Michael Ray has played the Grand Ole Opry more than 70 times. The Florida native made his debut on the sacred stage on April 24, 2015, and has remained a mainstay at the Opry ever since then, with his eyes laser-focused on someday becoming a Grand Ole Opry member himself.
“That’s always my biggest goal,” Ray tells Everything Nash. “I would love to. I grew up watching awards shows and stuff, so that would always be an honor. But to me personally, if someone was to say one award that I could get, it would be to be a member of the Opry. ”
Ray comes by his love of country music, and the Grand Ole Opry, honestly. Raised on a rich heritage of appreciating traditional country music, it’s a love and a passion that grows with Ray, as he continues to watch his career reach new heights.
“I grew up in a family that loved the Opry; my grandfather, my dad, everybody, they all understood,” the 35-year-old says. “They all loved history, and they loved country music. So they loved the Opry and raised me to watch and and learn about it, the importance of it, and the fact that that was the Mother Church. People would go there, and they didn’t know that Hank Sr. was a skinny guy, ’cause no one ever saw him unless they saw him in Alabama playing.
“But all of a sudden you can hear him on 650 AM, and then you can go to the Opry,” he continues. “It’s a place that never gets old. It’s fun for me to bring friends there now that have never been, that respect it, that understand the importance of it.”
Ray may be a regular at the Grand Ole Opry, but it’s like the first time for him, every time he is invited to perform.
“From that day, April 24th, 2015 to two Fridays ago, we played for the 72nd time, I believe, it’s always like the first [time],” Ray reflects. “It never is real. When you see that circle, it’s never, ‘Oh, here we are again.’ It’s like, ‘They’re still letting us in here? Let’s see how long we can keep this going.’ Hopefully one day, we’ll be holding that trophy, and be a part of it.”
Ray’s Dive Bars & Broken Hearts album is out on Friday, June 23. The six-track record, produced by Michael Knox, is by far Ray’s favorite record he has ever made, at least so far.
“When you came up punching it out in bars, there’s a different kind of energy,” Ray explains. “Michael let me record with live players, sing about things I knew – and trusted that who I am is who all the people I’ve been playing for since I was a kid are, too. We kept finding songs that felt right for who I am, and we kept singing live and pulling the heart out of the songs. It’s been an amazing process. When we’ve been playing, you can feel the difference with the new stuff… so we’re now using the road to really dial in what Dive Bars & Broken Hearts is gonna be.”
Find all of Ray’s music and upcoming shows, and order Dive Bars & Broken Hearts, at MichaelRayMusic.com.