We had the good fortune of connecting with Rob LaRay and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Rob, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk-taking to me is counting the cost of a decision, discovering that it has the potential to end very well or very badly, and choosing to do it anyway. Taking risks is necessary in order to find out what is on the other side of “what if.” I have always known that I wanted to be a professional singer and songwriter since I was kid. The talent and the passion were always there, but the confidence to pursue the dream was not. In fact, I deferred the dream for years out of fear of taking risks. When I graduated from high school, I went on to obtain my bachelor’s in psychology and then a master’s in clinical social work. I worked as a mental health therapist for about five years and, although I enjoyed the work, I realized that I was not truly fulfilled. My fear of risk-taking, betting on myself, and putting it all on the table was causing me to settle for an unfulfilled life that did not maximize my full potential. I decided to leave my career and move to NYC to pursue music fully. I had written my first album and was ready to grow as an artist. So finally I bet on myself—and at times it appeared as if I lost the bet: I took a pay cut, moved in with a relative, refinanced my car, and started working minimum-wage jobs. However, that initial risk to leave my career in social work granted me the physical and emotional freedom to eagerly pursue my love for music. After much hustle and God-given opportunities, I was able to work as a full-time artist for the entire year of 2021. I became the artist-in-residence for a Brooklyn-based nonprofit organization, I was able to write for various artists and web series and—most importantly—I was able to release new music and perform more live shows. In the fall of 2021, I moved to Los Angeles after I received a vocal artist performance scholarship from the ICON Collective College of Music. Leaving my professional career came with much sacrifice but it also taught me the value of risk-taking. There is a cost for every choice we make in life—and every choice we don’t make. Some choices will cost more than what was budgeted for, while others will have a hefty return on the investment. The key is to step out and take the risk. Otherwise, you may never know which outcome could have been yours and, honestly, doing nothing might be the most unfortunate outcome of all.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
As a singer/songwriter/artist, I always want to create music that leaves my audience with peace, love and joy. I write music that is honest and comes from a genuine place. My first album, Black Gold, was written with the sole intention of celebrating Black culture. In a world that often overlooks and devalues black people, I wanted to create a project that ensured that we are seen, heard and loved. My writing is often motivated by political issues but not always. In 2020, I wrote the song ‘Ain’t A Dream’ in response to the disproportionate rate black men and women have been killed by authority figures in this country. That single was released on the ‘600 Miles To Freedom’ album, a collaboration project with Student Dream, that focuses on closing the racial wealth gap in America. Nina Simone stated that “an artist’s duty is to reflect the times” and that is what I strive to do, whether globally or personally. For example, I’m currently working on a project that focuses on life after a breakup. That is an honest conversation that needs to be shared. Artistry to me is telling stories that others can identify with, reflect on and possibly grow from. If I’ve done that, while having fun, I’ve done my job. Gratefully, I’ve known for a long time that this is my purpose so I’ve always had something to work towards. Getting to this place was not easy. As I mentioned before, I left my professional job, which came with many challenges. Additionally, I recently realized that I neglected many personal relationship in an attempt to pursue this dream. I was flooded with grief at that realization. However, I also understand that there is a cost with every pursuit. Gratefully, we get to learn along the way and make more informed choices in the future.

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?
If I have friends coming into town, the top three places I would take them are all restaurants. If visiting LA and they’ve never been to Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, that would be the obvious first stop of the trip. Another restaurant that I would take them to is The Court Cafe, a spot that serves Southern cuisine. My personal favorite is their chicken and waffles. Lastly, I’ll take them to Kale My Name, a vegan restaurant in Encino, where they can also find “wings” and waffles. The only difference is those wings are made from cauliflower. If you couldn’t tell, I really enjoy wings and waffles.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would love to shoutout Mrs. Gloria Artis, my first choir director. She gave me my very first solo and helped to develop my confidence for singing. Additionally, I would like to thank DJ Foxx, who was my second choir director, because he taught me how to be a skillful and dynamic singer. Lastly, I would like to thank my family and Maury Chapel Free Will Baptist church in Maury, NC. I spent most of my childhood at this church and they provided me the opportunity to not only sing but to also public speak, write poems, dance and act in church productions. I am an active creative today because of the time they invested into my youth.

Website: roblaray.com

Instagram: @rob.laray

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkPdW79tdDC6MHJpUge3mcA

Image Credits
Alonza Mitchell

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