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A native of Eustis, Florida, Ray was first introduced to music via his grandfather. A local country and gospel musician, Ray's grandfather taught him how to play guitar and gave him his first performance experience, letting him tag along for shows at various assisted-living homes and community centers. Initially inspired by such classic country artists as Porter Wagoner, Merle Haggard, and Waylon Jennings, by his teens Ray was expanding his taste, listening to more modern artists like Garth Brooks, as well as imbibing the eclectic influence of modern radio sounds from rock to hip-hop. By the time Ray graduated high school in 2006, he had decided to pursue his passion for country music.
Forgoing a move to Nashville, Ray instead formed a band and began playing a constant grind of shows all around Southern Florida. He slowly built a loyal following, a fan base that widened considerably after a Lakeland DJ for WPCV-97 Country put his music into regular rotation. Soon Ray was headlining the Orlando House of Blues and selling out shows all over Florida. In 2010, his independently released debut caught the ear of veteran music industry manager Tony Conway, who began helping Ray take his career to a national audience. In 2012, he appeared on the CW talent competition The Next, where he was mentored by Big & Rich's John Rich. Ray was an audience favorite on the show and ultimately took home the top prize. After the show, he signed a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell, and in 2014 released the hit single "Kiss You in the Morning."
His full-length major-label debut, Michael Ray, followed in 2015 on Warner Music Nashville. Well-received, the set made it to number four on the Country Albums chart, and spawned two more singles with "Real Men Love Jesus" and "Think a Little Less." Over the next several years, Ray toured extensively before returning to the studio alongside producer Scott Hendricks (Blake Shelton, Brooks & Dunn, Trace Adkins). In 2018, he delivered his sophomore album, Amos, which included the Top 20 country single "Get to You." Amos debuted at five on Billboard's Country Albums charts upon its June release. Shortly afterward, "One That Got Away" became his second Country Airplay Top Ten hit, reaching number three. "Her World or Mine" closed out Amos' chart run in 2019, reaching 22 Country Airplay.
The non-LP single "Whiskey and Rain" followed in 2020. It would wind up anchoring Higher Education, the EP Ray released in August 2021. ~ Matt Collar