As a performer, sought-after singer-songwriter and successful executive at the Nashville based record label and publishing company, Better Angels Music, LLC, Gary Ray is a music biz triple-threat. That rare combination of artist, songwriter and music executive gives Gary a one-of-a kind perspective on the business while simultaneously allowing him to direct his own career and artistic goals with insight not often seen in recording artists. Overall, Gary is an artist with a unique sound, whether country, pop or rock, who has the innate ability to weave moving lyrical tapestries with up-tempo, guitar driven melodies and who isn't afraid to push the envelope when it comes to recording and producing his own music or directing the careers of other up-and-coming singer-songwriters and recording stars.
Gary Ray was born Gary Ray Pfaff in Landsthul, Germany into a military family where his dad was himself a songwriter…and fighter pilot. The family relocated to Tucker, Georgia outside of Atlanta when Gary was 5 years old. He was a music industry early bloomer, writing and performing his infectious brand of music since the age of 15. Gary's career path was etched early-on when in 1996 he shunned his High School graduation ceremonies to go on tour with Edwin McCain and has never looked back. Gary laughs, "I have been on the road ever since." Given the nickname "Young Gary" and "YG" early on by his older peers he shares a unique place in history when in September 1997 he was the last opening act for the sixties pop icon "The Monkeys", with the group's first opening act being Jimi Hendrix!. He continued to hone his performance skills with the likes of such local Atlanta legends as JoJo Herman of Widespread Panic, Col. Bruce Hampton and Shawn Mullins.
Gary Ray's first group, Dial 8, gave him a taste of life as a true working musician and his next band, Obsession Day, took it to the next level performing with the likes of Lifehouse, Goo Goo Dolls and Counting Crows. Gary notes, "Of course we broke up like most bands right on the cusp of a major deal." Obsession Day was one of the most downloaded bands on collegemusicradio.com falling second only to the Zac Brown Band. Following Obsession Day, Gary was signed to a small, independent label where the then Gary Ray "Pfaff" released two albums: White Stars and Under The Influence – Live. The success and attention generated by these two releases resulted in Gary hitting the road, first touring as the opening act for college crowd phenomenon, Corey Smith, and then with Brantley Gilbert as his opening act.
Along his career path, Gary Ray also developed serious studio chops. Gary got his start as a producer/engineer splitting his time between producing a 23-song rock opera and working for Scooter Braun (now Justin Beiber’s manager) at Krypton Studios in Atlanta. This is where he was first exposed to the art of successful independent promotion and big business. Gary went on to start his own recording studio in Atlanta's famous Biltmore Hotel where he earned hundreds of production and engineering credits for internationally successful YouTube sensation Boyce Avenue and Shady/Aftermath recording artist Stat Quo, among others.
Gary Ray's success as a singer-songwriter, producer and touring artist ultimately landed him in Nashville. While on tour with Chris Cagle in 2010, Gary was approached by a Nashville music industry executive wanting to sign Gary to a publishing deal. Though not willing to commit his publishing, the recognition of Gary's business acumen and talent landed him the position of Creative Director and V.P. of Operations for record label and publishing company Better Angels Music LLC while allowing him the continued freedom to develop his music career as an artist and writer. Gary has delivered a great, fresh energy tempered with a strong dose of reality to Better Angels, and under his direction has developed a talented singer-songwriter team which has landed cuts and holds with such noted artists as Brad Paisley, Jason Aldean, Trace Adkins, Kenny Chesney, Dierks Bentley, Rodney Atkins, Thompson Square, Josh Thompson, The Dirt Drifters, Josh Abbott Band, and The Invite.
Always maintaining a strong hand on the creative process of his own projects, Gary Ray has produced, mixed and engineered all of his recent albums except for one produced by Scott Patton of Sugarland. In 2010 he released Livin’ The Dream which featured a guest appearance from Coy Bowles of the Zac Brown Band. This album led Gary to multiple CMA Fan Fest performances and long lines at his meet and greets during the event. The songs, "Quit Buckin' Around" and "Hell Yes I Do" received some major radio airplay in the Southeast. Scott Lindy who was the Program Director at one of Atlanta’s largest country music stations had the following to say about Gary’s music, “When the new 94.9 The Bull started playing local Country artists in Atlanta we searched far and wide for the best of the best in Georgia. We heard Gary’s music for the first time and looked around the room and it was unanimous that his music made the cut for airplay in one listen.”
His list of credits includes winning the People's Choice Awards in Atlanta, Georgia for Atlanta's favorite hometown band. The Zac Brown Band took the top spot the following year. With a catalogue of over 300 songs, Gary's music is in demand by those in the know and has been licensed by MTV, VH1, E!, OPRAH, and other networks. He is extremely active in the Nashville song community as well as being a voting member of the Country Music Association.
The juggling of his music executive stripes while being an artist and writer has not been without challenges for Gary Ray. He says, "It's definitely a give and take proposal. I constantly have fans telling me that they wish I would put as much time into my career as I do into some of my artists. I have to remind them that I am in a position to make an enormous change for a lot of people. I am blessed with an artist's heart and a business mind."
Given these challenges, Gary Ray has still been able to tour a consistent 200 plus shows a year. With a fan base mainly in the Southeast but expanding nationally, Gary's popularity seemingly grows instantaneously with each and every live performance. He has toured with and/or opened for: Brantley Gilbert, Corey Smith, Lady Antebellum, Chris Cagle, Miranda Lambert, and was also a headliner on the Jagermeister Get UR Country On Club Tour. Gary adds, "I like touring because I enjoy seeing new faces and places everyday. I love to see how far word can travel about an artist. Working my Twitter account and Facebook page is something that I've made myself grow into. As far as touring itself, I was built for it." With comparisons to Eric Church and Jason Aldean, Gary Ray is comfortable in that artistic company. He concludes, "I like listening to both of those guys and I like that they aren't afraid to push Country radio to play something different... just like me." Gary Ray's fan base is deep and getting deeper.
While picking up the tour pace with a new, high energy six piece band, Gary is out of the studio with 18 recorded songs to be included in a series of upcoming EP releases and on a new album. Among these tracks is a Gary favorite "Here We Go Again." In talking about the song, Gary says: "I really am partial to it because it's my true style. I wrote it with my good friend, Josh Dunne, and my opinion of the song hasn't changed since day one - and that is rare for me these days." The hot track "Trouble" was derived from a chorus that came to me years ago. Gary remembers, "I was trying to finish it with a different co-writer who came on the bus to write with me during the Jägermeister Get UR Country On Tour, but it never happened. When I returned to Nashville, I showed the chorus to Matthew J. Rogers and we inked the current version in about 20 minutes. It's was one of those songs that finished itself." Gary comments on crowd favorite "Tired of Running" saying, "It was handed to me when a Nashville record exec wanted to hear how I might record a song of that style. The original demo from writers Josh Thompson and Arlis Albritton had an almost Bluegrass vibe, but all I kept hearing was an amazingly powerful lyric and melody so I set out to create a musical arrangement to emphasize it. While I did not give the executive what he was apparently looking for, I was hooked. It has become a staple in my set and I can't wait to hear it on the radio this year."
Starting at age 15, Gary Ray has already built over 18 years of music industry experience and has worn many hats throughout his career, including that of artist, songwriter, producer, manager, promoter and music industry executive. He has been singled out in numerous publications as being one of the hardest working people in the industry. His innovative and forward thinking approach to the ever-changing music industry will continue to bring a fresh and promising energy and success to everything he touches.