Raised in rural North Carolina, Ray Scott grew up listening to his father play and sing traditional country music. After a rebellious phase when he played hard rock and roll in his own band, he came back around to playing what was truly in his blood- country music. (His dad told him that he knew he would eventually). Ray called into New England Country Music to chat about his independent label, how social media has played a big part in his success, his upcoming tour to Europe, and his self-titled album, that was released this past October.
As a kid, Ray did not hear songs on the radio like most of us did. He was exposed to the old country hits through his father’s singing. “It’s kind of a unique way to soak all that in.” Ray’s dad was a local regional singer and by the time Ray was a teenager he knew he also wanted to be a musician. He was writing and performing with a local band at age nineteen. That band eventually broke up, but by then, there was no turning back. He would continue on the path of making music. Ray never even had a plan B. He does not really believe in them anyway. “I think people automatically default to a plan B if they’ve got one in the back of their head and I don’t think they try hard enough.” So, to Ray Scott, there were never any other options other than being in the music business.
After three years with the Warner Brothers label, due to a change in regime and disagreements with creative ideas, Scott left the label and formed his own independent label. The experience was a good one for Ray but he wanted to have full say in the music he writes, what he puts on his records, who he hires to do his publicity and generally being able to call all the shots. Ray writes his own music and records his songs the way he wants to. He has strong opinions of the way he wants things done. He is not trying to compete with the big labels at all. He just wants to do what he wants to do. “I’ve got my own pitch and what we are trying to do is feed the people out there who are already fans and try to pick up some new ones as we go, but I’m not compromising my artistic vision to try to satisfy the masses.” And though Scott prides himself on being his own boss he thinks the term “independent artist” does not really make sense. “We all are dependent on listeners dependent on fans dependent on people to take the time to listen to buy our music to come to a show.”
Being on his own label was also a bit of a challenge for Ray and he is thankful for the social media outlets on the internet today. Ten years ago, when he was with Warner Brothers, he was encouraged to use social media (at the time Myspace was the prevalent leader) to his advantage. Ray owes a lot of his success and the exposure he has had, on the social media sites. “I can personally reach out and get in contact with thousands of people out there that are interested in what I’m doing.”
The exposure has allowed Scott to have opportunities he may not have had otherwise. One of these opportunities is the career he now has in Europe. People from “across the pond” were able to connect with him which made it possible for him to make contacts. That in turn encouraged him to go over to Europe and perform. Scott travels to Europe an average of about three months out of the year. In fact, Ray Scott currently has four numbers ones in the UK and if not for the internet and the internet radio stations there, he would not have the fan base that he has. ”The internet social media was game changing for me for a few years now.” Scott is planning his next trip to Europe sometime in February with stops in Switzerland and France. He also may tour in Australia.
Scott’s fourth album, ‘Ray Scott,’ like his three other albums before this, has its usual mix of both serious and funny songs. A lot of the songs in Scott’s albums are based on real life events, either his or someone he knows. Whether the songs are real or fictional, all that matters to Scott is that his songs entertain the listener. Music he feels, like movies and books, should be about escaping real life for a while and enjoying the moment. “I think if you write a good story that’s engaging, it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not.” Having the imagination to write songs is where the creativity comes in. One of the things Scott was so passionate about it was one of the deciding factors to become an independent artist.
Some artist may take their music too seriously during their shows and are not in tune with their audiences. Ray used to be that way but after being in the business for so long he realizes that if you truly care about your audience and you want to entertain them, and you want to raise the excitement and energy of the crowd, you add a Johnny Cash or Waylon Jennings song into the mix. All that matters is that when you walk off the stage after the last song, you know that the people had a good time. “So I think that once an artist realizes that it’s about the audience and not about themselves, then that is truly when they become an entertainer.”
As with most artists, it would be assumed, Ray’s favorite album is his current album. He doesn’t have a specific favorite as he likes them all for different reasons; however, there is one song on his new album, Ray says, that in his mind “there is something a little bit magical about it.” That song is ‘Ain’t Always Thirsty.’ “It’s a song that is written back and, a result of, a divorce I went through. I was kind of in a dark deep place when I wrote it. It’s an emotion I’ll always remember. It very well tells where I was in life.” Yes, Ray Scott does have a serious side, although most people probably know him for his funny stuff. He hopes that when people buy his album and listen to it they will realize that there really is a good balance of songs on it. When you listen to Scotts songs you will hear influences of the traditional country of the ‘70s and some classic rock and roll of the ‘80s. His voice, and lyric style however is “country to the core.”
Coming from the traditional Country Western music background, Scott was insightful on his take of this generation of fans draw to the current bro-country era. If you look at the demographics of the artists who are writing the music, they grew up listening to hard rock and rap. Their songwriting is influenced by it. It is a little bit of a different generation, and the music that influenced these artists as teenagers will be reflected in what they write today. There is a lot of marketing and a lot of thought that goes into relating to that generation of listeners. To Scott though, “It sort of creates the model before the model is made by the actual artist and I think it hurts creativity overall because they’re dictating what people are doing instead of just letting them do what comes natural.” When Scott was growing up, country music was about real life and real situations, and there was a variety of sounds and styles. He feels that both the fans and country radio is just now realizing that; that there is not enough variety in what is being played and what we listen to. Because the bro-country artists have big numbers of people coming out to see them it is not just going to go away. That Scott says, “is a good thing about country music. Fans seem to be a lot more loyal and a lot less fickle than like pop music or dance. If they like an artist they’ll stick with them.”
Where does Ray Scott and his traditional country sound go from here? Out on the road to sell records and concert tickets and continue to be out there doing what he loves to do. Scott still has a pile of music he would like to record and he is still writing more songs all the time. Having his own label allows Scott to be in the driver’s seat on the direction he wants to go. “I feel like I’ve got a lot more music in me a lot more to record. A lot more people to reach and I think now we are doing that a little bit at a time every day so it’s a good time. I’m hoping to continue to do it just like we are doing now.” Whether you are a true country music fan or someone who would like to expand your choices from what mainstream country is playing today, you will not be disappointed with Scott’s current album. There is a little bit of something on it for everyone and I am sure you will find something on it that you enjoy.
New England Country Music would like to thank Ray Scott for the honor and the pleasure of speaking with him about his new record, the success social media has had on broadening his fan base and his unique thoughts on the country music of today.
You can download Ray Scott’s album on iTunes here.
Interview conducted by Lorraine Frigoletto, contributing writer for New England Country Music. You can follow me on Twitter.