Born in Manhattan to a family of musicians, there was no doubt that artistry would run through Raina Sokolov-Gonzalez’s veins. Her parents' lives and livelihoods were deeply immersed within music and creativity, with her mother being an accomplished singer, composer and professor, and her father, a talented poet, writer and musician; forging a panorama of inspiration and cementing her future as an artist.
Raina began penning songs at the age of 12 and then later attended Bard College to study music and composition. Taking a very instinctive approach to her work, she confesses: “My writing process in general is based on improvisation. I start with the piano, working my way around the instrument until some harmony catches my ear, invites me to sing over it, inspires an emotional response.” It was at Bard College that she met her bassist, Luke McCrosson and formed a musical collective, along with his childhood friend and drummer Zach Berks. “The long friendship histories paired with a mutual passion and drive towards the music is a powerful combination. It’s so beautiful. They add so much to the sound.”
The jazz and R&B musician has had encouragement in abundance, not only from her family, but also from three-time Grammy winner Marc Anthony, who she was given an opportunity to perform for, and who later became her mentor. Having played numerous venues in New York City, including the Brooklyn Bowl, Rockwood Music Hall and the MoMA, it’s unsurprising that she’s attracted an assembly of admirers, with her music generating close to a million streams on Spotify. She has also earned the attention of jazz composer William Parker, whom she shared a stage with at The Lincoln Centre, amongst other endeavors.
With music being her “first language”, the Brooklyn based singer and composer’s life was saturated with creative influence. Her brother, Jake Sokolov-Gonzalez, attended Brown University to study composition, which later led them to collaborate on her recent album 'If They’re Mine', which he produced. Written in 2017 and recorded in the summer of 2018 at The Bunker in Brooklyn, Raina explains: “This album is a snapshot of the questions and dynamics that inhabited me for a long time. Each song is a different aspect, a different question. I have formative tensions around desire and deception, around dissociation and attachment.”
The album exudes a serene and willowy soundscape, yet has a poised and compelling narrative, telling the story of a “young woman grappling with internal and intimate conflict, searching for truth, embodiment, and resolution.” The track 'Better For You' focuses on depersonalisation and the emotions around being objectified, questioning “Is it better for you / If I’m six feet tall / Is it better for you / If I’m thin and small / Is it better for you / If I don’t talk at all...” While the inquisition is laced with dark undertones, it is smoothly juxtaposed by the jazzy instrumentation and Raina’s rich and velvety vocals.
The most recent release was the accompanying music video for the single '40 Days' which details the emotional complexities of letting go of people, particularly those that have hurt you. Focusing on small moments and capturing movement amongst an airy and natural backdrop, the visual perfectly captures the essence of the track, highlighting the subtle pining and repetitive thought patterns we go through when letting go.
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Words: Alexander Williams
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