In the last five years, very few hip-hop choruses have been as memorable as “Can we go back? This is the moment/Tonight is the night, we’ll fight ‘til it’s over/So we put our hands up like the ceiling can’t hold us/Like the ceiling can’t hold us.”
Those lyrics were sung by the resonant and infectious timbre of 26-year-old Ray Dalton, who did more than just collaborate with fellow Seattle natives, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and guest on their juggernaut single, “Can’t Hold Us” (from the album The Heist); he left a lasting impression as a formidable talent with a terrific future ahead of him. Seemingly, overnight, Dalton had a Billboard bonanza to his credit, which has now been certified platinum six times over, and, as of this writing, has been seen (in the official video) by an astounding 535 million pairs of eyes on YouTube.
Since the release of “Can’t Hold Us” in 2012, Dalton has also co-wrote and co-starred in two more hits – Madcon’s “Don’t Worry,” which rose to No. 1 in 21 countries, and DJ Arty’s “Stronger,” which has earned a three-million-plus following on Spotify. Without a doubt, being a collaborator on international smashes of this magnitude has been a true blessing for the proudly biracial Dalton, who began his classically-trained musical journey as a six-year-old, before joining the Seattle Children’s Choir, and then becoming the lead vocalist for the globe-trotting Total Experience Gospel Choir — also based in Seattle. But, like any apprentice who has paid his dues, Dalton, who is additionally a skilled tennis player, is ready to be a main attraction in the music business. With the confidence of several years of invaluable experience behind him, and strengthened by his indefatigable love of his family and fans, the future of his promise is now.
Having recently released his very first single, the sonorous “If You Fall,” Dalton is focused on procuring the big brass ring of his potential, actualizing it into the fulfillment of his destiny as a reputable solo star.
Recently, Dalton took time out of his busy schedule to give LAexcites an exclusive interview, offering insight on his personal and musical origins, his story up until now, as well as his goals going forward.
You’ve been singing since the age of six and have been trained quite a bit as a vocalist. Describe some of the challenges of coming into your own and finding your voice and vocal style as an artist.
Dalton: For me, it’s about having confidence and the belief now. I didn’t really understand how things worked as an artist. Besides songs, it took a while to figure out. It’s more than just writing songs, as I feel like I’m always learning something new.
I’ve always believed in my vocal ability, and have always worked very hard. I’ve been classically trained since six, when I joined the gospel choir. I’m always working on it, and I believe in what I can accomplish.
Do you still train with a vocal teacher?
Dalton: I do, for vocal health. I have a vocal health coach because I’m into taking care of my voice with warm-ups and singing correctly.
Do you play any instruments?
Dalton: The only thing I wish for is to sit at the piano from time to time and play some classical music (e.g., ‘Ava Maria’), and look cool doing it!
How do you think your mother, father, and family members influenced you to be the person you are now, and how do you think it has affected your music, if at all?
Dalton: My family is the most loving family. I come from a Mexican-American mother and a Black-American father. Love is a huge deal for both races, including loving everything you do, and putting effort into everything you can. If I’m having a hard day, my mom, out of love, will still remind me to be calm. Love is the dominant in my family, and that goes for tough love.
Do you identify with one side of your family more than the other?
Dalton: I identify with both sides equally. A lot of people say that’s ‘bull,’ but I’m proud to be half-Mexican and half-black, and it’s something I get my chest pumped out about. That’s my heritage!
I hear that playing tennis was a passion of yours at one point, and that you gave that serious consideration before going with music instead. Do you remember the moment when you just knew you had to give the music business a shot?
Dalton: I grew up in a traveling choir – the Total Experience Gospel Choir in Seattle, WA – doing relief work and incredible things. I was in Japan [after becoming familiar with local rappers in Seattle] and I realized I wanted to travel the world and sing and make it all happen.
Back in 2010-11, what was it like trying to get noticed, by someone in the hip-hop scene in Seattle? As we know, it culminated with “Can’t Hold Us” with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, which opened a lot of doors for you. Describe your networking process in 2010-11, the doubts that you had, and the life-changing partnership that came together. And, as a result, what are some of the lessons you’ve learned about the music business in the last five to seven years?
Dalton: I got a lot of pressure from friends and family. ‘No one makes a career from singing,’ I’d often hear. And I always believed in myself. I also took a lot of confidence from tennis, [and realized] if I can keep working, it will soon happen. By the grace of God, it happened for me when I had no idea I’d be part of such a ride. I work very hard, and my thought process was, ‘If I can make a song with as many rappers as possible in Seattle, then someone will discover me.’ And it happened. I believe in manifestations and writing things down, and that through belief, it can happen for you.
How did the relationship between you, Macklemore, and Ryan Lewis come together exactly?
Dalton: Ryan hit me up on Facebook after he’d heard a song that I’d done.
Without playing one of your songs, how would you explain your music and personal/professional message to someone?
Dalton: I’m obsessed with love – I love taking care of people. I need a lot of love in my life, and I feel like my music reflects that.
That’s what your new energizing single, “If You Fall” is about, isn’t it?
Dalton: ‘If You Fall’ is absolutely about loving people and being in love with people who love me. I’ll do everything for you to make you feel loved. That was the base as far as lyrics and melody.
The production – there’s six different versions (of ‘If You Fall’) and it took time because I wanted it to be energizing but didn’t want it to be overdone. That’s why there’s no bridge, and a break only in the second chorus/verse. I wanted it to have an explosiveness but also have it breathe with the right music and sound.
The lyrics and melody were written in one day, but the production process was a lot longer. Also, the second single (to be announced soon) was supposed to be the first single. The other one will come out before the end of the year.
Who do you think are some of your musical influences?
Dalton: Amy Winehouse is incredible. When I was in high school, I remember when they played ‘Rehab’ in the background. I fell in love with her and became obsessed. I watched every interview and song. And you feel an emotion of what she’s singing about. I also love CeeLo Green – his voice, his craziness. And the Carpenters.
Is an album planned?
Dalton: I’ve written so many songs. I can release a whole album, but I wanted to do some singles first and introduce myself as a solo artist. I will eventually release an album after the three planned singles are released.
Is there anyone that you want to collaborate with in the future?
Dalton: I’d love to do a song with Gaga, Elle King, Sérgio Mendes, and OutKast.
Last, but not least, what do you envision for yourself going forward as a solo star?
Dalton: I am so competitive and have always been. Now I know the music industry. I want to sing and make the best songs that connect with people, and have Grammys. I care about music so much, and the relationship with my listeners, fans, and family – since it’s also influenced by them.
For more information about Ray Dalton, please visit raydalton.com