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People On The Move - Ray Andersen
06/29/2009 - By by Teja Anderson

People On The Move - Ray Andersen

Rocking People of All Ages

Looking every bit the artsy musician, Ray Andersen has his sticker-covered guitar in hand. Just like his funky eyewear that shows black or orange, depending on which way his head is turned, this  artist has two very different sides as well. There is Ray Andersen the rock and roller who has  toured with Matchbox Twenty and Meatloaf, frequently jammed with Bruce Springsteen and Jon  Bon Jovi, and was invited by Bobby Bandiera to play with Cats on a Smooth Surface, the Stone  Ponys house band. Then there is mr. RAY! the much sought after childrens performer, about to release his fourth CD of original songs, Welcome to the Music Room, for the 8 and  under set. mr. RAY, (not a typo, but a statement of how he wants his audience to see him the lowercase mr. shows respect but not superiority and RAY! all caps is energetic and fun) has found his niche in Kindie Music. This Indie kids genre melds the sensibilities and talents of singer/songwriters with themes aimed at children. With familiar rock-based tempos and messages aimed at kids, its a welcome alternative to the more commercial stuff that is tied to TV shows, movies, and merchandise. It helps that parents dont mind listening to it over and over again either on those 6-hour car rides; they even sing alongif their kids allow it.

For Ray there was really never any other career choice other than music. The house he grew up in West Orange, NJ, with his resolutely supportive parents, ad man Ray and realtor Debbie, plus two younger sisters, Denise and Dana, had been previously owned by Carole King; this was where she did much of her composing. Guests like The Monkees often rehearsed in the basement. The whole house just had this musical vibe. The doorbell played Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? recalls Ray as he sings the familiar tune. And you know that song, Pleasant Valley Sunday? Its written about the main street running through West Orange.

Inspired, young Ray turned his creative energies toward music, teaching himself drums, guitar, bass, and piano. Soon, without ever having taken a formal lesson, he was booking gigs in night clubs way before he was legally allowed to be there. It was there that he met his wife. Yeah, we met backstage at The Pony, and we toured together as Blue Van Gogh for a time. It was when Patti was working part-time at a pre-school and asked him to come in to perform a few songs for the kids that Ray found his aptitude for entertaining children. Not only was he a huge hit, but he found himself really enjoying it. I am so blessed. I love what I do, Ray muses.

By far, his biggest fan to date is his 4 1/2-year-old daughter Layla, who lets everyone know that he  is her father. She went through a phase where she was running up on stage and grabbing the microphone while I was singing, and I would have to tell her, Layla, Daddys at the office. Daddy is working. Im sweating because Im known as Mr. Manners. Im really big on manners; they are a big part of my songs and my in-between song banter, and heres my daughter grabbing the microphone away from me. Ray chuckles, Of course the parents watching have their own perspective, and they just think shes being adorable. Luckily Layla has been more of an inspiration for Rays songs than a hindrance. We are adoptive parents; we adopted Layla from birth so I have this song called Born From Our Heart (The Adoption Song).

While some inspiration comes from requests from parents to cover topics important to them, such  as bullying or physical handicaps, most songs are born from observing and interacting with his  audiences, like the Mr. & Mrs. Giggles Song. Ray explains, Every time I call kids up to do the solos and I hear just one iota of a giggle Im like, Oh my gosh! Mr. Giggles? The kids just loose it; they cant stop giggling. Its what I call the goofy factor. Making kids giggle for a livingno wonder Ray Andersen feels so blessed!


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