By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer (Choctaw Nation), Artist in Business Leadership Fellow 2015
Raye Zaragoza is an award-winning singer, songwriter, and performer whose multinational heritage (O’odham, Mexican, Taiwanese and Japanese) deeply informs her music. Her song “In the River,” in response to DAPL, garnered half a million video views, national media coverage, a Global Music Award, and an Honesty Oscar. Her debut album “Fight For You” released in 2017.
Raye resides in North Hollywood, California, and is a 2018 First Peoples Fund Artist in Business Leadership fellow.
Music resounded from the stage under the lights in the restaurant. Raye wanted to be on the stage, not waiting tables in front of it as she made cash to support her fledgling music career.
Raye had pursued acting for a time, only to find she stayed up nights writing songs. At nineteen and singing at a pie shop three hours every Tuesday while getting booked at other local venues, she came to a realization.
“I decided, ‘I’m a singer-songwriter,” she says. “‘This means more to me than anything, and I’m going to give it my all.’”
2018 is Raye’s first year as a full-time musician and living on her own. It’s filled with incredible opportunities she only dreamed of.
Raye launched the year with a tour in Germany. Though her audiences weren’t always fluent English speakers, they connected with Raye’s style.
“For me, it’s the most important thing to write music with a message that can open minds,” she says. “Many people have said my music is healing, and I hope I can continue to heal those who are suffering within my community and around the world.”
Raye’s year sped up when she attended FPF’s Fellowship Convening in Santa Fe.
“It was great that First Peoples Fund educated us on the importance of having a lawyer,” she says. Through her fellowship funds, she was able to hire a lawyer who can protect her rights as an independent artist.
She also connected with 2018 Artist in Business Leadership fellow Jeff Peterson (Native Hawaiian) when they co-wrote, performed, and recorded a song at the convening. He is now her guitar teacher via Skype.
“He’s taught me riffs and variations, helping me take my songs to the next level,” Raye says.
With a fast-paced year halfway behind her, Raye is trying to reflect on the journey, but things aren’t slowing down. This summer, she’s on the biggest tour of her life, opening for Dispatch and Nahko and Medicine for the People. She’s looking ahead to her FPF grant helping her finish a home studio and record her EP.
“It’s amazing to be able to just focus on music,” Raye says. “I’m really blessed.”