Ray Scott

Becoming a successful songwriter for others gave this country artist the rare freedom to craft an album on his own terms.

Born in the rural farming town of Semora, N.C., Ray Scott was raised on country music.

His father, a local musician, taught him to take those country roots seriously, and when he was barely out of his teens, Scott moved to Nashville to pursue a career in music.

"I always wanted to be center stage, but I moved to town basically to get recognized as a songwriter first," says Scott. "I knew if there was such a thing as security on the creative side of things it was with songwriting."

After several years of honing his songwriting skills, Scott landed a publishing deal with Tom Collins Music Corp. and things started picking up. Several of Scott's songs -- including "A Few Questions" by Clay Walker and "Pray For the Fish" by Randy Travis -- became hit singles.

But Scott never lost sight of his original dream: recording his own music.

Reminiscent of such country legends as Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash, Scott's rumbling vocals and blue collar storytelling finally caught the attention of Warner Bros. Nashville.

Last week, "My Kind of Music" debuted at No. 4 on Billboard's Top Heatseekers chart and No. 39 on the Top Country Albums list.

But this success has been a long time coming for Scott, who relocated to Music City more than a decade ago.

"I always intended on gettin' a record deal," he says. "I often thought that if I had an opportunity to break in and do my thing and if the timing was right that I could do well. Obviously there's so much luck involved, you kind of close your eyes and cross your fingers."

While on the road promoting the album, Scott has performed with the likes of Montgomery Gentry and Travis, who often plays the song that Scott wrote.

"To stand there and watch Randy sing a song that I wrote and watch the crowd react to it was really neat," he says. "It's also vindicating to realize that Randy Travis, who's considered to be a legend in the making in the country music industry, liked my song enough to cut it and he's out there singin' it and people are requestin' it and it's a big hit at his shows. It makes me feel like I'm doing the right thing with my life. It's fun to sing [songs] myself, but there is something different about watching somebody who's a legend stand up there and do a song of yours. It really makes you feel good."

In addition, Scott got to finally revel in his own success when his album's title track entered the Hot Country Songs chart, where it is No. 41 at deadline.

"Seeing people react to the first single the way they have and seeing people sing along to it while you're playing it, it's a buzz," he says, adding, "Everybody dreams of crossing over, but I really don't want to sacrifice anything. I don't want to sell out to cross over. And if that's what it takes, then I'm not interested."

That ideal is something the country crooner made sure to uphold while in the studio recording "My Kind Of Music."

"I wanted to do it without having to team up with all the hit writers and essentially have them write my songs for me," he says. "It was neat to be able to have a free flow of creativity, and not to have the record label, or anybody else for that matter, tell me what to do. I was given all the freedom in the world to just be myself and cut my songs the way I wanted.

"Unfortunately, that's a fairly rare occasion here in Nashville," he adds. "You sometimes get a lot of people with a lot of power telling you what to do, and sometimes [the album] doesn't turn out very good for that reason. That definitely wasn't the case here; there were no creative Nazis floatin' around the studio."