Ray Scott lists his birth home as North Carolina, but his musical home lies, as he puts it, “Outside the mainstream.” Scott is that rare breed of contemporary country artist who still makes authentic country music about real people who drink, chase the opposite sex with a certain abandon and know the wrenching pain of heartbreak. He may not always get radio play, hence his “outside the mainstream” assessment, but the bearded singer/songwriter with the gruff baritone has managed to attract a hard core legion of fans who appreciate the depth of his music.
On June 9, Scott will release his latest album of traditional country, “Guitar for Sale.” The record features the title tune along with the first single, “Livin’ This Way,” which delves into personal pain with a candid, self-analytical approach.
“I was in a spot a few years back when I was going through a divorce,” Scott begins as he relates the story behind the single. “At the time, I was self-medicating and drinking a lot, and that was my way of dealing with things. I wrote it from a very honest place.” The theme hardly fits today’s country world where good times on the truck bed and high school remembrances dominate the charts. But Scott felt a real need to record “Livin’ This Way” and release it as a single. “I was in a bad place but I got over it,” Scott explains. “So, the song is just me saying, ‘Hey, I realize you might be doing this but you can get better.’ We all go through times in our lives that are darker than others. That’s why I liked the song and wanted to record it.”
Another of Scott’s favorites from the new album is “Soberin’ Up,” which takes you in a slightly direction than the title might suggest. “I like to do that,” Scott says with a sly smile. “I wrote that one a long time ago. It was originally intended to be on my second album [for Warner Bros.] but I left the label so we never finished the record. I’ve been playing that on the road and fans would always ask when I was going to record it. I felt like it had been sitting around too long and it was a special song, so I wanted it for this album.”
Scott has never quite scored the breakthrough smash hit that makes household names, but he’s no stranger to the charts, either. His 2005 debut album “My Kind of Music” landed just inside the Top 40, as did the title single. Follow-up singles like “Those Jeans” and “Drinkin’ Beer” gave listeners a hint at his dry, observational wit.
He’s funny both in his writing and in conversation, throwing out humorous lines in such a casual way as to be disarming. And if you’re looking for an entertaining Twitter follow, check out Scott’s musings via Twitter. He does turn somewhat serious, though, when the subject switches to the ongoing clash between traditional and contemporary country.
“Some people have just become disenchanted with country radio,” Scott declares. “The production makes the music sound more like pop or rap. So, there is a disconnect. This is not a new argument, and I have friends who will disagree with me about the new music. They’ll say, well, if it tells a story, then it’s country.” At that, Scott leans back and lets go a broad grin. “Remember the Pina Colada Song [“Escape”] by Rupert Holmes in the ’70’s? Well, that told a story. But I’ll be darned if that’s country.”
Scott further expounds, “I think country used to be a lot more honest than it is now. Years ago, you could sing about having an affair and people would flock to it because they could relate. Now, they just don’t go there. You shouldn’t have to apologize for being real.”
But Scott is an artist who knows his audience, who, in turn, knows what it wants: real-to-the-core country music. And he’s more than happy to deliver it. “With this album,” Scott says, “the overall approach was to be a little reminiscent of the music that really lit a fire in me when I was younger. Not just country, but rock songs, too. And I think we did accomplish that. I’m very proud of this record.”
Scott’s new album “Guitar for Sale” is set for release June 9. You can also catch Ray performing during CMA Music Festival week June 9 and 10. Check out Ray’s thoughts on one of his new songs, “Worth Killin’ For.”