To come across a Mark Bray song is to mistake what you’re hearing on the radio for something that was clearly produced in the 90’s at the height of Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Brooks and Dunn dominating the airwaves. With a classic throwback sound and a dedication to the genre that matches each of the aforementioned artists, Bray is carving his own niche into the landscape of Nashville Country music. A new father himself, Bray recalled his childhood surrounded by music with a great deal of fondness when we sat down to interview him about his recent album, You Follow Me Around. “Music was always in our house while I was growing up. Neither one of my parents sang, but they loved music, so I was exposed to several different genres while I was growing up. Everything from singer/songwriters from the 60’s and 70’s to rock music from the 80’s and 90’s. I fell in love with country music while I was a kid because of Garth Brooks. All of my friends played the guitar, so I wanted to learn because when you’re sixteen, that’s a good way to make girls notice you. It went from there and I fell in love with music all over again.”
Born in Colorado and raised between Pennsylvania, Germany, and South Florida thanks to his father’s career in the military, Bray’s path to fame in Nashville wasn’t your typical one. It was around the same time that social media platforms began to take off that Bray got serious about promoting his music as an independent artist. “It’s really great to be an artist in today’s climate because of the Internet. The ability for an upstart who doesn’t know much to be able to use the internet as a tool is great. “Right about the time I started making my first CD, Facebook was really starting to blow up where people were starting to share music and their own original material. I was fortunate enough to get my music out there right when that was all taking off”. Bray remarked of his early experiences breaking into the industry, “I came across some folks who liked my music and ended up going to a conference with one of them, which was where I met Randy Barber from Bar Frog Music”.
Now on Bar Frog Music’s roster, Bray released You Follow Me Around in 2017 and has seen chart success with “I Just Need a Drink,” a song written by good friend and fellow songwriter, Erica Sunshine Lee. “Randy Barber and I were looking for songs for the new record and we reached out to Erica to see if she had any. I told her what I was looking for and she sent an iPhone recording, just her and the guitar, of this song “I Just Need a Drink”. I remembering hearing it and thinking immediately that I needed to do that song. Not only did I have to do that song, but it needed to be on the radio. That’s a song anybody can relate to. Who doesn’t like a good song about having a good time?”
“I Just Need a Drink”, with it’s upbeat, two-stepping twang is certainly a standout track, but the entire 7-song collection is strong. When asked if he had a favorite, Bray had a hard time deciding on just one. “I love all of the songs on the album because they’re all different in their own way. Each song has its own style, its own feel, whether it is the last song “Broken” which is one I wrote years ago, or it’s a song written by Doug Gill and Dennis Banka called “You Follow Me Around”, which has a real traditional country ballad feel. Then, of course, there’s “Rain on the River” which actually sat at the publisher, pretty much on a shelf, for about thirty years. Nobody recorded it, and I think it’s such a cool song. When we went into the studio, the guys just took on a life of its own. There’s this whole jam session at the back end of that track that wasn’t an original part of the song. I love the way it’s mixed and the way it feels.”
With his first full album release with Bar Frog Music under his belt, Bray is celebrating his last project, reflecting on his career, and making plans for the next steps. With a brand new baby at home and a whole new work/life balance, Bray had some advice for other artists: “If I could say one thing to other folks looking to get into this industry it would be: never give yourself a timetable. You will always have people in your life telling you that “If you don’t do xyz by this point in your life, you should do this,” or “If you don’t do that, you should do this.” Never give yourself a timetable because at the end of the day, whatever is meant to happen is going to come regardless. Never give yourself a timetable for success, and never give up. If and when it’s your time to shine, you will.”
Having followed his own advice, Bray is right in the thick of his success with more exciting things on the horizon for next year. 2019 is shaping up to be a busy year for Bray with several projects in the works. To keep up with Bray’s plans for 2019 and his new music, follow him on Facebook and Instagram.