About 1.2 trillion photos will be taken this year, according to moblivious.com, the majority of them on smart phones. “Picture,” the newest release from Michael Ray, just might inspire a few more photos to be taken as music fans listen to his lyrics and realize just how true they are.
“One day we’re barefoot, young and alive, the next we’re a story in a three-by-five, that somebody’s sure glad to have” is one of the more significant lines in his song, co-written with Michael Hardy and David Garcia. It has special meaning for Ray, who wrote the song around the death of a family member.
“My uncle Terry passed away about a week before we wrote the song,” Ray says of the song’s origin. “After he passed, I wanted to write an autobiographical song about my family and the memories we all have to look back on – but it’s not a sad song. It’s a song of celebration. I hope it reminds people, like it does for me, to capture moments with their loved ones.
“The night before I had a writing session with Michael and David, my buddy and I were looking at photos at his house and he said, ‘No matter what you do, we will one day be photos in somebody’s hand.’ I wrote down ‘I’ll be a picture in somebody’s house’.”
Ray believes the three songwriters were supposed to write ‘Pictures’ that day. “We all jumped in, shared personal things that we wanted it to be in the song. I wanted to celebrate the life of my uncle Terry. He was such a great soul; he was the life of every party. I know he would want to be celebrated.”
If you look closely in the video for “Picture,” you will see that Ray honored another member of his family. The guitar in the video is named “Amos,” which is Ray’s late grandfather’s name. It also was the name of Ray’s 2018 album. Ray played the guitar when he made his Grand Ole Opry debut on April 24, 2015. The singer and his grandfather were very close and would listen to the Grand Ole Opry together when he was a kid. Ray thought playing that guitar would be an appropriate way to honor his grandfather.
Ray invited his fans to be involved in “Picture,” asking them to send him photos of special moments in their life. He posted many of them on his website. “It’s been really cool, people have share photos and told me about their life. I’ve had a lot of parents and other people say thank us for writing the song. They say it’s easier to get their kids to take photo when they hear the song. It’s also been really cool to be part of the story people have had this year.”
As for the singer, he likes photos that are candid, not posed. He likes to take photos of his family. One of the favorite photos he has taken recently is one of his mom and sister.
Ray discovered a lot of things during the pandemic, one of which is that he rediscovered his love for writing songs. “Everything else slowed down, but writing did not. It was real special to me to focus on what I wanted to say.”
Another good thing about rediscovering his love for writing songs is that he has been working on a new album, which he says is “coming soon but I don’t know the exact date.” Much of the album will be Ray reflecting on things he missed while the country was shut down.
“This album made me realize how much I love country music and how much I love the stories and the the history. A lot of music is ‘70s and ‘80s country. With this record I’ve never been more confident in a volume of work that will allow people to get to know me better as an artist. It’s 100 percent me.”
One of the songs he recently recorded is one that Ray says is the most honest look at who he is. “I wrote it about a year ago with Ashley Gorley and Kerry Phillips. I grew up in a small town, we all grew up on this plot of land my grandfather had. Growing up, I thought everyone had the same thing I did. I thought they rode their bike every day to their grandma’s house and learned how to drive their dad’s truck on a dirt road. When you get older you realize that is not true.”
One of the things Ray has missed the most is live performances, and fans will be happy to known that a new tour is just around the corner. Ray kicks off his 21-city Just The Way I Am Tour in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on June 13. The tour ends on November 14 in Fort Lauderdale. Among the cities in between are Roanoke, Virginia; Birmingham, Alabama; Hot Springs, Arkansas; Baltimore, Maryland; Gillette, Wyoming; Rapid City, South Dakota; Puyallup, Washington and Champaign, Illinois.
One of the things fans will see in Ray’s new show is energy. “There will be an energy they haven’t seen before,” the singer says. “I think it will truly take everything that’s going in everyone’s world out and forget about during the show. We will be playing hits, we will be playing, I’m so grateful to get back out on the road. I don’t want to take it for granted, I just want to get out there and reconnect with the fans.
“There’s nothing better than being with one another and singing the songs that have brought us together over the years, and I’m so excited to share some new songs with you that have come to mean so much to me. Let’s make some memories!”
Just The Way I Am 2021 Tour Dates (headlining unless otherwise noted):
June 13 Caroline Music Fest Myrtle Beach, S.C.
*Support to Luke Combs
June 14 Wind Jammer Isle of Palms, S.C.
June 18 Dr. Pepper Park Roanoke, Va.
June 19 Country Fest North Lawrence, Ohio
*Support to Sam Hunt and Russell Dickerson
June 26 Smokin’ Summer Jam Birmingham, Ala.
July 10 Red River Valley Fair Fargo, N.D.
*Support to Chris Young
July 17 Timberwood Amphitheater Hot Springs, Ark.
July 23 Power Plant Live Baltimore, Md.
July 24 Pinehaven Country Club Guilderland, N.Y.
July 25 Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom Hampton Beach, N.H.
July 31 Cam-Plex Heritage Center Gillette, Wyo.
Aug. 6 Antelope County Fair Neligh, Neb.
Aug. 21 Brown County Fair Aberdeen, S.D.
*Support to Nelly
Aug. 22 Central State Fair Rapid City, S.D.
*Support to Kip Moore
Aug. 25 The Pageant St. Louis. Mo.
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. 18 Swine N Dine Paxton, Ill.
Sept. 23 Island Hopper Songwriters Festival Ft. Myers, Fla.
Nov. 14 Tortuga Music Festival Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
*Support to Jon Pardi