Michael Ray rocketed to the top of the charts in 2015 with his debut single Kiss You in the Morning from his Top 5 self-titled debut album.
In 2018 he released his second album Amos, which has garnered widespread critical acclaim, and he announced his engagement to fellow Country star Carly Pearce. Today it has been announced that Ray will be heading to the UK for the first time to perform at C2C: Country to Country 2019 on the Spotlight Stage.
Before the announcement broke I had a chat with Michael about being involved with C2C, his latest album Amos, and his plans for this upcoming third record.
You’ve just been announced for C2C as a Spotlight Stage artist. How do you feel about coming over to the UK and promoting your music here?
I’m so excited. It’s my first time going and I feel like over the last couple of years I’ve seen more and more fans from the UK reach out via social media asking when we’re going to bring our music over. Finally we get to say that we get to (do that) this year and it’s going to be awesome. It’s so cool to have heard other artist friends of mine have such great experiences. Other friends of mine tell me just how incredible the fans are, how welcoming they are and they just you know every song that you’ve ever put out. Everybody that comes back always is just going on and on about how incredible it was so I’m excited to finally be able to experience it myself and get our music over there.
I can definitely say we will know every word to every single song. I was at Dan + Shay in London recently and they didn’t really need to sing. The audience sang the whole show…
That’s incredible. I saw some videos they posted and it’s so awesome. I’m pumped for those guys.
You’ve been on a few people’s wish lists for C2C for a few years now. What have you heard about the festival?
Just that it’s a once in a lifetime type of festival to play. I spoke with my buddy Drake White who has played there quite a bit, and he told me just how welcoming the fans are. He said, ‘whatever you have in your mind just times it by ten. It’s one of the most incredible festivals you’re going to play’.
You’re going to get an incredible reception here. As soon as Carly was announced, people were speculating as to whether or not you would be coming over too. Fans are going to go out of their minds now this announcement is out..
(laughs) That’s so awesome man. I can’t wait to tell her that. That’s great!
While you’re in the UK are you going to squeeze in a headline show or do you have plans for a headline tour in the future?
We absolutely have some plans. It’s something that we’re wanting to follow up with another trip as soon as possible. We’re ready to grow our fanbase over there and we’re ready to get our music over there. Hopefully we’ll make it a spot that we’re able to hit often and to have those experiences, like Dan + Shay are having over there, I think is just incredible. I’m ready to get over there so we can get back over there and have us some shows.
You’re going to be performing on the Spotlight Stage so you’ll get the full 15,000 people screaming at you inside The O2 experience. What can we expect from a typical Michael Ray acoustic set?
We’re taking a 75-minute headline show energy and cramming it down to I believe a couple of 10 or 15 minute little spots. Acoustic or not, we’ve been able to follow what the fans over there really connected with. I’m customising a set for that in particular so we can play new songs and maybe hopefully be able to fit an old one in there that people over in the UK have embraced. It’s one that’s been on their radar.
Think a Little Less is definitely a big favourite over here. It gets a huge reaction whenever it’s played before a show. Sing that one and you’re winning really…
Dude! That’s so great! I love the fact that I’ve been on your radar and that that song has connected over there. That will definitely be in the set I promise you.
I really loved your self-titled debut album but I think your latest record Amos is a completely different beast. It’s more mature, there’s more progression with lots of different sounds in the music mix and your voice sounds confident and stronger in places. What kind of growth and experience did you learn from record one that informed record two?
I was able to learn from being out on the road from my first record to my second record Amos. I’ve toured since I was 17 and I played shows all the way up to my first self-titled record coming out. Those two years, or year and a half between my first record and Amos, I got to see parts of the world. I got to get my music out in front of more fans and learn, and stand side stage to watch and learn from guys like Darius Rucker, Brantley Gilbert, Kip Moore, Sam Hunt… the list goes on of artists that allowed us to share the stage with them and brought us out on the road with them. I think in those two years I grew so much, not only as an artist but as a person too, and by the time Amos came out I felt like I confidently knew who I was. I wasn’t that confident making my first record.
I wanted my story to be told more. I wanted people to know the struggles, my past, my upbringing and what got me into country music, which is why I titled it Amos after my grandfather. He taught my whole family how to play guitar and threw our family band together. I believe that my musical journey, and what’s lead me to C2C, was planted back in the early 1970s when my dad was learning guitar from my grandfather. That would later on become my family’s band, which would later on become me being a little kid standing up there. I wanted to bring people all the way back to that moment so we could grow from the second record to the third. I think people are going to see a big jump in the third record whenever we start putting that together. We’re working on songs right now!
One of the things I love about talking to Country artists is that you’re always thinking about the next record while you’re still promoting your current one…
Are quite focused in terms of pulling together ideas and shaping what you want for the next record?
Yeah right now I’m really focused on writing more than I have in the last couple of years I think. I have a whole lot more to say and I know what I want to speak about. This next record we are going to go a little different as far as growing-wise. It’s still going to be Michael Ray. I think even though we are enjoying this time on this record, and our single One That Got Away, we’re not cutting Amos the record off anytime soon. I think just being out with the fans and constantly touring like we do, and just being inspired by meet and greets and stories and moments out on the road it just makes your mind constantly want to write and make more music. Whenever that time comes to make the next record you’re kind of ahead of the curve a little bit because you’ve been inspired for so long in the middle of promoting your current record. This new record is going to be good. I think people are going to obviously see that I fell in love and got engaged and that I want people to be a part of that journey with us.
Yes! Congratulations on the engagement. You two are the cutest on Instagram. I enjoy the little lovefest every time I see one of your posts. It’s really, really sweet…
(laughs) Thanks. I appreciate it!
My favourite thing about you is your voice. You have a proper traditional Country voice that could easily sit next to some of the greatest voices in the genre. Do you have plans to make a more traditional sounding record in the future?
Thank you for saying that. Growing up in my family’s band traditional country music is my first love. My first introduction to music was Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn and the list goes on and on of the Grand Ole Opry stars I grew up idolising and wanting to be like. Making a traditional country record is something that I will do at some point in my career because I feel like I have to. I feel like it’s part of me that people are starting to see and learn about, and I think that it’s in my heart. It’s part of me that I have to get out at some point. I think that for sure we will definitely make a traditional record, whether that be songs that I’ve been inspired by growing up and that I grew up listening to and maybe playing, or maybe just writing some new music. I don’t know which one it will be yet but there will definitely be a traditional Country record in my future.
Your voice really lends itself to that style. You’re incredibly distinctive and easy to identify when you come on the radio. It’s important to be able to stand out among a sea of soundalikes and you definitely do that…
I appreciate that a lot man. That means more to me than you know.
Last year you launched the Wrigley Cares: Animals in Need initiative. As a fellow dog lover I think it’s a remarkable thing that you achieved. Tell me a little more about how that came about…
Thank you. I adopted my dog Wrigley about two years ago randomly at a festival in Chicago. It was just before a couple of the hurricanes had hit in the United States. Growing up in Florida and knowing the devastation that those cause and also knowing that a lot of times there’s so much that happened and your world gets flipped upside down, the animals get kind of forgotten during that time. Because of that and also because of Country music fans just being so sweet and loyal and kind, and always wanting to bring you something at the meet and greet or bring you something before or after the show. Once I adopted Wrigley I saw fans starting to shower her with toys and blankets and treats and all that stuff. I thought, ‘if people are doing this for my dog, what would they do for their own community?’
When you’re on tour especially in the States you’re doing so many dates you’re only in a town for a little bit and they give you so much of them. Whatever that town is known for…. if it’s a food they what do they eat it, if it’s a place to go they want you to go. They’re just always making you feel at home and giving you so much then we leave. I wanted to leave something a little more than just the show and the music behind. We partnered up Zappos For Good and the North Shore Animal League and put together Wrigley Cares and asked fans to bring animal food, blankets and whatever it may be. At every stop we would give it to the local animal shelter. Like I said Country music fans being loyal and such a family with us and part of our journey, if you’re asking you’d better be prepared because they’re coming and they’re going to do it even bigger than you expected. That’s exactly what happened with Wrigley Cares. I think within just over four weeks we did over 250,000 meals for animals across the United States. We were able to raise a lot of a lot of awareness for adoption and help a lot of shelters that solely depend on volunteers and donations.
That’s absolutely amazing! You’re going to be busy promoting Amos and touring a lot of the year. Do you have anything else you’re going to be able to fit in?
We’re mainly focusing on getting our music out and taking in these moments like going over to the UK, going back over to Australia and playings a lot of these festivals in the United States that we’ve shot to play and finally we’re able to make it work. We’ve been trying to get on and vice versa they’ve been trying to get us on but it hasn’t really worked out as far as schedule goes. We’ve finally been able to get on to Stagecoach that we’ve been trying to be a part of for a while and be over there in the UK with C2C and see everybody over there. We’re mainly focusing on these shows and we got some stuff that might pop up later on in the year tour announcement-wise so everybody’s gotta keep following and keep listening as we might be able to announce something this year at some point. Right now we’re focusing on the music and helping plan a wedding. That’s a new thing in my year (laughs).
Yeah getting married is a big task and a lot of work. I’ve done it. Good luck!
(laughs) That seems to be the universal answer. I’m looking forward to it. We’re mainly looking forward to being able to get over to the UK for the first time and experience UK Country fans.
Michael Ray’s album Amos is available now. He will perform as part of C2C: Country to Country 2019 at The O2 in London from Friday 8th to Sunday 10th March 2019. For more information and tickets visit https://c2c-countrytocountry.com/. Watch Michael’s video for One That Got Away below: