More music is on its way from Michael Ray. The Florida native will release the title track of his forthcoming EP, Dive Bars & Broken Hearts, on June 9, two weeks before the June 23 release date of his new project.
“When you were raised on ‘80s and ‘90s country, and even older stuff, some things just are,” Ray reflects. “The way the acoustic guitar comes up out of the mix, the smell of cigarette smoke, pawn shop diamond rings, Haggard’s ‘Misery & Gin’…All those things and a beat you can dance to is a big piece of playing for tips.
“Knowing that, when I was trying to decide what to call this project, I wanted something that stripped it back to the frame,” he continues. “Dive Bars & Broken Hearts is me getting to the sound I’ve always heard in my head, something that’s played on a jukebox or a bandstand in a bar somewhere just outside of town.”
“I really wanted to pull the reality and the music together,” Ray says. “I want people to understand where I come from, how I got there, why I love watching country music come to life from all those bandstands I was on growing up… And I wanted people to realize all those things I sing about aren’t just things on a checklist, but stuff I have grown up around.”
The 35-year-old grew up with a deep love and reverence for traditional country music, which will be evident in his new EP.
“I love all things that throwback to my heroes, Conway, Haggard, Jones,” Ray says. “Being part of music fest is keeping their traditions alive, which is what Dive Bars & Broken Hearts is all about.”
Dive Bars & Broken Hearts marks the first time the 35-year-old is working with renowned producer, Michael Knox — but likely not the last.
“When you came up punching it out in bars, there’s a different kind of energy,” Ray says. “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.”
Ray’s last project, his Higher Education EP, came out in 2021. Since then, the “Whiskey and Rain” singer has been focused on what he wants his next set of tunes to sound like, with the result being Dive Bars & Broken Hearts.
“I took some time to really think about what I wanted,” Ray says. “When you strip it all back, think about what really matters to you, you cut away a whole lot of reasons that should never drive your music. I’m a kid from central Florida, raised singing at the Sunshine Opry, playing Froggers, turning it up when Jones, Hank Jr. and later Montgomery Gentry hit the dial. I like the ones who hit their country straight up and hard. I knew one guy who makes that kind of country: Michael Knox.”
Find all of Ray’s music and upcoming shows at MichaelRayMusic.com.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of EB Media / Spidey Smith