Michael Ray saw a statistic years ago that said it was easier to be a starting Major League Baseball pitcher than have a No. 1 song.
Ray just celebrated “Whiskey and Rain,” his fourth No. 1 hit, last week with a party in Nashville, and he said he feels the statement to his core.
“It really puts into perspective how blessed we are to do this,” Ray said. “It’s like catching lightning in a bottle to do it one time. For this to be our fourth, when I pulled in (to the party), it all kind of hit me.”
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Josh Thompson and Jesse Frasure wrote the song, the first single from Ray’s seven-song EP “Higher Education.” While Ray didn’t write it, the song’s traditional country sound and themes have bloomed in his heart since he was a child. Ray started to learn guitar from his grandfather at 8 years old. Even then, Ray loved Merle Haggard and George Jones, and he funneled those influences into “Whiskey and Rain.”
He recorded the song during the pandemic, and because all of the studios were closed, he had to use his producer’s closet as a vocal booth. The pandemic wasn’t over when the song hit radio, and because touring was halted, as were radio shows, he had very few opportunities to promote it. But, “Whiskey and Rain” kept going.
“My team knew from jump street that we had something special,” Ray said. “They never wavered. Never once. They were like, ‘This is a career song, and it’s going to happen.’ The 30s (on the radio airplay charts) were like driving a two-wheel-drive through the mud. You’re barely getting through but we’re seeing some light. They just hammered it down. I just know how hard people worked through the hardest times of their lives. It all hit me at once. It was a Rocky moment. It happened, and we did it bigger than we expected.”
“Whiskey And Rain” was Ray’s first two-week No. 1 song and has garnered more than 200 million global streams with more than 1 million track equivalent sales. His new single “Holy Water” is at country radio now.