Hello dear listener,
Last year Katie and I re-launched our late 1990's record label, American River Records.
We heard the call for help and drove out to Standing Rock reservation, to bring supplies, aid and witness the water protectors during the siege of thanksgiving. The peoples hard work won the stay of the pipeline but it was overturned by tRump. Sadly we still have lots of work to do.
When we got home we put 4 of my archived records online and our daughter Emily Franklins Debut CD.
Then we got busy working on recording Emilys EP recorded in Austin with Chris Gage (Jerry Jeff Walker), BB Morse, Darren Debree, Kyle Crusham (Dixie Chicks), Matt Hubbard (Eddie Brickell). Mary K Bruton did some amazing Photos and Jay Curlee shot a great studio live video with Emily singing Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell.
This year, I am getting out on the road and I want to let you know what I am planning.
Im embarking on a tour, dubbed 'Matthias Songs'. The 2018 tour starts right here on the central coast in Baywood, Monday, April 30th 5-7 Beer at The Pier concerts. Then the following Saturday Night at world famous dive bar, The Merrimaker, for Cinco De Mayo, May 5 at 9 pm. Locally Im playing with Joe Duran on Bass and Dean Giles and James Conver on Drums.
From there I am heading to Austin TX to record and gig with Bassist - William BB Morse (Merle and Willie) and Drummer - Darren Debree (Windy Hill). Shenannigans will ensue and an EP will be forthcoming. My Austin Trio just played Poodies Roadhouse in Spicewood, TX last month and it was a gas!
I will be in TX middle of may, and expect to do a show in Taos, NM late May.
In June I will be in NYC. Glen Sherman on Guitar, William Jensen, Bass, Tony Lewis, Drums and Special Guests
Dates in NYC so far:
The Bitter End Thurs June 7, 7pm
LIC Bar Monday June 11, 8 pm
Sidewalk Cafe Thurs June 14
adding Philly, Woodstock and maybe more...
Then Ill be in Morro Bay CA Friday, July 13 at the Wine Seller on the waterfront.
Please follow my Youtube Channel and Soundcloud. Ill be creating an archive of my sketches: first drafts of songs often recorded in one take while i compose automatically. Heres just one example.
Following the raw writing sketch I often re-work and refine pieces then publish them as finished works.
As I tour key cities around the globe I am using local musicians to play with me and flesh them out, often infusing the musical flavor of the region to keep a "farm to table" local-source feeling in my work.
These songs are gifts to me from I don't know where but the seem to hit a nerve and I am very excited to be on the path with you all.
I am posting dates on my web site often. Check back for updates. I don't use Reverbnation too these days.
When I chanced upon Bing Bing Li February 11th 2018 it made my heart soar like a hawk! I was on my way to walk the dogs in Morro Bay and saw a man pulling a cart on South Bay Blvd and could barely catch a message that said something about unconditional love. I caught his eye before I made the turn and we waved at each other, smiling. After I googled him at the beach, my smile grew bigger and broader. I was filled with joy and beamed at all the passers by.
Originally from China, Bing Bing became a citizen of Canada as well and struggled to get a career going as an engineer. Despairing, for 4 years he attempted suicide 30 times. Finally, he had an epiphany that he must spread a message of "equal and unconditional love" for all beings. He decided to spend the rest of his life walking the earth in promotion of this message. So far he has made his way down from the Pacific North West since late 2016 and made the Fort Bragg Advocate:
as well as the Fresno Bee and the Mercury News. He does not accept money; only food and water and occasionally a place to stay.
After my beach walk I resolved to find him and speak with him. I knew his message was important and wonderful for all to hear and he was in MY little TOWN! I caught up with him on Los Osos Valley Road headed for San Luis Obispo for the night.
Raye Zaragoza Interview:
Katie: First of all I wanted to say thank you for this interview.
Matthias and I, felt a kindred spirit with you as people of the music world and who were also able to be a part of Standing Rock. We have 2 young daughters who would have loved to have been there with us on that journey but were never able to make it out to North Dakota. That journey also inspired us to get our record label developed further along for promoting the health of our rivers in America. So we are stoked to have you as one of our first blog posts since then on our American River Records website. So we wanted to hear more about your Standing Rock experience and how it impacted your life.
Raye: Sure! Yes, Standing Rock was a very life changing experience. It got me more in touch with myself and it ignited a fire within me that was always there. The warrior inside of all of us, the water protector inside of all of us, was really brought to the forefront of our lives. it was really incredible because so many people were feeling the same way around the world and finally they all were brought together.
It was really unfortunate and it is really sad because they are building the pipeline right now, but I think what’s so important is to remember the spirit of Standing Rock and how it brought together so many people and how so many of us realized, Wait! I want to dedicate my life or my art or to make a difference because there’s so much to fight for right now, and our voices need to be heard. So many people found out about Standing Rock who were never aware of indigenous rights issues before. Many people have never even met someone who’s Native American before, even within this country.
Katie: Or didn’t realize that they had met one.
Raye: I know a lot of people who will say, "oh yeah you’re the only Native American person I have ever met," you know. And I’m mixed race. I’m of Akimel O'odham (Pima) decent, also Mexican, and Japanese and Taiwanese. I didn’t grow up on the Reservation. I grew up in the City. Growing up, I was around a lot of people who had never been exposed to indigenous rights issues. And I find that very unfortunate that there have been issues like Standing Rock that never got media press. And even Standing Rock didn’t get much press.
Katie: Yah I met people who didn’t even know about it way after it happened.
Raye: Which is crazy to me. There have been issues like Standing Rock before that got no press at all. Especially before social media. There wasn’t really a way to call upon people to help, and so I think social media has really brought people together for issues such as Standing Rock. People are beginning to realize that mother earth is not an unlimited source, and that we have to treat her with respect. It’s been an awareness that I’ve had my whole life, but this past year I've truly dedicated my whole being to this, and continue to use my music as a vehicle to spread awareness for different environmental and indigenous rights issues.
Katie: I was thinking about recently how many people don’t have the same information that I do. I went to college and studied indigenous people’s issues and was a part of food runs to the Four Corner’s region (for elders on the Hopi-Navajo reservation). I read books about the history of Native Americans and what happened to them. If you just hear about it in public school you get very limited information. I was thinking, gosh people don’t realize how much complete horrors and atrocities were committed against these people. So many people. It’s crazy how many people don’t know even that. Sometimes I take it for granted how much I know. I just assume everybody knows, but a lot of people don’t actually know.
Raye: Yeah it can be very frustrating. Having grown up in public school, I feel like I had been cheated out of a lot of education my whole life. I attribute that a lot to our school system. I had to seek out information on Indigenous peoples my own.
Katie: What did you say the name of your tribe was again?
Raye: So my Grandma Villa was from the Pima tribe (Southern Arizona), and the traditional name is Akimel O'odham. And as a young child she was taken away from the reservation and adopted which was very common and was a way of assimilation. And so my family is kind of like a product of that colonization and of the relocation of many Native people trying to assimilate them into the Western civilization. That’s pretty much why I’ve grown up having to seek out the information on my own, because my grandmother was a part of the assimilation tactics of the early 1900s. The rest of my father's family is indigenous on the other side of the boarder in Mexico.
Katie: Did she tell you some of the stories?
Raye: She actually passed away before I was born. She was very secretive about her childhood to my Dad and the family. She was afraid to register or to acknowledge who she was, because she thought that would put her family at risk. So we didn’t know much. Before she died, my Dad had her write down everything she remembered. She didn’t even grow up with her parents because she was adopted when she was a baby and she was raised by a European woman. And they didn’t even tell her who she was. She found out later from family that she was Pima. I carry her with me with my music and I think about her everyday. I want to honor her with my songs and pay tribute to her and whatever she suffered through. I think about the ancestors before her and all the other Native people who have suffered through those times, through the times of the boarding schools and everything. Being someone who’s mixed I am going to honor that part of me that is Native American, that is indigenous and also the other parts of me because if I don’t, then I am letting the people who want to silence us win. The prophecy that the seventh generation is going to come and will make a lot of change for the good. It really is amazing how many young people are taking it upon themselves to be activists and be active and try to make a difference in their communities.
Katie: Yah I feel like that was a big awakening at Standing Rock of the seventh generation prophesy or idea. There were so many young people that seemed to be activating as we all came together. So did you write from that spirit before Standing Rock as well?
Raye: Yeah I definitely was and I feel like I almost didn’t realize that I was doing it. I have always felt like writing to me was spiritual, connecting with my ancestors, connecting with the land, like losing myself in a landscape or losing myself in a moment. A lot of songwriters can just they sit down and decide to write a song or they meet up with people to write songs all day. For me, it’s always been a really delicate and spiritual experience. I never felt like I could just turn it on. It was more like I felt like I was called to a song. Or when I lost myself in a landscape, I was so overcome with the beauty of the land that I had to write a song about it. I felt overcome with emotion. It was never a calculated thing, like “lets sit down and write a song now”.
Katie: How did you start getting into writing songs and music?
Raye: In highschool...one of the first songs I wrote was a protest song.
Katie: What was it protesting?
Raye: It was called “Fight up Against the Wall” and it pretty much was just about fighting against the people who were telling you what to do if you don’t agree….fighting against control basically was that song and it was my first protest song.. I don’t think it was very good.
Katie: (laughs) But the spirit was there?
Raye: It was. People would say that I was rebellious, but I don’t think I was ever rebellious. I just always wanted to stand up for what I believed in, you know. I don’t think there’s anything rebellious about that. (laughs) I think we all should be standing up for what we believe in. We’re just being told that we’re being mischievous. Like even the word protest, we say we’re not protesters, we’re protectors. It’s like why would indigenous people just trying to protect their land be known as protestors? They’re just trying to protect the earth. The word sounds rebellious or mischievous or something. In the end, we're just protecting.
Katie: Right, right ...it just seems like because of things that are going on we’re forced into the position of standing up and speaking out, especially for the voiceless; our ancestors, the natural world. And that whole process has been very politicized and it’s heartbreaking that we have to be in that position. Its very difficult. I feel very tortured by it myself. I have this life I am living and I see things that I am very sad about and I don’t know always how to handle it. (laughs)
Raye: Completely. And I’m always having conversations with different people who I find are really effective or they are really doing a lot in their communities. And I am observing what they are doing that really is making a difference. I think what it is is not getting lost in the vast large scale of it, and about starting small and starting in your local communities and in other local communities to kind of inspire and cultivate young people especially. And shaping their minds to realize that you do have a voice and you can voice your issues and that you can make a difference even if it’s just with art or showing up. A lot of people are like “well what am I gonna do that’s gonna make a difference?” And that attitude is kind of what is promoted. I feel like it’s almost like we’re being brainwashed with the attitude that nothing we do is actually going to make a difference. It makes people stagnant which makes people not make a difference and not really do anything about it. If we were to decide collectively that if we believe in something we’re going to do something about it, I think…
1. This world would be a better place and…
2. We’d get more done and we’d have our voices heard more. I am always trying to get young people to remember to be active.
Katie: When I lived in Santa Cruz there was a lot of activists there. And I remember hearing from one of the old ones from back in the day. He was saying how it’s almost more powerful and you can get more done with smaller groups of people, like if you form groups of 4 or 5 and take action together as a little group, you can make a difference in just those small groups of people. I thought that was wise.
Raye: Absolutely. You don’t need to be discouraged that you don’t have a huge number of people. Its like, “No!” you can do a lot even with just a few friends. You don’t even need to live in a big city or anywhere that you think you need to be. You can just have a computer and there’s so much you can do from where you are.
Katie: It can be very creative.
Katie: Yah...And everybody just has to find their own truth and find their own calling.
Raye: Absolutely. When I am at my shows I will talk about indigenous issues and the environment and what I am passionate about but I always say to people, I’m like, “but that’s me! And I hope you’re gonna believe in what I believe in but whatever you are fighting for today, I hope you stand up and speak up for it.. And I don’t know what that is but whatever it is you deserve to fight for it.” We all should be fighting for something. We all have grievances, we all have issues and I hope we can all share them with each other and we can all fight each other’s fights. I think that’s really important too.
Katie: So you have common ground with Matthias in your New York days. How long were you in New York and when were you there?
Raye: Well I was born and raised in New York City, birth until I was 14.
Katie: So you have the same story as Matthias in that you were born there, and can you tell me some of your experience growing up in New York City a little bit?
Raye: Yeah absolutely! I can talk about it forever. I love New York. New York is like my heart beat and you know I don’t live there anymore obviously but, I think it’s really difficult at this time for artists to live in New York. We’ve kind of been priced out of New York City. I grew up in the West Village, which is now one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the world. When I was growing up there, I grew up in a studio apartment. My current bedroom is a little bit smaller than the apartment we grew up in. That was with me and my 5 person family. We grew up in that 1 room apartment. When I was growing up next door was a costume designer, then the other next door was a painter and then there were a lot of creative types in the apartment building in West Village. But now - No Way! It’s all investment bankers and lawyers. So that’s kind of sad that I feel like artists have kind of been priced out of New York.
But growing up in New York definitely shaped me into who I am, because I had so much freedom. I was taking the subways by myself in middle school getting to and from wherever I had to go. I had a lot of freedom and I had a lot of very creative friends. I went to a performing arts middle school. My Dad was on Broadway when I was a kid and so I always was around performers and around Broadway and backstage.
Katie: Matthias’s Dad is an actor too. Its funny. And his Mom is a story teller.
Raye: Wow! How neat! That’s great.
Katie: Yah you were like probably one of the last few people who were living that way there. It was soon after that it changed.
Raye: And then like in my adult life I lived there from age 20-23 and I was bartending. I was a full time bartender working like 4-5 nights a week just so I could live paycheck to paycheck and play shows whenever I had a night off. I was like, oh man if I was like anywhere else I could manage without this much work. But in New York it’s just CRAZY! (laughs)
Katie: Makes it really hard.
Raye: Yeah...And so I have a special place in my heart for New York at all times. But sometimes I feel like this quote about like when you break up with a boyfriend, “I don’t miss you, I miss who you used to be.” This isn’t who I thought you were. I go back to New York always wanting the New York I knew in the late 90s when I was in school. Now it’s a little different, I feel like my old neighborhood is Disneyland now.
Katie: My time in New York with Matthias was from like 1993 to 1997. Matthias was born there and went back and forth throughout his life and I was there for those 4 years myself living with him and his kids Sequoia and Elizabeth. We left right after our own daughter, Emily was born. We lived in the upper West Side by Columbia.
Raye: Yeah! I used to live up there too for a little bit.
Katie: So since then I know you went on a European tour.
Raye: Yeah I was in Europe last Summer and it was so fun!
Katie: How did that come about?
Raye: I booked it myself.
Raye: Yes, but I had a lot of help from friends and supporters. I was getting so many signs that I had to do a huge Europe tour. And my sister lives in Paris, France. So I pretty much just connected the dots and had a lot of people who helped me and had a lot of local people in different countries who would do booking and whatnot and I had just an incredible experience. It was amazing.
Katie: Wow that sounds so cool! So what’s funny is Matthias’s x wife has a sister in Paris as well. (laughs) We just recently feel a call to go to Europe as well. We have a connection in Austin who is working on doing a European tour for Emily and Matthias together. So we’re excited about that.
Were you able to make it work for you financially pretty well?
Raye: I had like local hosts who would let me stay with them and were telling me about the local ways of like getting groceries for food for the day. And I just got really lucky. I got a really cheap flight. And I booked it like really far in advance. If you do it right, Europe is super affordable. Plan it really far ahead like I booked all my train tickets, my flight like everything probably like 4 months in advance. Then it worked out perfectly.
Katie: That’s really cool. And how were the audiences for you?
Raye: Oh my gosh they were amazing. Like the best ever. (laughs)
Katie: Yah that’s what I thought because we had experienced a gig in Paris one time so far. They were like interactive on original tunes even. They were so enthusiastic.
Raye: Oh my gosh it was amazing. Some of the best audiences for me, I mean everyone was amazing, but the people who stood out for me the most was Germany. Germany has a reputation for loving acoustic folk music. All my friends were like "you need to go to Germany!" These audiences are like crazy incredible. And I was like Wow I just couldn’t believe how amazing the audiences were when I was in Germany. And in Switzerland too. And in France. And even Italy.
Katie: So exciting. Maybe you’ll go to Japan too to honor that part of you.
Raye: Yes! That’s also one of the places I am being called to. I’m going to do a whole Asia trip because that’s where my family is also from and I’ve never really been, except for going to China. And so I’m going to do that as well.
Katie: So when did you go to China?
Raye: I sang in Beijing in high school choir actually.
Katie: Nice. So is your touring history mostly USA and Europe so far?
Raye: Lets see….Yeah mostly US, Europe, and I’ve played in Canada. That’s it.
Katie: Well you have a lot more to go. Are you able to make a living as a songwriter exclusively or do you have a side job still?
Raye: I currently just do music but I do live at home. I do live with my Dad. I’m proud of it. I love it.
Katie: You’re blessed in that way. That’s nice.
We’ve touched on it a little bit. Do you have any other vision for your future life from here forward?
Raye: Yeah I mean I’m really just going to continue to do what I’m doing and keep meeting new people and I’m finding a new depth to my music and I hope that I can comfort people who have these thoughts of wanting to make the world a better place and don’t know how to do it or feel alone in that. That’s kind of where I’m at and it’s like a continuous journey. Never ending.
Katie: Yah music is a beautiful service and some countries recognize that and honor the artists and support them with housing and food. Unfortunately our country doesn’t do that and it makes it hard so I just want to say thank you for what you do.
Cussing like the cowboys she learned from, “Kickass Katie Lee” celebrates 97 year-old singer, songwriter, actress, and activist, Katie Lee. After abandoning a Hollywood career, she immersed herself in her true passion: floating, exploring, and singing on the Colorado River. When the idea of damming Glen Canyon was first floated, she opposed it. She is, and will always be, Glen Canyon Dam’s eternal, immutable warrior and foe.
Directors, Beth and George Gage, as Gage & Gage Productions, create compelling personal films that inspire viewers, initiate dialogues and prompt action on provocative issues. Concentrating on environment and social justice, they co-produce and co-direct films on subjects underrepresented in the current media.