Interview: Michael Ray finds grace and gratitude in the country music industry
Country star Michael Ray. Photo credit: Tanner Yeager
On July 8, country star Michael Ray sat and chatted before his headlining show at Mulcahy’s Pub and Concert Hall in Wantagh on Long Island.
American track and field legend Jesse Owens once said, “We all have dreams. But making dreams come true takes tremendous determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort. Michael Ray is an individual recording and country music artist who embodies this wise quote from the late four-time Olympic gold medalist.
Throughout his respected career in the music business, Ray has earned over 1 billion global streams, over 650,000 album likes and over 100 million views on YouTube; moreover, he performed 65 times at the famous Grand Ole Opry.
The country crooner is delighted to perform at Mulcahy’s as it encompasses his mutual love for Irish pubs as well as music, so he thinks it’s a natural fit.
The latest single from “Holy Water”
Her latest radio single “Holy Water” is Top 40 and making its way up the country charts, and rightly so. It’s a gripping story that follows a Florida preacher and his lucrative midnight hustle.
Originally from Eustis, Florida, Ray grew up going to a small old church and he heard stories of his grandparents running around the East Coast, so he instantly knew he had to record the song. “Holy Water” was co-written by Ashley Gorley, Ben Johnson, Hunter Phelps, and Michael Hardy (who won ACM Songwriter of the Year).
Ray was drawn to the music video for his song, which was eloquently directed by Spidey Smith, as it depicts the moving story in a cinematic yet authentic way.
Single “Whiskey and Rain”
More recently, Ray earned his fourth No. 1 single and his first multi-week No. 1 single on country radio thanks to the success of “Whiskey and Rain”; it was later certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which was another shiny feather on May’s cap.
Her previous chart-topping singles include “Think A Little Less”, “Get to You” and “One That Got Away”.
Ray remarked, “When I first heard ‘Whiskey And Rain’, I was drawn to the idea of really letting you live in a moment where it can overwhelm you. I’m very grateful that the fans appreciate it. I couldn’t do it without the fans and my team behind me, from Warner to my management.
He noted that they cut “Whiskey And Rain” during COVID, at a time when no one was in the studio together and touring was on hiatus.
He was doing “Honkytonk Tuesday” live streams on social media, and he hit #1 on country radio.
Ray has spent time connecting with fans through his “Honkytonk Tuesday” virtual series, where he plays his favorite 80s and 90s tunes and has hosted guests including Clint Black, Mark Wills, Marty Raybon, Aaron Tippin , Steve Wariner, Deanna Carter, and Terri Clark, among many others.
“Honkytonk Tuesday” landed it No. 32 on Pollstar’s “Top 100 Live Streams” 2020 list, where it racked up more than 750 million views.
Currently, he listed “Higher Education” as his personal favorite song to perform live due to its fun nature, s
Speaking of “higher education,” it’s a stellar collaboration with artists like Kid Rock, Lee Brice, Tim Montana, and Billy Gibbons. This provocative and rebellious anthem was written by Montana, Derek George, Jeremy Bussey, Monty Criswell and Frank Rogers, and it was later produced by Rogers.
Ray worked with Grammy-nominated producer Ross Copperman on “Higher Education,” where they fused their musical influences to create a unique blend of vintage country and the best sounds of modern country. It’s safe to say that they were successful in that goal.
Ray grew up playing traditional country music in a family band, “The Country Cousins”, with his father and grandfather Amos, which inspired his second album, also named in his honor.
As a traditional and cultured country fan of 90s country, Ray was heavily influenced by artists as diverse as Gary Stewart, Earl Thomas Conley, Tim McGraw and Steve Wariner.
He was also thrilled that his late musical hero, Keith Whitley, would finally be inducted into the coveted Country Music Hall of Fame posthumously later this year. “This honor was long overdue for Keith Whitley,” he said.
The biggest lesson the music industry ever taught him was to “stay humble” and be “authentic” with music.
“Label Me Proud” Tour
He noted that he was excited to join country star Lee Brice on the “Label Me Proud” tour, which begins Aug. 11, 2022, at the Pensacola Bay Center in Pensacola, Fla., and ends Sept. 24. at the Smart Financial Center in Sugar Land, Texas. “I’m very happy to be on the road again with Lee Brice,” he said.
Choice of dream duo
In the dream duos department, he listed Gary Allan, Miranda Lambert, Ashley Cooke and country queen Reba McEntire as his dream collaboration picks. “I might have to fight Dustin Lynch for the Reba duo because she’s his favorite too,” he said. “I would also like to sing with Patty Loveless.”
In the bluegrass genre, he would love to duet with Rhonda Vincent, affectionately known as the “Queen of Bluegrass”.
Ray also praised Lainey Wilson for her success with “Things a Man Oughta Know,” which won her two ACM awards for “New Female Artist of the Year” and for “Song of the Year,” and he also sang his praise for “Never Say Never”, his superb duet with Cole Swindell.
In the title of the current chapter of his life, he replied: “Gratitude”. “I am very grateful for the success we have had this year: my family, my road family and my career. I really feel like I have everything. I am very grateful for all of this,” Ray said.
Looking in a rearview mirror over the past decade, he acknowledged that he’s seen a lot of growth and maturity as an artist.
Every day, Ray is driven by his love for country music and the fans. “I always wanted to be part of country music. Being able to have this platform motivates me. I feel very blessed,” he admitted.
“A lot of people rely on me to be the best, and a lot of people work hard for me, so knowing they depend on me is what motivates me. My family also motivates me and I’m just able to do this for a living. I live a very blessed life,” Ray explained.
If Ray were to have a superpower, he stated it would be “flight” and/or “teleportation”.
As an alternate career choice, outside of the music industry, Ray revealed that he would be in the emergency services profession as a firefighter or paramedic.
On his definition of the word success, Ray said, “being happy in life and being able to do what you love to do. My grandfather told me that if you can do what you love in life, then it’s a success.
For Ray, success is about being comfortable and having peace of mind.
“Holy Water” by Michael Ray is available on digital service providers by clicking here.
For more on country star Michael Ray and his new music, check out his official website, Instagram page, and Facebook page.