Michael Ray Knows It Pays Off to ‘Trust the Songwriters’
As Michael Ray celebrated the ascent of his recent single, "One That Got Away," to No. 1 on the country charts, he didn't neglect the behind-the-scenes names that helped him get there: its songwriters. Jesse Frasure and Josh Osborne co-wrote the track, along with Old Dominion's Matthew Ramsey and Trevor Rosen.
With multiple hits under each of their belts, Frasure and Osborne know the music industry well enough to appreciate Ray's attitude toward cutting their track. After all, "One That Got Away" was co-written by two members of another well-known country act, who could have just as easily recorded the song.
"There are artists who would see a song that had a couple of guys from Old Dominion on it and say, 'Well, why didn't they cut it?'" Osborne points out. "The truth of the matter is, it didn't fit what [Old Dominion's current] record was for them. [Ray] trusted his instinct. He was able to hear that song and say, 'Oh, wow, that's a hit song. I could do this, and my voice would sound cool on this.'"
In other words, Ray had the confidence to believe in the song's power, understanding that just because another band chose not to cut it doesn't mean it isn't a great song. The singer points out that part of what gives him that perspective as an artist is the reverence he learned for songwriters as a kid, while listening to the CDs his dad bought him.
"I would read everything [in the liner notes] -- the 'thank yous' -- and I'd see these little names under the songs. At the time, it was 'C. Beathard.' 'J. Steele.' 'C. Wiseman.' And I was like, 'Who are these names?'" Ray recalls. "[My dad] was like, 'They're songwriters, man. Not every artist writes their songs. There are actually these people who move to Nashville just to write songs. That's how they make their living.'"
That revelation led a young Ray to begin studying not only the big name -- the performer's name -- next to each favorite song, but all the little names underneath it, too. As he began pursuing music in his own right, he decided early on that he was never going to write all his own songs simply for the sake of it.
"I think as an artist, you have to trust the songwriters in the community. We have the best songwriters in the world," Ray points out. "I did 26 shows in the month of June. They wrote 20-something songs. If I'm writing -- and I write all the time -- I'm writing to get a cut on my record. I'm not writing for an ego thing. I'm not writing to say, 'Hey, I [wrote] all 12 songs on my record.' Because that leads nowhere."
Especially not when the lineup of songwriters on a track is as talented as it is on "One That Got Away." Ray adds that, as much as he trusts the songwriters to provide him with high-quality material for his albums, they reciprocate that trust.
"I think when I see those four names on a song, I go, 'These guys are gonna trust me to take what they created, and let me have one of their songs that they took the time to write,'" the singer says. "I'm grateful that ... I get to be a part of what they did. They changed my life with this song.
"These guys are so damn good they write me off my own record!" Ray adds.
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