Allan Pray
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Allan Pray

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Band Pop Singer/Songwriter

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Allan Pray makes me a little nervous. He admits he has a hyper-obsessive personality, modeling his image and life after Luke Wilson’s reclusive tennis-pro character from The Royal Tenenbaums. For a few years, he played tennis constantly, 9-10 hours per day, until one day he decided it was time to redirect all his energy and time into making music. Now he carefully constructs acoustic guitar and string-filled chamber folk in his home studio and performs it with a 7-10 piece ensemble (all dressed in matching white shirts).

His lyrics, too, reveal a daunting level of focus. His whole first album centers on memories of his sister’s wedding, while his second record focuses on a single walk in the woods he took with his siblings. On Race: The Portrait of a Town, Pray is delving even further into the infinite depths of self-reflection: his mother showed him a tiny model town she had formed in her attic and named “Race.” It was filled with homemade doll representations of people she had once known, 71 in all, and Pray felt compelled to sit amongst them and write songs relating to the people whose images had been forged out of old action figures and paper mache.

Race is an ostentatious offering: spread out over twenty tracks on four discs (each disc named for the cardinal directions). Pray manages to make his songs sound at once fragile, precious, and dense with melody and detail. It’s an amazingly pleasant listen. Its scope is so dramatic, however, that I fear I’m missing a larger conceptualization of the work that’s eluded me. I suspect Race requires many listenings to fully absorb.

If you’re a fan of Sufjan Stevens or Iron and Wine, you’ll feel quite at home here. It’s always nice to hear unique music out of our fair city, and Pray is definitely out of left field. His hyper-focus makes him an complex and perhaps slightly intimidating figure. Maybe he’s just an image of what Richie Tenenbaum’s life could have been like if he took up guitar instead of hawk-training and smoking.

- See more at: http://www.eachnotesecure.com/cheese-coney-album-reviews-2/#sthash.uV2qChXX.dpuf - Each Note Secure


Finding your voice can present a problem. When you’re finally quiet enough to listen to your thoughts, when you know what it is that you want to say, sometimes you just have to say it. And sometimes nothing else matters.

Allan Pray found his voice in 2008.

At the time the Cincinnati native was a professional tennis player. He was not winning tournaments or appearing on magazine covers, but he was a member of Association of Tennis Professionals and he played on the ATP World Tour.

Pray was a little obsessive about tennis. And “a little” might be a lot of an understatement. It is, he confesses, in his nature. After graduating from Clark Montessori High School in 2003, he went to college but cared only about tennis, practicing up to 10 hours a day.

He dropped out of college his sophomore year, so he could play more. The next year he went to the IMG Academy Bollettieri Tennis Program in Florida. Nick Bollettieri developed tennis superstars like Andre Agassi and Maria Sharapova.

When Pray, 28, traveled for a tournament, he brought his rackets and a guitar. He had played since he started cello lessons when he was 4 years old. It was always easy, but it was just a diversion.

So he was surprised when he found himself thinking about music more and tennis less. The earth felt like it was beginning to move under his feet. In 2008, Pray’s older sister got married. For a wedding present, he decided to write and record an album for her. The album took more than a year to produce and was the beginning of the end of his tennis career.

“I opened myself to music and it was a flood, all of these songs came to me,” Pray said. “It was like I got pregnant with music.” And then he laughed. He knows what he sounds like. He knows he can be intense and particular. He says he is self-aware, not self-indulgent.

It was his awareness that made his decision to leave tennis surprisingly easy. By the end of 2009, he was out of the game.

“Somebody will come up behind me and play tennis,” Pray said. “But if I don’t make this music, nobody else is going to make this music.”

Pray started writing songs and recording music as fervently as he once played tennis. In 2010 he began his second album. This also took more than a year. Each song can include more than 100 tracks of audio. “I take a ton of time, for sure,” Pray said.

His most recent album, his third, reveals much about Pray and how he works. The process began in 2011, after the end of a close relationship.

A family friend, an older woman in Southern California, explained that when she was young, she also lost a close friend. So she constructed a miniature town filled with people and stories. She still had the town. It was up in her attic.

Pray looked at the town and saw the stories. Then he heard music. In the notes to the album, he writes: “As I studied the details of this miniature environment, I noticed passionate love affairs and bitter isolation. I saw painful disappointments and happy celebrations.”

Pray dragged a mattress, a recorder and his instruments up to that attic and started writing. After eight months of work, he had 21 songs, which would turn into a four-disc album. He wrote every note, sang every song, played every instrument.

One year ago this week, he returned to Cincinnati and started mastering the songs in a studio. “Race: The Portrait of a Town,” was released this spring. The “race” in the title refers to the human race. It tells the story of each of the town’s “residents.”

The music can be described as “chamber folk.”

It is lovely and ethereal.

Along the way, Pray has learned that while finding your voice can present a challenge, it can also be rewarding. Sometimes, he knows now, there is magic in believing in your voice. Maybe it doesn’t matter if anybody even listens to the album. What matters is that he did it.

But Pray does want people to listen so he spent $3,000 to make 200 albums. When people listen, they will know one thing: They are hearing the voice of Allan Pray. ¦
- The Cincinnati Enquirer


Finding your voice can present a problem. When you’re finally quiet enough to listen to your thoughts, when you know what it is that you want to say, sometimes you just have to say it. And sometimes nothing else matters.

Allan Pray found his voice in 2008.

At the time the Cincinnati native was a professional tennis player. He was not winning tournaments or appearing on magazine covers, but he was a member of Association of Tennis Professionals and he played on the ATP World Tour.

Pray was a little obsessive about tennis. And “a little” might be a lot of an understatement. It is, he confesses, in his nature. After graduating from Clark Montessori High School in 2003, he went to college but cared only about tennis, practicing up to 10 hours a day.

He dropped out of college his sophomore year, so he could play more. The next year he went to the IMG Academy Bollettieri Tennis Program in Florida. Nick Bollettieri developed tennis superstars like Andre Agassi and Maria Sharapova.

When Pray, 28, traveled for a tournament, he brought his rackets and a guitar. He had played since he started cello lessons when he was 4 years old. It was always easy, but it was just a diversion.

So he was surprised when he found himself thinking about music more and tennis less. The earth felt like it was beginning to move under his feet. In 2008, Pray’s older sister got married. For a wedding present, he decided to write and record an album for her. The album took more than a year to produce and was the beginning of the end of his tennis career.

“I opened myself to music and it was a flood, all of these songs came to me,” Pray said. “It was like I got pregnant with music.” And then he laughed. He knows what he sounds like. He knows he can be intense and particular. He says he is self-aware, not self-indulgent.

It was his awareness that made his decision to leave tennis surprisingly easy. By the end of 2009, he was out of the game.

“Somebody will come up behind me and play tennis,” Pray said. “But if I don’t make this music, nobody else is going to make this music.”

Pray started writing songs and recording music as fervently as he once played tennis. In 2010 he began his second album. This also took more than a year. Each song can include more than 100 tracks of audio. “I take a ton of time, for sure,” Pray said.

His most recent album, his third, reveals much about Pray and how he works. The process began in 2011, after the end of a close relationship.

A family friend, an older woman in Southern California, explained that when she was young, she also lost a close friend. So she constructed a miniature town filled with people and stories. She still had the town. It was up in her attic.

Pray looked at the town and saw the stories. Then he heard music. In the notes to the album, he writes: “As I studied the details of this miniature environment, I noticed passionate love affairs and bitter isolation. I saw painful disappointments and happy celebrations.”

Pray dragged a mattress, a recorder and his instruments up to that attic and started writing. After eight months of work, he had 21 songs, which would turn into a four-disc album. He wrote every note, sang every song, played every instrument.

One year ago this week, he returned to Cincinnati and started mastering the songs in a studio. “Race: The Portrait of a Town,” was released this spring. The “race” in the title refers to the human race. It tells the story of each of the town’s “residents.”

The music can be described as “chamber folk.”

It is lovely and ethereal.

Along the way, Pray has learned that while finding your voice can present a challenge, it can also be rewarding. Sometimes, he knows now, there is magic in believing in your voice. Maybe it doesn’t matter if anybody even listens to the album. What matters is that he did it.

But Pray does want people to listen so he spent $3,000 to make 200 albums. When people listen, they will know one thing: They are hearing the voice of Allan Pray. ¦
- The Cincinnati Enquirer


A few weeks ago I sat down with Allan Pray, 28, at the Kenwood Panera. He looks like any other young adult in his late ’20s, except behind the t-shirt and jeans I could see a vast internal struggle. This wasn’t David vs. Goliath. No winner would be crowned. Rather, it’s an exploration of the mind and the self. “I’m the kind of person who needs to objectify an understanding of myself,” he said.

Pray started playing cello at the age of four. Both of his parents are musicians. In his family, the guys would play cello, the girls would play violin, and everyone would play tennis. The Pray’s are big on pedigree. “Every family has a golden retriever, plays music, and is introspective,” Pray said, a graduate of the Clark Montessori School. “We’re supposed to analyze our behavior and that of our surroundings.”

Turns out Allan was the only one with the hyper obsessive personality. By his late teens and early ’20s, he had created a version of himself that seemed straight out of Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenebaums. He was Richie (the tennis prodigy) — headbands, wristbands, and all. Pray did more than dress the part, however. He lived it. After leaving college a semester in, he attended the John Newcombe Academy in Texas and was later accepted on full scholarship into the Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida.

Pray even went on to join the pro tour. While based out of L.A, that’s when music started happening. “I don’t multi-task, so when I was all about tennis, I played 9-10 hours a day, and then it switched. Now I have nothing to do with tennis, and I just play music all day,” he said.
Beyond the cello, Pray has taught himself a variety of other string instruments. Music is something that comes naturally. “I sort of have this song making / writing mechanism within me,” he explained. “So I could use music to engage in the topic that I’d been curious about my whole life.” The introspective exploration has continued.
What is compelling me to do the things I’m doing?
What am I supposed to be doing here?
Where did I come from?
What are the conflicts within me?
Is this instinct, creativity… what are the forces at play?
When I asked Pray if he ever takes it easy, he humorously answered, “Once every two weeks I play Pacman for a half hour.” That, or he tries drinking. But it’s clear the music and the pursuit of answers (which in many cases begots more questions) are what stimulate him.

Pray produced his first album for his sister’s wedding. His second came shortly thereafter, songs about a horseshoe trail. It’s his third album, though, that brought him to my attention. The album is called Race: The Portrait of a Town. The inspiration for the music came about when Pray visited his estranged mother’s attic and saw she had put together a mini town of people and places. Only one of the dolls was named, Margaret Ohlinger. “Seeing those dolls, they became a symbol of humanity to me, and it’s no accident as to why the town was called Race.” he said.
Maybe I found that those characters were more approachable than the human beings around me, but they symbolized the same things. It was a way of compensating for an inability to get close to people, a way of engaging completely in the human being as a topic.

The album is split into four discs: North, South, East, and West. Each disc has five songs that tell the stories of the town, of the characters’ lives that he created. The style is folksy, but I really don’t want to pigeonhole Pray’s music. He himself admitted possible influences from Celtic lullabies and certainly his classical upbringing, but “otherwise it resembles my disposition as a person — very sober, quite practical and passionate.”
While much of the musical process comes naturally to Pray, the hardest part of being a musician, he admits, is the gracelessness of self-promotion. ”It’s not natural for me to deal with people in the way of trying to manipulate them to appreciate and promote me.”

Don’t let Pray fool you, however. As much as he likes to claim he’s not a people person, we spent a good hour having a very casual conversation. Sure I had ready made questions in hand, and the topics were fit for an 18th century Parisian salon, but there was never a lull. I can’t imagine there ever is with the way Pray’s brain operates.

“Once I learned how strange the situation was [a.k.a. life/evolution], I knew there was no turning back,” he said. “I knew in that moment I was never going to have a normal job. Maybe one day I’ll get old enough to forget about it. Or, maybe my brain will die to a point that I will get over it.” Until then, you can enjoy his music in your own search for understanding or simply to relax and let loose.
- iSPYCINCY


Discography

1. Tam O'Shanter Remembers The Day
(2009)

2. Horseshoe Trail [EP]
(2010)

3. Race: The Portrait Of A Town
(2012)

4. Selected Works, c. 2011 (Unreleased)
(2013)

Photos

Bio


Allan Pray is a 28 year old singer songwriter/composer who has spent the last several years in Southern California using a variety of stringed classical instruments to write and record a wide variety of programmatic music projects. He's devoted full albums to such topics as the Wildlife of the Arctic Tundra, Modern Hopi and Aztec Religion, and his older Sister's Wedding Day. Released this summer, Pray's album "Race: The Portrait of a Town" is an extensive and intimate portrayal of an elaborate miniature town he discovered his mother had built in her attic. Called "lovely and ethereal" by The Cincinnati Enquirer and "an amazingly pleasant listen" by Each Note Secure "Race" has already been featured in several of Cincinnati's major publications.

Last year Allan returned to his home town of Cincinnati to begin performing his music with a 9 piece string ensemble of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music. This ensemble, along with Allan's own brother and sister have performed his "chamber-folk" music around Cincinnati in events such as the Mid Point Music Festival, the Classical Revolution, and Fall Folk at the Public Library.