For singer-songwriter Lindsey Ray, it was the worst of times and the best of times. Ray, a Belfast native, was making her father’s funeral arrangements one day in late June 2008 when the phone rang.
It was musician Tim Myers of Los Angeles. Their co-written song, “Brand New Day,” had been picked up by Target, for one of the giant retailing company’s national TV commercials.
“It was so bittersweet. I was having the worst time, personally, but careerwise, having my big break. It was hard to process,” said Ray, 26, who now lives in Los Angeles.
“He was my favorite person in the whole world,” she said, of her father, David Bachelder of Belfast, an insurance broker who had long suffered from brain cancer. He died at age 58.
Ironically, “Brand New Day,” written and produced in LA only a month before her father died, “is a happy, upbeat, commercial-sounding song,” she said.
The song’s success boosted her already promising music career. And now, she marks a new creative milestone. On Nov. 12, Ray’s debut album, “Picture Perfect,” an EP with six original songs, will be available for downloading at iTunes.
“It’s quite a bit different than the music I used to write when I lived in Maine. I was tired of writing sad songs, so if you listen to the new stuff, you’ll notice that it’s a lot happier and more fun to listen to,” she said.
Also, her new album can be purchased at Wild Rufus Records, High Street, Belfast.
“I wanted to give my friends and local fans first dibs,” she said.
The album’s title song is a tribute to her dad, she noted. Its upbeat, lyrical refrain seems to sum up what she has learned from him:
“Life is never picture perfect;
We are perfect just the way we are.”
“Float Away,” another song on the album, also was written in memory of her father.
“It’s a love song, praying some day we’ll be reunited,” she said.
Her album selections are characterized by a jouncy beat and high-pitched style.
“I’ve got a little bit of an oldies, ’60s element to some of my songs. I call it quirky pop. It’s not mainstream. It’s a little indie sounding — indie, quirky pop,” she said.
In only a little over a year, her music has scored other commercial successes. Recently, the title track on “Picture Perfect” got picked up for the opening credits of the Lifetime TV movie “Sorority Wars.”
And, she has had several other songs on TV shows and national commercials, she said, including MTV’s “The Real World: Hollywood,” NBC’s “Knight Rider” and cable TV’s Style Network.
Gigs at hot music spots such as Hotel Cafe in Hollywood also have helped her make a go of a new life in LA
“I’m actually making a living with my music,” she said.
Ray jumped into a music career right after graduating from Belfast Area High School in 2001.
“I opted not to go to college. I wanted to pursue music. I felt like I already knew what I wanted to do. That disappointed a lot of people in my family. I was a straight-A student … My dad was my biggest supporter,” she said.
Soon, she was performing full time with local bands, largely in the Belfast-Bangor circuit, singing reggae, jazz and standards such as Motown and disco hits. She also did original solos at The Lookout Pub in Belfast, Muddy Rudder in Brewer, Kennebec Bar and Grill in Skowhegan, The Liberal Cup in Hallowell, and other local venues.
Chris Geaghan, co-owner of the Whig and Courier in Bangor with Michelle Geaghan, recalled Ray’s performances.
“Basically, she was very attractive, enchanting and talented,” Geaghan said. “I liked her personal touch, the way she interacted with people. We’re a small place. Her piano playing and singing were flawless.”
In 2006, she dropped the surname Bachelder and chose Ray for a stage name, in honor of her late grandfather, Raymond Bachelder.
“Like my father and just about everyone else in the Bachelder family, he was a very gifted musician. … Ray had a nice ring to it, not to mention that it made my father cry with happiness when I told him about my decision,” she said.
Her dad, founder of Unity Insurance Agency in Unity, and later a salesman for Waldo Insurance in Belfast, had been married to Ray’s mother, Janet Bachelder of Owl’s Head. They divorced when Ray was 11 years old.
During her dad’s three-year illness, she moved into his home to help take care of him.
“He was sick for three years. He was really disabled. He couldn’t talk very well. … He seemed like a stranger at times. That was hard. Then, I’d get glimpses of him,” she said.
But during the last year of his life, her musical talents caught fire. She signed a record deal with independent record company Original Signal of New York City. Record company officials brought her out to LA to meet music producer Bill Lefler of Fall Out Boy and Dashboard Confessional fame.
“I started flying back and forth to work with him [Lefler], and he introduced me to Gabi Kochlani, my new manager.” Through her, Ray met music artist Tim Myers.
“While there in March ’08, I wrote 12 songs in three weeks, four of which are on the new EP,” she said.
But the New York record deal disappointed her. “I broke the contract,” she said.
Meanwhile, she and Lefler started dating shortly after they met.
“My father was dying, I found this new love, and I had all this career stuff going. It was intensely stressful.” she said, of that moment in early spring.
Before her trips to LA, she arranged for family members to care for her dad. At the end of May, she flew back home to be with him for the last three weeks of his life.
“I felt guilt and anxiety. … I never would have left my father,” she said.
As it turned out, his death opened a door.
“My immediate thought was — there’s nothing left in Maine for me. I might as well go. I packed two suitcases. I sold everything or gave it away — sold my music equipment — and flew to LA.”
That was July 2008.
“It was a drastic thing but a little therapeutic,” she said of pulling up Maine roots. “Once he was gone, I was in kind of a shock. I put all my effort into my music.
“Life throws you everything at once, sometimes,” she said.
Right now, she wouldn’t trade her life in LA for anything, even though the cost of living is outrageous compared to Maine, she said.
“It evens out. I’ve made so much more money here than in Maine. … I wake up so thankful I live here. You can’t put a price on the opportunities here.”
She dreams of a bright future.
“I want to have a full album with people downloading like crazy. I’d like to go on tour . … I want to be successful enough to play one of the late shows, like David Letterman,” she said.
But, with a year of California under her belt, a little hometown nostalgia has crept in.
“I love October in New England. But it’s 90 degrees here, and they’re selling pumpkins. It doesn’t make sense. I miss family and friends — going to Three Tides and Darby’s restaurants,” she said of the Belfast venues. “I used to do a lot of shopping at the Belfast Co-op. My apartment was right across the street.”
She also dreams of someday giving a performance in her hometown. But, she’s not really looking back.
That feeling is expressed in her new album’s jaunty song, “Goodbye from California.” Its lyrics, written in postcard-memo style, describe the sun shining down on her face from a cloudless sky — with no sign of the cloud she left behind her:
“What did you think that I would do
When I told you I was leaving ….
“Don’t say I didn’t warn ya’.
Good-bye from California.”
“I wrote it for people back home who didn’t understand my dream of moving to LA,” she said.
Lynn Ascrizzi is a poet, gardener and freelance writer who lives in Freedom.
• “Picture Perfect,” a debut album by singer-songwriter and Belfast native Lindsey Ray, will be available for downloading at iTunes, Nov. 12.
• Local fans can purchase Ray’s new album at Wild Rufus Records, High Street, Belfast, starting Nov. 3.
• To follow Ray on Twitter: @liindseyraymusic.