Ray Goren, 11, Performs at the Real Blues Festival of Orange County: 'Picking to Play Blues was an Accident, Really'

How many 11-year-olds do you know play the blues, rock hard on the guitar and keyboard, and have a knack for singing? Ray Goren is one such kid. A typical school day means finishing his math homework, rushing to his room, and turning on his amplifier to jam some blues.

Ray was eight when he discovered blues music and the guitar–he immediately fell in love. Shortly after, Ray captured the attention of Deacon Jones and has been performing ever since.

He's played at the House of Blues in Hollywood, the KJazz Festival, the Chicago Blues Festival and performed live with Jamie Foxx at the Conga Room.

Ray will be performing at the Real Blues Festival of Orange County 2 on Sunday (May 15); he'll also be  at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on May 22.

OC Weekly (Monica Luhar): You go to elementary school, you play the guitar like a pro, and you play the Blues. How do you do it all?

Ray Goren: “It's fun to play the guitar and perform. It's a privilege. Like my parents say, if I don't want to play, I don't have to. But I always want to play. I practice every day; it's fun. I'm a straight-A student, but I have math tutors just to keep it going. So sometimes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I only have an hour to practice. I come home from school at 3 p.m. I do my homework right when I come home so I can get it over with. After I finish my homework, I practice on my music. At 5:30 p.m., my math tutor comes. After my math tutor, it's English. And after that, it's 8:30 and sometimes 9 p.m. But sometimes I do play at night. That's the good thing about the amplifier. You can turn it down if you want.”

What was it like performing at the House of Blues in Hollywood and Foxxhole with Jamie Foxx?

 “The Hollywood one wasn't as good as the Jamie Foxx one, I could tell you that. The Jamie Foxx audience was so much better than the Hollywood crowd. They were a lot more active. I feel a lot of emotions when I perform. To me, performing with Jamie Foxx was just like performing with any other guy. It was cool.”

What inspired you to pick up an interest in blues music? How long have you been playing for?

“I picked up my first guitar two and a half years ago when I was listening to music on YouTube. It was an accident, actually. I used to love bluesy jazz. And so I wanted to type in JJ but I typed in BB and it said BB King, “Sweet Little Angel Blues.” I didn't know what real blues was at the time. But I like jazzy blues. So I thought okay. Let's give it a go.”

Are you excited about the Real Blues Festival of Orange County? How does it feel being one of the few young guitarists performing live in Orange County?

 “It feels cool. It was really surprising when I found out. I feel honored to perform with the other guitarists.”

What was the most epic memory you've had while performing in front of a large audience?

“Probably when I went on stage with Jamie Foxx. There was this amazing guitarist and we were on the stage and trading Blues licks and stuff. And that was the best. It was really fun. Probably my favorite one.”

What are your goals for the next couple of years? What do you hope to accomplish by your teen years?

“My goal is just to get better and better and better and hopefully get big stages and stuff. But, I just want to have fun.”

Who's your favorite guitarist?

“I have two: Freddie King and Stevie Ray Vaughan.”

What kind of message do you want to send through your music?

Ray: “Peace. There's no reason for violence and hatred. And it's important to always give back, too. And never take. Give.”

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