We had the good fortune of connecting with Parry Ray and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Parry, what’s the most important thing you’ve done for your children?
The most significant thing I feel is giving them a voice, from quite early on and respecting their right to use it. That is not to say I allowed my toddlers to run a mock. As they grew there was always structure, and certain tenets were non-negotiable – manners, kindness, respect. But I have always felt it is paramount that we are all afforded the right to own our voices. I suppose this may not sound ground-breaking to some, but for me, coming from a South Asian background – I grew up with a long set of restrictive “rules” to live by and came up against a lot of resistance when I wanted to do something that didn’t fit into the preconceived model of how life “should” be lived. A case in point is my career as a singer-songwriter. My mother was totally confused and displeased by me wanting to pursue a creative path. But as many of us know, as artists we are drawn to create by something very deep within us – fuelled by compulsion and passion. When we become parents, I suppose we cherry pick from our own upbringing – what we feel is resonant and what we feel didn’t work. Given, my upbringing, I was determined to give my children the freedom to use their own voices. Does that mean I always agree with them? No. Have there been times when I have felt they haven’t thought things through or their health or safety could be compromised? Absolutely, and on those occasions I have stepped in and made my views crystal clear and vetoed things when necessary. However, knowing you are able to use your voice, without judgment, I believe is the cornerstone of so many attributes in life – self confidence and self-belief among them. My children are now 22 and 23 and as a mother, I am there as a source of guidance and support, and most importantly unconditional love – but my children’s lives are their lives and their hopes, dreams and goals are as valid as mine. Ultimately, I believe life is about following your joy – if you do that, you can’t go far wrong in my opinion. And I hope that giving my children their voices from early on has enabled them to do that.
Let’s talk shop. Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Right now I am really proud of my currently release “Out of the Shadows” an album where I have re-imagined songs from the world of Musical Theatre. The album was produced by James McMillan (Liane Carroll, Kirk Whalum, Van Morrison). Working with James was a wonderful experience and I love how the album has turned out. I wanted to create something intimate, introspective and I hope we have achieved that. There is a lot of me in this album too – I don’t mean just as a singer, I suppose I mean personally, emotionally. The COVID panademic proved to be quite hard in terms of songwriting. As a solo artist, being locked down alone for most of the time was challenging – but excitingly I found that whilst the melodies were not forthcoming, the words were – so I started writing a book, and I am about a third of the way through. Writing a book to me is like a combination of a dragon and a mountain – a massive challenge (!) but I am enjoying it hugely now and am learning a lot about myself in the process. And funnily, once I got into my groove with the book, new songs started flowing too so I am hopeful for a new release of originals later this year. I always knew I wanted to be a singer from about the age of 6 or 7. I was playing the piano from about 4 and writing poetry at 6 and songs at 11, it seemed obvious that I wanted to be performer, But growing up in a South Asian family I was not allowed to go to Music College so instead read Physics at University and actually have two Physics degrees. Then straight after Uni, I went into Science Publishing, got married and had two children. It was a busy few years. But you really can’t silence the call of what you truly desire, so whilst the road has been an incredibly circuitous one, I get to spend my days doing what I love – and know I am so lucky to be able to say that. What sets me apart? That’s a tough one – I suppose everything I do as an artist is emotionally led. For me, connection and communication are everything. I am often told I am too honest and personal on stage and I should keep some things back but that wouldn’t feel real to me. I don’t mind feeling vulnerable as an artist, I actually feel I am better that way, When you come to see me perform I want to share stories with you. Most of all I want to make you feel. I love singing ballads the most, and though it may sound twisted I am happy when I make people cry because I know I have done my job in terms of connection and energy exchange. And that interaction with an audience is golden. I have always been unable to go through the motions as a singer. I really admire singers who can sing anything – for me, if I don’t feel it I don’t do it – so you will always get me unfiltered and open on stage, or anywhere actually!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
For me, LA is all about the beaches and vintage shopping (!) I know maybe that’s a weird combination?? But my best friend would love the combo…You could lose days shopping for cool vintage pieces and I think on the La Brea in the Miracle Mile district is a great place to start. And of course as a jazz singer I’d have to check out as many gigs as possible too. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Easy. My friend, my sounding board and my manager – Carly Martin-Gammon. We have known each other for nearly 15 years now and Carly is one of those people in the industry whose walk and talk align, a quality I really value in people close to me. She is straight talking, pragmatic, encouraging and kind and is always looking for ways for me to share my creativity whatever form it takes. She also pushes me to challenge myself, whilst having my back – another quality I really appreciate. Also, maybe predictably my children – Maya and Josh Dhillon. Throughout my career there have been moments of self doubt (normal I guess) and they have always dissuaded me from giving up and have been the most consistent cheerleaders.
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