Photo credit: Rachel Deeb
Ray Fulcher is a country artist you already know well, he is the co-writer for eight songs on Luke Combs’ 2020 CMA Album of the year What You See Is What You Get. He also co-wrote another eight songs on Luke Combs’ This One’s For You album. He co-wrote four of the singles that went to #1 with Luke Combs. He has over 3 billion streams as a songwriter and 30 plus million streams as an artist. Ray also has four songs that feature his musical influence Eric Church. Perhaps Ray Fulcher is a name you do not recognize yet, but that is all about to change on Friday, June 25th when Ray makes his Grand Ole Opry debut. Friday also marks the day that he will simultaneously be releasing three new songs. You will also be able to catch Ray opening for Luke Combs’ What You See Is What You Get tour, as well as some dates for Ashley McBryde and her This Town Talks tour.
Ray is a native of Harlem, GA and a graduate of The University of Georgia. At the age of 12 he was the National Barrel Racing Horse Association’s 18 and under finalist. He is a Master of Social Science and Education. He was planning on teaching Social Studies and coaching football at the same high school that he had attended, and living the small town life.
His career and life plan all changed in one night, more specifically in one song. Ray’s friends encouraged him to attend an Eric Church concert with them at the Georgia Theater in Athens. At the time he was unfamiliar with Church and his music. At one point during the concert, the lights dimmed and Church played the song “Lightning”. At that moment Ray was so moved by the song, the lyrics and Church’s performance that he realized that music was his calling and what he wanted to do. He wanted to be the guy who plays the powerful song and make other people feel this same way that Eric Church made him feel at that moment. He bought a guitar and learned how to play it, then he worked on singing, then writing songs. He formed a couple of different duos and played with them to gain experience.
Ray’s love of music pulled him to Nashville to see if he could make his new dream a reality. He attended songwriter rounds at The Commodore Lounge, Belcourt Taps, Whiskey Jam, Revival and the Tin Roof. It was at the Tin Roof where Ray ran into another writer that he had met earlier, his name is Luke Combs. The two bonded over a shared love of Eric Church’s music. The two also bonded over being passed over by music companies who thought they were not ready yet. They both had a strong drive to make it in Nashville and they believed in the songs that they were writing. Their persistence and staying true to themselves paid off. They both signed a deal in 2016 with River House Publishing. Ray’s first EP with them is titled Here We Go Again. The EP debuted in the top 10 on the iTunes Country Chart. In 2019 he followed it up with Somebody Like Me.
Three new songs will be released on Friday, June 25th, the same day Ray steps into the famous circle on the stage at the Grand Ole Opry. The single “Girl In It” is a playful song that takes you back to a simpler time. A young man is cleaning and polishing his car, because hopefully later there will be a girl in it. Its “Why they make porch swings and half carat rings,” all thoughts circle back to having that special girl by your side even in your dreams. “Bucket List Beers” is a song celebrating the special times in your life when a beer is a part of a memory. From your first beer that you snuck, to a celebration beer when your Dad retires, to the beer you have with your buddy when they return home from the military. “Way Out” is a song that celebrates the best of what it’s like to live out in the country and why it’s loved so much to do so.
Image courtesy of Black River Records
CN: Hi Ray.
RF: Hi Catheirne, how are you doing?
CN: I am doing great, but no one can match how great you are doing right now.
RF: (laughs) Well I have nothing to complain about I can tell you that.
CN: What an epic week you are about to embark on. You have your Opry debut, three songs being released the same day, as well as your sold out fundraiser at The Listening Room in Nashville for your Pretty Good Ball fund.
RF: I know, this is the type of week that you move to town for.
CN: Who called you to ask you to perform at the Grand Ole Opry, how does a call like that happen?
RF: My manager called me, he said, “So I have a question, you have new music coming out on June 25th, what do you think about playing the Opry that day?” I said that would be great, what are you trying to say? He said “They invited you to play the Opry that day”.
CN: When you hung up with your manager, who was the first person you called to tell?
RF: I called my sister, we’re friends too, she’s a supporter of mine. I called her and she was over the moon. She was in Montanna at the time on a trip. She probably had an adult beverage in my honor.
CN: Do you think that became a “Bucket List Beers” for your sister?
RF: Oh yeah! It was the first “Bucket List Beers” as a part of this new music… it had to be the first. (laughs)
CN: Who do you have coming to your Opry debut, any special people?
RF: I have my Mom and Dad and my sister. I have a group of friends from home, three buddies that are making the trip. Some of my closest friends here in town and my producer Jonathan Singleton, and people who have been with me through the whole journey. It will be awesome.
CN: Is this week like waiting for Christmas to arrive?
RF: It sort of is, yeah I have so much stuff happening on Friday, today would be like December 23rd.
CN: On Wednesday you have your sold out Pretty Good Ball. That sounds like an amazing night as well.
RF: Yeah it’s going to be the first event we have for the Pretty Good Ball. I’m happy to have Devin Dawson, Jonathan Singleton and Faren Rachels joining me, they are all really good buddies of mine. We all write together. What we’re trying to do is open up the conversation about mental health and de-stigmatize it within country music and in general. We are going to be able to help some people, it’s a sold out show. I am excited that people are being supportive of it.
CN: Pretty Good Ball is a great organization you started to support Musicians Mental Health Awareness. With COVID having so many at home and no one performing last year, I am sure it is greatly needed.
RF: It’s a tough thing to talk about. It’s a tough town when you move here and you are trying to get your feet on the ground. There is so much uncertainty and that uncertainty can breed so many different things. I just thought it was important to have something like that in place.
CN: When you moved to Nashville, it seems that you got a deal pretty quickly.
RF: I got a record deal right at the two year mark of moving to Nashville. I moved here and it took a while to find my way around. When we signed our deal Luke Combs and I came as a package deal since we had written so many songs together. We just bet on the people who were betting on us. We believed in them for signing us because they believed in us.
CN: You went to an Eric Church concert and the song “Lightning” comes on and strikes a chord with you. You are so moved by the song that it becomes a life altering moment for you.
RF: I was totally moved. I had never even heard of Eric Church until that night and we went to see him in concert. He played the song “Lightning” and it was like a light went off for me. It was the thing that I have been searching for my whole life, it happened at that moment during that song. I felt that “this is what you should be doing with your life” message from above. At some point during that song I felt that that’s what I want to do, I want to impact people like how that impacted me. That song struck me in a way that nothing had ever struck me before. That song and that night are kind of my true North.
CN: What did your friends say.. Did they think your idea was crazy?
RF: They all thought I was crazy. It’s kind of like, one thing leads to another. At first, it inspired me to pick up a guitar. Then once that happened I was like, maybe I can write a song and maybe I can play some gigs. I thought about it for about a year. One thing led to another and finally I just said “I’m moving to Nashville”. That night I knew I was called to impact people the way he did. It was a long process getting there.
CN: Do you still have that guitar and play it?
RF: It was an Alvarez guitar that I bought on my birthday which was the next week after that concert. Later on I got another guitar eventually. Then my best friend from home, his Grandfather wanted to learn guitar. I told him not to buy one, I will let him use mine. When he died they tried to give it back to me, I told them that they had to keep it in the family and my best friend has it now.
CN: Your new song “‘Bucket List Beers” I love and everyone will love it. I see that your friend Luke Combs co-wrote it with you. I find it fitting that your new song with Luke is about beer.
RF: Funny thing about that song, we started writing that song with Luke in mind. Around the time that we started that song Luke had “Beer Never Broke My Heart” doing its thing. We only got half the song finished and we realized that it will be awhile before he will put out another huge beer song. He knew how much I loved “Bucket List Beers” and he said we have to work on it and I would love to have one on your record. I never knew what to do with the second verse. I was at the Gramercy playing with Matt Still the last weekend before they pulled us off the road for COVID. I was on the phone with my Dad, he had retired that day. I hung the phone up and I realized that was my second verse. That’s where the Dad line comes from. I sat in the Gramercy green room and finished it up. I sent it to Luke and he thought it came out great.
CN: I might be the last one to ask you this and get the answer you are going to give me. Once Friday comes around this will most likely change forever. What is your favorite place to play?
RF: My favorite place to play is the Georgia Theater. I have played it three times. That’s Where I saw Eric and that’s my big college venue. That was my first bucket list venue. Everytime I get to go back it’s like a little dream come true because I spent so much time wanting to play there and trying to get there. It has a very special place in my life. The energy in there is something very special.
CN: What will it be like to be out on tour this fall and opening up for Luke Combs?
RF: Oh man, It will be awesome! I have never played in an arena, some of these will have 25,000, 30,000 people in them, I can’t imagine the type of energy that will be in them. It’s a full circle moment for the both of us to be able to play that tour together. I am also playing the Ashley McBryde tour as well and I am such a fan of her music and what she is doing. For her to invite me on that is just really cool for me. I am very, very blessed.
CN: Now that you will be playing the Opry, and out on tour with Luke, people will put your face with your music and you are now entering a new world of celebrity, are you ready for the change?
RF: I am sure there will be an adjustment process, I moved to town to be the guy I saw on stage that night in Athens Georgia. Whatever comes with that. I have a good team around me that will help me. I am ready for that challenge and new chapter. I am excited about it.
CN: I am going to wrap it up with what I call “One Grab.” Here is the scenario, you are running out of your house. You have your family, and your animals are all safe with you. You can run back into your house and grab one item. What do you grab?
RF: Ohh…my gosh that’s good. I would say the 1952 Gibson Southern Jumbo that Luke Combs gave me last year on my birthday. I would have to grab that.
CN: I would grab that too! Thank you so much Ray. Congratulations on a big week ahead.
RF: Thank you Catherine. I’m looking forward to it.
Keep up with Ray Fulcher on his website at rayfulchermusic.com.
For more news, interviews, reviews and features that always bring country closer, please visit thinkcountrymusic.com.
*Featured photo credit: Rachel Deeb