It would be easy to dismiss a 14-year-old guitar player as just another gimmick; a product of the YouTube era we’re living in where anyone can achieve instant fame. Most of the promotional materials and interviews with Ray Goren prominently mention his age—usually in the first sentence, as it’s rare to hear of a recording artist talk of balancing gigs and homework. (In fact, Goren is extremely thankful when the subject of his age is not mentioned until well into the interview; he admits he grows weary of the question).
Again, it would be easy to dismiss a 14-year-old guitar player as just another gimmick, except for two factors: Eddie Kramer, who produced Goren’s EP LA Sessions, and the music. The word “legend” is not used lightly, but Kramer truly fits the bill. He’s most noted as being Jimi Hendrix’s engineer, producer, friend and integral partner for the groundbreaking, revolutionary albums released while Hendrix was alive. So how did a newcomer such as Goren attract the attention of Kramer, who must receive pitches constantly?
“Eddie saw me live at a gig I was doing and we met and talked, and we took it from there,” says Goren. “Eddie is so warm and loving and nice and caring.” Wouldn’t the prospect of working with a producer with Kramer’s reputation be a little bit intimidating for a newcomer? “It was not intimidating for a second. Eddie is so down to earth and funny…I could go on all night. Going into the studio was one of the most fun things ever. ”
Then there’s the EP. Take a look at the review in this issue of Screamer to get a feel for how impressive it is. To use the cliché; the music speaks for itself. Even more noteworthy is the fact that Goren wrote all the songs himself—no big-name songwriter collaborator. “I wrote all the songs—every last one. Everything from lyrics to chord changes to melodies—everything I wrote.” Given that the majority of rock and blues songs are about the subject of love, it’s a fair question to ask of someone just out of middle school—what do you know about love?
Goren doesn’t shy away from the question. “Loving, in my opinion at least, doesn’t have to be between you and a girl. It could be with your family, it could be anything, really. I think giving love and feeling love is just a great thing to have, regardless. “
Goren started his musical journey at the age of five, playing keyboards to jazz favorites. A few years later, he discovered the blues while searching YouTube, and realized that the guitar was his calling. He talked his parents into buying him one, and promptly began woodshedding. Later on, he would visit blues clubs in South Central Los Angeles to absorb first-hand the musical knowledge of guys who had been playing decades before he was born. The sight of a young kid walking into a den of old blues guys must have been something like the scene of a movie, where the music stops and everyone turns their heads in curiosity and puzzlement.
“My dad would drive me down and we go and listen and jam with them. I love those blues guys; they’re great. I learned a lot from them. They were very accepting—still are. I have so much fun with them. “
Goren was completely self-taught on guitar. “I learn everything was by ear. I kind of just listened and developed my own style. A lot of it came naturally, but you can’t do away with practicing—you’ve got to do both. “As accomplished as he in on guitar at his age, his vocal skills are also impressive. “I adore singing. I love to sing, just as much as I love playing guitar. I work on my singing as much as I work on my guitar playing. For singing I do have vocal coaching because it’s a little different. For singing, if you have the wrong technique you can develop vocal nodules and a bunch of crap that you don’t want. “
Goren is excited about the release of the EP, saying “I hope people relate to it and enjoy it. “ He hopes to go on tour to support the album, although currently there are no plans, saying “we’ll see what happens.”
Perhaps the best way to relate to Ray Goren is to simply listen to the music and forget about how young he is. In the end of course, that’s all that really matters. If the songs are good and the playing is talented, chronological age shouldn’t matter. Got to admit, though, it is a kick to hear him say with all his youthful enthusiasm “I just got out of school for summer vacation, so I’m kind of excited.”