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Araya's new album 'Ethos' meets at the intersection of R&B and electronic


Araya is ready to take you into his world.


ARAYA: (Singing) One, two, three, four. That was me for a century more. I could be more. I, I could be more. I...

SIMON: A raw, colorful place filled with electronic and R&B influences. He's out with his new album, "Ethos," and it explores love, heartbreak, self-discovery among many human experiences. Araya joins us now from Brooklyn. Thanks so much for being with us.

ARAYA: Thank you so much for having me. Thank you.

SIMON: Your debut album, "Atlas," was released in 2021.

ARAYA: Yeah.

SIMON: What's it like to be an emerging young artist in the middle of a pandemic? How do you make your name known?

ARAYA: (Laughter) I mean, dude, at first, it was, like, rough because I think we were all feeling, like, pretty lost. And I definitely was emotionally kind of overwhelmed or overstimulated by the pandemic. But it definitely, like, forced me to a place where, you know, you get that alone time. And I'm like - I'm a person that's, like, very built on, like - I just - I love making people happy. I'm a very social person, so it kind of forced me into this other part of myself.


ARAYA: (Singing) Even if it's not a dream, I've been out here like there's something to live for. Think the big light's my self-esteem. In low light, now that - hey...

I realize that, like, a lot of my artistry - you know, though I'm super influenced by the amazing talent in the community around me, like, a lot of this comes from me, and it starts with me. And like, sorting that out first with this project was, I think, a really beautiful thing that came with COVID.

SIMON: I understand you recorded this in a studio out in Connecticut, kind of tucked away in the woods even though, obviously, a lot of the songs sound like they emanated from the dance floor.

ARAYA: (Laughter) Yeah.

SIMON: Do you hear the woods in your music?

ARAYA: (Laughter).

SIMON: How did that affect you? Or I guess when you're involved in the music, it doesn't matter where you are?

ARAYA: So I think the woods for me - like, I'm not a very woodsy person. I was raised in Long Island. I live in Brooklyn, N.Y., now. It doesn't look like that over here. So, you know, there's, like, deers that come out every morning. It's just, like, special. It felt very, like - it felt very rustic, you know, very masculine. I'm not a very - like, a very masculine-centric person. So it was, like, very cool. It's cool to just, like, you know, switch up your environment. It gives you different chemicals. Like, I - sometimes, I felt, like, a little lonely. Sometimes, I felt so far from being lonely. It is beautiful, though.


ARAYA: (Laughter).

SIMON: So you went back and forth between feeling lonely and not being lonely.

ARAYA: Yeah. And I think that's what this project is about. Like, it's about, like, the self. It's about, like, the process. And, like, I'm a romantic, like, a hopeless romantic. And so, like, that, like, longing...


ARAYA: (Singing) There's a house on that big lake where two points move across the water. Sicker in this state, and your essence is celestial, daughter. You need more for you to stay. I never mind if I did (ph).

Longing for love and longing for things that are based not, like, completely in myself - but, like, while longing for those things, like, I managed to learn so much about myself.


ARAYA: (Singing) What if it hurts? And what if it cries? (Vocalizing). And I remember being much older. My head was at your shoulders.

I think, like, it's important for me as an artist to be, like, aware and to, like, maybe - I might not be doing the best thing for myself, but I channel that - those emotions into my art. And I'm honest about it. So, like, if someone is listening to me, and they have a better idea of how to handle it, like, I hope they go ahead and do it (laughter). I might just be a hopeless romantic type of guy, you know? So (laughter)...

SIMON: Oh, well, you're a musician. I mean...

ARAYA: (Laughter).

SIMON: ...Romance can be an important part of music.


ARAYA: (Singing) Oh.

SIMON: You were a fashion student.

ARAYA: Yeah.

SIMON: Fashion Institute of Technology, in fact.

ARAYA: Yeah.

SIMON: Well, how did music come along?

ARAYA: I've always been writing music. When I was 16, I actually auditioned for "X Factor." I always loved singing. So like, I was, like, more, like, a piano writer-in-the-dark type person. Like, I was 13 and just, like, learning piano through, like, YouTube tutorials. I got into music specifically after probably, like, two years at FIT. I kind of thought music was going to be a dream that I, like, swept under the rug, and I was just like, all right, I'm going to be a graphic designer. Like, I do all my own, like, graphic and art - roll out stuff for my brand, too.


ARAYA: (Singing) But I guess you're stuck with me instead 'cause I can't get you out my - get you out my - so I guess you're stuck with me instead 'cause I can't get you out my - get you out my...

Yeah. I just met - my friend KOMA, like, played me this amazing mix on campus. And I was like, dude, who the hell, like, put this together? And it was my producer now. His name is Thaddeus Goode. He really was, like, this person that had, like, been doing this for a while. And I think we sort of, like, met and needed each other. And I don't know. He was just, like, the first person to, like, really, really believe in me and my art. And I think that's, like, all I needed. I also - like, I had a really crazy opportunity with Nike fall through, and so I was super, like, resentful of, like, my art and design aspect of myself. So I was just like, yo, like, I need to put this emotion into something. And, like, my music was there.

SIMON: What do you hope people take from your music?

ARAYA: I want people to understand that one of the most fire parts about being alive as me is I've always lived in this duality, being, like, a queer person that was raised Christian, being half-Hispanic, being half-Asian. Like, I've always felt, like, a emotional duality, a literal duality, physical dualities. So you know, some people are born into, like, less, you know, dual-sided things. And I think just having an open mind and just, like, allowing when those moments happen to them that they're less comfortable with - and, like, I was kind of forced into this comfort that I have now. Like, when that happens to people, just to, like, have an open mind 'cause it's beautiful, and some of the most beautiful things lie in the middle.

SIMON: Araya's new album is "Ethos" - out next week.

ARAYA: Yep, 22.

SIMON: We'll look forward to it. Thank you so much for being with us.

ARAYA: Thank you so, so, so much. It was seriously a pleasure. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARAYA SONG, "02") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.