The digital music revolution has turned out to be a “Rayincarnation” for acclaimed country storyteller Ray Scott. While a label-free utopia where artistic merit trumps popular whims remains as unlikely as it always was, the internet age has allowed a certain kind of creator to connect with an audience and chart a self-determined course … which helps explains why Scott has chosen to self-title his fourth album.
“This is sort of a regroup for me – not only artistically, but in terms of my career,” he says. “My music and my sense of where it fits in the music business has really taken shape over the past several years. So this is an introduction to that for people who may not be familiar with me, and it’s a defining of that vision for those who already know my music.”
For many, Ray Scott needs no introduction. Warner Bros. released Scott’s debut album My Kind Of Music in 2005 to enormous critical acclaim. The first single and title track cracked the top 40, but a combination of label politics and radio’s reluctance to embrace his fresh approach to country traditions had him off the label less than two years later. But a funny thing happened on the way to post-label obscurity – a level of success many major label artists might envy.
Crazy Like Me (2008) was put together to have a project to sell on the road, but ended up getting strong critical reaction and surprising sales. Encouraged, Ray connected with producer Dave Brainard (Jerrod Niemann, Brandy Clark) to record Rayality (2011). The single “Those Jeans” received substantial airplay on SiriusXM and went on to sell a couple hundred thousand copies. “I kept writing and still had a pile of songs we didn’t get to on Rayality,” he says. “So we decided to amp things up and make a record exactly the way we wanted.”
As result, Ray Scott follows its namesake’s vision without deviation. “Every song is like a separate vignette in both subject matter and production, but it also exists as a complete body of work,” Ray says. An obvious crowd-pleaser is the first single “Drinkin’ Beer,” which Scott co-wrote with Tony Mullins. Scott wrote the murder ballad “Papa And Mama” by himself, and enlisted Mark Stephen Jones to co-write “Ain’t Always Thirsty,” which is a product of Scott’s painful divorce. “Tijuana Buzzkill” was actually written eight years ago. “It’s a true story, right down to having my foot peed on by a Mexican guy,” Scott says.
As a whole, Ray Scott is the most descriptive name possible for the collection. “It’s country music the way I interpret it,” he says. “Every artist borrows and basically bastardizes whatever they grew up loving. In my case, it was a combination of a lot of great ’70s country. My dad was a singer and I used to hear him do all that stuff.
“The good news is, the kind of music I’m making now is not age-specific. I’m not out there wiggling my ass for anybody, so it’s about telling stories, making people smile and making them feel something. And I can do that until I grow up, if the fans will still have me.
“I understand that sometimes the business has a place for what I do and sometimes it doesn’t,” Rays says. “But what I do has kept me alive out there in the world because it is different enough that people get passionate about it. They stick with it. I don’t sound like everybody else, and I don’t want to.”