“I moved to Nashville with a girl so she could join the roller derby,” declares Boo Ray, in probably the best statement ever uttered at the beginning of an interview. The North Carolina-bred countrified rocker, who splits his time between both sides of the country, calls the Music City home base. Making rowdy records that feature swampy sass, brandish outlaw spirit, and ooze with snarling, Southern-fried twang is what Boo Ray does best.
“I rehearsed for years in Georgia in a car shop, and I spent a bunch of time running around south Georgia, the Gulf Coast, and the Carolinas; basically, you have to have certain types of songs or those crowds will eat you alive,” he reveals with a laugh. “That audience is serious about their music, and they know songwriters and they know guitar pickers, and you have to bring it. That’s been the most defining thing about developing my style, I figured out how not to get eaten alive.” His latest, and fifth, studio record, Sea Of Lights, which garnered love and adoration from outlets like Rolling Stone and had a single break the Billboard Top 40, carries on the tradition of Music Row outsiders, those who strum their guitars with one hand, while extending a one-fingered salute to the corporate machine with the other. It’s throughly refreshing.
“I got a phone call from a producer friend out on the west coast—he told me he had acquired the Ampex tape machine from Quonset Hut Studio that recorded Dylan’s Nashville Skyline and all the Nashville-era Cash records. He said ‘I’ve got it operating pretty good, why don’t you come out here and cut a record with me?’ So I immediately put it in gear and a couple of months later we had a live record on two-inch tape,” he recalls of the making of Sea Of Lights. “I didn’t take a band with me or anything, I took a guitar-playing buddy, Sol Philcox; we put a band together once we got out there, with whoever was around. My old friend Steve Ferrone from Tom Petty’s band played drums, along with some other hot California players, and the Garner Brothers from Lenny Kravtiz’ band sang backup. It was astounding. That was a room of strong personalities right there,” he laughs. “It took two Englishman, Sol and Steve, to make this damn redneck rock n’ roll record. It was a constant rough and tangle men’s club for sure.”
Not content to sit still, Boo revealed that has already recorded his next album. “The iron was hot and we struck,” he says. “We have a brand new 12-song one recorded straight to tape.” Though there’s no release date set for the new record, the twangy troubadour promises that he will soon be tearing up the highways, and coming to a town near you. We can hardly wait.