Ray Scott On The Rise Of Independent Artists Finding Success Through Social Media & Satellite Radio

Ray Scott On The Rise Of Independent Artists Finding Success Through Social Media & Satellite Radio

Having scored four #1s in the United Kingdom and being an artist who has received major airplay on SiriusXM, Ray Scott knows a thing or two about how to be successful in the music business, all without having the backing of a major record label, I might add. He recently released his 5th studio album, “Guitar For Sale” and is currently working on an EP entitled, “Honky Tonk Heart,” scheduled to be released in October. You can see him locally at Muddy Creek Cafe and Music Hall in Winston-Salem Saturday night. We recently chatted with Scott about the rise of independent artists and how they are finding success in non-traditional ways, as well as where you can find the best chicken in Nashville. Naturally.

Ray Scott On The Rise Of Independent Artists Finding Success Through Social Media & Satellite Radio

Ray Scott On The Rise Of Independent Artists Finding Success Through Social Media & Satellite Radio

EPR: How many shows do you do a year now?

Ray Scott: I would say between 100 and 150 sometimes. I mean, we stay pretty busy. Between now and the end of the year it slows down a little bit. We’ve had a couple years where we might do 70, 80. But this year I have added a few more acoustic shows which I really look forward to doing a lot. It makes it a little easier to get bookings and it keeps the overhead down so more opportunities open up.

EPR: Do you feel that the acoustic shows offer you more artistic creativity? Or do you do them solely for the overhead reasons you just spoke of?

Ray Scott: You know it’s a little bit of both. Honestly, with the acoustic thing, the overhead is less so you don’t have to demand quite as high a price to get into some of these places. These days I am playing a lot of new markets. I’m basically just doing what I can do to break into those markets at a lower price. Then we figured that if we go into a market and we do a pretty good job then we may come back and do another show acoustically, or a full band, just kind of whatever the situation creates.

My music is kind of based on the acoustic guitar anyway. It’s what I write everything on and it’s very lyrically based. So I like playing in listening rooms and theaters and that type of situation where people are actually listening as opposed to just playing in a bar and trying to cut through the background noise. We obviously like to play full band shows and we like to play those types of places as well with the band. But the acoustics kind of open up more opportunities I think, in some smaller rooms, and it helps us just be out there and work. With a full band you’re out there and traveling and all the overhead is more expensive, we pay more guys, buying more hotel rooms, renting a bus instead of using a van. It’s a lot of things that kind of go into that. I’ve done both off and on for a long time and I enjoy both ways. It’s just one of those things.

EPR: You write all of your own music but you have also written several pretty big songs for other artists. What are some of the songs that you have written for other people and whose recording of one of your songs do you particularly like?

Ray Scott: I had a Top Ten that I wrote for Clay Walker called “A Few Questions.” Trace Adkins recorded a couple of my songs. Randy Travis recorded a couple [including “Pray For The Fish”] and obviously everybody kind of does it their own way. I appreciate the artist’s approach as much as I do the producer’s approach. It’s always interesting to see how they might interpret what I wrote, especially if there are also recorded versions out there of mine. It’s always interesting to see what they will do with something compared to what we did with it.

It’s a real honor that anybody would want to record one of my songs. It’s a painstaking process when you go into the studios and, as an artist, you have a vision for an album that you want to put out to the public and promote for a number of years. So, knowing that you might end up with 10 songs, 12 at the most, on some of these projects, it’s a real honor as a writer to have someone choose one of your tunes to be part of that.

EPR: I really love your video for “Drinkin’ Beer” and it kind of put me in the mind of Confederate Railroad’s “Trashy Women.” Did that influence you at all or where did you get the idea behind this video?

Ray Scott: Well, I was a very big fan of theirs and I don’t know if I remember seeing the video. It’s funny. I’ve got a handful of videos and a couple of them kind of depict sort of a bar scene. And those guys are probably definitely cut from the same cloth and influence a more country side of us. So yeah, I’m a big fan of theirs. I’ve even done some shows with them off and on over the years. So, it’s funny that you bring that up. It’s not something that I’ve ever thought about, the actual video. But yeah, subconsciously, that could probably be the case.

EPR: So, you’ve had four #1 singles in the United Kingdom. That must be pretty cool to be so big in a totally different country, right?

Ray Scott: It’s interesting. It’s kind of surreal. I was a label artist back in ’05 – ’07. After I left the major label I had a hit with them, I kind of went into uncharted territory as an independent act. It was my choice to do so because I got a good taste of the politics of the music business, radio and everything else and it sort of made me realize the sacrifice and the compromise you have to make to get major radio airplay. And that’s just if you’re lucky enough to get it. I wasn’t willing, from a creative standpoint, to bend too far or try to become something I am not in order to get radio play. And I was able to record my first album with Warner that way and we got a pretty good little fan base going by doing that. And I just didn’t want to veer off course.

So it was more challenging to all of a sudden not have anybody promoting you to radio or spending promotional dollars on your video and things like that. We ended up, through the wonderful internet, we ended up getting some airplay over in Europe, a lot of which I wasn’t even aware of. And I start realizing that my style had quite an appeal over on the other side of the pond. So, I was learning that I was getting airplay from small internet stations and we did really well. I had four #1s and one that went to #5. And “Drinkin’ Beer” actually was Song of the Year on the HotDisc Chart in 2014. So that was really cool. It was a means to go out and work.

I’ve been able to go over to Europe, a lot in Eastern Europe. I haven’t actually worked in the UK as much yet as I would like to. We are just starting to get a toehold there. It’s just been really interesting to see, not only the fact that they love my music, but a lot of folks over there really love the traditional style of country music and they revere it as the original American art form. There are a lot of circles over there that are just all about it and so it kind of created a living for me when things were a little up in the air as far as how things were going in Nashville.

I came in as this traditionalist kind of guy at the front of pop country and some of this other stuff. I might have done better had it been the ’90s when I was signed to a record deal. But I was a little younger then. It’s all about timing and it’s all about what’s meant to be. I had the success in Europe and we still go there and we work and take a couple of good, big trips a year at least and go over there and tour certain parts of Europe.

I also, about 6 or 7 years ago, started getting more radio airplay in the United States again. It was with satellite radio, SiriusXM. The great thing about that is that it’s not one of these mainstream stations that only covers a certain region, even if it’s a big region. Satellite radio is nationwide and into parts of Canada, as well. So, we had a really big reach and all of a sudden I was having people recognize my songs from all the way across the country. We didn’t have promotional dollars. We weren’t out there making Payola to all the radio stations and everything else.

We kind of came in through a side door again. We’ve been lucky through the years, just kind of getting some exposure when we needed it and just enough to keep working and keep people aware of what I’m doing. There’s still plenty out there who don’t have any idea who I am but I learn more and more all the time that there are a lot that do. So we keep going into new markets and I just enjoy what I do.

Ray Scott On The Rise Of Independent Artists Finding Success Through Social Media & Satellite Radio

EPR: There are so many avenues for artists to get their music heard now. You don’t have to worry about radio airplay as much and that’s good. If you don’t get the radio airplay, that just doesn’t mean that you don’t make the music that people want to hear.

Ray Scott: Even before the internet, radio only had so many slots, so many spots in the playlist for any artist. But there has been a constituency of many people out there for a long time now who have been looking for stuff that maybe had a little more meat on it’s bones, something that was a little more real. Obviously the goal of radio, as you know I’m sure, they want to play music that is not offensive enough to make somebody want to change the channel. They want to be safe, at least to a certain standard. Music is art and art is subjective. You can like what you want to like but you’re not going to hear it all on the radio.

The internet has been a great, great thing for a lot of artists. I could put a video up on Facebook and get 30,000 views on it in a week’s time and that helps. Going into certain markets, people hear of it. That’s really the place they should spend the money.

I was just having a conversation with someone the other day who was kind of a new artist and hiring a fairly expensive radio promotion person. She was hiring her to promote something to secondary radio stations and to the Music Row Chart. That’s great and I appreciate all the radio support that I’ve gotten. But our experience with that over the years, I’ve done a few of those campaigns, is that you realize that the money spend on these promoters doesn’t really move the people enough to justify the expenditure. You end up either being in debt or spending a lot of dollars that didn’t convert to new dollars. These days, the best way to get to people is through social media, just plain and simple. So that’s what I more or less concentrate on mostly these days and I think a lot of other people are doing it, too, if they are smart, unless they are with a major label and they are spending millions of dollars trying to get them on the radio. But there is another way these days and I’m thankful for that.

Ray Scott On The Rise Of Independent Artists Finding Success Through Social Media & Satellite Radio

EPR: Speaking of social media, I’ve been following your Facebook for a while and it’s pretty funny. You say stuff that some people just won’t say, but it’s the truth. What makes you brave enough to do that?

Ray Scott: Honestly, doing this for as long as I’ve done it, I realize that I was polarizing from my very first single. We’re talking about 2005, I had a song out called “My Kind Of Music” and, not only was it a very retro, traditional sounding track, there was also a big “kiss my ass” at the end of it. It was just one of those things. It was meant to be a funny song. And if you’re familiar with some of my catalog since then, I’ve got stuff that’s just a little bit on the, I won’t say risque side, but I think it’s just one of those things where people have a sense of humor about certain things or they don’t.

I try to be as real as I can and I realize that if you post things on social media sometimes…I don’t consider much taboo. I try not to be profane or anything like that. But at the same time, if I have an opinion about something, I’ll give it. I used to get more political but what people didn’t realize is that I was actually making jokes about both sides. But the problem was, depending on who was watching when, they’d think that if I was making fun of somebody on the conservative side that I was a “damn liberal” and that if I went and made fun of liberals they’d get mad, too. It’s basically about this, you can’t please everybody. And if you try to please everybody, you’re going to fail. What I’ve always said is that “you can’t please everybody, but you can tell them to go please themselves.”

So yeah, I have a good time on social media. Sometimes I get yelled at for some things I say or do but compared to some other people I’m pretty safe.

EPR: You’re right. Most everything you say might offend someone but what can you do? So, pretty much everybody I’ve spoken to talks about Hattie B’s as having the best chicken in Nashville. But you have said in previous interviews that Prince’s is best. What makes it so much better?

Ray Scott: Prince’s was the original, for one thing. And it’s still there, too. Hattie B’s is great, don’t get me wrong. But Prince’s kind of started it all. I mean, the only reason anybody knows what Hot Chicken is in Nashville is because of Prince’s. Hattie B’s is the “nice” place, they’ve obviously got a lot more money pushing the business. I think they’ve got two or three locations in town now. So, you can’t go wrong by going there but I like going to the source. Know what I mean?

EPR: You will be in Winston-Salem on Saturday and North Carolina is where you are from. Correct?

Ray Scott: It is. I’m from a town called Semora. I tell people that the population is 800 and the number doesn’t change because every time a baby is born, some guy leaves town. I grew up in Semora, north of Roxboro, really close to Virginia. It’s a great place to grow up. But I have been gone from there since basically ’88. I’ve lived a bunch of different places, that’s when I graduated high school. I still like to get home when I can. I’m going home in 2 or 3 weeks to see my little niece participate in the Junior Miss Pageant. They grow up fast.

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About Dawn McAlexander

Dawn has been a music lover her entire life. She went to college in Boone, NC, an area that is rich in music and culture. She also worked as a radio deejay for 8 years and grew up in Southeastern, Va, a melting pot of different musical styles and traditions. She has been to more concerts than she can count in every genre you can imagine. She resides in North Carolina with her furbabies and her massive collection of Disney memorabilia.

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