If “a leap of faith” had a name, it would be Stanley Ray. A brand new young indie artist who moved out to LA on his own at 20 years old to become a singer and actor. He was just a boy with a dream and a heart full of drive and hope for making that dream his reality. But starting out, Stanley had no idea that coming into the music industry would come without a cost. Stanley began discovering his love for singing around the age of 4. But his love for music started as an infant.
He always said being a kid in the early 2000s was what made his perception and interpretation of how he heard music special and unique. “I’ve never been able to explain it but it was just always something unique about being very little during that era of music for me”, he explains. “Something used to just happen to me when I heard certain songs at the time. That’s why I’m able to feel nostalgic about them today.”
Point of View
Stanley’s parents played a lot of oldies around him growing up and he loved those just as much as what was currently dominating the radio during his childhood. “Lord knows I’m an old soul. I love the 80s and 90s music.” Artist’s such as S.O.S, Whitney Houston, New Edition, Mariah Carey, Destiny’s Child, TLC, Aaliyah, Usher, and many more. “My parents played a lot of 70s music around me too. My mom loved Al Green and my dad loved Earth, Wind & Fire.” When Stanley turned 8, he began having a hunger for wanting to make his music. He’d take the family’s tiny video camera and wipe the SD chips memory and would store all his music on by recording his voice and singing over blank instrumentals he would find on YouTube. “I loved Destiny’s Child, so most of my songs were made up and inspired by their songs”. At the time, he did what he now calls “freestyle singing”, where he’d sing and just make up the words as he went along, rather than writing lyrics. Stanley remembers the satisfaction he felt when he’d walk around his house listening to his songs, saying it made him feel accomplished and as he’d done something great. “I used to pretend I was listening to my songs on the radio”, he chuckles. “Having my music kept me sane. It allowed me to create a facade that I was a singer with songs out, even though at that age I hadn’t even thought about actually being famous yet”.
He would continue recording music using his family’s video camera up until he got his 1st Nintendo DSI at 12 and started using the Flipnote Studios tool to keep making music. “The audio was very distorted”, he says, chuckling and shaking his head embarrassed. “But I didn’t want that as an excuse as to why I couldn’t still make music. I was always that kid who was creative in that way and knowing how to just use what I had at the moment and making it work.” It was also at this age that he made up his mind that he wanted to become a real singer and plot ways to become famously known for it. His songwriting skills began to blossom at this age. That created a more intimate relationship with the songs. He kept recording music throughout Middle School and High School up until he graduated in 2017.
A couple of months after graduating, he flew out to Vegas to pursue becoming a real singer and actor. But the struggle of finding a job right away and a fall out with his roommates almost left him homeless. After a couple of months, he ended up coming back home and plotting his next move. He worked as a waiter and cashier to support himself, quietly saving up his money every payday. He also starting production on what became his debut album “BabyBoy”.
Making It Work
He kept falling short in luck when it came to finding connections and people who could help him find a studio to record. He took it upon himself to record and mix his entire album on his phone using a studio app. “It was very tedious. I didn’t know what I was doing. I hadn’t ever engineered music before but I had no choice. It was either record my album or sit and complain and let time pass me by.” Waitressing during the day and recording at night until 7 a.m. Stanley stopped at nothing to make sure his album was going to be solid . “I felt very connected with my album during the making of it, especially since I technically had already been working on it since I was in high school. A couple of the songs I put on there were originally demos I’d previously written and recorded as a 14, 15-year-old in highschool.”
One of those songs is his 3rd single “Being With You”, and the other being an emotional guitar ballad “Unhandsome.” Additionally, a hip hop r&b track about being confident in the clothes you wear called “That’s Just Me,” which was ultimately shelved last minute before his album actually dropped.
The Journey to Greatness
Saving up just a little over $1000 Stanley silently flew out to LA, going broke as soon as he landed. He had a pair of Nike slides for shoes, 3 outfits in rotation, and a very malnourished body due to a lack of food. But his drive and determination kept him going. Being a small-town boy, the fast city life of LA was a lot to take in at first. “Coming from the small town of Mt. Vernon, IL I was getting my butt kicked by how fast things moved out here,” he says. Little did he know things were about to pick up pretty fast. Stanley dropped his debut album “BabyBoy” on January 4, 2020, independently through DistroKid (later switching over to Artist Republik).
Then later that same month he booked his first job on set as a background actor. “It felt amazing. I knew everything was officially in motion.” But just because he was now officially a singer and background actor didn’t mean things were easy going forward. Stanley began facing his first challenge as a new independent artist. His young age, sexuality, and race all played a part in him now having to prove himself and fight harder for respect.
“I was upset. I’m already a minority because of the color of my skin, so to be both gay and very young on top of that made it hard for me to be taken seriously.” he explains. “When you’re always the youngest person in the room or the youngest one at the table people shrug you off as just a kid who’s not serious about what he’s doing. You have all these older people around you who are way more experienced and living more lavish lifestyles it’s kind of intimidating. But it’s up to you to walk into a room and demand respect like ‘hey, this is me. this is what I do’ and make them take you seriously.” This still wasn’t the end of the obstacles in Stanley’s path.
He also ended up having to shoot all his music videos low budget using his phone. “I was already nervous about shooting any videos. So when I ended up also having to do those myself I was disappointed at first. I wanted to go all out and have production, but again I’m not an artist who’s about excuses. I took a leap of faith and just did them all myself.” During the quarantine he worked hard to shoot, edit and properly upload all 4 videos. Ultimately, Stanley says he’s proud of how everything turned out. “I think in the end I’m very proud of my album and the videos”, he says, smiling. “When it all boils down it can say I went for it and didn’t let excuses or my circumstances be the reason for me to not be able to make this happen for me”. This is still just the beginning for Stanley though, so he knows nothing good comes without a cost and that good things come to those who wait. You can’t have overnight success and an easy ride. “I want longevity, not just a short career where my flame burns out after just a few years so in the end I know i’ll look back at this debut era in my life and be happy with how everything went”.
You can listen to Stanley Ray wherever you get your music!