AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with ARUM RAE

“We never actually had music in our house growing up; my dad was a preacher, and it wasn’t allowed unless it was church music, and that music was terrible! I wasn’t exposed to good gospel or anything,” recalls New York City-based soulful songstress Arum Rae. “My parents got divorced around the time Paula Abdul was starting out, and I wanted to be like her. We were standing in line at the grocery store, and she was on the cover of a magazine. My mom could see how bad I wanted it, so she bought it for me. Then I got a Paula Abdul CD. Then all kinds of music started coming into the house.”

“I feel like I started learning about artists so late, and they were people who had a pivotal influences on me,” she continues. “I felt like I had to play catch-up.” Rae’s stepfather brought the sounds of classic rock n’ roll to her childhood home, artists like Tom Waits, Rickie Lee Jones, Billie Holiday, and Etta James. “Oh my gosh, Etta James, all the time,” Rae says. “She floored me, it’s the kind of music that makes you feel. I would sit and write their music out line by line and sing it line by line, and try to learn every nuance of their voices,” she says of her iconic heroes. “My voice is so different, it’s never fit for me to try to sound like somebody else. It was kind of alienating; I didn’t know who I was. In college, I started writing my own songs, and I found purpose in that.”

On May 19th, Rae released Sub Rosa, an acoustic collection of her music, and an album she felt compelled to create. “I’ve been doing a lot of shows lately that are in theaters, totally stripped down, me and a guitar. I felt like there was disconnect, between those shows and my produced and recorded music. I’d never done an unplugged record before, and I wanted to clean the slate artistically,” she explains. “Artistry kind of knocks at your door, and tells you what to do. I didn’t know if it was right or wrong, and my label didn’t really want me to do it, so I just did it on my own,” she continues. “I really like intimate things, and I’m really happy with Sub Rosa.”

Rae’s smoky voice is the star of Sub Rosa; her bare soul shines through each verse—with a unique, modern vintage vibe, at any moment, you expect to hear the crackle of a needle surfing the grooves of an old vinyl record. “I feel like it’s a true representation of me, without anything getting in the way,” she says. “People have asked me for that, for something less produced. We’re multi-faceted as humans, and to stay in a box and do the same thing all the time is nearly impossible. This touches upon that side of all of us, and these songs are strong,” she adds. “They’re songs for the heart.”


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