It’s a good day to be Ray Scott. Through grassroots marketing and a strong online presence, this multi-faceted singer enjoys making the music he makes and has amassed an impressively loyal, music-buying audience. His target has always been to let the lyrics speak for themselves, and he’s clearly seen that pay off in dividends. Following Rayality in 2011, he is ready to redefine the way of doing things, even if he is far more traditional than most.
“There’s certainly a short list of us [traditionalists] that’s for sure. In my case, being independent, it’s really free. From day one, even when I was with Warner Bros., I still did it the way it comes out,” he shares in an exclusive NashvilleGab interview, about how he navigates an industry seeped with hip-hop and rap breakdowns.
“I have never really tried to lean towards the trends,” he continues; it’s certainly a bold statement to make. “It simply doesn’t work for me. I’ve always stuck to my guns of what comes. It’s 100 percent true to who I am. There’s still a lot of people out there who love this type of music. Honestly, there’s plenty of room on the musical landscape for guys like me, such as Jamey Johnson, Sturgill Simpson. There’s so much cool stuff out there, that’s not on mainstream radio. We find places to be heard.”
And being wholly independent, he has even more freedom to find new ways to reach country fans. “Over the years–of being in the industry for a while, having a deal and then losing it–you figure out the directions to go in to find people to hear your music,” he notes. “Thank goodness for the internet, you know what I mean? I don’t really see it as a huge challenge. I’m not necessarily trying to compete with the major labels.”
But he wants to be clear, that he has nothing against artists like Luke Bryan or Florida Georgia Line and incorporating mainstream-leaning sounds. He explains, “I mean, I loved some hip-hop stuff growing up and rock or whatever. I totally loved it. I went through a total ‘80s-rock phase. From a production standpoint, I sometimes sound a lot like that stuff. But what I lean towards is still a mixture of a lot of things. We’re just as modern as anyone else; the direction is just different.”
He also notes that the team that surroudns him is “very important,” if not the most important component. “Having someone that’s a social media rockstar is a huge advantage. Mainstream radio and the big charts very much determines who is getting all the work out there. It does make it challenging for guys like myself to get good gigs to keep the bus and band on the road. You have to be more crafty to figure those things out. I’ve been lucky to have people around me who truly believe in it.”
“I’ve found upper avenues,” he admits, humbly. “I have three #1 songs in the UK. I’ve built a heck of a following in eastern Europe. I’ve been on one tour. I got back recently and I’m leaving again for Paris and Switzerland. It’s cool. I’m balancing Europe and the US right now. It’s a busy year for sure. There’s definitely more than one way to skin a cat.”
For his latest single “Drinkin’ Beer,” a rowdy summer anthemic piece, Scott dips his toes into what has been dubbed “bro country,” by New York Times journalist Jody Rosen, but that doesn’t define who he is. “It’s just a fun song. It’s something everybody can relate. It’s a lot of fun to play [live]. It’s talking about a pretty universal thing, but it’s pretty catchy. One of the most important things about it is it has my personal spin on the lyric,” he says.
For the video, fans can expect it to follow the storyline pretty well. “It has a few different scenes. One is out on the lake. It has a funny approach and sight gags in it,” the singer teases.
The rock-soaked track is the lead-in to his forthcoming self-titled album, predicted for a fall release, which is, quite franky, “the same old me,” he asserts. “The great thing about this go ‘round is the first time I’ve really taken on a label and have an infrastructure. I’ve had my own label for a few years to house the recordings and put them out on a brand. This time, based on success we had last year in sales of ‘Rayality,’ we just had a lot of freedom to regroup and do it exactly the way we wanted to.”
He adds, “Each song is a separate vignette. Nothing sounds the same. We had all the freedom on the world to do it the way we heard it and not try to stick within any parameters or limitations, when it comes to production or song choice.”
And one of those songs is “Wheels On The House,” a tune he co-wrote with the critically-acclaimed songbird Brandy Clark. “It was one that I had the idea on the way in to the co-writing session. I’ve known Brandy for a little while,” Scott recalls. “David [Brainard] produced her album, too. I’ve known her for three or four years now. I knew going in that both of us had spent a majority of our young lives in trailers. That’s a unique way to live life. We had that in common. It’s a pretty funny song. I love how it came out. I love Brandy. I think she’s one of the best out there today.”
More on Clark: “She’s just an extremely real person. We are cut from the loin cloth. I did the low voice on her ‘Stripes’ song, but I was also a guest in her video. We were friends. From the first time I heard her, I knew there was something special about her. Then when you meet her, she’s just this really beautiful person from the inside out. There are big things in store for her.”
While the new record won’t have a specific linear concept, it will be his “version of country.” He says, “It’s through my window. It’s not necessarily a concept album or anything like that. It’s just a collection. It’s the way I’ve always done it.”
“My A&R process basically consists of going out and playing songs for people in the live shows. I pay attention over and over to what gets the reaction and what they lean toward. It’s not that every song I record is something I know people love already. There have to be some that I feel are special, as well. I work better like that. You can find out who your audience is.”
During a recent live performance at the Riverfront Stage in downtown Nashville, Scott peppered in humor between each of his songs in his set. Admittedly, it’s something he’s always done. “I think that’s something I started to fall into a groove with,” he says of using comedy in live shows. “It’s my personality, more or less, extended between songs. In recent years, I’ve probably had more..well, not necessarily more success with funny songs…I just tend to lean towards them.”
“I love Jerry Reed and Roger Miller and all those guys. I like a really clever story and lyric. A lot of my songs lean toward that. The show is a show. I’m not the type of guy that takes life or myself extremely seriously. The humor in between songs is an extension of that. People are used to seeing these bands up there doing rockstar poses–nothing wrong with that–but I kind of make fun of that. It’s just being real. It’s a show. Laughter is a huge way to be entertained. I’m not the guy up there with the pyrotechnics or swinging on a vine. You go to what your strengths are.”
But no, he couldn’t imagine himself becoming a comedian. “Comedians have the biggest balls of all,” he laughs. “Those guys that can get up there and stand in front of an audience, without a guitar and guys standing behind man–they’re putting themselves out there. I don’t know that I would ever have the nerve to do that. I don’t think I’m that funny for that long. I might throw out a one liner here or there and catch some wind with it. I dig what Rodney Carrington does. He’ll get up there and cut up for a little bit and then sing a funny song. I think that’s a pretty cool thing. It breaks it up and takes pressure off you.”
“I do have a number of serious songs that people respond to, as well. As artists, we have to be careful to include a bit of both,” he concludes.
Grab a copy of “Drinkin’ Beer” on iTunes now!
Photos courtesy of Ray Scott Facebook
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