In May of 2023, LA-based singer-songwriter Raye Zaragoza released one of the first singles from her upcoming album Hold That Spirit, "Joy Revolution", a collaboration with fellow LA-based activist-artist MILCK and co-written with AG.
With Raye in the midst of a busy Summer tour schedule and MILCK on the road across the globe in Rwanda and Cape Town, they came together from afar to tell Traktivist writer Steph the story of "Joy Revolution" and share what it's like collaborating with friends.
Traktivist: Raye, the story of the song has such a sweet sentiment you’ve been sharing. Can you tell it again for those who may not have heard it yet?
Raye: Joy Revolution is all about how we all need to experience radical joy and laughter on a day to day basis - because our ancestors fought hard for it! It’s so easy to get caught up in the big stresses of life, but it’s also so important to be present with the small joys - like freshly picked flowers, a warm cup of coffee, or laying on your back in your friend’s backyard and laughing uncontrollably. I’ve always been someone who feels like I need to work enough first to earn rest and play - but the “Joy Revolution” is all about prioritizing joy whenever we can!
(Editor’s note: don’t miss Raye’s moving essay on her mother’s own Joy Revolution: https://bit.ly/MyImmigrantMothersJoyRevolution)
Traktivist: Tell us about this collaboration! Raye, what made MILCK the perfect voice to complement yours on “Joy Revolution”?
Raye: MILCK, AG, and I wrote this song together because we were all feeling the weight of the world - and wanted to write something that had a new way of looking at the heaviness around us. MILCK has been such a great friend and mentor to me over the years and has always given me so much wisdom in regards to work/life balance and the music industry in general. It was so JOYOUS to sing this together because it felt like a celebration of not only all of the hard work we’ve put in as musicians, but also a celebration of the hard work our immigrant relatives and ancestors have put in for us both to be in the privileged positions of making music for a living!
Traktivist: MILCK, when Raye brought you this track, what was it about “Joy Revolution” that spoke to you?
MILCK: Raye, AG and I wrote this together in a room, and there was a palpable feeling of joy- both the giggly and smiley kind, combined with the strong and grounded wisdom that understands change can be difficult, and we need joy to help us persist.
Traktivist: Both of you, what were some standout moments of joy working together on this track or its video?
Raye: Being in the studio with MILCK is always a blast. We always end up making up funny dances and laughing a lot. I wanted to capture the fun we have in the studio in the video - and I definitely think you can tell how much fun we had when you watch the video. I really wanted to capture the energy of two women in their thirties having a slumber party and being silly. We need more of that as adults!
MILCK: I definitely agree with Raye!! The filming of the music video in my backyard was a highlight- just me and Raye being silly and getting creative with our cell phones!
Traktivist: Working with friends can be both enriching and challenging; do you have any advice for others collaborating creatively in this way?
Raye: Working with friends is pretty easy if you’re working with the right friends. It’s all about having respect for the other person as a professional collaborator as well as a friend. At the end of the day, most of my collaborators have become my friends even if they weren’t at first - so working with friends is pretty much the norm for me now!
MILCK: I couldn’t have said it better. There is so much mutual respect. Keeping things positive and giving each other the benefit of the doubt are always great tactics in helping the process stay smooth!
Traktivist: Both of you, how does the "Asian American" identity play out in your musical universe?
Raye: I’ve been writing more songs about my AAPI identity - and digging more into my Mom’s stories of emigrating from Japan to inform my storytelling. I feel like it would be impossible to share my story if I don’t also share my Mom’s story. I love collaborating with other AAPI artists because we can share common life experiences and write about them.
MILCK: The deep relationship I have with the themes of family, multi-cultural existences, code switching, mental health, sexuality, and voice are all colored by my identity as a daughter of Chinese immigrants.