Michael Ray thrills fans in Nashville

Michael Ray debuts Dive Bars and Broken Hearts – in a Nashville Dive Bar


Ray thrills fans in Nashville for CMA Fest


By Preshias Harris for Country Music News International Magazine


Dive Bars and Broken Hearts. Aren’t those two things that seem to go hand-in-hand – in real life and in country music, which, at its best, is simply a reflection of real life?


For Michael Ray, Dive Bars and Broken Hearts is the title of his new EP, available everywhere June 23 (pre-add / pre-save here: https://michaelray.lnk.to/preorder-dbabh) via Warner Music Nashville, with the title track released June 9.


With a nod to the dive bar theme of the new project, on June 8, Ray premiered the entire project with his band at East Nashville’s The 5 Spot that was packed to capacity (and then some) with fans, some of whom had been lining up outside since before daybreak.


After the show, I was able to catch up with Michael Ray and producer Michael Knox as they decompressed from the exhilaration and the roar of the thrilled fans crammed into the intimate setting of The 5 Spot. Michael and I have been friends since I met him in Eustis, Florida in 2009 before he came to Nashville on his road to country stardom. In fact, BMI’s Senior Director David Preston and I were Michael’s first cheerleaders and remain fans to this day.


“I had been wanting a way to play this to the people who’ve been part of my life and my career from the beginning,” said Ray. “CMA Fest brings country music fans together from not just across North America, but all over the world. So many of my fans come every year, this seemed like the perfect way to debut all this music as a whole collected work without playing favorites and picking a city.”


Dive Bars and Broken Hearts is his first project in almost two years following Higher Education, an EP he released in 2021. Ray has spent much of the time since then reflecting on the kind of music that he wants to make moving forward.  When he announced the new project earlier this year, Ray explained: “I took some time to really think about what I wanted. When you strip it all back, think about what really matters to you, you cut away a whole lot of reasons that should never drive your music. I’m a kid from central Florida, raised singing at the Sunshine Opry, playing Froggers, turning it up when Jones, Hank Jr. and later Montgomery Gentry hit the dial. I like the ones who hit their country straight up and hard.”


With that in mind, Ray began talking with renowned producer Michael Knox, “One guy who makes that kind of country,” as Ray put it. CMA Album of the Year-winning producer Knox is best known for producing all of Jason Aldean’s albums as well as projects for Montgomery Gentry and Trace Adkins, among ithers.


“When you were raised on ‘80s and ‘90s country, and even older stuff, some things just are,” said Ray, as he talked about the inspiration for the new EP. “The way the acoustic guitar comes up out of the mix, the smell of cigarette smoke, pawn shop diamond rings, Haggard’s ‘Misery & Gin’…All those things and a beat you can dance to is a big piece of playing for tips.


As Ray contemplated titles for the project, he knew he wanted something that stripped it back to the frame. “Dive Bars & Broken Hearts is me getting to the sound I’ve always heard in my head,” he said.  “Something that’s played on a jukebox or a bandstand in a bar somewhere just outside of town.”


Prior to the pandemic shutdown, Ray racked up four #1 hits, including RIAA Platinum Awards for both “Whiskey and Rain” and “Think A Little Less.” More about Michael Ray at his website here: https://www.michaelraymusic.com, on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/MusicMichaelRay/ and on social media. #MichaelRay


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