The Grand Rapids R&B/pop artist who helped pay tribute to Aretha this week shared her 2021 plans with Local Spins on WYCE, which also debuted a host of new tracks by Michigan artists.
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Inspired by the likes of Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Al Green and Stevie Wonder, Grand Rapids singer Sarena Rae undeniably oozes a soulful, old-school charm but with its own distinctive twist.
“I feel like I can really enhance my own style of singing because of those artists,” she reasons. “I mean, they all sound so different and they’re all legendary icons.”
In what she describes as “a privilege and an honor,” the singer recently landed the opportunity to channel one of those legends – Detroit’s late Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin – by sharing lead vocals on a female, all-star super-group’s rendition of “Respect” produced by the Michigan Music Alliance and released earlier this week on International Women’s Day.
Sarena Rae saw it as a way to celebrate the creativity of “powerful, strong, independent and beautiful” women – qualities that she herself has managed to cultivate and unmask after overcoming stretches of self-doubt.
“I grew up with a lot of identity issues and just feeling very caught in between two races,” says Sarena Rae, who was raised in a single-parent household by a white mother after her black father left.
“I never felt black enough; I never really felt white enough, and it took awhile for me to find self-belonging.”
Consequently, the Grandville High School graduate who played violin in the school orchestra tackled some sensitive topics and important societal issues in the music she released on her soulful, pop-hued 2020 EP, “Heaven” – her way of sharing messages that are “uplifting and empowering, music that is relatable and touches the souls of those that listen.
“More than ever before, I want to create music that is intrinsic to the human race, music that reminds everyone of home, because home is where we all feel a sense of belonging. We all belong to each other, to build connection, to share, to nurture, to create and to love.”
She shared two of her tunes – “Caught in Between” and “Fatherless” – for this week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE. Scroll down to listen to the songs, the full interview and this week’s radio show podcast below, and watch the music video for the EP title track, “Heaven,” here.
VIDEO: Sarena Rae, “Heaven”
After a difficult year dominated by the coronavirus pandemic and turmoil surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement, Sarena Rae feels like she’s on a mission to heal with her music.
“I feel like my music is very timely. I didn’t plan it that way, but it fits in beautifully because there’s always been that constant battle of embracing one another and our differences, and respecting one another, and seeing our differences as a beautiful thing rather than something weird or something not normal.”
As for the follow-up to “Heaven,” the singer’s next album will be “all about collaboration,” linking up in 2021 with other songwriters and West Michigan musicians.
“I’m really excited because it’s not just going to be my story, but the stories of many,” says Sarena Rae, a career development facilitator at Kent Career Tech Center who also sings with two popular cover bands: Bluewater Kings and Brena.
She credits both of those groups for nurturing her own music and honing her on-stage skills by performing other artists’ songs at weddings, corporate gatherings and various venues.
“They’ve taught me so much about performance and the art of memorization,” she says, not to mention embracing diverse musical styles that gained her “a lot of respect for all genres. It’s a lot of fun.”
Get more info about Sarena Rae online at sarenarae.com.
In addition to spotlighting Sarena Rae’s music, this week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE – which showcases Michigan music at 11 a.m. Friday on WYCE (88.1 FM) and online at wyce.org – boasted the on-air debut of tracks by Venoma, Ada LeAnn, Emma Bieniewicz, The Whiskey Charmers, The Skinny Limbs, Shane Tripp, Cameron Blake, The Big House Blues Band and Danielle Cosby (this week’s musician’s pick by Sarena Rae). Listen to the radio show here.
PODCAST: Local Spins on WYCE (3/12/21)
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