The name Ray Fulcher may not ring a bell, but country music fans have been listening to his music on repeat for years. Fulcher is the hidden gem of Nashville, as he is one of the many savvy songwriters behind Luke Combs' second studio album "What You See Is What You Get" and the forthcoming collection, "Growin' Up."
The Georgia-bred singer sat down with CMT to detail what it was like having a hand in Combs' highly anticipated record. Fulcher penned the country sensation's recent release "Tomorrow Me," a melancholy breakup ballad. The seasoned songsmith stunned CMT when he nonchalantly revealed that the track infused with subdued instrumentals, was created on island time under the beaming Bahamian sun.
The prolific artist with a catalog overflowing with No.1 hits, said that "Tomorrow Me" is his favorite songwriting credit to date.
"Luke and I have written so many songs, but this one was really special because we wrote that song on a boat in the Bahamas with our hero Dean Dillon. Not only getting to write a song with Dean, but for it to come out and be a single," he said while trying to wrap his head around the songwriting session. "Dean's a big hero of ours. He has written so many monster songs. That was really a full circle moment for me – to have a song with one of my heroes and with my best friend," he added.
Fulcher continued to reflect on the "surreal experience" and mentioned that he felt like an artist making magic in the '80s with the Country Hall of Famer. Cuts by Dillon have been picked up by country legends such as George Jones, George Strait, Keith Whitley, Vern Gosdin, and more. Some of Dillon's greatest hits of all time include his 1980 solo write "Nobody In His Right Mind Would've Left Her," George Strait's classic "I've Come to Expect It From You," "Set 'Em Up Joe," and "Tennessee Whiskey," which reached maximum success nearly 35 years later thanks to Chris Stapleton.
"When we wrote that song – it was 75, and there was not a cloud in the sky. We were sitting in the Bahamas on top of crystal blue water and writing this heartbreak, self-reflected tune," he described. "Dean Dillon wrote a lot of those old heartbreak songs out there, and I remember I felt like I was transported back to the seventies and eighties when he and Hank Cochran were out there writing all those songs. So, it was almost an out-of-body surreal experience."
"Tomorrow Me" marks a new chapter for Combs – as the lyrics embody his "maturity" and growth as a musician. The fast-rising star declared that the temptation track is a fair depiction of the bright future ahead for Combs and the "first layer" of great songs to come.
After years of writing for a string of hitmakers and securing a spot among an elite inner circle, several notable names in the industry did not think twice about cultivating Fulcher's debut record, "Spray Painted Line." The 17-song tracklist not only represents who Fulcher is at his very core, but also proves that he's a solo artist with superstar potential. The state-of-the-art collection includes cuts from Combs ["Bucket List Beers"] and even country phenomenon Eric Church. Fulcher was in college when he first watched the chief play at a sticky dive bar in Athens, Georgia. The spontaneous concert instantly changed the trajectory of Fulcher's life and inspired him to pick up the guitar.
"All I've ever wanted to do since the night I saw Eric Church play for the first time when I was 19…was to sing and play country music," voiced Fulcher upon album release. "I'll never forget the moment this dream was placed in my heart. It was like everything I'd ever known was turned upside down right there inside of Georgia Theatre in Athens, GA….and I had finally found the true north on my compass."
Little did the naïve teenager know that Church would write a song titled "The Battle of Betty's Love" on his long-overdue record. In true singer-songwriter fashion, Fulcher created a project every listener could enjoy. He stressed that the first few songs like "All Gas No Breaks," "Sellin' Cars," and radio single "Anything Like You Dance" serves as a personal introduction.
"The top of the album is more kind of an introduction to me – who I am, here's what you can expect," the 2022 CMA Triple Play Honoree explained. "As it goes on, it covers different themes. The 'Spray Painted Line' is kind of the start of a race, and in a lot of ways, the debut album is the same thing. It's kind of the starting point. The first song perfectly describes me as an artist and writer."
Fulcher hopes that fans will take a "deep dive" into the Jonathan Singleton-produced album and finds a track to resonate with, whether it's a tear-jerking ballad, reflective melody, or a good ole drinking song.
"My hope is that you [the fans] truly take a deep dive in. I hope you find yourself in it, I hope you get lost in it, I hope you heal, I hope you laugh, I hope you call up a long-lost friend, I hope you cry if that's what you need in the moment. I hope you know that every single word is for YOU and was written with you in mind," he said on the eve of the release. "I hope that some song or some line or some melody makes your life better in some way or to be the soundtrack to your best days or your worst days."