In the world of music, it pays off a great deal to be good at many things. This is certainly the case with multi-talented Bri Ray, who composes, sings, and does voice acting. I spoke with the kind and easy-going composer, where she talked about faith as a main influence, the magic of video games, the importance of following through with projects, and creating things from the heart.
How would you describe your music? What’s your music about?
Bri: I love epic soundtrack music, and I try to do anything that’s soundtrack-y. But really, I just want to compose music that I want to compose. I love epic, ethereal…
Okay cool, do you have any formal training? Or do you play any instruments?
Bri: I play a little piano, and guitar, and I sing. It’s embarrassing to say, but I have no formal training. I’m hoping actually to get into that, and maybe go back to school for that or something, but we’ll see! Since I have music in my family—my dad was a musician too—I kinda grew up with music.
Okay yeah, that was going to be my next question. (laughs) So what was the first piece of music you ever composed? And what inspired you to compose for the first time?
Bri: I would say I wrote my first song probably when I was like 13 or 14? I think just because I grew up with music, and I knew that I loved music and wanted to do something with music… When I first got my guitar and piano, I learned everything by ear—when I finally learned how to do those things, I was like “Oh, I’ll just write a song!” First, I started with lyrics, then I started adding music. But I used to compose way different music back then. It was more acoustic, and I used to be in a rock band before… So it’s totally different from what I’m doing now.
What was the name of your band?
Bri: The band I was in was called Behind the Stone.
Behind the Stone, okay.
Bri: Yeah… We were together for a few years. I was the lead singer, and I played keyboard. It was kinda like rock, but with an epic sound, sort of… A lot of people compared us to Evanescence, cause we had strings—I would play the pad on the keyboards… But I got away from rock. I still love rock, but it’s not where I’m at now.
Do you have any videos online of your band?
Bri: NO. Thank God! Oh my gosh. No. (laughs)
(laughs) Okay, so who are some of your main musical influences?
Bri: I’ve always liked classical. Tchaikovsky is my favorite composer. Thomas Bergersen… Ah, there’s so many. I’m drawing a blank! There’s just so many… I think that in every part of my life, there was a certain composer or band that influenced me. So back then, I had different influences than I do now, and they’ve all changed! But I would say classical music composers have always influenced me, and I love choral music, and chants… Another person that recently in the last four years that has really, really influenced me: Erutan. She’s great, I love her. And Jo Blankenburg! And then obviously, video game composers! Those classic video games—definitely a huge influence.
Okay, so what sorts of things inspire you outside of music?
Bri: Well, definitely God. Going to church… That’s probably the main influence, other than music. My faith is my main influence. I think that’s it! (laughs)
Okay! Would you say God inspires your music, too?
Bri: For sure, for sure. I feel like I wouldn’t do what I do without Him. I feel like sometimes I’ll listen back to something that I’ve written, and I’m like “Did I just write that? That couldn’t have been me. I know I can’t do that.”
Yeah, like a transcendent experience?
Bri: Exactly! I know that I can’t do that, especially without training! (laughs)
Okay, so what programs and equipment do you use to make your music?
Bri: So I use Pro Tools. I use a lot of plug-ins in Pro Tools, like Ethno, and Ivory… I’ve always used Pro Tools. My husband was also in a rock band when he was younger, so when we got married, a lot of the stuff he used to record, I kinda inherited! (laughs) So he used Pro Tools, and a whole bunch of other stuff—amplifiers, stuff to record. Now I use all his stuff!
Oh cool! Does he do music too?
Bri: He was in a rock band that was working with a producer, but it didn’t work out. He loves making music, but currently doesn’t have much much time to write. He loves the same kind of music that I do.
That’s always nice. So what’s your compositional process like, if there’s any formula?
Bri: I feel like every song might be different. Sometimes, I could be driving to the grocery store, and I get this little melody, and I’m like “Where’s my phone!?” And I have to record it on Voice Memo, sing it out.
I do that too! (laughs)
Bri: You do that too? (laughs) So I’m like “Where’s my phone?” And I pick it up, and sing the melody, and then I’m like “Okay, I got it.” And then later I’ll go back home, and I’ll fool around on the piano. And from there, sometimes I get more as I’m sitting there. But sometimes it’s just that one little thing, and I’ll come back to it. And maybe a few days later, it just hits me, and then I go back and finish it.
But then, there are some days where I’m just at the piano, and this whole thing comes out at one time. So it depends! I think usually it’s an idea that I have in my head, and then I have to record it.
So do you usually begin with a melody?
Bri: Yeah, and then I build around it.
Awesome! So have you written music for a game yet?
Bri: I have, for this one thing. But the project hasn’t finished yet. It’s a puzzle game. They were gonna put it on the app store, but he hasn’t finished it, and it’s been kinda sitting there. But I did that! (laughs) But other than that, it’s strictly been YouTube, and just getting my stuff out there.
Yeah. So what draws you to writing video game music?
Bri: I think because I’ve played video games from the time I was little, that music has just stayed with me. It’s so nostalgic, and I get so many memories from when I was a child. I love that. I love how music can bring you way back, when you were a kid, and how much fun you had playing a game. It’s so magical! I love anything magical. It takes you to a different world. I love it.
“I love how music can bring you way back, when you were a kid, and how much fun you had playing a game. It’s so magical! I love anything magical. It takes you to a different world. I love it.”
Yeah. What’s something that maybe scares you about writing game music?
Bri: One thing that scares me is not being able to write something specific. If I had someone call me and they wanted me to do something that is completely different. And I’d be like “Okay, can I do this!?” Not being able to produce something that is what they imagined for their game. That’s what scares me the most. Hoping that they would like it, I guess.
Yeah. So which composition of yours would you say is most different from anything you’ve written before? And what did you learn from writing that piece?
Bri: So I have some chiptune music that I’d never done before. But I love the old 8-bit music. I LOVE all 8-bit music—I think it’s amazing what those composers did! I was like, you know what, I’m gonna try it!
I had to learn the software, and I didn’t do it with a midi keyboard. I actually had to input each note. Apparently it’s sort of the way they used to do it back then. It was kind of complicated, but at the same time it was really interesting. Cause it wasn’t anything like playing the piano. Each keyboard button was a different note, so it took a while! But that was the most different thing that I’ve ever done.
What’s the software program?
Bri: It’s called FamiTracker.
Okay, I’ve definitely heard of that.
Bri: Yeah, they say that’s the most realistic sound of chiptune music, instead of doing it in midi. I’m sure they have plug-ins now that sound amazing. But I just wanted to learn!
Cool! So what’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve had as a composer, and how did you get through it?
Bri: The biggest challenge, I would say, has been—because it still happens—not being able to finish something. You have a block, and you can’t finish it. And then you kinda put it off to the side, and you’re like okay I’ll do it another day. But then you put it off for so long, and then getting back into it—that’s the hardest thing. Having the enthusiasm to jump back in, it’s hard! Sometimes you just don’t want to.
I think it’s always important to finish something you started. If all of your projects are like that, you’re never gonna finish one! I still have some projects that I haven’t finished, but I know I’ll eventually go back. It takes a little bit, sometimes you need a break from it. But you don’t want to give too much of a break.
“I think it’s always important to finish something you started. If all of your projects are like that, you’re never gonna finish one!”
Yeah, and then if you’re in a different mindset, too, it might change the piece.
Bri: Yeah, that’s definitely true.
So are there any pieces you’ve written that you would consider to be autobiographical?
Bri: What do you mean?
Maybe like a story of your own life?
Bri: Maybe not a story of my life, but there was a song that I wrote called “Lullaby for the Child”. It was about being a child. And having faith like a child. That song has a music video—starts out as me being an adult, and it goes back, kinda like memories. And it goes back to when I was a child—and it’s actually my niece playing the role of me, as a little one. The song is really about me going back, and wanting to be like a child again, and believing like a child—children are so innocent. So I guess that’s sort of autobiographical.
Okay, cool! So talk about your voice acting experience! What got you into voice acting? I really liked your reels!
Bri: Oh, thank you, thank you! Funny, so… My husband had left on a trip to Oklahoma to visit his uncle. He left for almost a week. And at that point, I was like, “What am I going to do for a week?” It was the summer, I was going to be so bored… I had been watching YouTube videos of people doing dubbing of Disney films. So I thought I would try it—it sounded fun! The first one I did was Rapunzel—I did the voice, and I put it up online, and people were like oh this is great! So I started doing more, imitating their voices. I did a Snow White one, and everyone said wow, you sound just like her!
And so I didn’t know I could do stuff like that, so I started changing my voice, and doing all these different characters, and I thought oh my gosh, I LOVE this. When I was a kid, I wanted to do voice acting, but I stopped thinking about it. But now as an adult, I’m like yeah, I would love to do this. So I started doing more dubbing on my channel—I took them all down though, because of copyright. YouTube got me, and they told me to delete everything.
“I didn’t know I could do stuff like that, so I started changing my voice, and doing all these different characters, and I thought oh my gosh, I LOVE this. When I was a kid, I wanted to do voice acting, but I stopped thinking about it. But now as an adult, I’m like yeah, I would love to do this.”
But I was doing more and more, and… I really wanted to do cartoon voices. I did demos, and started getting some work, even from YouTube. And now, yeah. I do a lot of work now! Actually today, I went to the studio and I was there for like three hours.
Awesome! What kinds of things?
Bri: When I first started, my first gig was an online ad, for a college. It was an animation, though, so I played a character there. And from there, I started doing more commercials, I would do radio commercials, and stuff like that. Now, I’ve been doing a lot of dubbing for cartoons. From Brazil, Turkey, from other countries, and they want to bring them to the US, and they need English voices. So I do English voices for these cartoons now. It’s really interesting! And then I do Spotify commercials a lot… So, yeah. I’ve been doing a lot of cartoons lately, which is great. I love it!
Okay, awesome! Now I have a list of rapid-fire questions. Give short answers as quickly as possible. Ready!?
Okay, favorite video game series?
Bri: Ooh! Legend of Zelda!
Okay. Favorite dungeon in any video game?
Bri: Oh gosh… That’s hard! Any dungeon in Legend of Zelda, I love! (laughs)
Okay. Favorite protagonist!
Bri: Protagonist. The hero! Link! Of course!
Okay, favorite character theme!
Bri: Gosh… Oh… I want to say the main theme to Legend of Zelda. I love Legend of Zelda, I do. But that’s a hard question, I love so many themes… That’s probably my favorite. Yeah.
All right, favorite time signature!
Bri: Hm…! Probably 4/4. Yeah. It’s so basic, but a lot of things are 4/4.
Common time! Okay, favorite battle theme?
Bri: Any battle theme from Final Fantasy VII. Other than Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy VII would be my favorite.
Okay, if you could live any video game world for a week, which world would you choose to live in?
Bri: Oh, Hyrule! Hyrule!!
Okay, if you could befriend any video game antagonist, who would it be?
Bri: That’s a good question… Hm… Let me think about that… How about you!?
(laughs) I think for me, Larxene from Kingdom Hearts. I like her daggers, and she’s witty and has an interesting voice!
Bri: I wanna say Bowser, but there are so many good ones…
Okay, if you had to make a weapon out of any instrument, which instrument would you choose to fight with?
Bri: Ooh… Probably a violin! Cause you could throw the bows!
(laughs) Okay! End of rapid-fire questions. So what are your future plans? What’s in the works as of now?
Bri: So as of right now, continuing voice acting for sure. Hoping to land a big role in a cartoon, which would be amazing! In terms of music, continuing, hoping to get my foot in the door with video games. I also have a Patreon, so growing my Patreon… Just music and voice acting, really. That’s all I have.
Well, that is a lot!
Bri: Yeah that’s pretty much it.
Oh yeah, so what do you teach?
Bri: So I teach English online to children in China!
Oh! I think I’ve heard about a program like that. Do you like it?
Bri: Yeah! It’s so interesting. It’s different. I have to wake up really early though—12-hour time difference. I’ve woken up at 4:30 to teach at 5 AM. I usually teach at 6. So I have to wake up at 5:15, 5:30. And I teach until 10 AM. It’s only 4 hours a day. It’s a lot of work, cause you have to wake up early… But it’s great for my schedule, since I go to the studio a lot for voice acting, I have the rest of the day to do it!
Yeah! Well those are all the questions I have. Do you have any final thoughts, or anything you’d like to add?
Bri: I do what I do because I enjoy it. Because I love it. I don’t want to do something I don’t enjoy. Even when it comes to writing a song, if I’m not enjoying that song I’m writing, then I’ll scrap it. If you’re not enjoying it, it’s not gonna come from the heart.
Yeah that makes sense. Okay, cool! Thank you so much! Have a great day!