North of Sunset, West of Vine

There was a rarely used piano sitting in a hotel foyer in 1986.I rarely used it, so in that way I suppose I continued a tradition.

There was a window full of hanging crystals in 1987. Around the studio apartment there were guitars, a turn-dial TV with wire-hanger bunny ears, and a sticker for Barney’s Beanery: “We were there in ’32, where were you?” Through the window, there were tops of buildings, a trash heap, and the seeds of eventual arson.

There was pink and teal neon in 1988. There were maraschino cherries, and lacquered black glass table tops. There was nothing between me, and the drunk with the captain’s hat on, except a microphone, and Jessica Rabbit’s theme song.

There was a pawn-shop in 1989. It was 3 blocks away from a model space-ship and sci-fi store. Both held on to our hopes till they could hold on no more.

There was a fire in 1990. In an apartment building at Hollywood Blvd and Sycamore, smoke filled a window hung with crystals.

crystal-window

crystal-window

I haven’t lived in Hollywood proper for 20 years, but I can’t leave. Some periods in your life never end, no matter how much time gets in between you and those events. From 1986 to 1990, I lived a double life, but in multiple dimentions:

As a uniformed private school child, and also as a jeans-and-jacket RTD rider, living in a 1-room studio apartment. As the owner of 20+ Barbie dolls, and also as a nightclub singer. As a girl learning to ride a Care-Bear bicycle, and also learning to wield a screwdriver in case of drunken assholes.

Raya-head

Raya-head

For those who don’t know me, according to Bear McCreary’s Wikipedia page I am “singer and songwriter Raya Yarbrough, with whom he worked on the music of Battlestar Galactica” which is to say, best known for my vocal work on the cult-hit TV phenomenon,  Battlestar Galactica. If you bark up that tree, you’ll find several recordings of me warbling celestially, in multiple lesser-known (and some defunct) languages. I’m proud of my work on Battlestar, as a musician and also as a geek of the first degree, however my life’s work is as a singer/songwriter.

So growing up,  I was a child immersed in 1980’s commercialized fantasy, while also living in the adult world of 1980’s reality. Reflecting now, I believe that there is – definitely - a greater cosmic joke.

Life was like this:

Friday, 3pm – head full of video games and poop jokes, off with dad to our club gigs on Friday night and Saturday night. Then home on Sunday night to study for a spelling test. Monday, 8am – back to school with mom, skirt pleated, socks pulled up, collar starched, head still full of jazz chords, and cigarette ash on my saddle shoes.

I didn’t know it was weird. Still, in the midst of this schizophrenic existence, I had one constant dream: I was a performer. I was a singer and a songwriter, and someday the world would hear my music.

So lemme fast forward for a second – we’ll get to the Quick and Dirty History of my Fabulous Music Career next week…

At this point, summer 2010,  I am a fully independent musician. This may have a triumphant ring, but I won’t kid, that wasn’t the plan.  I’m completely independent for the first time in 10 years, after putting out 4 albums, with one on a major label - but now, I am in the great hordes of “the unsigned.” These are dry and windy plains. On the one hand, I have no one to answer to. On the other hand, if I pick up the phone, there’s no one to call.  So, without a team of industry people holding one foot on my neck and another foot in the bank (the yoga of the music biz), I have a creative freedom I’ve never had – no artistic tethers, no framework except for the one I make for myself.

But I won’t lie, this is scary.

When you face yourself in your room, alone, and ask yourself who you are – at first all you hear is your own breath in the void.

guitar-and-amp

guitar-and-amp

So my new batch of songs are based on the stories I’m going to tell here. These are streaky memories, and dog-eared portraits of people I knew in Hollywood – both the physical place and the metaphoric realm. Within the skeletal frame of visions from the 1980s, I’ll bounce forward to talk about other “hollywoodness” I drop in on, or which drops in on me.

I’ll post excerpts of lyrics and video clips, and other odds and ends as I go along. Eventually, bit by bit, these stories will coagulate into music, and there will be a new album, and you’re coming with me on my road to create it.

Yes I could just copy and paste my resume here, but that’s not the point. I want to tell you a story. I want to tell you lots of stories. Here at the end of the day, here at the end of my 20s, this is what I got - stories and songs running into each other.

They meet at an intersection and vibe each other out. They meet at Pink Panda across from the Roosevelt Hotel, then loiter before the matinee on Cahuenga Blvd, feeding quarters to the Centipede game. They smell like cocktails and pan-asian cuisine. They look like a 3-inch orange manicure squeezing a lime. They look like a little girl in knee socks, on a bar stool, in above her head, before her time.

This is the door-to-door, and this is the metaphor. This all happened North of Sunset, West of Vine.

- Raya

…this is from my 1999 album, “Waking at Twilight:” [audio:http://www.rayayarbrough.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/noswov.mp3|titles=North of Sunset West of Vine]

Raya Yarbrough

Singer, Composer, writer of absurd stories about LA, chanteuse on Outlander, BSG, DaVinci's Demons, & I used to date Dick Grayson.