Interview: Luke Ray Debuts EP, “Thank You, Anyone”

Credit: Richie Renner

The liveliness of music is what moves people. An authentic, simple, yet warming tone is what Luke Ray creates when he picks up his guitar.

Ray grew up in a Chicagoland suburb, discovering and learning music that made every minute, hour, and day a fulfilled experience. For some musicians, a gravitational pull drives them to grab their instrument and play. Ray does that to this day, and with a dedicated purpose after leaving his former career behind in the summer of 2018.

It started with writing his own music, not necessarily with his OWN voice, but with piles of written songs. Today, the narrative and direction has changed as Ray debuts his EP, Thank You, Anyone, featuring the melodic, warm, and welcoming singles, “You Could Ruin Me” and “Safety Net.”

Luke Ray has come full circle, truly pouring his heart into music with passion and purpose. The authenticity of his voice gives the listener every reason to sit around a fire or warm room, to open a beer or bottle of wine, and enjoy fresh new music. It is my pleasure to share this recent virtual interview Ray and I had about “Thank You, Anyone” and his love for music.

What made the timing right for “Thank You, Anyone”?

I started writing songs in the summer of 2018, right after I decided to pursue music full-on. I’ve been stockpiling since then with no plan other than to try becoming a good songwriter. Before lockdown, I was fairly busy as a sideman for solo artists and bands. By the end of summer, I decided now would be a great time to do something with the songs I’d been writing. I played every instrument you hear myself, because if anybody was going to mess this up, it was going to be me!

Which songs on the EP would you consider the “staples” or “foundational tracks” to the whole concept?

Lyrically, the ones that really capture the attitude I’d like to put out there are “Safety Net” and “Radio Knows.” I don’t really tell people specifically what my songs are about, but overall it’s about escaping your own trappings and embracing your dreams. My favorite music inspires me to get up and do something, and that’s the type of feeling I want others to have when they hear my stuff.

Has the creative process for the EP been liberating? What surprised you the most?

Recording is always a blast, but especially this time around because I didn’t have to compromise in any way. My friend and band mate, J.B. Bartlett, recorded and mixed it in his studio, Shoe Box Studios II, and he totally got what I was going for. Other than some co-leads vocals on “Weight of the World” by Angela Reinhart, who helped convince me to make this EP, J.B. was the only other guy involved. He took the sounds in my head and put them through the speakers. It was liberating to put some of my own songs and, much more reluctantly, vocals out there. I’ve always been shy about sharing those with people. I don’t consider myself a singer, just the guy who knows these songs. To tell you the truth, I wouldn’t mind just writing songs, playing guitar and singing harmonies for the rest of time. Singing is really a lot of work, and I can’t really zone out and take it all in like I can when I’m just playing guitar. But it’s the price I pay to get my songs out there.

What was the first guitar you purchased? What’s your favorite one to play today?

I’m one of the lucky ones because I grew up in the house of a guitar collector. My parents‘ basement had all of these old guitars that my dad had gotten long before I was born. The one that stuck out to me most, and still does, is a 1956 Les Paul Junior. It’s one of those guitars that never seems to need any fixing. It’s always perfect, just a great chunk of wood. I’m sure some guys hate me for having it.

If you sing in the shower, what’s the go-to song?

The Smiths “This Charming Man” always sounds good in a bathroom.

The world continues with questions about quarantine and social distancing. Venues have suffered immensely. What have your days been like since mid-March?

I have certainly missed playing and seeing live shows. I can’t fathom what that must feel like for all these venues that are struggling. I’m lucky to have had a side job to lean into in lieu of gig money. I have tried to make the best of all of it by writing songs and trying to become a better musician. I probably wouldn’t have made this EP if not for the lockdown. I would’ve been too busy with other projects. Certainly, I’m not saying this has been a good thing – it’s been a nightmare for so many people, and tough on everybody in one way or another. However, I do consider myself lucky in that I was able to stay busy and creative.

Simply deciding to pursue music completely changed Luke Ray’s life. Sometimes a decision can change your life in seconds. Ray embarks on a musical journey with a open map ahead of him. He’s feeling great and fulfilled in knowing he IS doing this, this being music – a work of love.

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Michael Kocourek

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