Imagine being at an art show where the artist leaves the invited guests to take the stage and sing. Entertainer Ava Raiin could do that.
The Minneapolis-born singer who now lives in NYC released a self-titled first album on digital platforms in August. She designed the album to be taken as a whole, but the “Eagle Eye” video has a soaring impact all its own.
Her music defies category; in August she e-mailed: “We came in at #9 on the R&B chart and made five charts total.” Her diverse list of collaborators: Solange Knowles, Blood Orange/Dev Hynes, Carly Rae Jepsen, Melissa Etheridge, The Chainsmokers, Bleachers/Jack Antonoff, Chrisette Michele.
Raiin’s talent as a former photo shoot producer comes through in her videos. The videos are so hip it was amusing to hear that she had just returned from an RV trip around Texas that included her twin sister, Mayokia, an investment researcher for Wall Street clients, and her mom, Michele Walker.
Legally Michelle R. Walker, Ava Raiin coined her stage name to recognize both her twin and the creativity she feels in inclement weather. She is looking for a venue where she can perform here in December, the next time she and her husband plan to visit.
Q: Ava Raiin. How’d you come up with that?
A: I was living this double life. I was a photo shoot producer in a very corporate environment. I wanted to keep my creative life separate from how I was paying my bills. I came up with another name to do all my art and be free. Me and a friend came up with it. She used to called me Ava, just like as a nickname, and then I chose Raiin, because I like nature and being outdoors. I feel it’s very easy for me to write when it’s raining outdoors. I love what rain represents. The rebirth washes everything and everything starts new, a theme of this project. Also I put the two i’s in it to represent my twin. She’s always with me with everything I do, in my heart. We are kind of obsessed with each other.
Q: Typical twins?
Q: Have have you met Minnesota’s Coco and Breezy in New York City?
A: I have! They actually shouted out the album last week. They were jammin’ to it. I saw you interviewed them, too. It was cute. I love them. We support each other. I have this bag that has Prince on it and it has the third-eye glasses they made. I don’t think they had anything to do with it because Coco saw the bag one day when I had it and she was like “That’s kind of shady.” [Laughter]
Q: Where can we see your visual art?
A: Nobody’s supposed to know about that! Which family member do have to beat up? I put little things out, one picture on Instagram a couple of months ago. I sell a little bit but it’s mostly something I do for myself. I did a small showing at this little gallery in New York in February. I would love to do events where I combine the two.
Q: The idea of you being a camper surprises me.
A: I do love the outdoors. I used to produce photo shoots and we would travel to amazing places like the Adirondacks in New York, or Hawaii. I like to go any naturally beautiful place.
Q: Does that explain all the visuals in your videos?
A: Yes! Absolutely. I’m just happy I get to do it for myself now. I have the “Eagle Eye” video out now [tinyurl.com/yae9dl66]. I’m working on “The Gold,” which is probably going to be the next single and video. I’ll probably have it out in October.
Q: I asked my friend, Shaun LaBelle (who has “Wave” on the charts), to tell me how you were doing and on Sept. 4 he replied: “She seems to be making a little noise at #31 on the Independent Albums Chart.”
A: I think that’s the whole album, “Ava Raiin.” I think it’s cool that it’s the whole album and not one song charting. I feel like the sounds from all the songs are better when consumed altogether for it really makes sense. It’s all digital right now. We are working on this fall having vinyl and CDs. I’m doing this independently, not on a label.
Q: You’re attacking this like Chance the Rapper?
A: Exactly. I have to take my baby steps and what resources I can spare.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.