Michael Ray, pride of Eustis, Florida, has been waiting a long time to send Dive Bars & Broken Hearts into the world. Working with CMA Album of the Year-winning producer Michael Knox to create a collection of songs that spoke for who he is – and was growing up on bandstands all over Central Florida – the six-song EP serves as a survey course into life, loneliness, truth, friendship, family and the way people grow as they evolve into who they’re meant to be.
“I heard this sound in my head,” Ray says. “It was country, but it was a little harder edged. It was a little more what was happening in the ‘80s and ‘90s, more Hank Jr., Haggard, Conway, Earl Thomas and John Conley. It’s not grown up, but it’s for people who know there’s more to life than just bonfires and field parties. And we really tried to find songs that gave you a sense of the whole reality of coming into your own as a person.
“Michael, being from Macon, had a strong raising in the Marshall Tucker/Allman Brothers way of making Southern music, so he brought all that with him. It’s about playing and the players, too – and he helped us wrangle a studio band that understands how songs land on the bandstand.”
Recorded over the last year and a half, Ray has also road-tested the songs at shows across the country. That allowed him to break them in before taking them into the studio. Whether the life cycle starting “Don’t Give A Truck,” the classic country word play and memory-stained “Hate This Town,” the noir-feeling, triple-entendre “Get Her Back” or the breezy “Workin’ On It,” Dive Bars & Broken Hearts serves as Ray’s own version of Willie Nelson’s Phases & Stages.
And there’s also the torchy yearning of “Spirits & Demons,” featuring his good friend and two-time Canadian Country Music Association Female Artist of the Year Meghan Patrick. With a waft of regret and knowing better, the haunted ballad is a showstopper that’s destined for heartbroken playlists everywhere.
“I wanted just the right voice,” Ray says of Patrick. “We listened to all kinds of people, then someone suggested Meghan, who’s my friend. She’s the perfect blend of angel and siren. When she sings, you almost tumble over because her tone’s so sweet, but then… well, the lyrics.”
More than a cautionary tale, Dive Bars & Broken Hearts is a testament for the resilience of love, the human spirit and plenty of local spirits and cold beer on draft. In the real world – where Ray has set up shop – it’s not about escape as much as it is showing up, doing your best and getting better every day.
“It’s been a journey, but now that it’s here, I can’t wait for people to hear these songs all together. We don’t think enough about albums, or how the songs go together. With Dive Bars, I think they will – and that fires me up.”
Michael Ray 2023 Tour Dates
July 1 Baldwin Golf Course Baldwin City, KS
July 2 Dixon Petunia Festival Dixon, IL
July 15 Willow Tree Vineyard – Summer Sounds Ham Lake, MN
July 22 Ho-Chunk Casino Wittenberg, WI
July 28 Commerce Casino Summer Concert Series Commerce, CA
Aug. 4 Roof Garden Ballroom Arnolds Park, IA
Aug. 5 Cole County Fair Jefferson City, MO
Aug. 9 Greene County Fair Waynesburg, PA
Aug. 17 Grant County Fair Moses Lake, WA
Aug. 19 Country In The Park Winter Park, CO
Aug. 26 Country In The Burg Cedarburg, WI
Sept. 1 National Sweetcorn Festival Hoopeston, IL
Sept. 9 Muddy River Music Fest Atchison, KS
Sept. 22 Dallas Bull Tampa, FL
Oct. 21 Little River Casino & Resort Manistee, MI
About Michael Ray Forged on the small stages of Florida’s rural communities, Michael Ray has created an impressive foundation. Four No. 1 songs – RIAA Platinum-certified “Think a Little Less,” RIAA Platinum-certified “Whiskey And Rain,” RIAA Gold-certified “Kiss You in the Morning,” RIAA Gold-certified “One That Got Away” – with over 1 billion global streams, over 650,000 album equivalents and over 150 million YouTube views, he is a true country star who’s performed at the Grand Ole Opry more than 70 times. Looking to expand his sound, Ray sought out CMA Album of the Year Award-winning producer Michael Knox. The pair have taken his brand of country to a new level for Dive Bars & Broken Hearts, Ray’s six-song EP arriving June 23 via Warner Music Nashville. Currently on the road headlining shows through the summer, he’s taking his music where it matters: to the people. For more information, visit MichaelRayMusic.com or follow him on Instagram and Twitter @MichaelRayMusic and Facebook.com/MusicMichaelRay.
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