Michael Ray kicks off On The Red Carpet's concert series to celebrate country music

To celebrate the upcoming CMA Awards, On The Red Carpet is launching a country music concert series featuring artists that are being called "ones to watch." Michael Ray is kicking off the concert series with a performance of "Whiskey and Rain."

With two albums under his belt, the country artist is ready to go back to his roots with album No. 3. Ray said his latest project feels authentic, natural and is a product of all the reflection he's done while in isolation.

"I feel like this year really helped me get back to myself and [I had] a lot of reflection of what made me want to move to Nashville and take a swing at this," Ray said.

"Whiskey and Rain" marks the first single off Ray's new collection of songs, which incorporates influences from '80s and '90s country music.

"I love the fact that it kind of has a double meaning. It's a sad song, you're going through this and the pain and the turmoil that sucks but when the rain's over with there's always another day -- you know, always keep striving to wake up and be better than you were," Ray said.

The artist said he's been "blown away" by the response, which only makes him more excited to get in the studio next year and work on new music. Ray hasn't yet planned when his third studio album will release, or whether fans will see an EP first, but new music is coming their way.

Since Ray hasn't been able to connect with live audiences by playing on a stage amid COVID-19, he innovated with the "Honkytonk Tuesday" virtual series, where he played his favorite '80s and '90s tunes and invited a slew of celebrity guests to join.

"It meant a lot because I think we get used to this lifestyle of being on the road and playing shows and all this, and that's been gone," Ray said. "We need it just as much as the fans need it -- that time, that connection."

For more interviews with country artists, watch "On The Red Carpet at the CMA Awards" airing Wednesday, Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m. ET/PT | 6:30 p.m. CT on the ABC-owned television stations or streaming at OnTheRedCarpet.com.
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