Michael Ray's Higher Education falls somewhere between classic country and Southern rock.
Its track list still includes self-penned cuts like the autobiographical "Didn't Know I Was Country" and the emotional "Picture," plus his top-twenty throwback to nineties country, "Whiskey and Rain."
Simultaneously, the EP's title track features Kid Rock and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. So is the Sunshine State native feeling like he needs to rock a little more these days? After a tough 2020 and some serious self-reflection, Michael says the answer is an authentic yes.
"Everything got taken away from us all..." he says of the pandemic. "I was back in Florida, and I was like, 'What if that's it? What if... that was all... my last body of work anybody's ever gonna hear? Am I 100% happy to hang my hat on that and that be it?'"
"I think we all had a moment in time of going, 'Okay, I'm coming out of this better than I went into it,'" he adds.
Having grown up playing in his family's country band, Michael immortalized his grandfather, Amos, with the title of his last record. But he realized he has more roots worth showcasing.
"I went back to what I fell in love with..." he reflects. "My dad was playing ZZ Top and Marshall Tucker [Band] and Lynyrd Skynyrd and Allman Brothers and that whole list. My grandpa was playing Ray Price and Porter Wagoner and Bobby Bare and Earl Thomas Conley and John Conlee."
"So I grew up kind of always in the middle of this rock and fiddle... thing," he laughs. "And so I think it's comfortably where I like to live, and I like showing those both sides of it."
You can stream or download Michael's Higher Education now.