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Interview with Mason Ashley

It’s been several dry months for me, musically wise.  I’m listening and absorbing, but there hasn’t been much interest in writing about any of it.  So, the second an email piques my interest, I’m all over it, quick, before I lose the motivation.  Fortunately, though, I love “Paper Planes” so much, I am as excited to share this with you now as I was three weeks ago when I first heard Mason.  Straight up great lyrics and lovely voice with no flash and no gimmicks because there isn’t any needed.  Seriously, it’s so refreshing.  And this interview hints at a sense of humor that made me smile; I am as eager to share her responses as I am to tell everyone about her music.  Read on. And then go listen. I’m sure you’ll feel the same.


Relate:  First memory of music:

Mason:  I grew up watching the VH1 Top 20 Video countdown every Saturday since I was really little. I used to dance around the living room and reenact music videos and sing along with every song my parents would play in the house. The first song I wrote was on a hotel notepad when I was seven years old about being late for school…. I was homeschooled at the time. 


R:  Name one song you wish you had written and why?

M:  “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” by Bob Dylan is a song I always wish I’d written. It is the greatest break up song of all time in my opinion. It totally encapsulates the feelings at the end of a relationship. Each verse takes you through the different emotions; the “who cares” somewhat sarcastic attitude, the feeling of giving up, and the hint of sadness in the last verse. It’s genius. 


R:  Favorite song of yours that you have written and what makes it special to you?

M:  I think my favorite song I’ve written is the title track of my new EP, “Strangers”. That song title was in my phone notes for about two years and I just never found lyrics that lived up to the title until last summer. The song just kind of poured out of me and it has some of my favorite and most personal lines in it. It’s about a very complicated relationship I was in last year that taught me a lot about myself and how I deal with different situations. “Strangers” is special to me because it is the song I had always wanted to write and it ended up exactly the way I wanted it to in production. It captures the feeling of getting to know someone, losing them, and realizing maybe you never really knew them at all… and in the end you end up exactly how you started: strangers. 


R:  I’ve read that you have traveled a lot. How has meeting new people and seeing different places helped you become a better songwriter and musician?

M:  I always get very inspired when I travel. Something about seeing parts of the world I’ve never seen before for the first time makes me want to capture that feeling in lyrics. Meeting new people is the same kind of inspiration for me.. it’s a reminder of how unique everyone is and how everyone has their own story. 


R:  Have you ever been afraid to share a song and did you get over that fear?  If so, how?  And if not, do you think you will always have songs that you keep to yourself?

M:  When I first started writing, I was terrified to share any of my songs. When I started performing my songs, I would hide all my feelings in metaphors in my lyrics to make sure nobody knew how I was feeling. I had been writing a few years when I finally realized that all the songs by other artists that I loved were songs that told a brutally honest story. From then on, I felt confident being honest in my writing…it’s much easier.  


R:  What goal do you have for yourself that is so big that it frightens you?

M:  My biggest, most terrifying goal is probably to have my song in a movie. It is a dream of mine and if it happened, I think I would freak out. 


R:  Best advice that you have ever been given?

M:  Growing up in church with my pastor being my grandfather, I always have great advice. One of my favorite pieces of advice is actually something my grandpa said about God and how He is in everything in our lives, even the rough times. “He’s the designer of the storm. He doesn’t just get you through it… He is in it.” Those words always calm me down and remind me that there is a plan for my life better than I could ever design for myself. 


R:  When you aren’t singing or writing music, what do you like to do?

M:   I’m in cosmetology school right now so when I’m not doing something music related I’m normally doing someone’s hair. I’m a coffee-addict so I’m also usually found in a coffee shop after or before school. And I’ve also started doing a lot of yoga lately. 


R:  Tell us about something that has made you laugh in the last twenty-four hours.

M:  Well… I was watching The Office earlier (for the billionth time) and laughing with every episode I watched. 


R:  Name one song on your iPod that your friends would be surprised you own.

M:  I normally have pop, rap, or indie music playing when my friends are with me so I think they’d be most surprised at the amount of Jackson 5 songs I have on my phone.. They are probably my guilty pleasure band. 


R:  Just for fun-choose one:  Beach or the mountains?

M:  Beach BY the mountains. 


R:  T-shirts and jeans or sweaters and skirts?

M:   T-shirts and jeans.


R:  Taylor Swift or Beyonce?

M:  T-swizzle.


R:  Pizza or Cheeseburgers and fries?

M:   Pizza! (Barbecue chicken pizza specifically)


R:  Chocolate or potato chips?

M:  Chocolate chips all the way.


For more information about Mason, please visit:

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins


Interview with Amanda from Ray and Remora

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

amandaI have to be honest-I agreed to review the record Startle it Up simply for the reason that I liked it.  Surprising, I know.  I like to make things complicated and choose albums that have this overwhelming truth that I hadn’t realized before I listened, or it has to inspire me in some profound way.  And while this album may have the potential to do these things if I dissect it enough, I didn’t want to.  I just wanted to enjoy it.  And I did, every time it played.  It even had the chance to pass my “shuffle test:” if a song was randomly picked while I listened to my iPod, would I skip the song?  The answer was a resounding no-instead of hitting next, I turned it up, and I would smile as soon as I heard it.  With all the discord and the chaos in the world, we all need more things to make us smile, right?

Fresh and light without being pathetic and airy, Startle it Up addresses some tensions revolving around various statuses of relationships.  When Amanda begs to be listened to, she doesn’t sound whiny, when she sings “we just have to find it,” you believe that you will, and when the lyrics bleed transparency, there’s still just enough mystique that leave you wanting to hear more.  I adore this album for sounding different, yet familiar.  I love that this album isn’t fluff, yet it doesn’t make me feel burdened.  Startle it Up is an escape that I didn’t even know I needed until I heard it.  

Relate:  What is your first memory of music?

Amanda:  My first memory of music is probably my Grandpa singing lullabies. We moved to Portland shortly after I was born to live with him.  I don’t remember much from childhood, but I do remember him singing me to sleep, “I gave my love a cherry, that had no stone.”

R: 1994 was an EP of covers, and this album, Startle It Up, is a full-length of originals.  Which one was your favorite to create and which one was more challenging?

A:  Startle It Up is definitely my favorite, we really became the band “RAY & REMORA” with this one.

1994 was fun but it was like a “nice to meet you” project with Dan. We were just fooling around in the studio, recording Kazoos with lots of effects and since we weren’t a fully-fledged band yet, it was less serious. We were just two nerds in a basement playing with computers and instruments.

The “challenging stuff” for me isn’t the recording or music making; it’s all the business matters. After an album it’s a lot paper work and emails. That sucks the life out of me. If anyone wants to be my intern, I’m hiring!

R:  How soon did you know that you wanted to create a second album and that it would be your own creations?  Was it right away or did it take awhile for you to decide this?

A:  As soon as the EP was out and receiving some interest, we started playing live shows. Since the EP was only six songs we had to add some material from each of Dan and my prior songwriting repertoire. From then it was inevitable that we would make an album of originals.

R:  In twenty years a young band wants to cover one of your songs.  Which song do you hope they choose and why?

A:  I want to say “It’s Just” or “Soft Brown Heart”, these two are extra close to me, personally. But, as I will not be the young band member in 20 years… Whomever decided to cover one of our songs, I hope they choose whichever song(s) they connect to the most and that they make it their own.

R:  If you couldn’t be a musician, what would you want to be instead?

A:  I will never not be a musician! But if I had to have a side gig, which I do, it would be making art. I’m a collagist of objects and images.

R:  Best source of inspiration when you need to write a song? Do you use personal experiences or do you use what you see going on around you?

A:  I draw mostly from personal experience, which is sometimes outside actions happening around me, observing them and then trying to understand all the sides of what’s going on. A lot of the songs that I write are about understanding how people talk to and act towards each other. It’s hard to explain one’s self and actions perfectly all the time, where everyone’s coming from emotionally or physically. I struggle with it a lot, on both the understanding and acting side.

R:  How do you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard you before?  

A:  I keep getting asked this and then I say, “ummm… it’s indie pop rock?” But I’ll let you listen and choose your own words.

R:  What is the biggest hope you have for your music?

A:  My biggest hope is that music will be able to support me and keep me happy till the end of time. If it doesn’t do that then I just may have to find something new. But, it hasn’t failed me yet and I don’t intend on letting it, so watch out world! Ray & Remora & Amanda & Glen are coming for you!

Willow Steps

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins
willow-stepsA little longer than a minute ago, I wrote a review for a band called Dear Indugu.  I didn’t remember right away what they sounded like, but I remembered that their music had affected me.  That almost goes without saying; I generally won’t write a review unless there’s a significant take away.  Regardless, the impact was enough for me to agree to write a review for Jesse’s new adventure:  Willow Steps, music unheard.  Seriously, that rarely, if ever, happens because what if I hate it?  It’s difficult to stay true to Relate’s mission statement, “inspiring teen girls” if I don’t have positive things to say and something of quality to write about.  I mean, right?

The overall sound caught me a little bit by surprise.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t acoustic folk.  Even though that’s exactly the way Jesse described it…it wasn’t what I imagined it would be.  But really, it was better than I could have hoped for. I love a girl and a guy’s voice blending together. It is always such perfection, and I think it’s always such an underused and under appreciated element in today’s music scene.

Now, for the lyrics.  The first song, “Lovers Recipe” is pretty great. I adore the nod at the baggage and brokenness we bring to every relationship.  I agree that no matter how we try to move away from our past, it changes who we are, no matter how minutely, and we bring that to each new partnership that we try to create.  What a great song.  And as the previous band’s musings did before this one, I put this one in my pocket to ponder and consider from various angles and, honestly, these really are my favorite type of songs.

With the second and third, song, though, I felt myself getting a little annoyed that I had so eagerly agreed to write a review.  I considered, several times as the lyrics unveiled themselves to me, of saying nope, nevermind, can’t do it.  Even though I hate backing out of anything.  But there are all these sexual innuendos.  And, wait a minute, is that a drug reference or two…or three?  I can’t condone these things.  They only lead to bad places.

There’s that moment of wanting to turn it off.  Of wanting to hit the rewind button, even if it means an “I changed my mind” email.  To be fair, I don’t.  I don’t quit things.  And certainly, there’s got to be something positive, even if it’s covered by negative.  I just have to work harder than normal to unearth it.

And then the last song plays, and I find that I don’t have to work for it at all.  “A Truth” is the type of song I pray bands would write.  There’s a lot of speculating, a lot of wondering, a lot of pondering.  But then there’s lyrics like “From an airplane window/Looking out on the world/A canvas for some creator”… “Because we all pretend there’s no meaning/Well, there’s meaning.”  There is a conclusion made here with the simple, yet beautiful and profound lyric “I believe in a truth too big to see/Look in any direction/And you’re staring at infinity.”  The song evolves from wondering to a proclamation, and I’m running around with my arms in the air screaming “Yes, yes, that’s what I’m talking about!”  

This song is the face of bravery.

I am reminded as I listen again and again, how much more “A Truth” means because of the songs that precede it.  Rarely, if ever, are we born with faith.  And if we have to meander through darkness, through treacherously rough terrain including drugs and promiscuity and awful choices, how much more profound the light must be once we find it.  I am reminded God can create something positive from even the worst circumstances, and that even though bad choices lead to bad places, that doesn’t mean we have to stay there.  The take away here for me is to never, ever give up on anything or anyone.  How impressive it will be if other listeners can walk away with the same hope.

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