Ray Scott has always marched to the beat of his own drummer. He tells Billboard that for him to be true to himself artistically, that’s the way it has to be.
“I have to do it that way. There’s no need for me to even try to attempt to chase trends. I wouldn’t do it anyway, but with the way I approach things, there’s no way I could come off sounding honest if I tried to copy what was going on at any given moment. It doesn’t always make it easy to do it that way — especially from a financial standpoint — but at the end of the day, that’s what creating art is about: being original and doing it exactly the way you feel it and see it.”
The singer, who has just released his brand-new self-titled album, says he’s still a big fan of the album-making process. “It’s always exciting to go in and start recording something new and go through that whole process. You get done with it, and you get anxious about how people will receive it. But I’m really excited about this body of work — not only the songs, but how [producer] Dave Brainard put them all together from a production standpoint. Each song is like its own vignette. No two sound the same, and it comes together as a cohesive body of work. I’m still all about making albums as a work of art. I’m not a big singles kind of guy. I like to show more sides of myself.”
One of those sides that is all too real to Scott comes across in the story song “Tijuana Buzzkill,” of which the singer says, “That story is 100 percent true. I got thrown in jail when I was 20 years old in Tijuana. Back then, it was probably the scariest night of my life. Now, it’s funny. I was playing a show in North Carolina awhile back, and I realized as I was doing that song that my parents were in the audience. They had never heard the story before, so I had some explaining to do. I try to tell stories. Sometimes, they’re all true, and sometimes they’re true with partial embellishment. People have said it’s always about ‘Three Chords and the Truth,’ but I’ve always felt it could be three chords and a damn lie as long as it’s entertaining.”
He also gets personal in the heartfelt and direct “Ain’t Always Thirsty.” He admits to living the lyrics first-hand. “That is a direct byproduct of a divorce I went through. It’s among the most honest songs on there. I wouldn’t say that any are dishonest, but that one probably cuts to the core. That had me feeling like I was an inch tall. When I realized my mistakes, and things that aided me making those mistakes, that was me calling myself out. I’m still affected when I sing it now. It will always take me back to a really low point in my life, and make some self-discoveries and figure out how to become more accountable.”
Then there’s a lyric such as the murder ballad “Papa and Mama,” which Scott didn’t live first-hand, but he says intrigues him just as much. “I do have somewhat of a dark place that I go to from time to time. I always loved those old murder ballads like Johnny Cash did. It always resonated with me and was so real and so gritty. I always loved that. I think that was a product of my imagination, a little bit. I do think that it addresses a problem out there that needs to be addressed. Maybe if somebody hears it, and they know of somebody who this is going on with, it can be one of those things that can help somebody.”
The album is not all darkness, as evidenced by “Wheels on the House,” which he penned with CMA nominee Brandy Clark. “I’ve known her for a little while. She made 12 Stories with [producer] Dave [Brainard]. When you meet her, you fall in love with her. She’s just such a bright light and such a special talent. I realized that we had a lot in common growing up. At some point, both of had lived in trailers. I had this idea on my way into a co-write with her about the wheels on the house going round and round — talking about everyday life in a trailer park. It’s not making fun of it, to me it’s celebrating it, and realizing that I did grow up with it. There’s a certain easy spirit and freedom with folks like that which is cool to me. We just ran with it, and got it finished pretty quickly. “