as a writer/artist in order to fit into the Top 40 pop world and be accepted as “good” by the industry. It can be really soul-sucking. I spent a lot of years putting that kind of pressure on myself and it didn’t serve me well. When I didn’t create from a place of joy, I felt over-worked and uninspired. I spent way too much energy chasing what I thought other people wanted me to be instead of trusting that who I am naturally is enough.
In 2014 I started writing songs with Ben Burgess, my boyfriend at the time. We were both pop writers who had been focused on writing songs for other artists and one day we started playing around in our home studio. The next thing we knew, we had 6 songs that were nothing like what we had been writing to pitch to outside artists. We decided to start a side project called Farmdale (named after the street we lived on at the time) as a way to keep our creative juices flowing. Our songs were fresh and fun and for the first time in a long time, I was excited and inspired! It’s almost like a switch was flipped in my brain and it unleashed a flood of creativity. From that point on I began solely creating music for the fun of it. It didn’t matter if it sounded like something that would be played on the radio or not. If I heard it in my head, I wanted to record it and let it live. And what I discovered is that I have a LOT of different styles of music in me that I need to give life to. Olly Anna and Rayelle are simply extensions of that initial spark that was lit by Farmdale. They are both equally real versions of who I am as an artist and creator, but if I tried to put all of my music under one artist name, it would be very confusing for a listener and fan because it would be all over the place genre-wise. So instead, I decided to start compartmentalizing my music under separate artist names. And for the record, I don’t think I’m done. I still have other versions of myself that need to be expressed, but for now I’m having fun with Olly Anna and Rayelle and really enjoying digging into those sides of my personality.
How did you get into producing and why?
L: I think on some level I always knew that I would produce someday. I just had to get over the hump (ahem…FEAR) that I wouldn’t be any good at it. I’ve always paid attention to what producers are doing when I’m in the studio with them and I ask a lot of questions. As a young artist in my early days in LA, I was dating a producer who was producing my album at the time (I know, SO cliché) and he knew how particular I was about my vocal comps so he showed me how to do it myself. I’m one of those people who actually enjoys tedious tasks like vocal editing and comping, so from then on, I always comped my own vocals. He even let me comp OTHER artist’s vocals from other albums he was working on because I loved doing it so much. (NERD ALERT!) Eventually I bought my own little set up to record vocals at home so I could write to tracks and not have to pay someone to cut my vocals for me. By the time Farmdale came along, I already had some experience and I felt comfortable enough with Ben to shout out all of my ideas whether it be a bass line, guitar part, etc. He was just starting to learn how to use Logic himself and we basically learned together. He showed me everything he learned along the way and eventually we were co-producing. It was a natural progression for me to eventually go off on my own and start producing by myself. The first song I ever wrote and produced 100% was “Rebel Chick”. When I showed the song to my team at Secret Road they loved it and asked if I could do more like it. That was the beginning of my Olly Anna project.
Did you think you would be this successful at this age? What do you think were the most essential practices you did to get you here?
L: Yes. If I’m being perfectly honest, I actually thought I would be MORE successful by this age. I know how that sounds. I do. But it’s the truth. I’ve always had very high expectations for myself. When I was younger, I thought that by this age I would have at least one #1 song under my belt! But alas, I do not. Still, I’m incredibly grateful for the career I’ve had so far. It’s been a wild ride. Lots of ups and downs. And I actually love how long it’s taken me to get where I am today. It makes the wins so much sweeter when they come. Like the spiritual gurus say, “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey”. I 100% subscribe to that line of thinking. There’s a part of me that thrives when I feel like an underdog. I enjoy the hard work it takes to better myself and keep improving my craft. And I’ve found that so much of the work itself is actually spiritual work and that’s my favorite kind of work. The desire to be accepted and “good enough” has plagued me for years. I’m constantly working on letting go of the part of me that allows my self-worth to be determined by what other people think of me and my art. It’s a constant battle and it takes a lot of self-awareness, self-love, grounding meditation and tuning into what I know to be true in my heart on a soul-level to stay in alignment and be mentally healthy. When you’re someone who creates, that creation comes from your mind, heart and soul, and the product is so personal. It’s an extension of who you are. And when you put it out into the world, you’re essentially handing it over to everyone who hears it and giving them an opportunity to judge it and decide whether it’s good or bad. If you’re not mentally healthy, you can take that judgement personally and think it has something to do with your own worth as a human being. It’s a very vulnerable place to be. I’ve had to face a lot of inner demons over the years and the work I’ve done and continue to do to fight them off and stay healthy is probably the most valuable work I’ll ever do in my life. So thank you Music Industry for forcing me to work on myself. I think it’s that self-work along with showing up every day still willing to learn new skills, whether it be production, mixing, a new instrument, studying well-crafted lyrics/melodies, etc. that has led me to where I am today.
What advice would you give younger Lindsey?
L: I’d tell her not to worry about age and record deals. When I was growing up I admired artists like Brandy, Monica, and LeAnne Rimes who all released debut albums at very young ages. I remember feeling an urgency about my career and where mine needed to be and when. I thought I needed to have a record deal before I graduated high school or I would be too old for the industry and I’d miss my chance. If I could talk to younger Lindsey, I’d tell her to relax, enjoy being a kid and to know that everything will come to her at exactly the right time, when she’s ready, and it will be so worth the wait and so much better than she could ever imagine. Oh, and record deal shmecord deal. I haven’t had one of those in years and I’ve been doing just fine.
L: Oh man this is hard cause there are so many! Do I have to pick just one?! So many producers I’d love to get in a room with for my artist projects: Pharrell, Childish Gambino, Mark Ronson to name a few. As a singer/songwriter I’d love to collaborate with Daniel Caesar. I’ve been obsessed with him since my niece turned me onto his music a couple of years ago. He’s so good it hurts.
You moved from LA to Nashville a handful of years ago. What was the hardest part about living in LA?
L: Looking back I don’t really think the hard part of my years in LA had anything to do with LA. It had everything to do with where I was mentally back then. I often made the fatal mistake of comparing myself to other writers around me who were so much further ahead in their careers than I was, and I let their success intimidate me and make me feel less than. It was such a waste of energy. And the reality is, I had a lot of success of my own in my LA years. I landed a national Target commercial within the first month of living there! I achieved several things I had only ever dreamed of, earned the respect of and collaborated with some of my heroes, and had artists like Demi Lovato and Mariah Carey cut songs of mine. LA was good to me. It was me that wasn’t good to me in those years. Oh, and the traffic. That was hard.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
L: Giving myself permission to say no. I’m a people pleaser by nature so I have a hard time saying no in fear of disappointing people, but if I say yes to everything that comes my way, my schedule gets too full, I get overwhelmed and I end up resenting the job and not wanting to get out of bed in the morning. I require a lot of balance in my life, and it took years for me to get clear about what that looks like for me. I also used to have a bad habit of over-explaining WHY I was saying no to something. I felt like I needed to justify why I couldn’t/didn’t want to do something so the other person wouldn’t take it personally. It was a huge relief when I finally realized I didn’t need to do that anymore. My time is precious and I have the right to decide how I want to spend it. When I remember that and make good choices for myself, I’m much less stressed and have SO much more energy and creativity to give to the things I actually want to do!
What’s your advice for young, female artists who are thinking about learning to produce?
L: If you’re thinking about it, then just do it! Not everybody has an interest in producing. If you do, that tells me you probably should. Don’t worry about being good at it. Just start. You’ll figure it out as you go. And there are probably a million videos on YouTube that can help you anytime you get stuck or want to understand how something works and why. So much of learning to produce is just being willing to spend the time trying things out. Be patient with yourself. Don’t expect to be amazing right away. I’m still far from being what I would even consider a “good” producer but I do it anyway. I work with the skills I have and I do what feels and sounds good to me. Trust yourself, let go of expectation and have FUN.