Diversity is critical because entertainment has forever been the main catalyst in getting people to talk to and appreciate other cultures. No other thing has this unique way to get people to interact with folks they would never have even thought to befriend.
As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Billy Ray Rock.
Singer-Bassist Billy Ray Rock who is the 1st African American rock artist since Lenny Kravitz maybe even Jimi Hendrix. Described by some as a dance-rock artist. Some call him a modern-day “Prince”. Billy Ray plays more than 10 instruments and produces and performs every instrument you hear in his music. He delivers tracks both in the genres on rock and R&B dance, simply put he is the “King of Ghetto Rock”.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Iwas born in Mt Pleasant Our family moved out to Fresno, CA from a family of 11 kids (6 boys,5 girls) I am the youngest. We were poor we often ate the same thing, beans and cornbread for an entire week. I grew up mostly watching older siblings get into trouble but that never stopped me from doing dumb things but one thing one older sibling did was sit in the back room next to mine and practice on his saxophone for hours. that lead me into wanting to entertain. I began my career in music but learning to play the Bass guitar then other instruments, I had a thirst for entertaining, so I soon became a professional stand-up comedian because playing in and keeping a band was so drama-filled. Eventually, I became a solo artist.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I found listening to music that it formed a connection that stamps where I was in life, what job I had who I was dating etc. etc. I discovered long ago I wanted to create that reality for people. Through hard work and focus and combine my musical history and influences I knew I was uniquely qualified to do this.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I was in a party in L.A years ago and I saw prince there. He was on the other side of the room. I have regretted to this day I did not make more attempts to just meet him.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?
I was performing at the tomatoes festival, I gave the sound man this list of instructions which was about 9 pages long. I was not even the opening act I was just a guy that was allowed to play cause the PD from the local radio station thought I was a talented guy and he thought I was cool. I gave the Sound guy the instructions and the cassette tape (yeah, I’m dating myself) went on a 10 rant about how my show should happen explaining ques etc. he smiled I went on stage and it was a mess. In the aftermath, I thought what the hell was I thinking I should have narrowed the instruction down to 2 pages lol. Just kidding
Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Attend soundcheck, and Get a tour manager to babysit the sound guy during the show.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
My debut album because the range in genres are simply incredible.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Reason #1. Entertainment has forever been the main catalyst in getting people to talk to and appreciate other cultures no other thing has this unique way to get people to interact with folks they would never have even thought to befriend.
#2. Diversity brings tolerance when people see folks of different races on music videos film etc. they tend to be more understanding of their potential struggles.
#3 it breaks down stereotypes when stereotypes not their people judge each other on who they are not what they heard about them being.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
#1 you need to learn to trust your instincts when deciding a song is ready to present to anyone: I used to rely on friends and colleagues in their opinion on what should be added to songs before declaring them done! It amounted to some hot messes. This was an issue early in my career.
#2 This business of music is about relationships. Back in the day, I sent a song to a program director who said he would listen to it. I got impatient as this was a small-town radio station called back and forth long story short we got into a heated argument. Flash forward that PD later transferred to a major market and remembered me. I thought if I had a better relationship with this guy it would have benefited my career. As it turned out he forgave me because I was just a kid with the argument happened. But lesson learned.
#3 You never know who your talking to be careful what you say. I was on tour and me and my tour mgr. was in the hotel with some people we met in the tour city. He my tour mgr. started talking about the lousy attitude of the soundcheck engineer what an asshole etc. I just listened and laughed along. Turns out one of the girls in the room was the Engineer’s wife. Let’s just say it caused a problem later.
#4 Do not try to make genre of music because its trendy. I tried being a gangster rapper because it was the hot thing. I did grow up poor I did see and hear about friends getting killed over drugs turf etc. but I was never a gangsta gang member. So, it never truly worked.
#5 When a concert venue is a problem during negotiations they will be a problem during the concert event. Every time I have heard of a venue being difficult with things that are standard to putting on a great show, when the concert happens other things that compromise the show always happen. There are far too many instances of this to go into. But it always happens.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Opinions are many as there are many people. Also, there is not any 1 person that gets to decide you no longer have anything to contribute, find your audience.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
“Say Hi to somebody different movement” a movement for people to interact with people of a different race, gender or sexual orientation.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My big brother Freddy is a longtime Sax player his work ethic is second to none. I watched him perfect the art of circulatory breathing. This allows him to hit a single note indefinitely.
It was later done by Kenny G and others. Watching him work on that and other things musically continue to inspire and fuel me.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My Dad once said “The dumbest person in the room is the one who thinks he knows it all” Today it reminds me to always listen and remain open-minded.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Dr. Dre because his level of attention to detail in his production and overall vision of talent is unbelievable.
How can our readers follow you online?
Any social media using the same handle @Billyrayrock1
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!