Michael Ray’s Debut Single Hits the Top 5

Newcomer Attracting Fans With "Kiss You in the Morning"

Michael Ray is steadily climbing the charts with his debut single, “Kiss You in the Morning,” and while he may be a new, he’s got a solid perspective on what country music is all about.

“I started like playing when I was about 9,” he recently told CMT Hot 20 Countdown. “Learning how to play guitar and learning how to sing … so I was I was playing a lot of the classics. I was raised in a lot of the classic country — Earl Thomas Conley, John Conlee, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn.”

As a teenager, the Florida native was already performing in local bars and regularly traveling back and forth to Nashville. After several networking attempts, a meeting with an industry rep finally helped set the course of his career. When the music veteran heard his original songs, Ray was taken aback when asked, “Well, man, what’s your plan?”

“I had no idea,” Ray admits. “I was like, ‘I guess I’ll move to Nashville, right?’ And he said, ‘Things in the music business are changing. … Don’t move yet and try to become the biggest thing. Build something that nobody can ignore down there, and then move.’”

Patience turned out to be a virtue. After forming a band in Florida and generating airplay on a local country radio station, he got his record deal in Nashville. His debut single, “Kiss You in the Morning,” has already climbed to No. 4 on Billboard’s country airplay chart.

“So many people worked so hard to make this happen,” he says. “We’ve toured all over, you know, from back when I was starting to play in my grandfather’s bands when I was a kid — all the way to now. It’s just kind of an overwhelming feeling. I’m just thankful.”

Ray’s self-titled debut album is set for release on Aug. 7, but he says he’s already looking ahead to his next studio project.

“I’m already thinking about songs I wanna do for the next record,” he says. “I’m constantly thinking of how to reinvent things that we’re doing or how to make things better and learn from the guys that have been there for years before me.

“I want people to know exactly who I am. I’m not trying to hide anything, so I just try to figure out ways to make the shows better and make the next best record that I can make.”

For more country music news, tune in to a brand new episode of CMT Hot 20 Countdown this Saturday and Sunday at 9 a.m. ET/PT.