Suzie Sherman (00:00:14):
This is And The Next Thing You Know. It’s a podcast about how our lives go exactly not as we planned them. I’m Suzie Sherman. So, it’s week 28 of the COVID shutdown. None of our lives are going as we planned them. I hope you’re continuing to keep safe and staying as well in body and mind as you can. I work on the podcast here in my walk in closet in Oakland, California. For the last three weeks, the air outside has been toxic with wildfire smoke up and down the whole West Coast. We’ve had a reprieve for the last few days, but for near a month, I didn’t leave my house at all. Hundreds of people lost their homes. More than three and a half million acres have burned in California alone.
Suzie Sherman (00:01:04):
And the news is just sinking in that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died. I’m terrified about the US presidential election, and I’m anxious, and I’m depressed, and life is really fucking hard right now. I’m lucky though. I’m grateful to be healthy so far and employed, to have a safe home. I’m also really glad to spend time working on this podcast, keeping myself busy and keeping you company with stories from lovely people dealing with the unexpected ways their lives unfold. Stories that I learn from, conversations that help me stay connected and engaged with people, and stories I hope you’re taking some comfort in too.
Suzie Sherman (00:01:47):
Today’s episode actually marks the one year anniversary of the podcast. I posted the very first episode in September 2019, way back in the Before Times. I’m pleased that I’ve been producing the podcast for a year. I feel really proud of it, and I’m really grateful for everyone who’s listening and for all your support and love and retweets and telling your friends about the show and for supporting us at Patreon and for just being here with me. If you’re new to the podcast, welcome. If you’re an old friend of the show, thanks for sticking with us.
Suzie Sherman (00:02:22):
Today, I talk to Amelia Ray. Amelia is a musician based in Helsinki. And before that, San Francisco. And before that, Reykjavik. And before that, many, many other ports of call. We talk about the circumstances that led her to become an avid traveler and eventually a performer aboard tropical cruise ships. You never know when a three hour tour it could become a way of life, #GilligansIsland, #PopCultureReferencesForOldPeople. You’ll hear a few more of those in this episode.
Suzie Sherman (00:02:55):
Amelia is the creator of The Quarantuned Music Festival. The variety show Up, Up and A Ray, and the MashUpheaval Podcast. An all-request show wherein she dunks your chocolate and her peanut butter to create a tasty new blend of musical delights. This is my conversation with old soul, Amelia Ray.
Suzie Sherman (00:03:19):
Amelia Ray (00:03:19):
Suzie Sherman (00:03:20):
I can hear you. Can you hear me?
Amelia Ray (00:03:22):
Suzie Sherman (00:03:23):
I can see you. We both are supporting some awesome quarantine hair.
Amelia Ray (00:03:28):
I just brushed it. It’s doing its own thing.
Suzie Sherman (00:03:34):
It’s good to see you.
Amelia Ray (00:03:35):
Yeah. Good to see you too.
Suzie Sherman (00:03:37):
How are your spirits?
Amelia Ray (00:03:40):
I’m all right. I’ve had a good couple of days after having a horrible couple of weeks. So I’m, uh, I’ve been riding the grateful train, I call it.
Suzie Sherman (00:03:51):
What’s the grateful train?
Amelia Ray (00:03:55):
Just trying to keep in focus all of the things for which I have to be grateful instead of sitting around and moping.
Suzie Sherman (00:04:03):
Amelia Ray (00:04:05):
Both of which are very easy to do, and one of them just happens to be a bit more productive than the other.
Suzie Sherman (00:04:15):
Amelia, can you regale us with what life has been like under lock down since COVID for you? Where have you been spending your time?
Amelia Ray (00:04:29):
Let’s see. I was in Iceland. I was in Reykjavik and things started shutting down. I had a trip planned for a couple of months here in the States. So, I ended up, I just kept my plans. I had a flight and I said, well, if they let me go, then I’ll go and I’ll deal with what I’m going to do once I get there. I had a flight to New York and that was changed at the last minute. So, they routed me through Boston with an overnight and I just decided to hang out in New England for a couple of weeks. I’d never been there and it seemed like it was quiet enough and isolated enough while I figured out what I was going to do.
Suzie Sherman (00:05:30):
Amelia Ray (00:05:30):
…with the situation where I was going to go. So I hung out there, pretty isolated. Restaurants were still open at that time. This was the end of March. Restaurants were still open for takeout, but I just stocked up on some food and hung out. Then decided to come to San Francisco, which is my first or second home, depending on how you look at it, and then spend quarantine here. So it’s been kind of the normal experience for me. I work from home. I spend a lot of time writing and playing guitar and reading, so that hasn’t changed. It has been strange to be here and not see people.
Suzie Sherman (00:06:32):
Amelia Ray (00:06:32):
…visit with friends and family, but my day to day hasn’t really changed much aside from The Quarantuned Festivals, that sort of things I’ve been doing, projects I’ve been doing that have been inspired by quarantine.
Suzie Sherman (00:06:56):
Can you tell me about Quarantuned?
Amelia Ray (00:06:59):
Quarantuned, yeah. So while I was still in Reykjavik, I had a concert that was canceled, but I still had a week there, almost a week before I flew to the States. There were concert cancellations flying around everywhere, and I kept seeing musicians posting things with independent live streams. They were holding their own concerts for their fans and I thought it would be fun to hold a larger event with a bunch of artists and people from all over the world, because when else? Because you hear music from New Zealand and the UK, Kenya. When would we have this opportunity?
Amelia Ray (00:07:57):
Since everybody was locked up and nobody could go anywhere, I thought it would be fun. I had about a week to pull it together because I decided that it had to be done while I was still in Iceland, because I didn’t know what was going to happen once I got on the plane. I didn’t know what the state of the world was going to be. I didn’t know if I was going to be locked up somewhere, what I was going to have access to. I’m quite impulsive that way. And I said, “Well, it has to be this week.” I decided it had to be the same day that my concert, the one that had been canceled in Reykjavik, it had to be on that day. So I-
Suzie Sherman (00:08:38):
It’s good to give yourself goals, right?
Amelia Ray (00:08:41):
Yeah, that’s true.
Suzie Sherman (00:08:42):
Just like, okay, here’s the motivation. It’s maybe a little impulsive or it’s maybe a little bit arbitrary maybe, but it’s like, okay, well this is when we’re doing it.
Amelia Ray (00:08:53):
Yeah, it was definitely like that. A good friend of mine in Madrid, Patrick Strauss, who’s a wonderful illustrator, came up with a logo. A friend of mine here, Kim, came up with a name, The Quarantuned Music Festival. I got the domain name and I was off. Now all I have to do is find 47 other people to perform in this because I’d also decided that it was going to be a different act every half hour for 24 hours. That’s the thing I left out.
Suzie Sherman (00:09:29):
Like you do.
Amelia Ray (00:09:30):
It was going to be a 24 hour festival.
Suzie Sherman (00:09:31):
Like you do.
Amelia Ray (00:09:32):
Suzie Sherman (00:09:33):
Basically in the span of two days or something, you have to contract 50 performers for your festival.
Amelia Ray (00:09:41):
Yeah. Seven hours. I don’t know. It was crazy, but people started saying yes, which was even crazier. I had about, I guess we were about 25 or 26 or something for the first festival. So there was a long stretch there in the middle of the night in some country. I don’t know, I think it was 4:00 AM where I was, or 5:00 AM in Iceland until about 11:00 AM, where I just played music for a long time and drink a bunch of coffee to keep the festival going. But everybody who participated and loved it. They loved the idea. They loved to watch other musicians.
Amelia Ray (00:10:33):
The really wacky thing was they all volunteered their time. I set it up as a fundraiser. I said, “We’ll accept donations from viewers and then we’ll split all of the profits equally.” I said, “I don’t know how much money we’re going to make, if any, it might be two dollars, it might be 50, but this is how it’s going to go.” People said, “Yeah, that’s a great idea.” Which looking back on it, is pretty miraculous to find so many people jumping on this concept and agreeing to volunteer their time. So yeah, the first one happened and it was a lot of fun and I was completely delirious at the end of it because I’d been up for about two days straight.
Suzie Sherman (00:11:17):
Amelia Ray (00:11:19):
Then once I got to San Francisco and realizing that we were going to be locked down or up or in for a while, and people were asking if I was going to do another one. So I said, “Well, I’ll do one this month too.” So I did the second one in April and we had 47, so almost a full schedule that one. And Diane Schuur sent a video in and Chuck Prophet donated a video as well and it was another great time. We raised some money, not only for the participants, but also for global givings, Coronavirus Relief Fund. Then after that one I said, “Okay, well, if we’re still locked down next month, then I’ll do one more.” So I did the final one in May and that was great. I think the first one we had about eight countries represented and the second two, there were upwards of 25 Countries.
Suzie Sherman (00:12:37):
Amelia Ray (00:12:38):
Each of them. Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I’m eternally grateful to everyone who participated. For me, it was just like, I get to sit in front of my computer and have my own music festival, which is pretty, pretty fun. I’ve found people I liked and I said, “Hey, do you want to do this thing?” They said yes, that was great. But it was all music and acts and stuff that I really enjoyed. So it was a lot of fun even though it was a lot of work.
Suzie Sherman (00:13:15):
I think we’re catalyzed globally in a way that we haven’t seen in a long time, maybe even our lifetimes. Because we’re sharing this global crisis, especially in those first days, no one knew what was going to happen. No one knew how long we were going to be locked down. We still don’t, there are still so many uncertainties that we’re all living with. But especially in that first few weeks or that first month, I think, it was such panic. I think that we’re seeing a lot of very selfish behavior in the United States.
Suzie Sherman (00:13:52):
We could go on for a long time about all that, but I do think that it catalyzed people globally and in the United States to really reach out and put their creativity out there and think of creative ways to spend the time in quarantine and share some hope with each other. Music artists in particular, I think, really have been doing an amazing job. Just reaching out and reminding people that we’re all in this together and that’s been really beautiful to see. It’s also-
Amelia Ray (00:14:32):
Yeah, it’s… go ahead.
Suzie Sherman (00:14:34):
It’s also the moment globally, especially also in the United States that we’re seeing this massive Black Lives Matter uprising. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that… I think we were ready culturally for this uprising at this moment because of how massive the destruction of COVID has been on communities of color in particular and how disproportionally it’s hitting.
Amelia Ray (00:15:06):
Yeah. I often wondered what it was that was so particular about George Floyd’s case that sparked such a massive response as opposed to the countless others that it happened a few days before, in some instances weeks before. I don’t know if I’ll ever have a concrete answer, but it’s still a bit of a mystery. But I do agree with you that had we not been under the strain of COVID, I doubt things would have escalated to where they are now.
Suzie Sherman (00:15:52):
Yeah. Yeah, obviously there’s so much history to it and there was so much momentum behind the Black Lives Matter movement for years before that building pressure. And the global pressure of, as you say, being under that constraint. So many people unemployed, so many people suffering at a fever pitch at this moment that it’s like enough is fucking enough.
Amelia Ray (00:16:21):
Yeah. It’s interesting to think that people had to stop moving before they really stopped and took stock of what had been happening, what has been happening.
Suzie Sherman (00:16:42):
Right. Interesting is a mild word for it, Amelia, obviously. Right?
Amelia Ray (00:16:47):
Suzie Sherman (00:16:47):
Tell us what you really think.
Amelia Ray (00:16:50):
Well, I don’t know. It changes from day to day, hour to hour, sometimes minute to minute. I don’t have my manifesto complete yet.
Suzie Sherman (00:17:11):
Amelia Ray (00:17:16):
It’s try to explain what it feels like. I suppose the, what is it, the stages of grief? Is that what they’re called?
Suzie Sherman (00:17:30):
The Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Stages of Grief talk about, the five stages of grief.
Amelia Ray (00:17:36):
Yes. It’s like being stuck in that, like say that’s a pinball machine and you’re a pinball and you’re just bouncing back and forth from anger, denial, depression, acceptance, denial. That’s what I feel like. I’m not in any phase, I’m not past any phase, it all happens at the same time internally. I’ll certainly use my work to get me through it as therapy. Write my thoughts down and try to work through it. But I’m also not naive enough to think that I’m going to see a solution in my time or that there is one easy solution, but taking time to really think about it and try to process it is a form of healing. I try to do a little bit of that every day. Well, anyway, let’s get to the fun part of it because I’m hardly here to be the ambassador on all topics race and international relations.
Suzie Sherman (00:19:03):
Indeed. It is of the moment and in our consciousness right now. But getting back to Reykjavik, am I saying that city’s name correctly?
Amelia Ray (00:19:17):
Suzie Sherman (00:19:18):
How do you say it?
Amelia Ray (00:19:19):
Suzie Sherman (00:19:20):
Amelia Ray (00:19:22):
Don’t quote me, I say it and they smile and nod.
Suzie Sherman (00:19:24):
One Amurican to another.
Amelia Ray (00:19:24):
One American to another. Yeah.
Suzie Sherman (00:19:24):
But you became a massive international traveler at some point, and I don’t know how that entered your life before you became a chanteuse on international cruises. I wonder if you were much of a traveler before that?
Amelia Ray (00:19:52):
Yes. I always enjoyed traveling. My mom and I were big road trippers and big Sunday drivers. We’d get in the car in the weekend and just head off in a direction and see what was there. That was one of our pastimes, discovering new restaurants and fishing holes and parks and all that sort of thing. Let’s see, I moved around the States a little bit. I went to university in DC for a couple of years and then I lived in New York for a short spell. But as far as international travel, the first time I left the country was in 2000 and I went to Paris for two days to see Steely Dan.
Suzie Sherman (00:20:54):
I love that the first time you got out of the country was for a Steely Dan show. That’s wonderful.
Amelia Ray (00:21:02):
Yeah. I guess I chose Paris because I studied French at university. That was the obvious choice, but I loved it. After two days, I didn’t want to come back. The food was amazing. The architecture was amazing. Getting to practice French and get yelled at by Parisians was even amazing. But one of the first things that happened to me when I arrived was I checked into my hotel and I decided I would go get one of these famous baguettes. So I start walking down the street and this elderly blonde woman in a very smart pinstripe, gray pinstripe skirt suit is walking towards me on the sidewalk.
Amelia Ray (00:22:08):
My first thought was, I should cross to the other side of the street.
Suzie Sherman (00:22:12):
Amelia Ray (00:22:12):
I thought, why do I think that? That’s really messed up. And I said, “I’m not going to do that. This is a sidewalk. Anyway, I’m in a new country.” I’m having all of this inner dialogue. We’re approaching each other and we get right up next to each other. The woman looks at me and says, “Bonjour.” And then just keeps walking, completely unfazed by the fact that I’m some crazed 23 year old Black woman who loves Steely Dan, and therefore must want to beat her up and steal her purse. Which of course, is what I obviously assumed she would be feeling.
Suzie Sherman (00:23:01):
Oh, yes. Don’t you know about the Steely Dan thugs roaming the streets?
Amelia Ray (00:23:06):
It’s a real thing. It’s a real thing.
Suzie Sherman (00:23:09):
Oy, yoy yoy.
Amelia Ray (00:23:12):
She just kept walking, she didn’t, you know. And I kinda had a little breakdown and started crying. I thought, man, this France place is pretty cool. When I got back to the States after my two day trip, I was determined to live in Europe and to travel as much as I could, find a way. That sparked international travel. Then I guess for a few years after that, I traveled almost every year to Europe. I made some friends. Oh, I forgot. I went to teach there for nine months. I lived in France for nine or 10 months teaching and befriended a wonderful couple in the village where I was teaching. Françoise and NoNo, and Françoise actually taught at the school where I was teaching. They’ve been my French parents for many, many years. They really took care of me while I was there and helped me along and helped me get situated. They’re just wonderful sweet people. I’ve had that connection for a really long time. And… Go ahead.
Suzie Sherman (00:24:40):
Some many years later you found yourself boarding a cruise ship to be a professional musician. I wonder even with all of this international experience that you had and curiosity about other countries and Europe and other places, had you been on a boat before?
Amelia Ray (00:25:00):
Suzie Sherman (00:25:00):
Did you have boating experience on ships?
Amelia Ray (00:25:05):
My mom and I had taken a couple of cruises before that. She’s a big cruiser and we both love sailing and being on the water and fishing, but I hadn’t really considered working on a cruise ship before. In fact, we were on a cruise in September of 2016. We went to Alaska.
Suzie Sherman (00:25:38):
You and your mom?
Amelia Ray (00:25:39):
Yeah. It was a great cruise. We met a woman there who was cruising with her family and we would get together and play cards every day. This woman found out I was a musician and she asked me, “Oh, have you ever thought about performing on cruise ships?” I gave her the same answer that I’d been giving people for 25 years. “I don’t think I would be happy playing other people’s music for a living. I just want to play my own music.”
Suzie Sherman (00:26:15):
Amelia Ray (00:26:15):
She said, “Okay.” That was the end of the conversation. But then when we were leaving the cruise, my mom and I were very sad because we love being on the water so much. Oh man, that was beautiful, that was great. When I look back at the ship and I thought, why do I say that? Why would I say no? Why have I been saying no to an opportunity to make money playing music and traveling and sailing, which are three things that I enjoy doing? It doesn’t matter if they’re my songs or not. It could be a great opportunity.
Amelia Ray (00:27:04):
We got off the ship, that was a Sunday, and I told my mom, I said, “You know what? Maybe that old lady is right. Maybe I ought to just try this thing.” I said, “I’m going to do some research.” It was in September. I said, “At the beginning of the year, if I’m still feeling this way, then I’ll start applying.” My mom said, “Oh, that’s a great idea. Wonderful.” Then I flew home. It was a Sunday. Wednesday, a friend of mine forwarded me an email out of the blue. I hadn’t told anybody about this conversation. It was between my mother and I. A friend of mine forwarded me an email out of the blue. It said, company name, I will not reveal the name of the cruise line, but they were holding auditions in San Francisco on Saturday.
Suzie Sherman (00:28:11):
Amelia Ray (00:28:12):
Yeah. My friend wrote, “Oh, I thought of you, maybe you would be interested.” I’m looking around my room like, how does she know? Who told her to send this to me? This is creepy. I thought, it’s Wednesday. There’s no way I could… Anyway, I went to the website and looked at the requirements and spent all the rest of Wednesday and most of Thursday hemming and hawing. Then I finally said, “All right, I’m going to fill out this application. Just because I submit it doesn’t mean they’re going to call me. I’m just going to at least do this part so I can see what it’s like.” So I submitted, filled out the application.
Amelia Ray (00:28:59):
Then Friday evening, I got an email, Says, “Can you interview tomorrow at 11:00?” I thought, this is too much. “Oh yeah, sure, sure.” I went to the interview sweating bullets. Somewhere there’s a video of my interview out there. I hope it never sees the light of day. Because it was stressful. It was a camera and one person. And this man said, “Okay, you’re kicking off the spring break cruise, where are you going to play? Play it now?” I was like, “Spring break 2017.” He’s like, “Yes.” So I had to think of whatever song was on the radio we know that kids would like.
Suzie Sherman (00:29:48):
You’re right. What are the coeds into right now?
Amelia Ray (00:29:53):
I have no idea.
Suzie Sherman (00:29:55):
Coeds, it’s funny to think about too because spring break and the immediate thing that comes to mind is very young, very thin, people on a beach, but it’s like, that’s not really cruise, the prime demographic of people who go cruise per se.
Amelia Ray (00:30:11):
Yeah. Well, it depends.
Suzie Sherman (00:30:14):
Unless they’re going on a cruise of their favorite band or something like that.
Amelia Ray (00:30:19):
A party cruise, or, yeah, that’s true. That’s true. But I of mangled my way through, what was the song, Shut Up and Dance, I think. And then he said, “Okay, now you’re on an Alaska cruise. What would you play for our senior passengers” or whatever? And then I pulled out some Stevie Wonder tune, but it was just rapid fire. It was thrilling and terrifying at the same time. Anyway, the audition over, I shook the man’s hand and left and went home and said, “Wow, well, at least now I know what I’m going to be getting myself into come January.” That was Saturday. And then Monday morning, I woke up and I’d received an offer.
Suzie Sherman (00:31:10):
Amelia Ray (00:31:10):
In the span of eight days, I guess, from putting the idea in words out into the universe, then I had the job.
Suzie Sherman (00:31:23):
Right. And that first suggestion was rather random in a sense. Not random because you were on a cruise, the person you were talking to knew you were a musician, but the kismet energies that had to come together to make this random suggestion that you’d always poo-pooed in the past manifest itself in a genuine opportunity.
Amelia Ray (00:31:56):
Yeah. And if my friend hadn’t sent me that email, my friend Christina, I wouldn’t have known.
Suzie Sherman (00:32:01):
You may or may not have followed up on the idea.
Amelia Ray (00:32:04):
Suzie Sherman (00:32:07):
We had talked about you maybe singing a song at the top of our conversation. Why don’t we entertain our listeners right now with your song, “Constant Traveller?”
Amelia Ray (00:32:20):
This is a little ditty I wrote. I’m going to turn my reverb on here.
Amelia Ray (00:32:25):
(Singing her song, “Constant Traveller.”).
New Speaker (00:32:25):
Touch down in the middle of nowhere Travelled 2,000 miles just to get there Nobody sat at home, worried Waiting up for me Tell the date by the city I’m playing When to sleep all depends where I’m staying Curse the dawn with a new or an old friend Every now and then People pass on the street There’s always someone to meet And friends calling me up on the phone There just ain’t no way to be lonesome when you’re not alone The trail of anonymous places Mapped hard in the lines on our faces from all these of distant places We raise a glass in a toast to what’s come to be Freedom’s monotony Between singing the blues And long nights with cheap booze I make family wherever I roam There just ain’t no way to be homesick when you’ve got no home No time for routine Every day a new scene I tell you this life ain’t so bad There just ain’t no way for you to miss something you never had I say, there just ain’t no way for me to miss something I never had
New Speaker (00:32:25):
Suzie Sherman (00:36:12):
Thank you. Oh, tears. The line that really gets me in that song is, there ain’t no way to be homesick when you’ve got no home.
Amelia Ray (00:36:22):
Oh, yeah. My mother called me quite concerned after she heard that. She said, “Do you really feel like you don’t have a home?” And I said, “No, no, mom.” I said, “The entire song’s not about me.”
Suzie Sherman (00:36:39):
It’s a channeling of a cultural consciousness about being on the road.
Amelia Ray (00:36:47):
Yeah. Also, that’s one of the reasons it’s a country song because it’s these sad country songs about people who’ve lost it all and the bottle is their only friend and that sort of thing. So it’s also telling these stories, their stories. Like “Mr. Bojangles” or “Piano Man,” neither of which are country songs, but they don’t prove my point. But-
Suzie Sherman (00:37:21):
There’s a certain tradition or format that gives itself to that feeling.
Amelia Ray (00:37:27):
Suzie Sherman (00:37:27):
So it’s New Years Eve, the Dawn of 2017. Tell us about that first day and first night on the cruise ship. Can you cast your mind back?
Amelia Ray (00:37:52):
Oh, sure. I still have nightmares about it sometimes. Let’s see. Well, I didn’t have all of the information I needed and-
Suzie Sherman (00:38:04):
I’m sure. I’m sure in a lot of ways.
Amelia Ray (00:38:09):
Yeah. There are a lot of things you need to know when you’re about to go live on a ship and work on a ship for four months. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of things that would have been useful on the ship, like black pants and black shoes. But anyway, they put me on a red-eye flight, so I get to Florida 6:00 in the morning or whatever, and have to call to find where the shuttle is that’s going to take me to the port, to the ship. I’m frantic thinking that, I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know how I’m going to get there. So finally I find the shuttle and I think I might’ve taken a taxi. I’m not certain.
Amelia Ray (00:38:56):
But anyway, I get to the ship and there was no reason to hurry because I couldn’t board the ship until one o’clock in the afternoon or something. So I sat outside with everybody, all the other employees waiting to board the ship. Then I get on the ship, I go to the administrative office and they assign me a cabin, give me a key. I go to the cabin and it’s completely, it hasn’t been cleaned at all.
Suzie Sherman (00:39:35):
Oy yoy yoy!
Amelia Ray (00:39:35):
It’s like the way I describe it, it seemed like a bunch of elves had had a massive party and there were just cookie wrappers and cookie crumbs and-
Suzie Sherman (00:39:48):
Like specifically the Keebler Elves.
Amelia Ray (00:39:50):
Yeah. Maybe that’s why.
Suzie Sherman (00:39:52):
Had a party.
Amelia Ray (00:39:53):
There were just crumbs everywhere and rappers and bottles of soda and beer. I thought, wow, I couldn’t imagine that that many people could have fit in this space to make that much of a mess. But I learned over the course of my time on cruise ships, exactly how many people you can fit into one of those cabins. I had to go back and say, “I need somebody to come clean my cabin.” Meanwhile, I don’t know who my manager is or what I’m supposed to do. So an hour goes by, I’m exhausted because I haven’t slept. Finally, I get a call from my manager and he says, “Okay, you’ve got sound check at this time. And the engineer’s name is this and you’re on at 5:00.” It’s now a little after 3:00 in the afternoon probably. Like, Oh, wow. I’m working today. If this hadn’t occurred to me, I thought maybe I’d get there. I’d get to watch for a couple of days, get some safety training-
Suzie Sherman (00:41:02):
Get some crew orientation.
Amelia Ray (00:41:06):
Yeah, no, just right in it. So I said, “Okay.” I had a, I think, a five hour workday. So it was five hour long sets or something like that. I was playing from 5:00, with breaks, until 11:00 or 11:30. And it’s New Year’s Eve so the ship is packed full of passengers who’ve arrived drunk. So the party is already begun and I go to my sound check. I think I had time for about a 20 minute nap. I finally got a clean cabin and I put strings on my guitar, take a nap, take a shower, and I go to sound check. I was playing in this open pavilion bar, it was inside.
Amelia Ray (00:42:10):
They hooked me up and said, “All right, off you go. If you have any problems, call this number.” And I was, wow, well, what do I do? That’s it. So I just, I don’t know, I had my list, my set list of songs I knew. I think I had a list of about 100 songs or something, but I don’t think I’d written them down. I think they were in my head, or I didn’t have them all written down in the same place or something. I don’t know. I don’t quite remember, but I know that I played “Brown Eyed Girl” probably five times that night, probably.
Amelia Ray (00:42:48):
Towards the third set, I’m racking my brain like, I must know other songs. I know, I know other songs. Just totally stressing out. I don’t want to repeat a song because I don’t know if people are going to say, Hey, she played “Brown Eyed Girl” already, except for “Brown Eyed Girl,” because nobody ever complains about that. They just wait for the part where they can sing along. But I’m freaking out. I’m like, Oh, they’re just going to notice that I’ve played “Under My Thumb” more than once and I’m going to get fired. You know, so I’m having a total anxiety attack. Somehow I struggled through. Oh, I remember one of the later sets, there was a guy came by and sat down and he was completely wasted. And he’s like, “Metallica, Metallica!” So I played some Metallica for him, but I was glad because he was reminding me of songs that I didn’t know, or songs that I had assumed you couldn’t play on a cruise ship.
Suzie Sherman (00:43:48):
Amelia Ray (00:43:49):
He hung out with me for half an hour or something and he helped get me through. Then I finished and I was just a nervous wreck. I unplugged and I put my stuff away. All of my colleagues and other people said, “Oh, aren’t you going to come and toast champagne with us? It’s the new year, come up to…” wherever. I didn’t want to go at all. I wanted to crawl into bed and cry myself to sleep, but it was New Year’s Eve and I figured if I did one thing right, it would be to be a gracious guest. So I found my colleagues and enjoyed the complimentary glass of champagne and toasted in the new year. And then I went back to my cabin and cried myself to sleep. But I was so determined never to be put in that situation again, that I went on a massive manic song learning campaign so I would learn 10 to 12 songs every day.
Suzie Sherman (00:44:57):
Amelia Ray (00:44:57):
I never repeated a song during a cruise.
Suzie Sherman (00:45:02):
During the whole cruise.
Amelia Ray (00:45:03):
During the whole week.
Suzie Sherman (00:45:04):
Some several day cruise.
Amelia Ray (00:45:06):
Suzie Sherman (00:45:06):
Amelia Ray (00:45:09):
Yeah. That was my, what did you say before when we were talking about the festival, arbitrary? Yeah, we had another impulsive arbitrary goal.
Suzie Sherman (00:45:23):
Arbitrary constraint that you put on yourself.
Amelia Ray (00:45:27):
Suzie Sherman (00:45:28):
Right. When you joined the crew on that first voyage, were you one of the only new crew members?
Amelia Ray (00:45:39):
Oh, no, no. I’d say every week there can be a couple hundred new crew members, every cruise.
Suzie Sherman (00:45:51):
Amelia Ray (00:45:52):
Yeah. Because everyone’s contract start and end at different times. And depending on how large the ship is, your crew can be anywhere from 800 to 1200, maybe 1500 people, maybe more.
Suzie Sherman (00:46:10):
Amelia Ray (00:46:12):
So across all the different departments, it’s a revolving door.
Suzie Sherman (00:46:18):
Did you eventually get some safety training and some training around some of the technical matters even though you were hired as a performer?
Amelia Ray (00:46:30):
Suzie Sherman (00:46:31):
Have other knowledge bases that you had to develop?
Amelia Ray (00:46:33):
Yes. In fact, that was day two. Actually when I got there, that was another thing. When I got there after I, I think while my cabin was being cleaned, I went to a safety. I had to go to safety orientation. But your first couple of weeks are nothing but familiarizing yourself with the ship and with fire safety and what to do when you’re doing the safety drill before every cruise, you get an assignment, everybody has an assigned position. Also, my first ship, I had to do lifeboat training, which was amazing.
Amelia Ray (00:47:13):
Most people don’t like it, but I loved it. It was two weeks or a month. I think ours was a month for some reason. But learning the ins and outs of the lifeboat, how to lower it into the water. You had to go, we got in the pool and we had to right a life raft, swim underneath it and flip it over. Then we got to drive a lifeboat. In, where were we? Nassau, I think, I drove a lifeboat in Nassau. That was really one of the most exciting things ever. But yeah, there were extensive training and you had to do it every time you boarded a ship. So it didn’t matter if you had just come from another ship a month before, you still had to undergo the safety training.
Suzie Sherman (00:48:11):
That’s good to know.
Amelia Ray (00:48:12):
Yes. Yes, they are trained to save your life, everyone from the captain to the bartenders.
Suzie Sherman (00:48:23):
Can you cast your mind back also and… Do you have a sense of what your expectations were about what life on a ship was going to be like and how did that match up or not match up as you got into that life?
Amelia Ray (00:48:43):
I don’t think I thought too much about the day to day life. I had my own cabin, which was my only, I remember thinking to myself, I wouldn’t have taken the job if I’d had to share a cabin. But aside from that, most of my thoughts were just about enjoying being on the water, enjoying seeing the different ports and eating whatever foods or to be found in these exotic locations. I didn’t think too much about the day to day life on a ship. I didn’t really even think about the job too much. I guess I was nervous about having to play for so many hours a day, six days a week, a little bit, but that was also exciting too.
Suzie Sherman (00:49:34):
When we had originally talked about developing or just, I don’t know, riffing on your story of working on ships, was there a story that immediately came to you that you thought you wanted to share about the experience?
Amelia Ray (00:49:52):
Yes. I have two, I’m glad that you reminded me.
Suzie Sherman (00:49:56):
Can you share it, share ’em?
Amelia Ray (00:49:58):
It was the second week because the first week a gentlemen came up to me and requested “Family Tradition” by Hank Williams Jr. and I didn’t know the song, and he said, “Trust me, if you learn the song, everyone will love it.” I said, “Okay.” So I learned the song. The following week, my second week, I was playing the song and this family was passing by. How to describe this family, the Clampetts really is the only way. There was grand pappy in front and then grand mammy and everybody on down the line. There were probably about nine or 10 of them. The grandfather stopped walking. He was staring at me and he put his hand up and his entire family stopped right behind him. They all turned and stared at me while I was singing “Family Tradition.”
Amelia Ray (00:51:07):
I noticed them and I thought, Oh, are they going to sing along? Then I realized that maybe they were offended that I was seeing this song. I was silently cursing this man who told me to learn the song wishing he was still on the ship sitting right next to me so he could…and then at some point, the grandfather turned back and addressed his clan. He said, “I ain’t never seen no colored gal sing Hank Williams before.” Then they waited, his entire family waited because he hadn’t said if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
Suzie Sherman (00:51:53):
Amelia Ray (00:51:53):
So they were hanging and waiting his judgment. He looked back at me and then he looked back at them and smiled and did this, what is this? You can see what I’m doing. How would you describe that? Like it’s right on.
Suzie Sherman (00:52:10):
Like gosh, darn.
Amelia Ray (00:52:12):
Gosh, darn. Yeah.
Suzie Sherman (00:52:15):
I ain’t never seen this before.
Amelia Ray (00:52:17):
Yeah. Then they all smiled and kept walking and everybody who had been seated watching me, they were mortified. Everyone was just looking like, what was that?
Suzie Sherman (00:52:29):
What just happened?
Amelia Ray (00:52:30):
What just happened? I’ll never forget that. Of course, I had no idea what he was going to do or say, and I was terrified. But I made them happy. Grand pappy gave me the okay. So I didn’t get lynched that day. So whenever I played that song afterwards and people would get very excited and sing along. It was like I earned the right to play the song. It was how I felt. Gosh, it was another one of my favorite stories. Oh, I was playing once, again, I guess funny things happen around dinner time, fancy night, fancy dress night at that for dinnertime. I was playing and a woman came up to the stage and said, “I play the violin.” I said, “Oh, that’s lovely.” She said, “Can I play with you?” I said, “Well, you can’t come up on the stage. I’m not really allowed to do that. Maybe when I finish, if you bring your violin, you can play for me” or whatever.
Amelia Ray (00:53:55):
I don’t know what I said to her, but something to get her off my stage during the middle of my set.
Suzie Sherman (00:54:02):
Amelia Ray (00:54:02):
Well, I don’t know if it was selective hearing or she just misinterpreted what I said, but she went to her cabin, got her violin, came back and stood right next to the stage and started playing along. Didn’t matter what I played, didn’t matter if she knew the song, she just was playing. And-
Suzie Sherman (00:54:17):
Playing whatever, her own thing was. Wasn’t even following the core progression or?
Amelia Ray (00:54:23):
She just was following her spirit, whatever it told her to play. The other passengers were not pleased. It was one of those, you try to ignore things, you try to be a professional, the show must go on and all that, but it was throwing me off. It was of such a caliber of violin that I was finding it hard to focus. I don’t know how she, I think security had to come. I think it was a code, of a coded thing where I sent out a distress signal with my eyebrows to a passenger who was clearly perturbed by her presence. I think that person went and got a security guard or told the bartender. There was a long chain of events, but eventually, it ended up with someone nicely asking her to stop playing and that someone didn’t have to be me, which was of course a blessing and a curse. She didn’t think I was the bad guy, but then she just came back the next day.
Suzie Sherman (00:55:36):
She came back the next day, you said?
Amelia Ray (00:55:38):
Suzie Sherman (00:55:40):
It’s like, how do you negotiate those boundaries where that is that delicate relationship between, you’re the performer, but the passengers are the people paying the bills, so to speak. So it’s like that weird thing of the customer’s always right, but you absolutely have to set boundaries for yourself. Especially when it’s a new job and you really don’t know how empowered you can feel about setting those boundaries.
Amelia Ray (00:56:12):
Yeah, it was a learning curve. I think it would have been in any environment, not just because it was a cruise ship. But certainly you have to learn, and when it’s necessary, to take off the customer is always right hat and put on this is my show and I’m paid to be here doing what I do, and I’m not going to let you prevent me from doing that. But yeah, those are just two of my stories I think of.
Suzie Sherman (00:56:48):
Good. I can imagine that some of those boundaries were hard because, and I actually have never been on a cruise. So this is my, I guess my cultural projection about the situation and maybe a little bit based on what you were talking about. There’s some cultural lawlessness that I think people ascribe to being on a cruise where it’s like, you can get away with anything. You can do whatever the fuck you want. You’re in international waters and people are on a cruise. So they’re celebrating and they’re drunk all the time and that kind of dynamic of boundarylessness.
Amelia Ray (00:57:25):
Yeah, it really depends on one, what kind of cruise it is, what company I imagine, and how long the cruises are. The three day cruises I was doing out of Long Beach, of course, you expect nothing but mayhem. These people are taking long weekends. There weren’t a lot of families, there were mostly younger people or people who just came to party. But seven and eight day cruises, they’re mellower, it’s generally an older crowd. People who want to go to relax, people who can afford to take a week off or during the season and families with children and that sort of thing. So in both cases, you will have obnoxious drunk passengers. And in both cases, you’ll have the people who really listen and pay attention and are engaged with what you’re doing. You can never really tell what you were going to get. There were constant surprises. I liked that. I did like that. Never judge a cruise by its cover.
Suzie Sherman (00:58:39):
As a musician, had you ever been on such a rigorous performing schedule?
Amelia Ray (00:58:44):
No. You can’t, unless you’re-
Suzie Sherman (00:58:48):
What did that do for your chops?
Amelia Ray (00:58:48):
Unless you’re a studio musician, you couldn’t possibly have that many gigs in a week. What did it do to my chops? Oh, well. A lot. Just dexterity for one, confidence of course, stage banter, being able to tell people who requested “Free Bird” and that sort of thing in a very nice way, but from way that they were free to check out the juggling act that was happening in the theater. And yeah, just endurance and stamina and that sort of thing. Also, being able to hear the similarities between songs and building a flow. If people are requesting the Eagles and you’re playing these songs in there and GC and D and you are doing this day after day, then you can think, Oh, that reminds me of another song that these people might like and make these seamless transitions. So yeah, that was really priceless, the playing experience.
Suzie Sherman (01:00:16):
Were you able to incorporate some of your own original songs into some of your sets?
Amelia Ray (01:00:21):
Yes. Yeah. Nobody came and told me what to play or what not to play. I would play originals. I’d play one or two a set. A lot of times people would ask me to. People would say, “Oh, do you have any originals?” Which I hadn’t expected. But I don’t know, for some reason it took me by surprise. But yeah, I definitely, definitely made some new friends and people enjoyed my music and some of them are still with me today. Yeah, tell that to that person who said, I don’t want to play other people’s music for 25 years. Take that, sister.
Suzie Sherman (01:01:15):
It did something for you.
Amelia Ray (01:01:17):
Suzie Sherman (01:01:18):
You came onto your first cruise with an extensive knowledge of what we call today, Yacht Rock. We started this conversation talking about Steely Dan. This fact was not lost on you obviously, right?
Amelia Ray (01:01:39):
Suzie Sherman (01:01:41):
What would you consider your…what musical lineages do you feel like you put yourself in, you situate yourself in?
Amelia Ray (01:01:52):
That’s a good question. I would say Todd Rundgren and David Bowie. The reason I would say that is that they are both genre defying. You never know what one album is going to sound like. There are elements of soul and rock and blues and progressive rock and funk and everything. You can have all of these elements in one single David Bowie song or one single Todd Rundgren song. That is always, not just impressed me, it’s just felt natural to me. Different genres, produce different voices, different ways to tell a story and different emotions. I think it’s so much fun to explore all of them.
Amelia Ray (01:03:18):
Consistently, these are the two who blow my mind. If someone asked me, well, what kind of music is it? It’s like, you can’t say. Years ago when people asked me what sort of music I played, I said, “It sounds like radio in the eighties.” When I was growing up and you turned on the radio station, there was Al Jarreau, and then there was Wham! and then there was Alabama. In later years, there was Poison, all on the same radio station. So yeah, I think those would be my consistent.
Suzie Sherman (01:03:54):
That fluidity between genres and ability to use those different genres to express different emotions, different sentiments, different narrative stories, different stories.
Amelia Ray (01:04:12):
And those guys go 110% with it. They’re not faking it. They’re not poseurs. You know, if Todd Rundgren releases a blue-eyed soul song, it’s blue-eyed soul, through and through. It’s always amazed me. If David Bowie is putting out industrial music, it’s industrial music. It’s quite impress…I really admire that.
Suzie Sherman (01:04:42):
I feel like this is a question people would be curious about. I don’t know, let’s see.
Amelia Ray (01:04:48):
You don’t know if you are?
Suzie Sherman (01:04:49):
Am I curious about it? I am curious about it, but I’m more curious about, how long did you play on cruise ships? How many cruises did you go on? What did it lead you to creatively? What did it lead you to in your life and your geography and where you decided to be and stuff like that. I want to get to that, but by way of this question, which is, where did you go on these cruises? You mentioned a couple of different spots, but can you list for us some of the ports that you saw?
Amelia Ray (01:05:29):
Sure. My first ship was my favorite in terms of ports, because we did the Eastern Caribbean. We went to Saint Martin, Saint Kitts and Nevis. One cruise, we went all the way down to Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao, and Bonaire is my favorite island because of the mix of languages there, Dutch and French and Spanish. It wasn’t as developed as the other ones were. It was quiet and had a neighborhood feel. I would leave the ports, leave the Margaritaville, Señor Frog’s, or whatever it is, that whole area, and get as far away from that as I could and try to go where the locals hung out. That was one of my favorite experiences. After that, it was on-
Suzie Sherman (01:06:43):
Were you always based out of Florida?
Amelia Ray (01:06:46):
No. My second ship I was out of Galveston, my third one out of Long Beach and my fourth one out of New Orleans.
Suzie Sherman (01:06:58):
Oh, wow. Okay.
Amelia Ray (01:07:00):
Then I think I did five ships in my fifth one out of Florida again. I think I only did five, over the course of a little over two years, but that was my favorite one. And then I did a lot of Ensenada, Catalina, Cozumel. How could I forget Cozumel? I’ve probably been to that place more than I’ve been to any other. Honduras, Belize. Am I leaving anything out? I’m sure I am missing a couple there. Jamaica, but yeah, the first one was my favorite.
Suzie Sherman (01:07:41):
Did you find some soulmate type buddies in fellow crew members?
Amelia Ray (01:07:48):
Yeah. I made a quite a few good friends on the ship. Some of them even participated in the festivals earlier this year and some I’ve done some traveling with. A lot of people from all over the world and it’s again, grateful for that experience because there are people I probably would never have met. Our paths wouldn’t have crossed otherwise.
Suzie Sherman (01:08:16):
Indeed. So do you have a sense of, I don’t know, as you were developing your life on ships, and so this is over like a two year period and you had some brief times when you were able to come back and regroup, be back in San Francisco, I don’t know if you had some chances to visit your mom in between cruises and stuff like that?
Amelia Ray (01:08:43):
Yeah. Actually my mom came on a couple of cruises with too, but of course.
Suzie Sherman (01:08:48):
So cool. Yes.
Amelia Ray (01:08:50):
But yeah, I had time in between ships. I would take at least a month and travel and visit people or just come back here and regroup, as you said.
Suzie Sherman (01:09:01):
So do you have a sense of your process was of realizing that you needed to be done with that chapter, that you were going to take your last cruise? What were the circumstances that were changing in your life at that point that you decided to stop doing cruises? I don’t know if you picture yourself doing it again or if that’s just done?
Amelia Ray (01:09:31):
I think it’s done. At the time, I was-
Suzie Sherman (01:09:44):
Listeners should know that Amelia has a wistful smile on her face right now. So there’s going to be a good story here.
Amelia Ray (01:09:54):
Well, it’s not so much that it’s a good story. It’s about how much of it I’m willing to share.
Suzie Sherman (01:10:00):
That’s right. Yeah.
Amelia Ray (01:10:03):
I was about to get married and move to another country. I knew I was going to be off ships for a while when I left in the beginning of 2019. Because I had to set up this life, this new life. But the real reason, even aside from that, the bigger reason is that I was very self destructive. I developed a, I should say groomed, a drinking problem living on the ships. I was prone to severe bouts of depression. I found myself turning into one of those surly characters from the song, “Constant Traveller.” The life was monotonous. There’s an enormous amount of waste that you have to see and be a part of living on these ships. There is indentured servitude. You see a lot of the worst side of humanity and if you are susceptible to these things in any way, it’s a challenging environment. If you have any problems with addiction or self esteem or self sabotage, then it can be an unhealthy environment. It turned out to be one for me. I don’t-
Suzie Sherman (01:12:10):
Did it feel like on the balance, it was more unhealthy than, I don’t know if this is even a great question, but it’s like on the balance at a certain point, you were like, I actually need to not be on a ship any longer?
Amelia Ray (01:12:31):
Yeah, it was.
Suzie Sherman (01:12:31):
Even though it gave you some really positive things in terms of building your musical fluidity and confidence?
Amelia Ray (01:12:39):
Yeah. I didn’t lose those things.
Suzie Sherman (01:12:43):
Amelia Ray (01:12:44):
That’s fine. I have those things. I will have them forever. It was just, I needed to deal with my own issues and that wasn’t the place to do it. Being isolated, not having control over my schedule, my time, my environment, those weren’t things that were conducive to what I needed to do to heal myself. So I needed to get out of that. I feel like I took what I needed from that situation and left.
Suzie Sherman (01:13:25):
So without getting into what was going on in your personal life, I’m not going to make you talk about that, but you were making preparations to get married. So where did you end up geographically once you were done on the ship?
Amelia Ray (01:13:39):
On the ship?
Suzie Sherman (01:13:40):
Amelia Ray (01:13:42):
First, Tel Aviv for a few months, and then Finland.
Suzie Sherman (01:13:50):
How long were you in Finland? I understand you’re going back there.
Amelia Ray (01:13:56):
I’m still in Finland. Yeah, I’m still in Finland. I moved there almost a year ago, August 2019.
Suzie Sherman (01:14:04):
What awaits you when you get back?
Amelia Ray (01:14:08):
Peace and quiet, I hope. I have a lot of work as a result of this impulsive, arbitrary goals I set myself. There are a lot of projects, a lot of writing I need to do. I’m finishing up the mixing and mastering for my album Scenes from an Icelandic Novel, which I’ve been working on since 2008.
Suzie Sherman (01:14:38):
Amelia Ray (01:14:39):
Yeah. I’m looking forward to a very quiet, productive autumn and winter with few distractions. The weather in Finland is not forgiving in the winter, so I’ll be happy to be stuck indoors.
Suzie Sherman (01:15:03):
As long as you’ve got provisions.
Amelia Ray (01:15:04):
As long as I’ve got provisions and heat. Yeah, I’ll be all right. But yeah, I’m really excited. I have a lot of projects I’m looking forward to sharing next year. I just want to hunker down and finish them, but this album is definitely at the top of the list.
Suzie Sherman (01:15:29):
You have another project that’s coming up or it’s going to be an ongoing series right now, a way to engage people online. What’s that? Tell us about that?
Amelia Ray (01:15:43):
Up, Up & A Ray?
Suzie Sherman (01:15:44):
Amelia Ray (01:15:52):
I decided I wasn’t going to do anymore quarantine music festivals, because it was just a huge undertaking. I figured as people were being released from their homes, the idea of a 24 hour music festival might not seem as alluring, but I wanted to do something given that there’s still no real live shows. I wanted to take advantage of the momentum that the festivals had gained and find a way to combine my own music, my love of mash-ups, because I also have a podcast called MashUpheaval, and the festival. I thought, okay, what’s something I can do?
Amelia Ray (01:16:37):
Also, I didn’t want to just do live stream concerts every week with my own stuff. I was trying to think of a way to make it different. I had this idea of doing a variety show. I have a weekly variety show Tuesdays at 11:00 AM Pacific. And every week there’s a musical guest who performs a couple of songs and I interview them. Lauren Flans, who’s an old friend from when we both lived in Amsterdam. She’s an amazing comedian. She contributes a piece every week. And there’s a game show portion with a contestant who calls in and play some music trivia game and wins prizes. I studied the greats, Dean Martin Show. I watched, haha, to prepare. Yeah, it’s–
Suzie Sherman (01:17:39):
Your soul is so much older than you are, chronologically, Amelia.
Amelia Ray (01:17:48):
Suzie Sherman (01:17:49):
You’re in your mid forties tops, right?
Amelia Ray (01:17:52):
Yeah, tops. Yeah. But spiritually, let’s say I’ve been drawin’ retirement for a while. It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve done five episodes. I wanted to see how it was going to go and what response we would get. Now I’m vamping up with some paid promotion, advertising and stuff like that. I hope to be able to continue it. I like promoting other artists. It’s something that is, it keeps me busy, but it’s not as time consuming as a 24 hour festival. I’m free to work on all my other projects, and it keeps me visible every week because the danger is that I go into my writing cave and I am not interacting with the public for weeks on end. This forces me to be out there.
Suzie Sherman (01:19:01):
How do we find it?
Amelia Ray (01:19:02):
upupandaray.com, And you can go to ameliaray.net. It’s also very easy to find there.
Suzie Sherman (01:19:15):
Do you have a timeline on release of the album? You’re going to be working on it through the fall and winter, you think at least?
Amelia Ray (01:19:24):
Yes. It’s amazing basically just securing funds, saving money so I can finish mixing and mastering it because the whole thing has been recorded. The concept’s there, it’s done, it just needs to be mixed and mastered and then put some money into promotion. I really want it to be out by April of next year. I would like it to be sooner, but I think realistically, with the time needed to do effective proper promotion, I’m going to need probably about four months, three to four months for that. But yeah, that’s my goal. I’m terribly excited about it. It’s been a roller coaster ride with this album. There were a bunch of tracks that were lost and just all sorts of things happened. I’m ready to have it off my plate because I have so many other projects that I want to put out.
Suzie Sherman (01:20:40):
If you were back in 2016 and you were about to make this decision again, to be on cruise ships, performing five sets a day, working seven days a week for the next two years on cruise ships, would you say yes to the experience again, knowing what you know now?
Amelia Ray (01:21:26):
Hm. Huh. That’s a good question. My gut reaction is no, because I think I could have… Just from the music perspective, my gut answer is no, because I think I… Gosh, that’s a tough question. Let’s start over again. Ask me the question again to see if I can find my train of thought.
Suzie Sherman (01:22:02):
If you’re back in 2016, would you make the same decision to spend the next two years of your life playing five sets a day on cruise ships?
Amelia Ray (01:22:21):
It’s still a hard question to answer. I don’t know. I wouldn’t trade the people I’ve met or the experiences I’ve had, not at all. Do I think that there’s a different way I could have reached the point where I am now musically? Maybe. Would it’ve involved me getting paid to do that? Possibly not. I don’t know. These questions are always fuzzy because it’s like, I am who I am now because I did that thing.
Suzie Sherman (01:23:07):
Amelia Ray (01:23:08):
So if you’re asking if I would change that, then the answer is absolutely not. If someone had told me what kind of food I was going to be eating on the ship, then maybe I’d have a different answer, but no. I think it would have taken me a lot longer to reach the place where I am now, emotionally and mentally and spiritually and musically. I think it would have taken me a lot longer had I not started working on ships.
Suzie Sherman (01:23:50):
That was a crucible of sorts it seems like. It was like trial by fire.
Amelia Ray (01:23:57):
Suzie Sherman (01:23:59):
Ramping you up, ramping up your musical professionalism and your fluidity and your confidence and your ability to learn music in a really short amount of time.
Amelia Ray (01:24:09):
Suzie Sherman (01:24:13):
Also, it sounds like it was a real emotional crucible in terms of being socially isolated, access to and drinking a lot more, being cut off from your support networks.
Amelia Ray (01:24:30):
Suzie Sherman (01:24:33):
Yeah, it is a weird thing. Of course, it’s totally stupid question to ask in a sense, would you make the same choice? But I like the question because it actually makes us reflect on, well, even all of the negative consequences that resulted from the situation did form who we became as a result. Right?
Amelia Ray (01:25:00):
Suzie Sherman (01:25:05):
Do you see any direct sequence of events between having done the cruises and the shape that some of your music projects have taken since then?
Amelia Ray (01:25:24):
Well, I think the whole mashup idea is a direct result of the work I was doing on the cruises. Like I was talking earlier about seamless transitions between songs that definitely came out of that “Constant Traveller.”Obviously it was influenced a lot by my time on the ship, my own constant traveling experience. I’m sure it will continue in ways that aren’t even evident to me, will influence what I do for a long time.
Suzie Sherman (01:26:08):
Do you see yourself continuing to travel after your time in Finland closes?
Amelia Ray (01:26:16):
Yes, yes. I’m intending to catch all of the music festivals I missed this year next year. Assuming they’re happening.
Suzie Sherman (01:26:25):
Assuming the world opens up again.
Amelia Ray (01:26:27):
Yeah. Even just in the country, there’s so much a Finland I haven’t explored yet. So I’m looking forward to that. I don’t imagine I’ll ever stop moving.
Suzie Sherman (01:26:43):
Happy trails, my friend. Hashtag PopCultureReferencesForOldPeople. Find Amelia’s oeuvre of music and all her projects, including the Up, Up and A Ray variety show at ameliaray.net. Find the MashUpheaval Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts and support Amelia on Patreon at patreon.com/ameliaray. Amelia’s got new singles coming down the pike, so drop by ameliaray.net.
Suzie Sherman (01:27:11):
We are And The Next Thing You Know. Tune in at your favorite podcast app and hit the subscribe button. Tell your friends about the show on your social media, with the hashtag, #nextthingpod. You can also rate or review us at iTunes, which really helps the show. Or sponsor the show at patreon.com/nextthingpod. Patrons help make this show happen, and I’m so grateful to all my supporters on there. A special shout out to my Serendipity level patrons, Dorian, Emily and Brittany. If you support the show at the $10 a month level or more, you get access to audio production notes and episode outtakes. We’re going to have some really special outtakes from this episode with Amelia. So check it out, patreon.com/nextthingpod. Join the conversation at nextthingpod on Facebook. Find me at soozenextthing on Instagram and Twitter, and make sure to check out our beautiful website where you can find all the episodes, full episode transcripts, and all the ways to participate in the nextthingpod community. That’s nextthingpodcast.com. The banana peel is by Max Ronnersjö, music is by Jon Schwartz. Thanks, everybody. We’ll talk soon…if I can ever get this coconut shell telephone to work right.