It has been a busy time for singer-songwriter Dean Ray since the release of his debut self-titled certified Gold release back in 2014. He hasn’t been resting on his laurels, instead, he has been working solidly towards what is destined to be his career-defining release, his sophomore album, the independently released The Messenger. Spending his time between his home in Melbourne and California, Dean wrote the songs for the nine-track release before heading into Wick Studios with friend and co-producer Dan Corless (Olivia Newton-John, The Badloves) to record what he describes as ‘raw, honest and unplanned’. The Messenger is certainly an album that will make music fans and critics alike sit up and listen – and will firmly cement Dean Ray as a singer-songwriter with verve who knows what he wants, and where he is going.
Penning the tracks for the release was a multi-dimensional experience for Dean. “I don’t always write for myself, or from my own experiences, like most writers,” he says. “I watch, listen, observe and analyse the world around me and its occupants. Songs like Alcohol, Sapphire and Call It A Day for example, are purely messages from a higher source that I have written down to give comfort, strength and understanding to people who are in the relative situations. Then, on the other hand, The Winnings, Country Song and Indie Anna are very close to my heart, these are written from experience. Raining Again is my favourite on the album. It is one of the stranger processes I have used to write a song, a very rare style for me – dream writing. My subconscious wrote the entire song in a dream – the music, lyrics, structure, everything.”
As his first purely independent release of all original material, The Messenger is a true representation of what Dean Ray is all about as an artist. It not only showcases his nuance as a songwriter, effortlessly touching on elements of blues, country, folk, rock and pop, but also demonstrates Dean’s natural affinity to lend his vocal styles to anything. When Dean first shot into the public spotlight on the 2014 X-Factor as a runner-up, audiences were captivated by his voice – an instrument he had already been honing for over a decade before stepping on the TV reality stage. Now, with The Messenger, the multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter has a chance to show Australia why he has been performing since he could walk.
“I believe sound to be a language,” says Dean. “A language that can tell you much about an artist, if they are true to themselves and not manipulated for success. The Messenger is a pure representation of me. My influences are quite obvious in the delivery and sound of this album. It was not planned at all to cross-genres. Genres were the last thing from my mind when recording, because I f**king hate being catagorised. Dan (Corless) asked what sound I was going for – I simply placed a bottle of Jack Daniels on the console and said ‘let’s drink this, make music and see what happens’.”
The organic process has created an album that any musician would be immensely proud of. It is honest and true and not filtered to fit a particular mould. Instead, it fits Dean perfectly. When it came to picking the other players who feature on the album, that ethos of continuing that comfortable fit continued – and it certainly shows in the sound. Dean wanted to bring in people he knew and admired. Enter Marcus Ryan on drums, who has played many shows with the singer-songwriter on the road over the years, and Luke Austen on bass, who Dean has known since he was 16.
“The three of us sat in a room and recorded drums, bass and acoustic guitars live,” he says. “I wanted to combine live tracking and layering as I haven’t done that before. The rhythm section live for emotional movement, and the keys and vocals and other bits layered over time. We used this style in The Winnings, Green, Alcohol, Call it A Day and Sapphire. The other tracks and instruments were played by me, except for the banjo on Call It A Day, I’m still not aware what music phantom did that.”
The Messenger, like many good indie albums, came to fruition thanks to the fans. Dean crowd-funded through Go Fund Me. “I remember sitting at a friend’s house after it went live watching in awe of the support,” he says. “I will never forget that moment, nor the feeling of overwhelming love and support. This support made it possible to achieve what I deeply desired to do. To try and show how much it means to me, I opted to not put my lyrics in the booklet of my physical copies of the album, but instead the names of everyone who donated. After all, they are the foundation of this record.”
Dean Ray’s album The Messenger is out now via MGM. For more information, please visit www.deanraymusic.com