How Moving Out Of Nashville Revived Michael Ray’s Artistic Passion

Ray now resides in rural Georgia.

By

Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

August 24, 2023

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Michael Ray; Phtoo by Spidey Smith

When Michael Ray first moved from his hometown in Florida to Nashville, TN, he had a heart full of passion and an eagerness to take the next step toward achieving his musical aspirations. While he eventually saw these dreams come to fruition, it came at a cost when life in the spotlight started to bring more emotional turmoil than happiness. In an effort to reclaim his creativity and connect with his country music roots on a deeper level, Ray traded Music City for rural Georgia.

The “Whiskey And Rain” singer recently opened up about his decision to make the move to Dallas, GA after feeling lost in the city that once felt like home. 

No Longer Living In Music City

“Nashville has given me so much and I love country music more than anything, it’s been my saving grace my whole life. But I’m losing myself, I don’t feel myself. I feel myself changing, I feel things getting to me differently than they used to,” he told American Songwriter. “I think we’ve all been there where a place that we love so much, a place where you have so many good memories of, all of a sudden isn’t a place that you love so much and it’s filled with so many different memories.”

This shift has already had an impact on Ray’s musical journey. With the release of his latest EP, Dive Bars & Broken Hearts, listeners hear a whole new level of vulnerability from Ray as he delves into a series of raw emotions. This turned into tunes that were inspired by all the trials and tribulations he’s experienced over the last few years, including his public divorce from fellow country star, Carly Pearce. 

One song in particular titled, “Hate This Town” details what it feels like to be stuck in a town that reminds him of painful memories at every turn. 

“The whole song is about how you never thought a place that you loved so much would be a place that you needed a break from,” he said before admitting that this track may be his most vulnerable piece on the project. 

Through shivering vocals and slow-burning drumbeats, Ray expresses a strong desire to escape in the song co-penned by Johnny Clawson, Jonathan Kyle Wood, and Kaylin Marie Roberson. In sharing his truth through the real-life story, Ray hopes that his listeners will be able to relate to the journey in their own way. 

“It took me 34 years to realize that life is a system of ups and downs. Once you realize the simplicity of life, you adjust and navigate better all the craziness,” he shared. “I hope fans hear this record and go, ‘I know Michael, I get that, I understand, I’ve been there.’ I hope that they feel closer to me through this EP.”

“Hate This Town”

YouTube video

Being vulnerable has never been an easy task for Ray, especially being a child of a divorced home and constantly feeling the need to justify his situation to others. However, between his move that allowed him to rekindle his relationship with nature and his ongoing partnership with producer, Michael Knox, Ray found the motivation to be more open and honest with his fans on this collection. 

“Showing vulnerability was never something I was very good at because I never wanted people to think that we didn’t have it all together – then you get older and realize that nobody has it together,” Ray shares. “I think putting myself out there and realizing that vulnerability is not only therapeutic for yourself but also with this platform we’ve been given, it reaches out to people that are like me that [aren’t] good at being vulnerable, and then they go, ‘That guy has gone through it,’ and then we all relate to it. Going through all that stuff, having that conversation with myself, ‘Get out of your comfort zone and let people in more,’ I think all of that really helped with this whole record.”

New Single

Dive Bars & Broken Hearts includes a total of six tracks with previously released fan favorites “Workin’ on It” and “Get Her Back,” and his latest contribution to country radio, “Spirits and Demons” featuring Meghan Patrick.

Meghan Patrick, Michael Ray; Photo by Conner Morss
Meghan Patrick, Michael Ray; Photo by Conner Morss

As heard throughout the tracks, the collection acts as a coming-of-age portrayal for Michael Ray. It reveals a journey of growth, going from a boy whose life revolves around chasing girls, and constantly getting his heart broken to learning to man up and evolve into someone he’s proud of. 

“Life is sometimes a lot simpler than we make it,” Ray shared of the project. “And we have a lot more power to accept what doesn’t work and grow, or to create the best possible life than we realize… And that’s where some of the best country songs come from. For me, Dive Bars is about all that, without ever giving up or losing your sense of the right thing to do.”

Michael Ray - Dive Bars & Broken Hearts
Michael Ray – Dive Bars & Broken Hearts

On Tour

Michael Ray’s current headlining tour launched in May and has continued to bring his new music to life with stops in cities such as Buffalo, NY, San Diego, CA, Johnstown, PA, and more. 

His busy tour schedule also includes a slew of festival appearances like the National Sweetcorn Festival, Muddy River Music Fest, Country In The Burg, and more. 

Next up, Michael Ray will perform at the Corn Palace Festival in Mitchell, SD on August 25. 

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.