“We work all week, in a smokestack town. ‘Til the freakin’ weekend comes rolling around!” Brandon Ray belts out intermixed with infectious handclaps on the chorus of his 2016 release “American Way,” a song that encapsulates the best elements of country and good ole rock n’ roll.
The West-Texas native knows a thing or two about the American Way. At a young age his parents instilled the notion to follow his passion while emphasizing the importance of hard work. “In the early days I used to barricade myself in my room for hours and emerge with a horrible excuse for a song and annoy my parents with it. They did nothing but encourage me to keep going. In a way, they were my first publishers,” Ray laughs.
Music was ever-present in his childhood home. His father had a deep love for legendary rockers like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Steely Dan, while his two brothers introduced him to the musical greats Metallica, Mellencamp and Nirvana. Ray’s mother kept a prominent force of country music throughout the household with the help of icons such as George Strait and Johnny Cash. Despite the house filled with music, his first love was baseball and he dreamed of pitching for the Texas Rangers, but was benched after two foot surgeries that ultimately shifted his focus to playing guitar and songwriting.
By age 13, Ray had saved enough money to buy his first guitar and hasn’t looked back since. Everything from that point on has been a means to an end in an effort to achieve his American Dream. He’s held every job imaginable; lawn care, delivery boy, waiter, construction worker, guitar teacher and even lifeguard – where he once resuscitated a boy who nearly drowned at the city pool. Brandon still gets Christmas cards from the boy’s family. At 18, he was out on the road with his first band and played 750 shows in 3 years including supporting the likes of Fall Out Boy, Switchfoot and grueling summers on Vans Warped Tour.
After arriving in Nashville, Brandon landed a publishing deal, toured playing guitar for Brett Eldredge and lent vocals to numerous demos for various publishers and songwriters…all while developing his own sound.
His new batch of songs are smothered in the American richness that Brandon has soaked up crisscrossing the heartland. One part country, one part rock n’ roll, but all heart, the new songs sew together his wide variety of influences, like a patchwork quilt.
It’s been a long road from Big Spring to selling t-shirts & CDs for gas to opening for Taylor Swift. But it won’t be long before that road is sound tracked by Brandon Ray’s explosive choruses blaring on country radio as he rolls on.
A boy can dream.
Check out my interview with the talented Brandon Ray, and be sure to catch him on stage this weekend at the Kicker Country Stampede!
How did you get started in the music industry?
After a sports injury at age 13, I started playing guitar. I formed a rock band with my brother, Ryan, which led to us being on the Warped Tour.
What inspires your music?
It’s really just my love for it. All of my favorite bands and artists I listened to growing up made me want to do this. Also, my wife, Alyssa, inspires a lot of it. Pretty much every song I write is about her!
How has your music changed throughout the years?
I honestly think I have found myself more and more as I have grown musically. Being able to work with the best writers/producers in Nashville has really taught me to reach for the best and not settle.
Tell us a little bit about your latest single, “That Could Be Us.”
“That Could Be Us” came from a real life experience at a local bar in Nashville. There was a couple dancing with each other and it was as if there was no one else around but them. I think that’s the kind of love that a lot of people are looking for.
What can we expect from you in the future? I’m currently in the studio and am lucky to have Keith Urban and Ross Copperman producing me. We’re releasing a new single in a few weeks and we’re all over the country throughout the rest of this year touring.
What’s the biggest thing you have learned while touring?
The importance of connecting with the fans. They are the reason why we are even out here doing this.
What’s the hardest part about being on the road?
It’s being away from family. But honestly, being out on the road is a dream come true for me.
What’s a day in your life like?
Haha it’s nothing too glamorous – pretty simple.
Get up, workout, head to a co-write, write, eat, leave for the studio, record a song, and head home. If I’m on the road – it’s wake up, drive. Drive some more. Drive some more. Arrive at venue. Unload. Soundcheck. Play show. Meet fans who came out to support us. Load up. Head to the next city. Haha!
Do you have any advice for up and coming artists?
Always stay true to yourself. Always know the importance of the words “show up.” Know that failure is crucial for you to be successful. And most importantly, have fun and enjoy the journey.
Do you have a final message you’d like to share with your fans?
Thank you for your support and love. I wouldn’t be getting to do any of this without you.
Be sure to keep up with Brandon Ray on social media!