Rajolei Pickens
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Rajolei Pickens

Victoria, Texas, United States | Established. Jan 01, 1993 | SELF

Victoria, Texas, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 1993
Solo Blues Folk

Calendar

This band hasn't logged any future gigs

Oct
04
Rajolei Pickens @ 209 E Constitution

Victoria, Texas, United States

Victoria, Texas, United States

Sep
26
Rajolei Pickens @ Downtown Bar & Grill

Victoria, Texas, United States

Victoria, Texas, United States

Aug
14
Rajolei Pickens @ Friends of Africa Benefit

Houston, Texas, United States

Houston, Texas, United States

Music

Press


"Rajolei Pickens brings soulful sound to 77901 Wine Bar"

If life's got you stressed, take some "me time" Friday with Rajolei Pickens at the 77901 Wine Bar.

Pickens' songwriting focuses on soulful topics - life, love and the human spirit - and leaves his listeners with a sense of rejuvenation.

While he is influenced by 1970s soul music, he makes the style his own by adding elements of reggae, folk, rock and blues.

He caught up with Get Out this week to talk about his style, inspirations and his musical creed.



WHAT'S YOUR PHILOSOPHY TO SONGWRITING?

To share a message, to get away and to tell a story. The rhythm can start a song for me and the energy you try to project.

I'm still evolving as a songwriter. It boils down to a story, even if it's not necessarily my story. I try to make it universal and inspire people to do what they feel they are meant to be. I think we're all here for a reason; it's harder than we think to find it.

There's no manual to your particular situation, so you have to create it. It's the poetry and poets that have inspired me to - you almost have to get in a different space, one that can help you try to make sense of it.

There's no manual. You have to listen to your own heart, your own soul and do what you've found to be right. When I'm doing my best is when I'm focusing on something other than my own desires.



WHAT IMPACT DO YOU SEE YOUR MUSIC HAVING ON THE AREA MUSIC SCENE?

I think it could be good. I'm trying to think regionally. I think there are people who would like to hear different styles of music. It can bring people together who aren't wanting to hear the other stuff all the time.

I have come across some of the younger people who are into the blues style. Hopefully, they can stay more original or true to themselves in writing their own music.

Doing my own thing has been a challenge for me. Every day, one of the hardest things is to be yourself and accept personal freedom, personal spiritual freedom.

It's good to be inspired by others, but you can't be someone else no matter how much you appreciate what they've done artistically.



WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN LISTENING TO LATELY?

I've been liking some zydeco, Papa Mali who does New Orleans funk, Bobby Womack, Curtis Mayfield and some Gillian Welch - she's a folk singer.

I listen to a lot of different stuff. Besides my own music, lately I've been trying to get into more zydeco and upbeat, happier stuff. I went through a Jackson Browne kick a few months ago.

What I've been trying to think about is finding a cultural connection. I spend too much time being sad and introspective sometimes. This, you can actually dance to it.



YOU RECENTLY MOVED TO VICTORIA?

I've been in Victoria a little more than a year now from Houston. I went to school in Austin, went to Houston then back to Austin then back to Houston then here. My wife is from here. We wanted to be closer to her family.

It's been pretty good overall. It took a little bit of adjusting. The last place we were living in Houston was really loud - we were on the way to the major freeway and close to the police and fire stations, so there were constant sirens and the kids couldn't really go outside the gate. It was really hectic. It's been nice to be able to see the stars and get across town in 20 minutes.



HOW HAS THE CHANGE OF SCENERY FROM HOUSTON AFFECTED YOUR SONGWRITING?

I've written a little bit since I moved to Victoria. With the adjustment and trying to transition, I wasn't playing a whole lot, but I started teaching lessons, and it got me to thinking about theory and taking care of my equipment a little bit better.

I've written about a song and a half. I feel like I'm in a better space to write.

It's a happier song that started with the whole Mayan Apocalypse thing: that we'd wake up the next day and be here. It's evolved into hopefully an anthem with a little bit of a rock and roll beat. An anthem for me to carry on and go out and live this kind of life of playing and writing. It's called "The Iridescent Blues."



HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN PLAYING AND WRITING?

I've been playing about 23 years off and on. I'm 38 now. I started playing piano at 7, then I started playing guitar and writing at 15. I grew up mostly listening to gospel music. My first performance was at 11 or 12 with the youth choir. As far as being out and gigging, probably more like 19.

Guitar was a challenge in understanding it. I was on spring break; we'd take guitars to the beach and try to figure it out. It was so much different from piano. When I first started getting out and playing, it was more of trying to get in touch with myself and feel how to be OK. It was like therapy to write. You write what's bothering you or what you're confused about.

If I feel like I'm in a better place, a little happ - The Victoria Advocate


"review for "transcendence""

"a stirring collection of acoustic-soul musings - - R&B with rootsy flavor." - Joey Guerra - Houston Chronicle


"2008 Grant Recipient"

One of 5 winners of the Anthony Foundation's recording grants. - Anthony Foundation


"Transcendence Album review"

A passing listener to Transcendence, the latest from The Raj Pickens Soundsystem, would most likely throw the band into the reggae category, but this album offers much more than standard genre classifications allow. The six-piece draws from a span of influences, ranging from soul to rock to the blues and beyond, but if this band could be pinned down by one of their characteristics, that would be its undeniable hope in humanity. In “Fire and Dharma,” written by vocalist frontman Rajolei Pickens, the song expresses a driving hopefulness in how to lead life: “and the birds can still fly and the music can still fly / and the rhythm can still fly / and the love can still fly as we dance, you and I.”

Flowing under these optimistic lyrics, however, listeners can hear the strain and approaching weariness in the world through the soft-wailed vocalization. “Dark Night, Big City” takes an unsurprising gloomier turn in the music, calling on the depression of the blues but tempered by its base of a steadier and more upbeat rock rhythm. Music fans looking for more complex, genre-bending music can appreciate pieces like this one and “Stubb’s BBQ” that maintains its pleading sound while imploring whoever listens not to “underestimate the power of BBQ.”

Ultimately, The Raj Pickens Soundsystem offers an unexpected but welcome blend of musical backgrounds, refusing to yield to simplicity. Through its slower and mournful vocals countered by hopeful lyrics and often driving rhythms, The Raj Pickens Soundsystem only cedes to the idea that its “music is rooted in spirituality.”

by Jonathan Mason

http://www.beyondracemagazine.com/index.php/reviews/252-the-raj-pickens-soundsystem-transcendence - Beyond Race Magazine


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Bio

Influenced by 1970s soul music, Houston born Rajolei Pickens, uses these sounds as a base in his unique singer/songwriter style. His songs are about life, love, war and the human spirit. Organic music that evolves and re-emerges to captivate its listener. Raj was a part of the conscious artistic movement in the Houston area performing with several collectives and having his solo and band projects. His recent move to Victoria brings his soulful sounds to a new audience.

Influences - Jimi Hendrix experience, Marvin Gaye, Robert Nesta Marley, Nirvana, Parliment Funkadelic, John Coltrane, Steel Pulse, De La Soul, Eric B & Rakim, Papa Mali and Sly and the Family Stone, Miles Davis.

Band Members