First things first, name and where are you from?
Hey! I'm Rayana Jay aka Cool Mom aka Bando Calrissian aka Finessa Bell Armstrong. I'm from Richmond, California.
How did you come up with your name?
My artist name is literally my first name and a shortened version of my middle name. My name is Rayana Janae, and that sounds tight but I just loved how Rayana Jay looked and sounded. Cool Mom really just comes from the internet.
What do you do?
I'm a singer, songwriter, professional hoodrat, Hennessy connoisseur, and co-founder of Pussy Posse. I also do whatever I want, there's so much stuff you can learn, so many crafts and hobbies you can take up so why not just do it? I'm teaching myself piano and guitar, I do a little graphic design, I used to dance, I write poetry, and the list really just goes on and on.
When did you start making music – what caused you to start singing or creating music?
I grew up in the church my entire life and naturally gravitated towards the choir, and that's such a singer cliche but that's where it all began. I started making my own music in 2012, that's when I dropped my first single, Marty McFly I began working at Youth Radio in Oakland, Ca and they had the first professional recording studio I'd ever seen. I was so inspired like I sing a little, I can use this, I want to use this! While working there, I met 1-O.A.K. who is one of my favorite singers of all time and I told him, "Look... I want to make music." He was like, "Tight." And just as simples as that, he became my mentor and that's when my journey as an artist began.
How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard your music?
That's such a tough question! I was told that I sound like the lovechild of Jill Scott and Kendrick Lamar, which to this day is still my favorite thing. I also hear things like, "you remind me of *insert any and every R&B or neb-soul singer*. Honestly though, I just like to make music for the drunk and broken hearted. I write love songs. Not just "I'm in love" songs, but also "I want love," "I had love," and "Fuck love" songs. I guess if you want to put a genre on it you could say I make neo-soul blues.
The 1st song I ever heard of yours was the single "coffee" (in love with that song) but talk to me about that single and your overall creative process when writing a song?
Coffee is my shit! I'm so glad you like it, thank you! Coffee is an homage to morning sex honestly. It's about waking up next to everything you need and want at the moment. Just like all of my songs, it's about a real thing that I really experienced, and I love to write from those places. It forces you kobe honest and vulnerable and it allows your audience to get that much closer to you. My process varies from song to song. It either starts with a title or me just singing random lines out loud and writing whatever sounds best. When I wrote, Coffee I knew I wanted to start with the line, "Wish I was the morning, so I could see you first." I sat with that opening for about a week trying to add to it, and as the days started ti go by it started to become a complete song. Towards the end to it I got the worst case of writer's block, so I locked myself in the studio with the lights off and the beat playing over and over until I finally got it. Other songs come easier. Fireball was written in 10 minutes. I bought a cheap bottle of Fireball, brought it to the studio, and 1-O.A.K. told me, "Don;t ever drink alcohol that comes in a plastic bottle." Something instantly clicked and Fireball just came to me. There's a tory for every song and the process behind it, but we don't have time.
Speaking of your singles, it's funny that Miguel and Mario two great vocalist come out with two singles titled, "Coffee" and "Fireball" after you released your two tracks with the same, thoughts...? Coincidence?
Wasn't that wild! I got a text from a friend of mine saying that Miguel had dropped a song called "Coffee," and my heart dropped. I know this is going to sound super dumb, but I was scared that Miguel had heard my song and stole it. So glad he didn't, I doubt he's ever even heard it haha! I love his version, Miguel is another one of my favorite artists. I would love for someone to somehow put the two together and call it "2 Cups of Coffee." I've only heard Mario's "Fireball" once or twice and it was decent. Just a hilarious coincidence. I still joke about it every time I hear them. I did it first, guys!
Earlier you discussed the different movements you were involved in, I wanted to focus on one in particular, Pussy Posse, can you elaborate on that an your involvement?
So Pussy Posse is an all women's art collective that I started with my girls Jayla and Taylor. We're really just a sisterhood full of artists from various platforms demanding a spotlight on a stage mainly taken up by men.
What inspired you to create or be apart of this movement?
My girls and I were in the studio and it just came to us. Why do we have to go to men for so much in this industry? We knew so many talented and overlooked women, it just felt right for us to all come together. So when we left the studio, we came up with the name, made a logo, and I'm so proud with how far we've come already. I know we have so much more to do.
Who are some vocalist you look up to? Why?
I'm an old school R&B fan so I've always looked up to Luther Vandross, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Patti Labelle, Phyllis Hyman, and others along those lines. They wrote and sung those real, genuine, make you feel something love songs. I used to joke when "If Only You Knew" came on, the way Patti is singing, you can tell she's really singing about that nigga. It was something about the passion in her voice. Another singer I love is Donny Hathaway. When I hear him sing "A Song for You," it just tugs at my heart. It's not his song originally, but it might as well have been. The love, the hurt, everything in his voice just makes you feel it. The part that does it is, "I loved you in a place where there's no space or time. I love you for my life, you're a friend of mine. And when this life is over, remember when we were together. We were alone and I was singing this song to you." Amazing. Newer artists that I'm completely here for would be Kehlani, Elhae, Phony Ppl, Janelle Monae, the list really could go on forever.
Who is your dream collaboration at the moment, if it could be with anyone alive right now?
I'd like to collaborate with Gucci when he gets out first and foremost. Other artists I'm trying to work with would be Chance the Rapper, Tyler the Creator, Pharrell...wait, that would actually be an amazing song right there. I have to do that! I also want to work with The Internet, I feel like doing "Coffee" with them would be amazing.
Where or when can we expect a performance from you? Anything else upcoming for you? Projects? Etc.
I have a show coming up with another amazing woman Neijah Lanae in downtown Oakland. But if you don't make it to that, I'm usually doing a show every month in the cuts somewhere. I'm thinking about rapping, so I'm trying to see what that does! I am always writing so magic is always being made, I don't have plans for a complete project just yet but I'm releasing some songs pretty soon. Stay on the lookout for those!
Where can we stay updated with you? Give us all the social media plugs please!
You can follow me on Twitter, but please be warned, it's very inappropriate sometimes! @RayanaJay, and the instagram is @rayanajay.jpg. You can go to soundcloud.com/rayanajay for the music. Coming soon, my blackpeoplemeet.com account haha, kidding!