GROWING up, Raz Azraai’s father would tell him “there is no such thing as giving up – you are on a one way road and there is no turning back”.
The 22-year-old has held on tightly to that ethos and is now living the dream as a full-time musician in Los Angeles, California.
His vocation has allowed him to perform with session guitarist Rafael Moreira (who plays for P!nk, Christina Aguilera, The Voice and American Idol) and Swiss Disney artist Manou Oeschger.
The going has certainly been good with Raz now the newest member of alternative hard rock band Art of Shock, recently playing at the world-famous Vans Warped Tour with his new group. The band recently released an EP produced by legendary knob-twiddler Roy Z, who has worked with the likes of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Glenn Hughes.
To top things off, he is presently working on his solo album, which will feature vocals by Cage9 frontman Evan Rodaniche.
Of course, all his accomplishments are the product of years of channelling blood, sweat and tears into his career.
“It’s not easy, but nothing (worth doing) is,” he said.
Even as a child, Raz had his mind set on becoming a musician and began taking guitar lessons when he was merely 10 years old.
“I always knew I wanted to be a musician. Playing the guitar feels like home – it felt like I had found myself. Since then, I didn’t even study anything to do with academics,” he confessed with a chuckle.
Obtaining his Associates Degree from the Musicians Institute, a prestigious college of contemporary music, was a great stepping stone for Raz’s career. It has made networking easier for him and he has already been introduced to many key members of the music industry through his teachers and coursemates.
“Music is a universal language,” he said matter-of-factly. “I am grateful because of it.”
“Before I moved to LA, I already knew a lot about playing the guitar and I can jam with anybody instantly. So, I jam with a lot of random musicians around LA, and when you can really jam with people, you can instantly become friends with each other!”
Although the music scene in LA is significantly more competitive than in Malaysia, Raz finds that aspiring musicians there, are appreciated for their talent.
“People here are very open minded, non-judgemental and are always open to new talent,” he explained. “There is no such thing as ‘oh you are young, you need more experience’. As long as you have the skills and are easy going, people will work with you.”
It also helps that Raz has his own mentors to guide him in his career.
“Rafael Moreira told me that I need be myself, have my own style and be versatile. It’s not just about being good on the guitar.
He advised me to never be flaky and to be professional in everything from rehearsals to the way I respond to people. No one wants to work with an irresponsible person.”
Good advice, surely, but not nearly as good as what Raz’s father has always told him:
“Do everything sincerely, with a full heart, be focused, have fun, and your dreams will come true.”