Michael Ray co-wrote two of the seven songs on his latest release, the Higher Education EP, but one of those songs changed him forever. The Florida native penned both "Picture" and "Didn't Know I Was Country," and he says the latter had a profound impact on his life and career.
"It was in that moment when I really felt a change in my songwriting," Michael tells American Songwriter, recalling when he wrote "Didn't Know I Was Country" with Ashley Gorley and Taylor Phillips. "I was just being very honest and wasn't hesitating. In the past, I worried about 'If I do this, will these people like me?' Finally, I was like I've been through enough and I've survived it. Let's just try being yourself."
Higher Education is Michael's first release since his 2018 album, Amos. Ironically, it was after he released that record, which included the hit single "The One That Got Away," that he realized he needed to switch directions.
"I am super proud of Amos as an album, but the pandemic made me really think about how I would feel if that were my last record ever," Michael reflects. "And I realized, I can't say I would be okay if that was my last collection ever."