Ray Fulcher Talks Opry Debut, Friendship With Luke Combs, His Three New Songs & More

Ray Fulcher is gearing up for a jam-packed start to the weekend. First up he will be releasing a three pack bundle of songs including “Bucket List Beers”, “Girl In It” and “Way Out”. Then he will get to celebrate his new music with a debut performance at the Grand Ole Opry.

Fulcher expressed his feelings of nervousness and excitement to Music Mayhem about his upcoming visit to the Opry.

“It’s what you dream of,” said Fulcher. “For me being, like I said, such a fan of country music and history and all that it’s meant to me and my whole life to be considered almost because you have to get invited to all these things, you’re just very thankful, very blessed even.”

These songs that will be played by Fulcher while in the circle, have themes of love, one is for a girl and the other for his hometown. While “Girl In It” and “Way Out” have a tender focus, “Bucket List Beers” takes a different path with a focus on, of course, beer.

His song, “Bucket List Beers” was also written in a very special way with the help of some co-writers including his father and a good friend, Luke Combs. These two artists first bonded after a show at Tin Roof about both being fans of the Chief and some of their favorite songs.

“And so it’s one of those things where I knew he probably wasn’t going to put out a huge beer song as a single for a while. So even though he loved it he knew how much I loved it, and we just had a conversation.”

From there, an incredible song was born and this weekend, Fulcher will finally be able to share the work he is so proud of.

Fulcher joined Music Mayhem to talk about his new music, making his Opry debut, his friendship with Luke Combs and more. Read on to find out what Fulcher has been up to in this exclusive Q&A!

Let’s get right into it. So, coming up this Friday, you’re going to be having quite a big day. I mean, you’re making your Grand Ole Opry debut. What was going through your mind when you got that call that you’re going to be performing in the Opry circle?

Oh my gosh. So many things like just a dream come true, automatically got nervous. I’m not normally the guy that gets super nervous or anything, but just man, you’re not human, if you’re not nervous. You’re either not human or you don’t care a ton about country music or the history of it, but I’m such a history person anyway, I was just like, it’s almost a pinch me like surreal moment for being considered for that. It’s what you dream of for me being, like I said, such a fan of country music and history and all that it’s meant to me and my whole life to be considered almost because you have to get invited to all these things, you’re just very thankful, very blessed even. And so, and just, it feels like one of those moments like in your career where you’re just like, man, the hard work is paying off. And every day isn’t filled with those, and so when you get those things, it’s like a really cool day.

Yeah. So do you have any special plans in the works for your performance? Like what are you most looking forward to about your debut?

I think just taking it in, getting to stand up there and just give my reverence and thanks to the Grand Ole Opry and the crowd and just getting to play these songs that are coming out the day of, getting to play those songs for people at the Grand Ole Opry, what a cool way to kick off a new chapter as an artist.

Have you maybe got any advice from other musicians who’ve already performed at the Opry on what you should take in that night or don’t go too fast living through it?

Yeah. I’ve talked to Luke Combs about it because we’re such good friends and he just said, “Well, I won’t tell you, your parents, aren’t going to believe it. I’d just take it in and any kind of worry or stress or overwhelmness that you feel, leave that for the next day. Just take it in, look around, take pictures, talk to people, and just really take in every detail.”

That’s definitely a big moment to just live out almost a dream and just really live in the moment and not think about anything other than, “Wow. This is actually happening.” I mean, it’s probably been a lifelong dream of yours to play the Opry.

Oh my gosh. Yeah. I mean, it’s definitely been a dream since the day that I… I’ve always loved the Opry and always loved the history of it. And even before I picked up a guitar, but since the day I picked up a guitar, it was like right up there at the top of bucket list stuff for me.

Yeah. So aside from making your Opry debut, you’re actually gearing up to release a three-pack bundle of songs, including one that you wrote with your best friend, Luke Combs called “Bucket List Beers.” Could you tell us a little bit about that song and like how that song came to be?

Absolutely. So it’s funny because we started that for Luke, but we only got halfway through it. And then about back when we were doing that song or writing that song shortly thereafter is when he had a huge song “Beer Never Broke My Heart.” And so it’s one of those things where I knew he probably wasn’t going to put out a huge beer song as a single for a while. So even though he loved it he knew how much I loved it, and we just had a conversation. He was like, “Hey man, do you want to finish that thing and try it? It’s yours.” I was on tour with Matt Stell, we were in New York City. The last weekend before they pulled us off the road for the pandemic. And I was on the phone with my dad. It was the day that he retired and I was on the phone with him, and I hung up the phone and I just remember thinking, “Oh my gosh, there’s my second verse.” We’ve written everything and couldn’t figure out where to go with it until that. So I went in the green room in Gramercy [Theater] and finished it up and sent it to Luke. And he was like, “Man, that’s awesome.” So I got to send it to the other co-writers and from that moment on when I got to put my stamp on that second verse bridge. It really felt like mine.

Yeah. So, I mean, as you mentioned, you’ve written a lot of songs with Luke Combs and for Luke Combs and I mean with several number one under your belt and billions of streams as a songwriter, you’re definitely no stranger to writing a hit record. Can you tell us maybe a little bit about your friendship with Luke and how that formed? Was it over your mutual love for Eric Church?

Yeah, so I met him the first weekend I moved to town and it was through a mutual friend that just happened to know Luke. I didn’t know anybody when I moved to town. And so this one guy that I met that I’d crossed paths with before I just hit him up and go, “Hey, it’s my birthday this weekend, want to go have dinner or something? I don’t know anybody.” He’s like, “Sure.” And he was like, “Sure.” So with the dinner and then while he’s there he’s like, “Hey, I have a buddy from out of town, coming here to record the songs. He’s staying on my couch and we’ll go back and hang with you.” So I said, “Okay.” So I walked in, and it was Luke Combs. So we met and talked and this was May 2014, and he said he was moving back September 2014. And so when he came to move back, I saw him at a show one night that I was playing like a writer’s round. And, I saw him from the stage, he was on the patio of Tin Roof right there on Demonbreun. And so after I got finished, I walked out and I was like, “What’s up, man? You remember me?” He said, “Yeah yeah.” So as we got to talking that night, we found out that we both were just huge fans of the Chief and both of my favorite songs were “Lightning.” And we just went down the list of these songs. We realized, “Hey, this guy, we get each other.” And so we just became really fast friends and started writing a few months later. And we wrote every Tuesday for like a year and a half. And during that time, those eight songs that I wrote on his first record were written. And then I think we even had a few during that little time period that we wrote that ended up on the second record.

That’s pretty incredible to see how many songs that you guys wrote together that ended up being a number one hit. And not only that, but I mean talk about a full circle moment, getting Eric Church on one of those tracks that went number one.
Oh my gosh. That was such a dream come true. That was.

And then, I mean, that just had to be crazy having one of your heroes, singing words that you helped write.

Yeah. That one even still to this day, like if it comes on the radio or something, I’m like, “Man, this is like, can’t even dream that up.” So it’s such a cool and I remember when he told me about that song, so I was living in my old place up north of town and he told me, and we both were just almost in tears on the phone. Just, it was awesome.

Yeah. So, we’ve already chatted about “Bucket List Beers” and that’s just one of three of the songs coming out this Friday. Can you tell us a little bit about “Girl In It” and “Way Out”? We’ve listened to the songs and you definitely got a few hits here on your hands and can’t wait to see where these songs go.

Yeah. So “Girl In It,” that was a song that I very rarely write a song where I just know immediately, I want to cut that song, but this is one of them. I wrote it out on Zoom in July of last year in the middle of the pandemic. And it was on Friday. I’ve been writing all week and it was just one of those days where I know these other two co-writers, they’re Dillon and James. And I said, “They’re my buddies. I know they’ll be fine, we cut move this to a different day or whatever.” But I was like, “You know what? I want to show up because these guys are,” I didn’t have any idea for these guys. I know that one of them will have a great idea. We go in and they’re five minutes and they’re done. So I have this thing, like “Girl In It,” it’s like, you’re going out of your mind, I mean there’s a Girl In It and I was like, immediately just woke up like five shots of espresso. And I was like, my mind started going everywhere. I was like, “We can use this girl in a lot of different ways.” And so what I love about “Girl In It” it’s really the human condition. The first verse is fallen in love. The second one is was you’re just in the middle of that love, and then the third one is heartbreak from that realization, that man I messed up. And I think that it’s even as we’ve all been there and we’ve all had enough, one person in any stage of that we can’t get out of her mind. And so there’s a little bit of me in all of those two, but I just love how much. I love the images that’s in there. And I love how much it says, but I also love it feels great to roll the windows down too in writing and driving and singing. So when I got finished with it I just was like, I guess nobody else is doing this one, I think I’m going to cut this. So it was back in July. So before I had my deal with Black River, but that was one of my favorite songs that I wrote last year.

And then “Way Out,” I always wanted to write a song about my hometown, but not just the hats off to the home town song. I wanted to really write about how hard it was for me to leave there because… And even more so now than I spent a lot of time around the country, I looked back and realized how special my hometown is and really is to me. I remember a moment when I left home moving towards moving to Nashville and driving. And I remember just having that moment of just like, “What am I doing? Why would I leave a place that I love that much?” And so that’s where that hook came from was just like I wonder why you’d ever want a way out. It’s like, yeah, there were times in my life there where it’s like, “I got to get out of this town,” and stuff, but at my core, I love it. And so I really want to write a song that really personified that push pull. And I think with that one, we hit the mark on it.

Definitely. So of the three songs you’re releasing on Friday, which are your first new songs with Black River, as you mentioned, you work with producer Jonathan Singleton. I mean, he has a slew of hits under his belt too. So he helped bring the traditional country sound alive, like the 90s country vibes. What does it mean to you to keep that traditional country sound alive within your music?

Well what I love about what Jonathan does is he knows how important it is for me to have some of those traditional elements in there. But he also is like, he’s got some of that because he’s from West Tennessee he’s got some of that Memphis in him, where it’s like all the guitars, there’s always something going on that moves. Whether it’s a guitar, whether it’s a banjo or something in the background that… the track is always moving. So I think the sounds and the lyrics and the overall chords and the feel of it is definitely country, but I do love how it’s progressive in the sense that there’s always some rhythmic guitar thing going on or a banjo, or something that’s keeping the song moving and sometimes the listener doesn’t hear it as much as they feel it. And he’s just the best I’ve ever been around at that. And I love the sound that we’ve come up with where the guitar is just, it’s just a little dirtier and just a little edgier, and the sound is definitely country, but just a little dirt.

So going back to your friends, you’re actually hitting the road with Luke on his, What You See Is What You Get tour. And you’ll also be joining Ashley McBryde on a few dates. What are you looking forward to most about returning to the road this fall?

I think for me, it’s just, and gosh, that’s such a cool opportunity to be able to, number one, speaking of Luke, number one, that they would play one of my best friends in arenas, but also have the platform to bring all these new songs to an audience who loves country music, and they’re Luke fans, but because of our connection I think that they’ll come out with open ears and be willing to listen. And I’m just excited to play for that crowd and there’s some bucket list and he’s on there like Madison Square Garden. We end up getting to play like up in Boston, at the Garden there and stuff and all along the way. But then I was just going to be also for that opportunity. And then Ashley, I’m such a fan of what she does musically and me and her, I hope to get closer to her, me and her are definitely friends, but for her to think enough to… Ashley is very respected and very… Everything she does or touches, it’s really cool to not just me, but everybody. And so for her to think enough of me to add each of those dates, it’s a really cool thing for me to think about and accept from her.

You guys would make an incredible duet together if that ever was to come to be.

That would be awesome. That’s a great idea.

So lastly, but I guess it’s certainly, probably most importantly, you partnered with Music Health Alliance in Nashville to create the Pretty Good Ball which we are aware of supports musicians mental health awareness. And could you tell us a little bit about that organization and what it means to you to have a nonprofit available to music industry professionals, to help them with their mental health?

Yes, absolutely. So me and my manager talked about, I really want… The reason I got into country music is to move people and affect people in positive ways. And so we were thinking, “Hey, there are ways we can do that outside of just the music. Let’s figure out what we want to do.” And I think over the pandemic for me last year, it gave me time to take a look in the mirror myself and go like, “Hey, let’s address some stuff about myself that maybe I just wanted to learn a little bit more about myself and while I had the time to dig in and figure some stuff out.” And then I explored therapy and realized how, man, just how positive of an impact it made for me and how much I learned from it. And then it hit me. I was like, I never even knew about therapy at all, or really what it’s about and because it’s just something I never really talked about. And so I was like, it hit me like let’s do a charity called Pretty Good Ball and let it be for two reasons. So one for musicians, songwriters who if make under a certain amount, they can go to Musicians Health Alliance. We tied in with them because they have the infrastructure to count and put our funds to use. You can go in and anonymously, get started with therapy and find some information and have someone to talk to for musicians, songwriters in town because that’s a tough town, man. I knew how hard it was to find my way when I first moved to town.

So I know that need is out there, but the second part of it is just really just bringing that conversation to light and hopefully shed some light on it in the sense de-stigmatizing it and making it okay to talk about and making it like, hopefully people will come away though like, “Hey, it’s okay to not be okay sometimes and there’s like…” And also if Ray’s okay talking about it, Ray’s been through his own stuff. It’s like, oh, it’s okay that I am. So really just trying to be a face of that, and hopefully getting more awareness up, but then the music community in Nashville and hoping it helps the people along the way. So knowing that people have an advocate, if they want to reach out to someone who’s like been there, but also just gets it because I’m just one of them.

Yeah. I mean, especially definitely more than ever it’s been needed over this last year where everything has been shut down and everyone’s been put on hold.

Absolutely.

So let’s end with a little bit of a fun question. If you could choose any country superstar to duet with, who would you choose and why?

I would say, well, that’s a great question. I would say probably George Strait. The reason I say George is because even though Eric’s been my biggest inspiration, George Strait’s been my life long country music hero. I mean the first song I remember singing in the… Or the first song I remember ever when I was a little kid was “Ocean Front Property” and I still love that song to this day. And he was my favorite because then I’ve been to see him in concert five or six times. He’s just the coolest cat out there. And so I know at one time he did his last concert he did in the Astrodome, he had a bunch of country music stars come and duet with him. And I always listen to that album, even now. And I’m always like, “Man, how cool, unless it had been for those guys can do that?” So yeah, George.

Definitely a great moment that would be. So aside from making your Opry debut and releasing these three singles, like what is next for you in 2021?

Just getting ready to hit the road, and taking these songs to the people. And we may have some stuff coming out, some more songs coming out later this year, hopefully. But no, it’s really just seeing where it goes. It’s all those things where it’s put so much work in them. We’ve crossed every T and dotted every I and just excited to get out there and take the songs to the people and see what their reaction is, and just have fun with it. I got into this industry to have fun and do something that I love, and I think now more than ever, I have that opportunity.

Definitely, well, thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to chat with us, and we look forward to your Opry debut and the new music sounds great. Can’t wait for everyone else to hear it and look forward to seeing you on one of your tours coming up.

Oh, thanks so much, man.

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