Zachary Ray recently returned from spending 9 years living in India. Upon his return he was inspired to write the song 'Refuge', which has just been released as the first single from his forthcoming album. LTTM spoke to him to find out about his time in India, and how personal grief led him to write this new song.
You've recently returned from living in India for a number of years - what were you doing out there and what was the experience like?
India is incredible; it's my family's second home. I met my wife in India (she’s American), and we lived there full time for almost 9 years. I was working at Calcutta School of Music and starting a company, Chaitown Creatives, that focused on helping to train and promote young artists and creatives. My wife and I have simply wanted to build a better platform for them - they are also so incredibly talented. I was also volunteering at a local church helping with the music and choir.
How would you say living in India has changed you as a person?
Living in a different country; you adapt - or you should adapt - to your surroundings. We learned language; we adopted certain ways of life that works for living there. Living in India definitely instilled a lesson of patience in me (you tend to wait a lot in lines), but India also showed and taught me the value of community.
Tell us about your new single 'Refuge' and what the inspiration behind it was?
Refuge is a song that's straight out of my journal during an incredibly difficult season.
The song Refuge came from a cry to the all-knowing God when I was in a place of isolation - feeling surrounded by people and friends that loved us but feeling alone at the same time.
After my wife Amanda gave birth to our still born daughter Chloe, there were very few words of comfort that helped. Although people were praying and offering their words of comfort, it felt like a season of being abandoned by God, and the dreams of holding our little girl were stolen and shattered. Grief is a funny thing. The initial sting and pain becomes dull over time, but the memories and dull ache continues to come in waves. I don’t think our hearts are created for this world to overcome “grief” from tragedies or loss of loved ones; it becomes a part of our story, our life. We become a different person. The beautiful thing is that God stays the same and meets us where we are. I can honestly say God tangibly became my refuge in one of the darkest times in my life. He brought a healing into my soul like no earthly person could. We may never be the way we were before, but He shapes us into a new, and often stronger, person. I don’t think we get over grief until we leave this world.
I wrote the lyrics of this song with a good friend of mine, Joel Reimer. He and his wife Brandi suffered the loss of their baby boy, Harbour, when he was 4 months old. We both experienced extremely dark situations, but I know this song is not just for people with our type of journeys. It is for the person who is feeling alone, abandoned or deserted in a hopeless situation. It’s a song of hope for me. People need to know it’s ok to feel their way through their story, knowing God is with them on every page. I know other people have their own way of dealing with grief and life’s battles, but I know what worked for me. It was to find refuge in Jesus.
And you've been recording an album too, what can you tell us about that?
Yes; the album is all about letting go. Letting go of pain, sorrow, our dreams and ideas of how life is suppose to turn out. And, then, the process of learning to give those dreams and heartaches back to God; leaning into Jesus during the tough days knowing He's with you.
How would you describe your style of music and what are your influences?
I’d like to think of it as faith-based life music. The stories and lessons that God has taught and is teaching me. The genre most people would use is CCM Pop for this album. I grew up listening to Steven Curtis Chapman, Mark Schultz, Crystal Lewis, Jaquie Valesquez, Avalon, Racheal Lampa, etc.
If you could work with any songwriter, who would it be and why?
Josh Garrels for sure! I also really love Rachael Lampa’s voice - the songs she has recently been writing and putting out are just incredible.
How would you define success in your career as an artist?
I love the idea of using music to speak life, love and truth into a world that so desperately needs it. If the lyrics and music do that, it’s a success.
What is your favorite album of all time?
Love & War & the Sea In Between by Josh Garrels
You're stuck on an island, it's hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your phone. What track is it?
Love & War & the Sea In Between - Josh Garrels
God With Us - Terrain
What does the next year hold for you?
I’ve been talking with producer and songwriter Nathan Walters (Former member of Plus One) about writing music that would possibly feature some Calcutta based musicians. Excited to see what unfolds!