Raye Zaragoza Stokes the Spirit of Protest With 'Driving to Standing Rock' Video: Premiere

Raye Zaragoza
Terry Bruce Herring

Raye Zaragoza

Raye Zaragoza documents her journey to join the Dakota Access Pipeline protests at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation during 2016 in her new single "Driving to Standing Rock." But the 25-year-old singer-songwriter wanted the song's video, premiering exclusively below, to carry a more modern message.

"Two years later I wasn't going to make a video with footage from Standing Rock," Zaragoza tells Billboard about the clip, which features images from a variety of other concerts and protests, as well as road footage, while Zaragoza performs the song in a field alongside a highway. "I wanted to make a video showing the spirit of Standing Rock and showing that the spirit of bringing people together who have the same intention in their minds is still there. We're still feeding of the energy of that movement, when thousands of people came to North Dakota." Zaragoza adds that incorporating performance footage into the video has another message.

"I wanted to portray the feeling that the energy of a march and a rally is similar to the energy of a concert," she explains. "Going to a concert is such an incredible experience where we get to connect with people who are like-minded and find people who are looking for the same things out of life. It feels like such a spiritual experience, in many ways."

Zaragoza, whose mixed heritage includes the Native American O'odham tribe, is no stranger to protest music -- as evidenced by her 2017 album Fight For You. She wrote about Standing Rock before in her song "In the River," while Zaragoza's "American Dream" was a broad-reaching response to Donald Trump's election. "Being a young, brown girl who on one side of my family is immigrant (Mexican, Japanese and Taiwanese), the other indigenous, I can help out a voice and put words to the way so many people are feeling that doesn’t often get represented and voiced in music, especially mainstream music," Zaragoza says. "There are plenty of songs we can look to when we're heartbroken or going through a breakup, but there's not that many songs for people to listen to when they're going through so many different issues that deal with politics. The most rewarding thing that happens to me is when young girls come up to me and hug me and say, 'Thank you' and that the songs inspire them and put words to how they're feeling.

"That's what I'm trying to do. We have all this energy. We want change. What can we do? I want my music to capture that energy and encourage people to apply it."

Zaragoza will be doing more of that in the future. In addition to a handful of shows this fall she's "almost finished" writing her second album. "Now we're looking for a production team, which is pretty exciting," Zaragoza says. "It's really challenging but also super fun to be in the thick of writing an album while also in the thick of touring. That's how it goes now, but as long as I'm playing music I don't really mind."