The list of artists who have been supporting Ezel and Rona Ray over the last three years since they started working together is as extensive as it is impressive with A-list DJ’s Louie Vega, Dimitri From Paris, Seth Troxler, Mousse T and Natasha Diggs among a long list of incredible DJ’s spinning their tracks. Their early success together led to them collaborating on a full artist album Take me home and it is already causing a huge stir with the first three singles from the album ‘Hard To Stay Away’ , ‘Don’t Know Yet’ & ‘History Repeating’ all hitting the coveted number one spot on Traxsource.
Their tracks excel on both the songwriting and production fronts. Timeless and anthemic the album is packed with sumptuous, shimmering and effusive underground Soulful house alongside a smattering of RnB. The quality of this album is such that Soulful House legend DJ Spen reached out to convey to Ezel that this is ‘how modern soulful house should sound in 2023’.
It’s an album which flows perfectly creating a wonderfully warm world of it’s own which is perfectly suited for home listening. Equally though it’s packed with Dancefloor gold.
You can grab Take me home now via: https://www.traxsource.com/title/2156858/take-me-home
I spoke to Ezel and Rona about their collaborations, influences and how the album came together.
Hi there Ezel & Rona,
Thanks for speaking to us today.
You have been working together for a few years now back to ‘Hard to Stay Away in 2021, how did you meet, and what inspired you to start collaborating?
R: Thank you so much for having us! We met online about 3 years ago via mutual friends. We both had an experience working with Sean Ali and Munk Julious. Ezel sent me the instrumental for Hard to Stay Away, I found it beautiful and that’s basically where it all started.
What musical influences did you have at the very start that was common ground and inspiration for you both?
R: I think that common ground was simply an unbearable desire to create something beautiful. My upbringing was R&B music, for the most part. Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, Sade and Erykah Badu. I’d say I was trying to become a well-rounded vocalist-songwriter when I was starting my journey, letting every great artist I hear influence me in some way and be transformed into a tiny puzzle piece in my musical identity.
E: Personal influences vested into this album project I would say early Masters at Work and Naked Music NYC, they were the sounds that influenced me early in my career as a house music producer.
For our readers who haven’t come across your releases before how would you describe the musical style of Ezel & Rona Ray so far and what is your musical ethos right now in 2024?
R: I would describe everything I do musically as sophistipop. I base my songwriting on catchy melodies but it will always have sophisticated and complex elements. I’m not sure Ezel would agree though.
E: I feel Rona brings a lot of pop appeal to the table as she so self-describes. To me, we aligned in the purpose of making good music, more specifically attached to Soulful House which is the genre we both have been exploring and what put us in the same orbit to collaborate.
You have had lots of support from some of the best DJs and producers out there including DJ Spen, DJ Spinna, Kai Alce, Seth Troxler & Mousse T. Have you been surprised at just how popular your collaborations have become in such a short period?
R: It’s very flattering to get support from top producers and DJs in the genre, but I think it was a long time coming for the both of us since we’ve been making music most of our lives, sometimes all it takes is to find that 1 collaborator you have perfect chemistry and vision of music with. And we did!
E: We appreciate all this love and support from pillars of our music, I look up to them as fellow DJs & Producer.
What would you say is your most significant production together so far and why?
R: I want to say ‘Hard to stay away’ is the most significant one cause it’s the first one we’ve done and it was the beginning of this big journey that brought us here. It was the first big success and gave me hope that we could achieve big things together.
E: I concur, “Hard to Stay Away” is a beautiful soulful house track that will stay timeless.
You are separated by some considerable distance, how do you find it working remotely with each other and what tools do you use to work over long distances?
R: I have worked with producers remotely all my life. I have a home studio, where I record all my songs and when I’m done I send vocal stems to the producer. It’s very convenient for me to record myself instead of having a sound engineer and a producer in the same room, since my process is writing and recording a song at the same time, free-styling some parts, trying different background vocal combinations, experimenting to see what sounds better. I’d prefer for it to stay the intimate process that it is. Working with Ezel has been effortless, he always gave me full freedom to do whatever I decide to do and his instrumentals usually have a lot of different parts, and different chord progressions, the fact that it’s musically rich makes it easier for me to write to it.
E: As she described, the work focuses more on trying to best utilize the resources from each other. She is a consummate professional at what she does and I know a thing or two myself, so after that is just a matter of obtaining good alignment something that should come as effortlessly as possible, and in our case it did.
What is your collaborative production technique, how do you create these songs?
R: I write to the instrumental ideas Ezel sends me, my technique is humming melodies, free-styling, often finding the hook first and then filling in the gaps and just hoping that it will all make sense at the end.
E: Rona is a very open minded creative and while working with her on an array of singles than later gave into the idea of a full album, I observed styles and vibes that she could potentially do and I applied myself to constantly send her cool ideas in different styles just to see what will resonate with her and after she had put in her input try to maximize on those ideas bringing everything to the best possible outcome in terms of execution. We’re both very self-contained creatives, she does her vocal thing and I do the music plus I take care of technical post-production aspects mixing, etc.
At the last leg of the production process, we got help from a very experienced and dope mastering engineer. His name is Joey “808” Fernandez, known for his work with such greats as Terry Hunter, Emmaculate, Dj Spinna, and others. His input was instrumental in elevating the sonic quality of this whole work and we’re very thankful for it.
Being an artist can be a lonely life with loads of time hidden away in the studio. Does working together help make production easier and does the music get better as a duo?
E: I feel its a case-by-case scenario. Yes, creation can be a very intense process and there are certain vibes that you sort of need something that perhaps you can only find in a partner. The key is to stay open and let the music guide you. In this case, teaming up with Rona for this particular project has been one of the best decisions I’ve made musically. Very proud of what we’ve achieved.
Ezel, please tell us a little about your studio and the one piece of equipment or plugin you couldn’t live without.
E: I have a decent lab that sort of reflects my musical taste in terms of equipment. Lots of synth boards (Piano / Keys being my main instrument) samplers, a couple of vintage pianos, and a hybrid analog / digital audio processing workflow that has allowed me to develop a certain sound that was heavily put to work for this project. As far as a favorite piece, I don’t have one in particular, every little aspect of my studio brings a certain quality and everything together is what makes the magic.
Your new album, Take me home on Bayacou Records has a delicious live feel, it’s almost celebratory. How did you go about giving the album such a summery warm feel?
E: I love that you see it that way, I’ve listened a couple of times from start to finish riding on the car and it does give me this beautiful journey vibe, kinda like telling a story that you have to read between the musical lines. The feel is just the sum of our visions combined. In some aspects, we think of music very similarly and I think what we did well was to take advantage of those common grounds.
Did you bring in any other musicians for the album or is it 100% Ezel & Rona Ray?
E: We had the pleasure of working with just a couple of additional musicians while most of the work was done solely by Rona and myself.
Rona, what other vocalists out there right now do you think are standing out from the crowd and inspire you to bring your A-game every time you step into the studio?
R: I would say Nai Palm from Hiatus Kaiyote, forever a fan, her songwriting, and musical authenticity is mind-blowing to me, her band just released a new single
I do really love what Sampha is doing, from vocals to the production
And if you heard me rapping a bit on the album it’s because I’ve listened to some Doja in the past year and I think she’s one of the most unique and versatile artists in the mainstream
How long did it take for the whole album process from talking about it to getting the album out to buy?
E: Our collaboration together from the first song until we completed the album encompassed 3 years. Not everything became immediately clear for us as we only produced casual singles in the first 2 years of our collaboration. It was this last year that we decided to organize our joint body of work into a full album and for that, we decided to record a host of new songs while bringing in our past singles releases and rescuing a few unreleased ones we had done in the past.
Once the songs were in place, giving the final touches to production, mixing and mastering took about 4 months in total.
A full album is a huge project, what were the most difficult moments and what were the most fun aspects of pulling it all together?
R: We had a bit of a struggle with the intro and naming the album. The first intro we did just didn’t cut it. And another big struggle was the mixing stage.
E: Mixing was the hardest part of the project. Whoever mixes professionally knows how much projects can either win or lose sonically at this stage and we’re both perfectionists. I consider myself a self-taught engineer even though I went to audio school and this project made me hit the limits of my creativity in terms of mixing. I’m so glad that I got help from my mastering engineer at the very last leg of the process. Sometimes having another person giving you perspective is essential.
If you had to pick one song each from the album that is super personal to you and you think will resonate with our readers what would they be and why?
R: I don’t have non-personal songs on the album. It’s everything I’ve been going through and everything I needed to let out or tell myself at the moment of writing it. And I think each person will relate to a different song, so far all my friends have picked different songs as their favorite and it’s a good thing.
E: I kinda think the same as Rona. I like the whole album experience. I experience this body of work as a whole, I am proud of how cohesive it is. To me, it tells a story and captures a beautiful moment in time and creation between me and her.
And what tracks do you think have the potential to be real club gold?
R: I’d say ‘Nothing’s what it seems’.
E: Some of the songs on the album that have already been put out as singles have proven to be “club gold” History Repeating & Don’t Know Yet come to mind. From the new ones “If I Am Being Real” and “Forest Gump” give me great vibes.
Given that you are fresh off the project what three tips do you have for anyone looking to pull a full album together?
R: Team up with the committed artists who will FINISH STUFF, and save some money before the mix, master, and promotion. And have an astronomical amount of patience! OK, that was a bit dramatic.
E: Take your time to build a good rapport with whoever you wish to collaborate with, especially ahead of a fully-fledged album. It takes a lot of determination. Also, be clear at all times about expectations and vision, sometimes that’s all that is needed to let other people feel you properly and align with your vision.
Do you plan to do any gigs together to celebrate the release of the album?
R: I hope that we will, sometime this year.
E: That’s our hope. We both plan to move around this year in terms of gigs so it’s just a matter of alignment and we’re working on that.
What would you say is your proudest Ezel & Rona Ray moment so far?
R: That we, 2 independent artists, finished and released this album. Also that we put 2 RnB tracks on it. I don’t know if it’s the right approach, but I also don’t know of anyone who has ever done that.
E: I feel both deeply honored and grateful that Rona chose to team up with me for this long-haul musical journey. We both have our independent careers and personal paths and we’re respectful of each other visions. What we tried to do here was to do the best possible music that we could together. In that respect, I feel have surpassed all my expectations.
And finally what else can we expect from Ezel & Rona Ray in 2024?
E: As far as this album goes. We will follow the album release with subsequent single releases of some of the songs that will also feature remixed versions from some of the best and most respected producers and DJs in the game. Stay Tuned!
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Tags: Bayacou Records, Ezel, Rona Ray