Are you that singer, Rai?
Detroit vocalist/songwriter since 2001, I’ve had a few names (Rai, Rachel Lynn, Rai Detroit, Rai Knight) people often ask me if Rai is pronounced “Ray” or “Rye” – it’s both really – I got the spelling from a Japanese cartoon so it’s “Rye”, but my name is Rachel so… friends have always called me “Ray”.
I didn’t “get my start” on Youtube, I just used it like any kid did. The internet was new for us XENNIALS. There wasn’t any weight in putting a guitar video online, and most of us didn’t pay any attention to likes or follows. “Going Viral” was yet to be a thing.
In the beginning, the internet was a place to put things that made them a little less private (which was cool), but more or less still a personal way to store things – like bedroom acoustic videos of songs I’d wrote that I’d never remember otherwise. For me, it’s amazing these videos still exist. They were recorded in times when music was still magic, when it was raw and beautiful, when expression trumped “commercial quality”, when there was no thought of what made a good song or not. Music, at that time, moved my soul into action. I often say that my guitar was my best friend, it gave me an avenue to say the words bursting from my sad little heart. A tragic creative, I wrote songs because they begged to come out. And one day, when I’d learned who I was, accepted the experiences from which I’d come, was older and wiser – I no longer had anything to say. But that wasn’t until 2017. For 17 years, I had plenty to say.
Now in 2018, having perused the world of love in all its diverse forms, I came back full circle and married my closest childhood friend (life works in mysterious ways!) We are expecting our first child in February (never thought that would happen!) and though I try not to fear the day our little one starts growing up into a mini me, I wonder what I’ll tell her (yes it’s a her) if she gravitates towards music, how I’ll frame such an endeavor when mine is so wrought with heartache. A parent should never be discouraging, but knowing what I know… what will I say? And really, what do I know of the industry now? It’s an entirely different game – the innocence gone – every artist is a mini mogul – prepped for commercial success before they even pick up a guitar because, youtube. Their teachers are the social media gurus that pioneered what it means to be an artist in this digital era.
Now I’m sounding old, not bitter, just amazed that I’m still clueless as to “how it works” even with 17 years of a music career under my belt, and since I’ve just about hit the emotional wall 3 paragraphs into this I’ll try to pick up the pace. What will I tell my child? What can I tell her?
Should I tell her my career was a good example of “what could go wrong” and the youthful starry-eyed perspective I had at the beginning was an unrealistic and damaging way to walk into a career in music? Pair that with the fact that the industry was changing rapidly because of the internet, and digital music – for a moment it was a beautiful coming together of cosmic destiny, and the next, chaos.
On the cusp of the digital revolution, managers and labels seemed stuck. Their solution was to maintain the appearance of power, while feeling lost as the rest of us, looking to new artists for answers – because you had to have them, but we Xennials had yet to form any answers. It was all new to us, too. We were still coming from radio days and having to wait by our trusty boom-box to catch that debut single from whatever band’s new album. We were still perched by the TV, waiting to pounce on the VCR – hold “play” and “record” – when MTV aired a new No doubt video, praying the clumsy VHS tape would stutter to a start just in time to immortalize the moment, because you never knew- it might not get played again. One couldn’t just watch TV forever – but that’s kind of what we did.
Now we can simple google the video, stream it endlessly, and download it in an instant. It’s all so easy, and sometimes I feel the magic in the industry is all but gone. Sure, music still moves people, still means something to them on levels I’m too jaded now to feel… but the industry as a whole, the joy of discovery, the thrill of the hunt, seems a lost art.
But I can’t tell my kid all that, can I? She’s new, it will all be new to her. Should I just do the parent thing and tell her nothing of my past? Let her discover years later that Mommy used to be a singer? Yikes.
Well, I still have plenty of time. So while I find the words I’ll continue with my personal history so as to not forget it.
I began writing acoustic pop in my last year of high school and recorded a demo my first year or so of college. I sent it off to my then favorite band’s manager, Adam Raspler – MAILED it to him, like physical mail, because crazy as it was people put their actually addresses online back then. From there, he became my friend and mentor for many years. It shouldn’t work like that, but it did, la magical.
In 2004, Raspler brought me to record in LA and eventually we landed a demo deal with Capitol Records. In the end, I didn’t get signed, but continued to pursue my acoustic music, evolving my style along the way. I made a few albums, or collection of songs rather, that only exist on bandcamp. I wrote so many songs it was hard to keep track. Every once in a while a friend will remind me of a song in their personal music library I had recorded and forgotten. They’ll send me a copy for safe keeping and… well…. I have them somewhere! I think. Always fun to stumble on one :)
In 2010 I signed to a small label in Fenton, MI and gained success with some pop songs, namely a track called “New New”. Around this time I donned the surname “Knight”.
By 2013 I began lending vocals to collaborations with international DJ’s/producers such as HNQO, Leigh D. Oliver, Cosmonaut Grechko and Persian Empire as well as Stateside collaborations with The GTW, The Soundmen and We Are The Tay. I have been released on Defected Records, Large Recordings, OFF Recordings, Hot Waves, HookBellboy Records and most recently, MadTech. I’ve also contributed vocals to commercial music and or licensed songs to Coach Perfume, The new 90210, Pepsi, and Cosmo Magazine.
Throughout the years I’ve performed live acoustic shows all over Detroit and in later years experienced much success as a DJ. In 2014 I was invited to perform my live vocal/DJing at Detroit’s Movement Festival. You can listen to that performance below.
(Artist profile for Rai Knight can be found at raiknightmusic.com)
In 2017, I collabed with Mad Villians, Das One, HNQO, and some local artists. And then I put down my guitar.
“There is just something organic about Rai that I haven’t seen in a new artist in a minute.” – The couch sessions
“There’s a sadness about her songs that makes me feel like I’m waking up to a autumn morning.” – Forest Love
“Unpolished and intimate, Skotarczyk’s guitar was accompanied by Wohlfiel’s bass. Her high-crisp country voice was genuine. Her lyrics: personal. Sets like this made the weekend special. Skotarczyk’s talent plus the intimacy of the set made the duo stand out.” – The Hamtramck Review
“Rai doesn’t need much more than a microphone and a hand clap to seduce your ears “ – Kick Kick Snare