The Story Behind The “One That Got Away” Singer/Songwriter Michael Ray & The Michael Ray Street Team
From soothing his tears in the hospital nursery (his father Jerry and grandfather Amos asked the staff to play the local country station when they heard the infant’s cries), singer/songwriter Michael Ray has been ‘country’ since birth. Ray grew up in Eustis, in central Florida, in a double-wide trailer that was surrounded by family spread across 10 acres of land, hunting alligators, and fishing for tarpon.
“All my family grew up on two sides of this road, so I could ride my bike to my great-grandma’s house, my grandparents. My cousins were at the other end of the pasture from us. I never knew how fortunate I was to grow up like that until I got older and it was already gone.” — Michael Ray
Ray cites his grandparents as his greatest personal influences. Although his grandfather didn’t learn the guitar until he was serving in the military, his two-year-old grandson would carry his toy Kermit the Frog guitar on stage to play with the family band, The Country Cousins. His go-to-show-stopper? Clint Black’s “Killin’ Time”— “There’s a video of me in my underwear, singing that in my grandpa’s yard.”
By the age of nine Amos was teaching him guitar chords, along with Porter Wagoner and Merle Haggard songs. The two would play shows together until he was 17. Throughout those years, Ray studied music theory and the history of country music.
Ray’s family encouraged him to go to Nashville after his high school graduation. A life-changing meeting with David Preston at BMI came within a year. Preston told him to go back home and build his fan base. Ray would split his time between the two states for seven years. He recorded his first independent record with musician/producer Dwight Baker — cowriting half of the tracks.
In “I Am Who I Am,” a track from his independent project, he wrote: “I got my mamas eyes, my daddy’s stubborn pride. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth…they say I’m too rough round the edges and I still have some figurin’ out to do…That’s just me…I don’t give a damn….I am who I am.”
In 2012, Ray won the CW’s singing competition The Next: Fame Is at Your Doorstep. During the show, he befriended mentor John Rich of Big & Rich, who helped introduce him around Nashville which impacted his getting a record deal. Ray co-wrote the country duo’s single, “Run Away With You,” with Rich.
When Ray made his Grand Ole Opry debut in 2015, it was just months after his grandfather’s passing.
“We always talked and dreamed that if I had a chance to play the Opry, he’d be there with me. Fate dealt a different hand, but the next best thing I could think was to play the guitar he had played for years behind my dad, behind me.” — Michael Ray
Ray recently added a tattoo on his arm of penny with 1945 under it. When he was struggling to put together his grandfather’s obituary, he asked him to send him a sign. It came in the form of a penny that Ray noticed on the floor — his grandmother’s nickname is Penny. To date, Ray has found a random penny at each of the 35 shows he has performed at the Grand Ole Opry.
That same year Ray signed his record deal with Warner Music Nashville.
“Kiss You in The Morning,” the first single from his Warner self-titled debut album, would become his first number one. It was written by Justin Wilson and Michael White.
The second single released was “Real Men Love Jesus.” The song was written by Brad Warren, Brett Warren, Lance Miller, and Adam Sanders.
The third single, “Think A Little Less,” would become his second chart topper. The song was co-written by Thomas Rhett, Barry Dean, Jon Nite, and Jimmy Robbins.
From his second studio album, Ray released “Get To You” as the lead-off single last year. It was written by Abe Stoklasa and Pavel Dovgalyuk.
Earlier this year the second single from the album, “One That Got Away,” was released. It is currently in the Top 25 on the Mediabase Country Chart. It was written by Matthew Thomas Ramsey, Trevor Rosen, Josh Osborne, and Jesse Frasure.
This year, Ray shared his feelings on the importance of music in schools as part of CMA Foundation Country’s Campaign For Music Education:
“As a kid, you kind of lose yourself a little bit and there’s a lot of stuff that you don’t understand. “Why is this happening? What’s going on?” Music gave me an identity and it gave me confidence going in to middle school, which is a hard time for any kid going in to middle school. It’s tough for guys and girls as they go in and you’re meeting a lot of new people from a lot of different walks of life and a lot of different areas that you haven’t been raised around. For me, music gave me that voice. Music gave me the self-esteem to go up and say, “Hey, my name’s Michael.” Music gave me the identity, it gave me the voice, it gave me the security and it gave me a place to go when chaos was going around. A lot of things were happening. I had my safe place to go. I think that music is a lot people’s safe place to go no matter what you’re going through. When you need that escape, music’s always there to catch you.” — Michael Ray #itstartswithME
Ray has also been involved with Musicians On Call, a nonprofit that brings live and recorded music to the bedsides of patients in healthcare facilities. Since 1999, Musicians On Call Volunteer Musicians have performed for more than 675,000 individuals in 19 major markets across the country.
As part of the launch celebration in Chicago this month, he visited Chicago Methodist Senior Services (CMSS) to perform for residents.
“This is the second Bedside Performance Program launch that I’ve gotten to be a part of, and each time I get to play for those patients, I’m reminded why we all do what we do. Musicians On Call is such a great organization and brings the healing power of music to those that need it most — I’m lucky to play a part in it,” — Michael Ray
Wrigley, Ray’s husky/shepherd mix, is the face of his Wrigley Cares: Helping Animals in Need pet-based charitable initiative. He adopted her last year from PAWS Chicago, a no-kill animal shelter in the Chicago area. The shelter brought some puppies to the city’s June Country LakeShake Festival where Ray was performing. Since Ray is a massive Chicago Cubs baseball fan, and because he adopted her while he was in Chicago, he named her Wrigley (for Wrigley Field where the team plays at home). He often goes to Cubs games, and he plans on bringing her along to as many as he can.
Ray returned to Chicago to throw out the first pitch at a game versus the Diamondbacks last August. Wrigley Cares collects donations to provide financial and medical support for rescue animals, service pets and more. After Hurricane Michael devasted his home state this year, Ray partnered Wrigley Cares with the Nashville Humane Association to collect much needed supplies for the pets displaced by the storm.
Ray is teaming with RipPak to help solve a global hygiene problem. The company founder, Donald Williams, was deployed with the United States Marine Corps to help the people affected by the Haiti earthquake in 2010. With clean water scarce, it was difficult at best for the people to maintain their dental health. The product he developed is a single serving powder that combines with your own saliva to clean your mouth. The company’s mission is for the product to be included in every Humanitarian Daily ration (H.D.R.) for humanitarian efforts and every Meal-Ready-to-Eat (M.R.E.) for deployed military.
Earlier this summer Ray and singer/songwriter Carly Pearce made their dating relationship Instagram official. People Magazine shared their story — Michael Ray Carly Pearce. Shortly after, Ray joined Pearce on the Opry Stage and then shared some behind the scenes moments on air from the experience — Michael Ray Talks Performing with Carly Pearce at the Grand Ole Opry — Ty, Kelly & Chuck. The couple have also shared tour dates, including a benefit earlier this month in Knoxville, TN. The couple announced their engagement in late December.
As the end of the year fast approaches, Ray recorded a thank you video for his fans. “You all are making my dreams come true night after night. Every show you show up and sing louder and louder and every night I feel that connection between us and it’s hard to come down off of that high when I get back to the bus. Me and my crew sit back after shows and just talk about how much things have grown and how you all and my country radio fam have changed our lives, and the CRAZIEST part of it all is that we are JUST getting started! THANK YOU… 🙏🏼 🎥: @tylerleaman November 23”
Ray’s fans are active on social media through the Michael Ray Street Team.
Jessica, what first connected you to Michael and his music?
A friend of mine had posted about him playing a show about an hour from my house in Florida a little over six years ago. He wasn’t signed, didn’t have a song on the radio or anything but I decided to check him out. I immediately was blow away by his talent and humble and kind heart. I loved that he stayed after his shows to meet every single fan that wanted to meet him. I continued to go to the next couple of shows that were close and grew an immediate appreciation for him and his music. He was just a normal guy with a dream. He cared about meeting his fans and still does. I’ve seen him several times over the last few years and seeing his face light up when he sees him in the crowd just makes me smile. His songs are also very relatable.
How did you decide to start the Street Team?
I have been promoting Michael for years on my own and wanted to do something a little bit more. People I know all over the country would go up to him and let him know I said “hi”. I personally asked him if I could start some street team social media pages for him and his response was “I would love that” and so the street team was born.
What do you have planned to help promote Michael and his music?
Growing the street team and having everyone help promote together. I think everyone uniting and coming together as a strong force will help Michael. His current single One That Got Away is doing pretty well on the charts so far. We keep trying to push it and have gotten a great response. I also want to try to do more contests and have the fans interact more. I like letting the fans interact and promote in creative ways. Our snapchat takeovers have been pretty popular and Michael loves them. I think it’s a great way to let other fans see the shows they can’t be at and also allows fans to get create to showcase their show.
Your social media pages show all the time and care you’ve devoted to them — how to you get all the content?
Thank you. It takes a lot of time and effort searching and messaging people who have posted about him. I always like to ask people if I can use their pictures and give them photo credit. I know it’s important to give people the original owner their rights. I also go to a lot of shows personally so I use a lot of my own stuff.
How can fans help?
They can follow our street team pages and keep help promoting Michael. Tell their family, friends, neighbors and everyone about his music and the street team. I think he’s super underrated and doesn’t get half of the recognition he deserves. I’ve watched him grow on this journey for over 6 years and he has come a long way but he still has a lot to offer that many people don’t give him credit for.
Michael Ray Social Media & Music Links: