- Ray Scott
Warner Bros. Records released Ray Scott's debut album in November 2005 to an overwhelming enthusiastic reception. Something new and fresh was on the horizon. My Kind of Music became the No. 1-selling country album on Billboard's "Heatseeker's" chart that week. The album landed on the "Top 10 Albums of 2005" lists in Billboard, Dallas Morning News and the Miami Herald to name a few. Shooter Jennings has been a vocal fan of Ray's music. A year later, Warner Bros. Records stalled and Ray entered a waiting area that would seemingly delay the release of his sophomore album indefinitely...until now.
Not one to shy away from speaking his mind, Ray puts those years he spent in the artist protection program into perspective.
"After a couple of frustrating years dealing with a big record label that was no longer holding up their end of the deal, I'm finally free, and the taste of freedom is sweet! The time has never been better in the music biz to do something different - independent of these narrow-minded, so called behemoth record companies. This is not sour grapes on my part; it's a fact. Record sales have dropped across the board...big time....and they're all scratching their heads, trying to figure out new ways to keep their doors open. They're realizing more and more these days that people are hearing and attaining music in a lot of different ways. Big radio alone is no longer depicting who gets heard and who sells.
Fact is, music used to be original, fresh, innovative and exciting. It wasn't based on what might make the quarterly numbers look best to the shareholders, most of whom have no appreciation for the music in the first place - for them, it's just another disposable commodity. But for those of us who still love and care about it, that kind of music's still out there, and it's making a comeback, mainly thanks to the internet, and just plain old necessity. The old business model's tired; it doesn't work like it used to - the fat cats are gettin' skinny, while some industrious, hungry movers and shakers are out to take advantage of these changing times!"
Direct connection to the fans is what catapulted the release of Crazy Like Me. Ray's spent years on the road playing his brand of outlaw country and the listeners have responded. With limited air play on the first album, My Kind of Music still sold nearly 100,000 units, proving that country music fans wanted more of what he had to offer. It's his attitude. He does it his way. He says it his way. His way takes aim at the heart, scoring a direct hit by chronicling the beauty and the tragedy of everyday life. He knows where country music's been and he knows that he's taking it someplace new. His way is the way of the steel guitar. It's recitation and gospel, with a little blues and rock thrown in for seasoning. But when it simmers to a boil and he serves it up in that deep Carolina drawl, you can't call it anything but country music.
As the primary songwriter on his albums and with a distinct view to share, Ray met with a lot of apprehension from Warner Bros. who was unsure how radio would receive the new music.
"I cut a lot of songs to go towards a new project last year - the process was frustrating, and my vision was completely stifled and scrutinized for much of that time. It wasn't the way it oughtta work; the fun was completely snuffed out. I place no blame on the people involved - you can't blame someone for wanting to keep their job, needing to keep a family fed, bills paid, etc. No hard feelings."
It's a shame really, that a corporate giant couldn't make something so distinctive work. It's Ray's grasp of plainspoken poetry, unique turns-of-phrase and emotional directness, not to mention wit that appeals to people - the same qualities that turned the songs of Kristofferson, Jennings and Nelson into a movement.
"Those guys defined an era of country music," he says. "They left a permanent impression on me that I wear like a badge of honor. I loved the realness of their music. That stuff will always be great, always stand up to time. Those old boys meant what they were saying. They lived it."
Raised in the rural farming community of Semora, North Carolina he grew up among the blue collar folks who populate his songs. He also grew up the son of a country singer. In fact, it's his dad, Ray Sr., he credits as his biggest musical influence.
"A lot of people name off artists as influences and I have those too, but the biggest impression on me was my dad," Ray says. "He was a singer and I heard his interpretations of all those great country songs growing up. I realize more all the time that listening to his versions and comparing them to the originals I heard on the radio taught me a lot about how to make a song your own."
By the time he was 19, he'd formed his first band in Raleigh, North Carolina. That band promptly fell apart because, among other reasons, none of the members had much music business savvy. Realizing he needed to learn a few things if he wanted a career instead of a hobby, Ray moved to Atlanta and got an Associate's degree from the Music Business Institute.
"A buddy and I were on our way back to Raleigh from a road trip," he explains. "I was driving through Nashville and I looked out over the skyline and got this really strange feeling. It was like a moment of clarity, telling me this was where I needed to be. Something seemed to say, 'No need thinking anymore about it, your mind is made up.' Within another six months, I was here."
It was Nashville's strong songwriting community where he dug his heels in and began writing in earnest. He studied the craft of songwriting, trying to learn everything he could about what makes a great song great. People began to pay attention the name Ray Scott and he landed a publishing deal with Tom Collins. The years of dedication to his craft finally began to pay off when Randy Travis ("Pray for the Fish") and Clay Walker ("A Few Questions") had hit singles with his songs.
It was an ode to his upbringing the hard-driving, attitude-drenched "Plowboy" that caught Warner Bros. and producer Paul Worley's ear. They green lighted a record deal and Ray Scott's debut album hit the street.
Capitalizing on the success of his debut release as well as a current national tour, The Honky Tonk Tailgate Party 2008 with Mark Wills, Trent Willmon and Buddy Jewell, the timing was perfect to release Crazy Like Me a 10-song collection written exclusively by Ray and his longtime friend and co-writer Phillip Moore.
"Doing it this way is gonna be challenging, but I've been gambling in Nashville for 13 years," Ray says. "Why the hell not bet on myself?! Thanks to all you supporters out there. You guys and gals keep my heart in it. Others have tried to take it out. Bottom line is...somebody's gotta keep real country music alive....there ain't as many of us around as there used to be."