Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Up and Coming New Nashville - Meet Kayla Ray

Music for me is about discovery. It's about connecting the dots between songwriters, producers, musicians and artists. It's about finding out who plays in whose sandbox, making music together. It's about recommendations from those that you trust. So when Erin Enderlin (writer for the likes of Randy Travis, Joey+Rory, Alan Jackson and Lee Ann Womack and whose I Let Her Talk was one of the best things we put in our ears in 2013) reaches out to you and suggests that you need to listen to a new artist... well... you listen. Literally. When you discover that her debut record and upcoming sophomore project were helmed by the preeminent singer/songwriter out of Texas, Jason Eady, it gets your attention and draws you in more. Lucky for you, I'm paying forward that favor regarding Kayla Ray.

Texan Kayla Ray comes by her classic country roots honestly. Immersed in the likes country music giants from an early age, her influences are legends such as Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Tanya Tucker, Merle Haggard, George Jones, and Willie Nelson. Growing up in the Waco area, she had countless opportunities to perform with Johnny, Dick and Emily Gimble. And with the help of Tommy Allsup, at 19 she toured two Christmas Ball circuits with The Texas Playboys. In 2012 Kayla began tour managing and with Jason Eady’s full band. In August 2014, Kayla released her first full length album, Love and Liquor. This album, produced by her employer, and mentor, Jason Eady, is a collection of all original- and traditional- country songs. It's raw and fraught with emotional deliveries.

In 2015 Kayla was named TRRMA’s “New Female Vocalist of the Year”. She is a 4 time MACT Female Vocalist of the year and the album Love and Liquor made many top ten lists in both 2014 and 2015.

And now she's back in the studio recording her sophomore album and is looking for fans of good music to be a part of it. For another week, Kayla will be hard at work promoting her Kickstarter effort to raise the funds to go back in and cut her follow-up to that outstanding debut album.  Says, Ray, "I am thrilled to say that my friend and mentor Jason Eady will sit, yet again, in the producer's chair. His presence in the studio is an asset I cannot put a monetary value on and I am so thankful to have him. I cannot thank you all enough for your continued love and support. To call you all fans feels a gross understatement. My friends, I truly am so grateful, you make my life something I only dreamed it could be. As always, I believe in country music, what it was and what it will be again!"  (Editor's note: I've contributed and I'd encourage my readers to do the same.)

That Nashville Sound had a chance to sit down with Kayla and discuss her music and musical direction in an interview:

That Nashville Sound: From the artist's perspective, describe your music for someone who hasn't had the privilege.

Kayla Ray: Well, often I struggle with this since my music is traditionally country-based. With the current state of country music it often isn't enough to just say "country music" although I do believe there will be a day when that will no longer be an issue. Someone in a recent interview called it something to the tune of "Unapologetic, Real, Country Music". I think that's as big of a compliment as any and, it is certainly what I am striving to create.

How will this new second project be different from Love and Liquor?

Mainly due to my experiences since the release of the first album, the subject matter will be equally as truthful, but it will have over tones of the coming to age joys of jaded acceptance of the passing of time, and the losses and gains of such. Rather than the tone of Love and Liquor, which I feel as a whole, represented an endless barroom night.

Tell me about the influence Jason Eady has had on both projects.

Wow. Where do I begin? I was in college at MCC majoring in Commercial Music Management in Waco, TX and I was given the opportunity to meet Jason.

This was prior to the release of his AM Country Heaven but I was already such a fan and couldn't wait for the release of his next album. Our meeting turned into me forming close relationships with the whole band, dating the tele picker for quite a few years, (what chick singer doesn't do that at least once right?!) But most importantly, it resulted in me tour managing for Jason for almost 3 years. If you can imagine a small frizzy headed woman, some what smart-mouthed, fresh-off-the-Waco-Texas turnip-truck and barely 21 managing a tour of men- whom I still love dearly,- all across the south and into the mid west, surely you will find I was fulfilling life long country music dreams.

That band and I became like family, a closer model to "family" than perhaps I had known before. I saw states and faces I never dreamed I would. I loaded gear, sang duets, opened shows, sold merchandise, (It was) anything and everything I could do or learn how to, to perpetuate the country music happenings.

Jason produced my first album with the patience and attentiveness of a protective older brother. He was around for the birth of most all of the tunes as we were always touring together. He is always open for any advice or help I need along the way and he is never fearful to be honest with me. Even when the truth isn't what I want to hear. Both professionally and platonically, I am so thankful to have Jason Eady present in my life. His wife Courtney is someone I love and respect just as much.

I am thrilled to see what Jason has in mind for the second album, with almost 30 originals to pick from I am anxious to get to work! We are currently in the process of raising money for the second album via Kickstarter. If we reach the goal, we have plans to be back in the studio in December. Jason will again sit in the producers chair. I have been touring my L&L album full time for the last two years and no longer tour managing for Jason.

And, although we haven't been around each other as much, we stay in touch and I cannot wait for chance to spend a few weeks with my buddies tracking this next album!

What or who else has been key influencers on your music and sound?

Dick Gimble, son of the legendary fiddle player Johnny Gimble, (a genius in his own right) remains a pillar in most all of my musical choices.

Although I am young to have a deep rooted history in traditional country music, I grew up with my grandmother Myrna Joyce Raborn. She loved all traditional country music. From Bob Wills and Jimmy Rogers, up to the slicker sounds of the late 70's- early 80's. I drench myself in this music still today and it is a heavy influence on my tunes.

As always, my unwavering favorite is the mighty Merle Haggard.

How does the unique Texas music scene play a role? 

I am thankful so much for the Texas scene. The folks at home are loyal and they are supportive. They encourage and nurture artists who aren't afraid of individuality. This is a great thing for me because in a white collar world of false perception,I tend to stick out like Minnie Pearls, younger less aware, twice removed cousin. Or.... Something equally as ridiculous.

What is country music to Kayla Ray?

This is a great question, one I love to attempt to tackle. I was raised in situations where I faced much adversity early on and very consistently. My grandmother showed me the music of adults endearing the same real world blues that can be devastating to the human psyche, much less that of a child. While I won't divulge the extremes, I will say than an outlet like a beautiful melody with truth marching clear through it saved my life. Positive people that such heart wrenching music has brought to my path, such as Jason Eady, Dick Gimble, and many many others only adds to the thought that it was God, or, the higher power of your choosing, throwing me a life preserver.

I feel very blessed to be given the opportunity to create music that speaks of real life. It is my hope that I can help others not feel so isolated in their own journey, just as country music has always done for me. In a nutshell, country music is my lifeblood. The pounding of good back beat sends the fluid coursing through my veins and it is a spring that I pray never runs dry.

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