No big marketing team, no super label, no big splash; however the time of the Independent artist is making a mark on country music once again. Ray Scott is all too familiar with this road course, and has no qualms about doing things his way in true country style. With the February 21st release of his 8th career project, 'Nowhere Near Done', his journey is far from completion.
Ray Scott is familiar with the workings of having a label. The North Carolina native was under Warner Brothers when he released his debut album, My Kind of Music, to critical acclaim and a top 40 single in 2005. What followed from the label split two years later was the birth of the digital format and a “Rayincarnation” of sorts. Ray continued to put out his music his way gaining steam along the way by sticking to what he knows best: doing what he loves to do and what his fans want to hear.
From his first release of 'My Kind of Music,' to his last one, 'Honky Tonk Heart', I have followed Ray's career without hesitation. Now with 'Nowhere Near Done', my journey continues in knowing this is the way country music should sound.
Recently I reached out to Ray for an email chat and gained some new insight into his career and life in general. His honesty, his right to fact of the matter outlook and his hard work ethic are things I have great respect for. Plus he's always been approachable whenever I reach out. So sit back, relax and catch up with Ray Scott.
CHR: How much has your view of what country music means to you changed from the day you first took that step towards your journey to where you are today?
RS: I think country music, or at least what I view as country music means even more to me now, because I think we are in a constant struggle to keep the real thing alive in the mainstream radio.world... I feel like country music has always evolved on the radio, and that's natural, but it has never completely lost it's identity... Thank Jehovah and Al Gore for the internet. Lol.. otherwise, country as I love and define it would likely cease to exist..
CHR: What is the toughest part of being and indie artist, and what are the rewards? What would you advise other's who are taking the same path?
RS: The toughest part of being an indi is just having enough notoriety to matter, to work, and get into the doors that are generally controlled by the big machine... Anyone wanting success as an indie needs to be sure what they do is different and standout good, and you might wanna take a long hard thought about your definition of what true success is.. Gotta be realistic.
CHR: You are getting ready to release your 8th project in your 15 year career, the 6 song EP, "Nowhere Near Done." There is only one co-write on this, so how tough is it to keep things fresh, new and not too much out of your comfort zone, if you have one. Do you obsess with perfection? And how much does it or does not mean to you to get radio air time?
RS: The one co-write on this one is with Ward Davis. We go way back, and I knew he'd relate to the idea.. got him to sing on it too.. It's called "I Will". I try to be a perfectionist to a point, but I just tend to go with what feels and flows right at the time.. It's easy to overthink things, so I try to really pay attention to what people respond to, and follow their lead for the most part... As far as radio goes, any airplay is extremely appreciated, as it does give me a one more big platform... I don't have any high powered promo people on my payroll.. They're not worth the money.. Ultimately, the big labels get first dibs on what gets played. The little guy can't compete with that, no matter how many dollars somebody throws at it. So I appreciate any station who has the freedom and is willing to play me.. It's usually smaller independantly owned stations.. and they all have my utmost appreciation.
CHR: Do you have your own studio & do you ever lease it out to other artists to use in recording their music?
RS: I dont have my own studio really.. I have some simple recording equipment that I use for putting down writing ideas and documenting finished songs, but I'm not great at engineering, so I prefer to leave that in the hands of someone who's much more of a techie than me..
CHR: How valuable is it in your career to surround yourself with good people in the business?
RS: Surrounding yourself with good, knowledgeable, hard working people with a common goal is the key to success.. on any level.. Anyone who thinks they can do this alone is pretty clueless..
CHR: Do you believe that some artists throughout their careers can be their own worst enemy?
RS: Alot of artists CAN be their own worst enemy.. We as a breed are flawed, so we need direction from people we trust.. The longer I do it, the more I try to remove ego from it.. Thinking you know it all is the beginning of the end.
CHR: I have followed your career for many years & have watched your fan base gain steam. I take it as there are folks out there who believe the genre is turning around and they long for the sound & style your bring. When I attended your Flagstaff, AZ show at the Museum Club last year I overheard a comment, 'I came to see this artist cause he looked cute in his promo picture & I wanted a night out.' Then when it was all said and done the follow up was, 'Now I am glad I did, he was really good.' So whatever works huh? Do your song selections change from what you planned based on the vibe of the crowd?
RS: My favorite thing to do is to play for people who arent familiar with me, as long as I have their attention.. It's a great feeling to watch people engage with you and enjoy what you do, especially when it's new to them... That's how you build a good base. And I do change the set up a bit here and there depending on the energy of the crowd.. After doing it for a while, you realize no two nights are the same, so we adjust accordingly.
CHR: This past year and into this year, you have branched out to new markets in places you have never played before. I attribute some of that to your growing fan base who help spread the word of your shows.
RS: True... and some of these markets are markets we've tried for years to get into.. It can be political depending on who your booking agent is, your sales or recognition in the market, etc.. Some venues aren't willing to take a chance on an artist who hasn't had big radio hits, or isn't some current viral sensation.. We just know when we go into a market for the first time, it's my job to give em a good show and make them remember me, so I can come back again and try to grow the market with each new show.
CHR: When you do your acoustic shows your partners seem to vary from time to time. How much of an adjustment is that for both of you?
RS: There are a lot of great players in town, and over the years, I've had a handful of guys come out with me from time to time.. They all have their particular strengths, and we just adjust.. A pro knows how to serve the song properly, and I've been lucky to have a few who can come in , lock in with me and kick ass... and I have just as much fun listening to these guys as everyone in the crowd does.
CHR: One of your songs, "Livin' This Way," from your album 'Guitar For Sale' was used in season 8, episode 6 of the Netflix hit show, 'The Ranch.' How does something like that come about?
RS: My friend/bass player, Tommy Michael met someone involved with the show and told her about me... We got some songs to them, and the rest is history... Such a cool thing.. I've had a song or two placed in movies before, but it's been a while. I'm a big fan of The Ranch, so it was a really big buzz for me to get that placement.
CHR: Social media is a big part in what you do. You keep it real, the fans stay well informed on your career moves and more. But on the flip side it can be pretty crazy and not in a good way. Where do you draw the line in what you or a fan or yours may say?
RS: Haha.. well I don't have to draw many lines thankfully. I'm a little twisted and irreverent at times so I kinda set a tone for some colorful interaction... I mostly have sensible, sane people send messages or post comments, but on the rare occasion someone is really out of line, or bein a jerk, they get their ass blocked.
CHR: In 2015 you released a stellar collection of songs from some artists you admire called the "Roots Sessions." Is that something you would bring around again?
RS: I'd love to record another Roots Sessions cd, and I will when and if the opportunity comes around.. These projects cost money to create, and with the amount of inspired writing I've been doing lately, I'm more inclined to record new songs I've written that I feel deserve to be heard. I'm a songwriter at heart first and foremost Still, I'm counting on quite a few more years of doing this, so maybe we can do another Roots down the road..
CHR: As a fan and a friend I have confidence that you are definitely NO WHERE NEAR DONE, so with that thought process where can fans keep up with you and catch on to what you are doing to keep true to yourself & keeping country music alive and well.
RS: I have the Official Ray Scott Page on Facebook where people can keep up with things.. My website is: http://www.rayscott.com, I'm at rayscottmusic on Instagram and @rayalitycheck on Twitter.. I do interact with folks quite a bit, so I encourage anyone to hit me up anytime!
As I wrap this up, I want to thank Ray for his time, his music and his friendship. Many of his songs have hit home and brought me through some thinking sessions. These are things I don't take for granted. (P.S. A reminder, this sight, with Ray's consent, was partially named after one of my favorite songs, "High Road" It just felt right.)