Ray Scott: Makin’ His Way — A CMM Exclusive Interview

Ray Scott is the real deal. In my view of the country music world; I see things maybe a bit different; a bit more real and off center at the same time. This leads me to believe country singer/songwriter Ray Scott was a perfect choice for my “freshman” entry onto Country Music Matters.

The Raleigh, NC native grew up on what was to become the movement of the songs of Kristofferson, Jennings and Nelson. At 19 on a road trip back to Raleigh with a buddy they passed through Nashville. Ray remembers looking at the skyline of the city, making a connection and knowing that was where he was meant to be and within six months he made it his home.

Warner Bros. Records released Ray Scott’s debut album in November 2005 to an overwhelming reception. Something new and fresh was on the horizon. My Kind of Music became the number one selling country album on Billboard’s “Heatseeker’s” chart that week and the number one selling album on CMT’s sales chart. The album landed on the “Top 10 Albums of 2005” lists in Billboard, Dallas Morning News and the Miami Herald to name a few. A year later the label stalled and Ray cut himself lose; starting on the path to his freedom of doing things his way. He went on to release independent albums, “Crazy Like Me” & “Rayality.” He has also written songs for Randy Travis, Clay Walker and Trace Adkins.

I recently caught up with Ray and I am so honored to share our in depth conversation. He was real, insightful and fun as he discussed songwriting, the music business, country radio and more.

CMM:

I would like to start out by welcoming you to Country Music

Matters. Thank you for taking the time to indulge me in showcasing your talent and personality.

Ray Scott:

Thank you so much for your thoughtful questions. I’m honored you chose me for your first interview, and thank you so much for your kind words. I’m always humbled and thrilled to see someone understands and appreciates where I’m coming from with my music.

CMM:

When you first came to Nashville was there a time frame for your dreams and was there a back-up plan? Also, how difficult was it to build trust in the industry?

Ray:

When I came to Nashville, I was thinking in terms of a 10-year plan to accomplish a few things in the industry. I was convinced I had been called to do this for a living in some way, although I had no idea what it would ultimately look like; No one ever really does, do they?   I knew from the beginning, there could be no plan B. I always felt that making a back-up plan was an instant compromise, an instant excuse to give up. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve had some good years in this industry, and some that were a struggle. It’s all part of the process for everybody. Building trust in the industry took a little longer for me, because I was hard headed and didn’t want to play the pre-ordained games of music row.   All in all, without a doubt, I feel blessed to be in these boots.

CMM:

As a songwriter, does your mind ever get a day off; a time away from thinking that something you saw, thought of or heard would make a great song?

Ray:

Hahaha.. My mind probably gets too many days off really, at least from a songwriting standpoint. It turns on and off. At this moment in time, I’m in one of those “Will I ever write another song?” phases. I think as an artist, when you finish a new record, different things can happen. In my case in the past, finishing one usually opens up the floodgates for new ideas and material to come out to go towards recording my next record. That hasn’t been the case yet this go round, because I’ve been in more of a business mode, as a label-partner now with my producer, Dave Brainard (Brandy Clark, Jarrod Niemann). A lot of my bandwidth has been occupied with taking meetings, and strategizing the release of my new single and record.

A few key people have come on board, and it’s an exciting time.   I’ve got a pile of songs that I’m still sittin’ on from the past, a lot of stuff I still love and intend to record. And of course, when the time comes, I’m sure I’ll spew out a few more. The great thing about having older unrecorded material, is that you know the ones that really stand up to the test of time, and they all fit into the puzzle at some point along the way. Also, luckily, sometimes other artists might cut one or two of them. That’s a wonderful thing.

CMM:

When I introduced your music to a friend she stated you were, “Roger Miller with sass, attitude and rebel like with a twist of great love songs mixed in.” What do you think? An astute observation?

Ray:

Roger Miller with sass? I’ll take that. I was always a huge fan of his writing and wit. That kind of wit takes intelligence, so if I’m drawing that kind of comparison, I’m grateful. Folks have also mentioned parallels to Waylon, Cash, and Jerry Reed before. That’s all such an honor, really. I grew up on that stuff, and I still regard it as the best country music ever made. I’m just lucky to have been a little kid hearing my Dad sing all of those guys’ songs as well. It was a unique way to be influenced. I was a lot more affected by his versions of those songs than the actual artists for a while. And the ballads, yeah I love a good ballad. I wish the radio would play more of those nowadays.

CMM:

Politics make for some good country songs. Is there one song you were or are afraid to write and a line you will not cross?

Ray:

I’m not a very political person. I sometimes wish I was a little more abreast of the big political picture to have a truly educated opinion. I think I have some views that are conservative, some that would lean more towards the liberal side.   All in all, I think Elvis took the best road and chose to stay out of it. My intentions are to entertain people, not to make them choose sides, or to get all up in arms about something. Musicians with a political agenda are usually already wealthy enough to risk losing half their fan base because they stood up for pro-choice or pro-life. Know what I mean? “Tell Me I’m Wrong” is likely the only thing I’ve written with a political bent of any kind, but to me it’s more common sense than a political statement.

CMM:

What influences do you think you have had on other artist’s and what draws people to your music? Tell us how you have incorporated your own influences into your music.

Ray:

It’s funny. I’ve never really thought about having been an influence on other artists, but lately I have had some twenty something up and comers express that to me. It’s shocking really, and such an honor. I don’t feel like I’ve been around long enough to have an influence on many, especially since my commercial success has been largely under the radar. I feel like I’ve got a few more records in me and a lot more to say, and I’m still pretty young, and extremely immature. (Ask my ex-wife, and my current girlfriend). My own influences have made their way into my music by way of my love of recitation, my love of steel guitar, and my love of a real story and lyric. I love a great melody, but a great melody is only part of the picture. That seems to be lost on some of what’s coming out these days. Damn, I sound like my father.

CMM:

Radio stations numbers bounce up and down. Do you feel they are still influential in today’s market?

Ray:

Radio stations are still extremely influential in today’s market, especially the big monitored reporters, mainly because they still determine who’s getting the majority of airplay and the lion’s share of touring work. The major labels basically have the monopoly there, which makes it hard for independents. Luckily these days, the big picture is changing a little. The internet has blown the possibilities wide open, allowing people numerous ways of discovering great new music that there were no real outlets for 20 years ago. Many independent artists are nurturing successful journeyman careers now as a result that would’ve been impossible years ago. It’s like the wild west now out there. The strong and the smart survive. John Marks at Sirius XM the Highway has been an absolute game-changer for myself and numerous other independent artists in the country music genre. The business model needed a big shake up. He’s doing that. The next 10 years are going be interesting.

CMM:

What can fans expect from your new album coming out and what does the remainder of 2014 hold for a total release date and touring?

Ray:

My new album, “Ray Scott” will be more of the same in some ways. There are funny songs, dark songs, and love songs, so the usual in that respect. Dave really did a wonderful job producing this one, with a focus on no two songs sounding the same. Each song is like a separate vignette. I think that makes for an interesting listen.

It’s not loaded up with guitars turned to 11 and compression to suck the life out of it; I love the way it sounds.   More touring dates are starting to come in at the moment around the US, as well as two upcoming European tours early and late summer. We’ve been lucky to have such a growing fan base across the pond, as well as three number one songs that have charted in the UK. No release date has been confirmed yet, but right now we are looking at the possibility of August. We want to do it right, though, so it could be later. Timing is everything.

CMM:

Social media has exploded and you are very active in this realm. Did it take much to get you to take that first step?

Ray:

I started getting involved with social media back when I was signed to Warner Brothers. They had a great visionary social media department who encouraged me to engage. First it was on Myspace, then Facebook as it was getting started. I think it’s a great way to interact with people. It’s completely changed the music business. Hell… it’s got our entire society rewired these days. Anyone who assumes they can do good business without social media is kidding themselves. I enjoy cuttin’ up with folks online. Some folks I’ve known for years, yet I’ve never met ‘em in person. It’s strange, but I love it. It has been a huge factor in keeping my career alive during some leaner times.

CMM:

What do you enjoy the most about the industry and what do you enjoy the least?

Ray:

I enjoy being in this industry. I love writing and recording songs, hearing them come to life, and playing them for people. I love working with the great musicians I’ve had the pleasure of working with for years now. I love living my dream, playing all over the globe for people who love country music, and I’m continuously amazed at how many of them are out there. There is a bad side; this biz can be cruel, cut-throat, and unfair. It can destroy lives, relationships, etc. However, that’s life, no matter what business you’re in. The difference is, in the music biz, we can write or hear a song about all the BS in life, recognize we’re not alone in our troubles, lift a glass and toast to it, maybe even make a little money off of it, then get up and do it again tomorrow. We are the problem and the solution…that’s how it looks from my window anyway!

To learn more about Ray Scott check out his website www.rayscott.com

Check out the “High Road” video off of his last album “Rayality” below!

 

 

Written by Mary Kay – CMM Guest Contributor

Find me on twitter @monroemk

 

3 thoughts on “Ray Scott: Makin’ His Way — A CMM Exclusive Interview

  1. This was so well done; some of the best stuff I have seen in awhile. I hope you let this gal bring more to this site. I think she gets it.

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