Just how did a fast-rising country artist emerge from the Jersey shore, a hotbed of rock and roll and emulators of Springsteen and Bon Jovi? “I was born and raised in a household where my parents listened to older style country, such as Tammy Wynette, Patsy Cline, George Jones, Hank Williams, Buck Owens and Dolly Parton, just to name a few,” laughs Ray Aaron, who is making a name for himself, not just in this area but in Nashville as well. “It was a genre I truly loved.”
Ray released his debut CD, Fillin’ Up The Love Tank, in 2010, to great reviews. He’s now rehearsing his band and planning shows in Nashville and on the East Coast, as well as working on new songs and and a music video for the song “High.”
Some of the best-known venues in Nashville have hosted Ray in recent years, including Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, The Stage, where the hit movie Country Strong was filmed, Legends, and Rippy’s On the Roof. “A few years back I became friends, simply by chance, with a well-know radio personality, Kaptain Jack of Thunder 106 in New Jersey,” explains Ray. “He was running a Thursday night country open-mic show, and I stopped in, met him, and sang a few songs. He became a mentor and a great push for getting me to Nashville. I’ve met some wonderful people in the music business, and with their advice and push, for no particular reason, I packed a bag one Wednesday morning, jumped in my truck, and headed to Nashville. From that moment, when I first walked into Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and was immediately embraced by the performers and the crowds, the rest was history.”
Part of that history is an association that developed with Tommy TuTone, who found fame with the song “856-5309 (Jenny),” and who went on to become a prominent songwriter in Nashville. “I was just sitting in Tootsie’s, where my good friend and singer/songwriter Scott Collier was playing, when Tommy TuTone walked in,” Ray recalls. “Scott brought me up on stage and in front of the crowd, told everyone that I deserved a break and said I was going to sing for Tommy. I sang several songs, and the bar went crazy. Tommy’s wife and her girlfriends, as well as the crowd, starting dancing on the bar. It was a great experience and so much fun. Afterward Tommy spoke to me and said, ‘You are really good, how would you like to record a couple of my songs?’ I thought at first he was kidding, but he gave me his number and we’ve kept in contact. While I have not as of yet recorded the songs, I look forward to doing so in the future.”
Ray has also appeared around this area, at local clubs and at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park. Although it’s not the mainstream genre in this area, there’s definitely a significant base of country fans in this region. He’s developed a following that has grown with the release of the CD. “My fans seem to each have their own favorites from my album, the most popular song being “High,” he says. “It is a song about a man having a very hard time getting over a past love. My personal favorite is “Get My Rowdy On,” as it gets the crowd into the song and participating in the chorus. I love to see them all singing to my music and having a great time.”
Although he cites artists such as Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Clint Black, Martina McBride and George Straight as influences, Ray is trying to be as original as possible, and not completely draw on other artists’ work. He considers his music to be what other artists are “not” doing. However, he does often collaborate with Nashville songwriters. “My writing process is usually a collaboration of some very talented singer/songwriters from Nashville, as well as when an inspiration from a certain event or situation sparks lyrics or a song in my head,” he says.
Ray is happy to be doing what he does, and his goals involve music, not business.
“My main musical goal is a simple one, my love of music and entertaining,” he relates. “The smiles I see, people singing along to my songs, and just watching them from the stage having a great time is the best feeling you can have. If by chance stardom should find me, it would be a welcome bonus, but if not, I am completely content just playing my music.”
Many people aren’t aware that Eddie Rabbit, best known for the chart topping country hit “I Love A Rainy Night,” grew up in the Garden State. Ray Aaron my just be New Jersey’s next gift to Nashville.
Fillin’ Up The Love Tank is available on iTunes and reverbnation.com, or from the website rayaaronmusic.com. There are other items like t-shirts and ringtones available from his website.