Harmonizing Music and Life with Clarissa Mae

There are people who consume music and then there are those who are consumed by music. This is exactly what can be said of Clarissa Mae. At 16, she is living and breathing music.

She was propelled to fame with the 2016 Mayor of London GIG’s busking competition where she was also recognized as the youngest ever to win the contest. She was only 13 at that time. Opportunities soon followed. She said, “ It has also opened many so many doors such as performing for the F1 in Abu Dhabi, performing in Trafalgar square for the St. George’s Festival, The V&A Museum for the Adoration Trilogy For the 60 Legends of Rock, meeting Roger Daltrey, Alice Cooper, Sir Tom Jones, Paul Weller and Bill Wyman to name a few.”

Clarissa Mae has performed with Filipino artists in the London Barrio Fiesta. She talked enthusiastically about her stage with Inigo Pascual, KZ Tandingan and Bailey May, citing that as one of her most unforgettable experiences. Her stint in the Jadine blockbuster film Never Not Love You, where she got to perform a song with James Reid, was also memorable for her.

Her Musical Family

Clarissa Mae attributes her affinity for music to her family. Her father Chris Ragrag who is of Scottish-Filipino descent was a part of the band NuGroovz which was one of the pioneering Filipino bands in London. Her father performed in the Mandalay in Las Vegas from 2009 to 2011. A highlight of his career there was recording the single Fighting Pride for Manny Pacquiao. In addition to that, her grandfather Rudy Ragrag was known for performing with his band The 5 Carats—a top show band in the Manila Musician’s Circuit during the 60s and 70s. Known as Rudy Bai, he was a saxophonist performed in different places outside the country.

Clarissa Mae grew up to her ‘lolo’s’ stories of his band performing with Filipino musicians such as Pilita Corales and Joe Quirino. She also picked up music knowledge from her other uncles Michael and Glen. With such influences around, it is no surprise that she and her cousin Chloe Ragrag grew up to become avid musicians as well.

Perfecting that Balancing Act

With busking and other musical activities—not to mention—her studies and personal life, her life might seem like a whirlwind of endless activities but the teen takes everything in stride. She tells us, “Balancing my studies and music is quite tricky as it makes me constantly busy. I’m now in sixth form doing my A-Levels, which is very important getting me set and ready for my university. So, even after school and at home I have to do and complete my homework during the week so I don’t stress out too much as my weekends are busy with busking or live performances.”

Clarissa Mae usually busks in Central London. She also posts her videos in YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. Sensibly, she has developed a system of working her music around her studies. She says, “I usually record my videos during my school breaks, therefore planning way ahead on what songs I do for video is very important. I try to only do gigs on weekends during school season.”

Aspirations, Influences and Lessons

As a musician, Clarissa Mae recognizes that she still has a long way to go. One particular lesson she learned as a young performer was shared to her during a gig in Abu Dhabi. “I was told by a magician during the F1 Abu Dhabi gig that anything is possible regardless of your circumstances. He told me that I should focus on myself and always say ‘I will’ rather than ‘I hope’ ”, she shares. So she continues to develop her capabilities, revealing that she has started to write her own songs lately.

As for the musicians she looks up to, she mentions Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Tom Misch, Katy Perry, Catie Turner and The 1975. Clarissa Mae says, “They inspire me a lot with their originality and their own unique style and to top it all up they write and produce their own songs. It is my ultimate dream as a musician to one day follow their footsteps and be as successful in music like all of them. ” As for other Filipino talents, the young girl aspires to collaborate again with Inigo Pascual and KZ Tandingan. Lea Salonga is also a musical influence who got her into the musical theater genre.

When asked about how she sees herself in the future, the young musician states, “Clarissa Mae 10 years from now hopefully performing on a big stage, in front of all her fans and living her dream!” Then in a fit of playfulness that belied her young age, she also quipped, ”Oooh and If you add cakes, pastries, Ube halaya and Ice cream awaiting for me back stage in my dressing room that would be living the ultimate dream.”

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