At age 8, Michael Ray’s grandfather Amos taught him his first guitar chords. It wasn’t long before he joined his family’s band The Country Cousins, performing on stages in rural Florida, then setting his sights on playing the honky tonks and bars of his hometown and beyond, just like his heroes he discovered watching his grandfather’s old VHS tapes of the Grand Ole Opry.
“I read the Waylon Jennings’ books and I watched the Loretta Lynn documentaries,” Ray shares. “I did all this ‘research’ and thought, ‘Okay this is how they did it. They got in their cars and went bar to bar, fan to fan. That was the only thing I knew about breaking into the music industry at the time. So that’s what I set out to do, and thanks to some of my ‘professors’ in Eustis, I was able to breakthrough in a similar way.”
Now, after garnering over 1 billion global streams, over 650,000 album equivalents, over 100 million YouTube views, three No. 1 hits and five RIAA Gold-certified singles, Ray has essentially earned his doctorate in country music, and that knowledge is shared through this seven-song collection Higher Education.
“It feels incredible to finally have these songs out there,” shares Ray. “I’ve already felt even closer to fans as they sing back to me onstage every night. It lets me know that songs like ‘Whiskey And Rain’ and ‘Picture’ resonate with them, just as they resonated with me when I first heard them or began writing them.
“There’s nothing better than music to make you feel less alone, to get you hyped up for a good time or as a soundtrack to reminisce on the past,” Ray continues. “I hope this album opens the door to fans to help them feel like they know me better not only as an artist but as a person too.”
Written by Tim Montana, Derek George, Jeremy Bussey, Monty Criswell and Frank Rogers, and produced by Ross Copperman, Ray is joined by Lee Brice, Billy F. Gibbons, Tim Montana and Kid Rock on one of the first songs recorded for the album in the fall of 2020. The title track is a defiant and rebellious anthem about going through life, learning a lot along the way, and coming out of it stronger, having let it change you without hardening you.
They all said I wouldn’t amount to nothin’
But I know a thing or two ‘bout a thing two
Ain’t gonna tell it all but I’ll tell you something
There’s a lot of things that they don’t teach in school
I got my higher education
Good ole boy, bad reputation
School of hard knocks with a 4.0
Learning how to rock, learning how to roll
Having made his Opry debut in April 2015 with the help of his grandfather’s guitar, Ray will perform from the historic circle once again this Saturday, Aug. 28, marking his 58th appearance in just six years. Tickets for the Grand Ole Opry are available for purchase HERE. Watch via the Circle Network or Circle socials on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, or listen in on WSM Radio. The livestream begins at 8pm CT.
On Tuesday, Aug. 31, Ray will be joined by special guests for a unique edition of his Honky Tonk Tuesday series, which landed the Florida-native on the No. 32 spot on Pollstar’s 2020 “Top 100 Livestreamers.” In addition to streaming on Ray’s socials, fans are invited to attend in-person at the Nashville Palace on a first come first served basis. Fans can expect to hear Ray’s hits, along with current Top 20 lead single “Whiskey And Rain” among the new tracks from Higher Education. Doors will open at 6:30pm CT. Nashville Palace is located at 2611 McGavock Pk, Nashville, TN 37214. RSVP on Facebook HERE.
Higher Education track list:
1. Whiskey And Rain (Josh Thompson, Jesse Frasure)
2. Just The Way I Am (Michael Hardy, Ben West, Josh Miller)
3. Holy Water (Ashley Gorley, Hunter Phelps, Ben Johnson, Michael Hardy)
4. Picture (Michael Ray, David Garcia, Michael Hardy)
5. Higher Education feat., Lee Brice, Billy F. Gibbons, Tim Montana and Kid Rock (Tim Montana, Derek George, Jeremy Bussey, Monty Criswell, Frank Rogers)
6. Live Without You (Michael Hardy, Jessi Alexander, Corey Crowder)
7. Didn’t Know I Was Country (Michael Ray, Taylor Phillips, Ashley Gorley)
Catch Ray on the road with his Just The Way I Am 2021 Tour as it continues on Sept. 2 in Wichita, Kan., before wrapping in the fall at the Tortuga Music Festival. Tickets are available at MichaelRayMusic.com.
Just The Way I Am 2021 Tour Dates (headlining unless otherwise noted):
Sept. 2 Club Rodeo – Old Location Wichita, Kan.
Sept. 3 Ozark Amphitheater Camdenton, Mo.
*Support to Brantley Gilbert
Sept. 4 Touchdowns & Tunes Paducah, Ky.
*Support to Brantley Gilbert and Ashley McBryde
Sept. 10 Washington State Fair Puyallup, Wash.
Sept. 17 Allegan County Fair 2021 Allegan, Mich.
Sept. 18 Swine N Dine Paxton, Ill.
Sept. 23 Island Hopper Songwriters Festival Ft. Myers, Fla.
Sept. 24 Kern County Festival 2021 ` Bakersfield, Calif.
Sept. 25 Tunes & Tacos Festival 2021 Yuma, Ariz.
Sept. 30 The Blue Note Columbia, Mo.
Oct. 1 Joe’s on Weed St. Chicago, Ill.
Oct. 2 Dusty Armadillo Rootstown, Ohio
Oct. 8 Bluestone Columbus, Ohio
Oct. 9 8 Seconds Saloon Indianapolis, Ind.
Oct. 12 Von Braun Center Arena Huntsville, Ala.
*Support to Lee Greenwood, Big & Rich, Crystal Gale and Dustin Lynch
Oct. 14 Six String Grill & Stage Foxborough, Mass.
Oct. 15 Granite State Music Hall Laconia, N.H.
Nov. 14 Tortuga Music Festival Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
*Support to Jon Pardi
About Michael Ray
For Michael Ray, music is his grandfather singing and sweating on a rural Florida stage. It’s the childhood refuge he found during the pain of his parents’ divorce. It’s family and stories, history and hope. Ray says music saved him, but it did even more: Music made him. In four short years, Ray has built an impressive foundation. Three No. 1 songs – “Kiss You in the Morning,” “Think a Little Less,” and “One That Got Away” – plus “Get to You” and “Her World or Mine,” brings his tally to five Gold-certified singles. The poignant “Her World or Mine” from his sophomore album Amos also produced a video that has captured more than 26 million YouTube views since its debut less than a year ago. Now, two hit albums into that all-too-rare blend of critically acclaimed and commercially successful career, Ray has released “Whiskey and Rain,” the first single off his Higher Education EP, produced by GRAMMY-nominated song whisperer Ross Copperman. Proof that heartbroken wallowing can feel good if it swings, “Whiskey And Rain” has surpassed 46 million streams as it reaches the Top 20 at Country Radio, cementing Ray as the ideal bridge between vintage country cool and modern country’s best sounds. Catch Ray this summer on his 21-stop Just The Way I Am Tour, wrapping this fall at Tortuga Music Festival. Learn more about Ray at MichaelRayMusic.com or follow him on Instagram and Twitter @MichaelRayMusic and Facebook.com/MusicMichaelRay.