On May 20, celebrated Grand Rapids singer Sarena Rae joins six other acts playing the second Local Spins Fest in downtown Grand Rapids. Today, she answers seven questions about her life, her music and more.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Six female-led or female-centric Michigan acts will perform at the day-long Local Spins Fest on May at Studio Park in downtown Grand Rapids, celebrating Local Spins’ 11th birthday. View the schedule below and get tickets, $20, themidtowngr.com. Scroll down to view the official Local Spins Fest poster.
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We asked all six acts to answer the same seven questions in a Q&A format to give readers insights into what makes them tick. Today, Grand Rapids singer Sarena Rae — leader of “Music That Raised Us” — answers those pointed questions.
Local Spins Question 1: What’s one thing about you that most folks might not know?
Sarena Rae: One fact that most people don’t know about me is that I am very passionate about education, music and event planning. I have found that I naturally incorporate all three of these passions into every part of my life. During the day, I currently work in higher education as a music events manager, I manage the Grand Rapids chapter of the International Musicians League, Bluewater Kings, which is a band that specializes in providing live music for weddings and corporate events. And on the side, I produce an educational show entitled ‘Music That Raised Us,’ which is centered on the immense impact black female artists made throughout music history. I love education because learning is what inspires me, music because it’s the creative force in my life that connects me deeper to myself and the world around me, and I also love to plan events because I get to bring ideas to reality. My hope is that whenever I perform, the audience learns something new or is empowered to think deeper on a certain subject matter.
Local Spins Question 2: In your wildest dream, which famous, internationally renowned artist or band would you most like to tour with or open for?
SR: This question is a hard one to answer because there are so many artists that I adore and that have greatly inspired me. I think an artist who is relevant to this time and someone I would like to tour with would be Lizzo. I love that her songs have a message and she is sharing stories and uplifting the audience throughout her performances, it’s like she’s taking everyone in the arena to church with her and I want to be a part of that.
Local Spins Question 3: What’s the best record you’ve listened to in the past year?
SR: There is a lot of great music that I have listened to in the past year, but a notable song that continues to move me is ‘Stand Up’ by Cynthia Erivo from the 2019 movie ‘Harriet.’ The story of Harriet Tubman and the major gospel melody of the song really encourages me to believe in the unseen and continue to work towards the future I want and deserve for myself and the people around me. I also love Cynthia Erivo’s artistry and unique voice; she is truly captivating and I definitely learn something when I listen to her sing.
Local Spins Question 4: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in your music career and what advice would you have to artists making their way in the business?
SR: The biggest mistake I ever made in my career was not taking many chances and not fully believing in myself. I used to not go for certain jobs or allow myself the gift of trying because I didn’t think I was capable of what would be on the other side of it. Once I started to believe in my capabilities and talents, my life began to change for the better and it’s been really exciting to see how my dreams and hard work have manifested into something so exciting and special. In 2022, I pushed and encouraged myself to cultivate my ideas and to go after my dreams. If there wasn’t an opportunity in front of me, then I created one for myself, and if there wasn’t a stage I was invited to, I learned to build my own. One unknown led me to many open doors of opportunity and I wouldn’t be where I am today without betting on myself and taking risks. I became relentless in the pursuit of the tomorrow I saw for myself. So, if you are reading this, take smart risks and don’t put limits on your abilities, you can do amazing things.
SR: There are three concerts that are tied for me as far as ‘best,’ and it would be seeing the legendary Aretha Franklin live at DeVos Performanc Hall, experiencing the iconic performances and songs of Cher at Van Andel Arena, and also singing along to my personal favorite artist, Diana Ross. Each of these concerts are really special to me as all three of these women are rare and extraordinary talents who were trailblazers of their time. It’s a privilege to be able to say I’ve seen and experienced some of THE most beloved and classic female artists in history.
Local Spins Question 6: Complete this sentence: In the next year, Sarena Rae …
SR: … will have a live Christmas show performing her full cover album ‘River.’ She will continue to bring her educational show ‘Music That Raised Us’ to the West Michigan community, and will also be working to write and record her first full original album.
Local Spins Question 7: What can fans expect from your set at Local Spins Fest?
SR: Fans that plan to attend the Local Spins Fest can expect to dance and be brought to a deeper level of connection with the community by celebrating both old and new music and the message behind my original songs.
LISTEN: Sarena Rae, “River”
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