MICHAEL RAY WRESTLES “SPIRITS & DEMONS”
- 06.15.23MICHAEL RAY WRESTLES “SPIRITS & DEMONS”
Country music has always been about harnessing the drama that is real life. That authenticity of having been there, witnessing those moments whether harrowing or hallelujah, imbues the best songs with a larger force. For Michael Ray, who’d come of age playing central Florida’s icehouses, dive bars and honky tonks, when he heard “Spirits & Demons,” he knew he had something that melted down the tangle of how heartache makes you drink, booze makes you hurt and forgetting is the hardest thing to do.
“Sometimes you hear a song, and it hits you: that’s just how it is,” marvels the smoldering maverick. “You play enough bars beyond the city limits, you see it all go down. Really good people who get in their feelings, the way a good time or a way out becomes a bottomless pit. The more I listened, the more I thought it needed something else...”
That something else was a woman’s voice, both as a counterbalance and the echo of what was gone. Not quite a voice of reason, but certainly a measured reflection of how far gone, how deep the pain. Working with Dive Bars & Broken Hearts’ producer Michael Knox, they talked about and listened to many female vocalists, seeking a voice that was just the right amount of passion, fire and raw ache to match the song’s emotional charge.
“We went through so many thoughts and names; they were all great, but nobody felt quite right,” Ray now laughs. “And it’s funny, because the answer was right under my nose. I’ve been friends with Meghan for years, in the way you’ve got your ‘Hey, I’m off the road. Wanna grab a beer?’ friends when you’re home for two or three days.
“So many of us are out there weeks at a time, chasing the dream. When you’re always gone, those friends who get you and get the commitment it takes, where you pick up right where you left off? They’re gold. Meghan’s not only a friend and a great hang, no matter who’s around, she’s got a voice that can blister concrete – and a gift to reach right into a song and rip its heart out, put it in her throat and meet you line for line with some intense emotions.
“Not only do I have the woman, who like so many things on this record, is exactly what I heard in my mind, but I’ve got someone who’s actually one of my friends. To be able to sing with her, that’s awesome; and to see how people responded at The 5 Spot, when we’d never sung it in front of people, that tells me everyone else feels what she brings to this song, too.”
With Dive Bars & Broken Hearts available for pre-order, fans have been enjoying three songs already. A decided return to Ray’s harder country roots, Macon-born producer Knox upped the stakes in emotional engagement and how hard these songs hit. Already landing four #1s on the Country Airplay chart, Dive Bars & Broken Hearts reinforces a specific kind of country that comes from classic Hank Jr., Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty and an era of men of contrasts, both strong and sensitive, aware and tough.
After his sneak Dive Bars & Broken Hearts debut at The 5 Spot and his 71st appearance at the Grand Ole Opry, Ray and Patrick recaptured their magic at the Warner/Yeehaw Brewing Co. show to close out his CMA Fest. Now he’s back on the road, heading to Wildwood, NJ’s Barefoot Country Music Festival June 15 as direct support to Jon Pardi, People’s Natural Park in Johnston, PA June 16 and rejoining Pardi for WBCT’s Birthday Bash in Grand Rapids, MI June 17https://www.michaelraymusic.com/news/michael-ray-wrestles-spirits-demons-3996