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Kelby Ray

TC3 Drinking Club Exclusive Interview with Kelby Ray

Huge thanks to TC3 Drinking Club for letting us share this great interview

Kelby Rae

TC3DC:            We asked Kelby “In American Bang you played bass guitar, and now you play lap steel. Was it an easy transition from one to the other, or are you able to play any guitar regardless of style? What’s your favourite?”

Kelby:  Hey, TC3 Drinking Club Nation! What’s up! Thanks for the Q&A… I did play bass in American Bang, but I was a lead guitar player for years even before that. It’s what I started on when I was about 13, learning Hendrix licks and Metallica riffs. 🙂 I could always play slide guitar okay, so it wasn’t too big of a transition. I don’t really have a favorite but I always love playing electric guitar when I get the chance. If it’s got strings on it I can make noise on it. 🙂

TC3DC:            “What made you choose lap steel over a standard bass guitar for The Cadillac Three?”

Kelby:  Honestly it just kind of evolved that way. When we went into the studio for the first time after Bang ended, we recorded as a normal 3 piece: guitar, bass, and drums. Our producer had an old 1930-something Fender lap steel that was his granddad’s. I used it to put overdubs on those first songs like “Tennessee Mojo” and “I’m Southern,” and it sounded so cool, Jaren goes, “Man, you should just play that all the the time!” So I did!

TC3DC:                “You normally use a couple of lap steels during a gig. Are they different tunings?”

Kelby:  Yep. I use 2 different tunings. One is a standard Open D – low to high DADF#AD. The other one I made up myself. It’s an Open F power chord – FCCFCF low to high. I use that for pretty much every song that’s not in D. All the strings are super thick, too. I’m endorsed by Dunlop, and they’ve gone out of their way to help make me my own custom string gauge sets.

TC3DC:                “I’ve seen your pedal board; it looks something that NASA might have designed. How is it set up, and what exactly does it control musically?”

Kelby:  I like to refer to it as my Frankenstein set up – haha. 🙂 The short version is I split the sound from my lap steel into 2 parts. One goes through some effects into a guitar amp, the other goes through some effects into a bass amp. I control each side with 2 volume pedals. My left foot controls the guitar sound and my right foot does the bass. I’m really playing one thing but it sounds like two. It’s a lot like flying a plane really. 🙂

TC3DC:                “Your brother is also in a band, Gypsy Drifter. Do you ever perform together when time allows?”

Kelby:  It would be a lot of fun but we’ve never been able to play a show together … yet! But I go see him play when I can, and I’ve sat in with him before playing guitar.

TC3DC:                “Jaren and you have just had custom guitars made by Paul Smoke from McLane Custom Guitars. They look awesome. Were there any specific requirements that you needed different from the standard build?”  

Kelby:  It was really cool to have something custom built for me from complete scratch. I pretty much just let Paul do whatever he wanted and it turned out amazing! He’s very talented. We call the first one SteelRay #1! #2 is in the works!

TC3DC:                “During ‘Days of Gold’ Jaren and Neil have an amazing drum duet, which has become part of your set. Have you ever or would you ever consider joining them and making a three way drum battle?”

Kelby:  Haha! Well, Jaren was a drummer when I met him so I let them have their little moment. 🙂 And someone’s gotta be there to kick the music back into overdrive!

TC3DC:                “Do you have any musical influences that may surprise us?”

Kelby:  I’m sure. I listen to everything really. I’ve got Nine Inch Nails on right now while I type this. The “Year Zero” album. I have anything Trent Reznor has ever put out. He’s always been ahead of his time, and his dynamics are amazing. Also one of my very favorites is Alison Krauss & Union Station. Their harmonies and Jerry Douglas’ dobro playing are arguably the best in the world. I’ve got every album. I love R&B too. Motown to MJ to Mariah and Beyonce. Louis Armstrong is my favorite jazz musician, and I grew up seeing Hank Williams Jr. at age 5. Not to mention Metallica. I’m all over the place!

TC3DC:                “What do you think you would have been if not a musician?”

Kelby:  Probably working in a kitchen somewhere. Most of my day jobs involved food. 🙂

TC3DC:                “Do you have any hobbies outside of music?”

Kelby:  I love doing anything outdoors. Fishing, camping, hiking, walking around, haha. I love being at the lake. Any lake. I love riding my Harley. I just wanna be outside! I’ve started a pretty good tobacco pipe collection over the past couple years, too. I never smoked cigarettes but I enjoy a nice pipe smoke. Does that make me a touch more British? LOL.

TC3DC:                “Is there any country in the world that you would love to visit?”

Kelby:  I’d love to play in Australia or Japan. Anyone that’s been there tells me how much people love music there. I’ve always wanted to go to Southeast Asia too, but probably just for a vacation.

TC3DC:                You like your motorbikes and your tattoos, is your personal musical preference more rock than country?”

Kelby:  I love both. I grew up on Hank Jr., Alabama, The Oak Ridge Boys, pretty much all ’80s country. As I got older I got into classic rock, metal and grunge, and made my way back to Alison Krauss (which Jaren turned me on to) and new country. I can jump from genre to genre in a second, so I can’t say I prefer one over the other.

TC3DC:                “When you were in the UK last time you seemed to have really enjoyed some of the ales that we have, especially Old Speckled Hen. Was there anything else about the UK that you really enjoyed that is different to back home?”

Kelby:  I do love Old Speckled Hen! I also love the history of that part of the world. Someone once told me, “An Englishman thinks 100 miles is a long way and an American thinks 100 years is a long time!” That couldn’t be more true. 🙂

Kelby Rae 2

Photo Courtesy of Sinister Underground Productions

Thank You to Kelby Ray for taking the time to answer our questions……


Annette Gibbons
Hi, I’m Annette, I have been a huge country music fan since the early 90s those were the days we were lucky enough to have CMT in the UK. I enjoy nothing more than listening to country music whilst having a cold beer (or a moonshine) with friends. I try to as many gigs as I can here in the UK and in the USA; I think of Nashville as my second home and I am lucky to have made some amazing friends in Tennessee. Think Country is something I am very proud of, I just want to share my love and passion of all things country music related with you all.
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