From an early age, singer/composer Raina Sokolov-Gonzalez has been surrounded by music. From her childhood home soundtrack to New York’s Jazz and R&B scene, Sokolov-Gonzalez has gathered inspiration to create her own unique sonic imprint.
After years of developing that sound and observing the world around her, she is delivering her latest project, “If They’re Mine.” The album processes life’s complexities, like the male gaze through poetic lyrics, improvisation, and swelling harmonies.
We chatted with the Brooklyn-based artist about the album, the lead single “Better For You,” and more!
You just self-released your album “If They’re Mine.” What has that been like?
It’s been a beautiful and emotional process. I worked on this album for almost 3 years and to be sharing it is wild! Self-releasing has its challenges, but I am so grateful for my team.
What was the writing process like for the album?
I wrote the album between 2017-2018. There was a lot of music flowing at that time. I was just there to catch it.
What inspired the lead single “Better For You”?
“Better For You” comes a bit from personal experience but it’s also, and more importantly, a social download. It’s a response to the culture of misogyny we live in. To what I have seen other women experience, all processed through a personal lens.
Why was it important for you to address this message in your music?
I write music from the bottom up, letting it show me what it is. So this song came to me and I wrote it down. It wasn’t until I started to play it live that I became awake to its resonances. I’ve learned over the years the power of shared experience and how that starts to set us free. We often think we are alone in what we have been through but we aren’t at all. Once we name it, we can see it for what it is, and we can, as a society, and as individuals, make changes, and stand up for each other.
“Better For You” took 2.5 years to write and produce. Can you take us through the process?
The whole album took this long. I wrote the songs first, then started playing them live, then went into the studio to record them, step by step. Then moved into producing them with my brother Jake Sokolov-Gonzalez. Once we were totally sure that the production was done, we went into mixing and masters.
Where did the concept for the video come from?
My co-creator, Sofia Geld, and I got inside the song and developed the concept. I wrote Sofia saying I wanted to make a video for “Better For You” with an all female team and she loved the idea. From there we got the creative ideas flowing, recruited our amazing team, and made the dream a reality.
Where did the metaphor for the unraveling ribbon come from?
It evolved. First I had the image of being caught in some sort of web, with ribbons or ropes coming in from the walls, then we talked about different peoples hands holding the ribbons, and then we eventually landed on what we did. The song was the starting place to what imagery could really capture the musical and lyrical content.
What do the different color worlds symbolize?
The different color worlds symbolize different aspects of self and how each navigates the experience of objectification.
If you could set fans up in the perfect environment to listen to your music, what do you imagine it looking like?
As live shows go, the music lives in many different places. I recommend them all 😉 To listen to the album.. I say on a record player in the living room, or on headphones walking around the city, or on a long drive.
What can fans look forward to next?
Well we’ve got beautiful merch we are selling. We’ve got vinyls (that sound amazing!), lyric books to get into the words, and posters. I’ve got some live shows in upstate New York this summer. We will see what the Fall will bring!