While many bands move to Portland to bolster their career—it is known for fostering some of the best artists in the country—roots soul singer Redray Frazier moved for love. Frazier—a Keb' Mo'/Ben Harper hybrid who sports the emotion-riddled blues of the former and roots tenderness of the latter—had been immersed in the vibrant music scene of New York City, recording albums for A&M Records and Sony/Epic Records while opening on tour for the likes of Lenny Kravitz and Blues Traveler. But in 1998, when one of those tours ended in Portland, events were set in motion that would see Frazier move to Oregon four years later. Namely, he met his future wife.
At first the couple gave New York a go, but eventually Frazier's wife found herself missing Oregon a little too much. So in an act of selflessness, Frazier packed the two of them up and they headed out West. For Frazier, who already had a successful career in New York, the move was actually a blessing in disguise.
"I love the New York music scene; I cut my teeth on that scene, but I had kind of been through it already," explained Frazier with his honey-dipped voice in a phone interview with the Source. "I had a couple of record deals early on, but it seemed like the business was kind of stagnant. So, I figured that there was an opportunity to shake it up a bit. Once I moved out here I had to start doing everything on my own until I met people, and that challenge was pretty exciting to me. I had never had a solo career until I moved to Portland."
That solo aspect of making music was indeed foreign to Frazier and not just because he was without a band. Growing up in Queens, Frazier's entire childhood had been one brimming with music.
From singing in his Baptist church to performing talent shows with siblings and cousins for the family, Frazier learned to shed any notion of stage fright and reveled in the musical fellowship enjoyed by those closest to him and the people he left behind when he moved 3,000 miles away. "The sense of family really goes with me everywhere," said Frazier. "Growing up in a musical family, we did take it seriously, but it was still fun to do."
Since 2002, the something-year-old Frazier—he's a little funny about revealing his actual age; a family trait, he claims—has been one of Portland's burgeoning gospel soul acts. It's a genre he admits Portland doesn't hear too much of, yet he feels the city has welcomed with open arms and that includes the musicians he has found to play with.
Frazier and his band can turn out a nasty blues tune as effortlessly as they can switch gears to a gospel version of "Here Comes the Sun." The pairing of such hearty and yet also breezy sounds mirrors the differences between the concrete city where Frazier developed his talent and the city he now calls home with its green, lush backdrop. It's a contrast that according to Frazier will always be evident in his music, no matter how long he lives in Oregon.
"I'm certainly a part of the Portland music scene but I spend a lot of time going back and forth to the East Coast," said Frazier. "I've never given up on being a New Yorker. I was born and raised there and I don't think I'll ever leave that. It was a wonderful experience."
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