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Forgoing a move to Nashville, Ray instead formed a band and began playing a constant grind of shows all around Southern Florida. He slowly built a loyal following, a fan base that widened considerably after a Lakeland DJ for WPCV-97 Country put his music into regular rotation. Soon Ray was headlining the Orlando House of Blues and selling out shows all over Florida. In 2010, his independently released debut caught the ear of veteran music industry manager Tony Conway, who began helping Ray take his career to a national audience. In 2012, Ray appeared on the CW talent competition The Next, where he was mentored by Big & Rich's John Rich. Ray was an audience favorite on the show and ultimately took home the top prize. After the show, Ray signed a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell, and in 2014 released the hit single "Kiss You in the Morning." His full-length major-label debut, Michael Ray, followed in 2015 on Warner Music Nashville. Well-received, the album made it to number four on the Country Albums chart, and spawned two more singles with "Real Men Love Jesus" and "Think a Little Less." Over the next several years, Ray toured extensively before returning to the studio alongside producer Scott Hendricks (Blake Shelton, Brooks & Dunn, Trace Adkins). In 2018, he delivered his sophomore album, Amos, which included the Top 20 country single "Get to You." Amos debuted at five on Billboard's Country Albums charts upon its June release. ~ Matt Collar