Who in the world is Marty Ray? Well, he recently did a cover of “Ice Ice Baby,” a famous Vanilla Ice single. He didn’t stop there. He has produced several other hit cover songs and after hearing a few of his tracks, I fell in love with his vocals. The dude has a giant beard, looks like he is down to party, and has an incredible voice. The more I learned about this guy, the more I liked him! After hearing a few of his tracks, I reached out to him via Facebook for an interview. Within minutes he agreed and we spent some time getting to know each other. Guys, this was fun. It is my pleasure to introduce you to the Marty Ray Project!
I saw your cover of “Ice Ice Baby” the other day and was floored. You have an incredible voice. What are some other big songs you’ve covered over the years? Also, has Vanilla Ice heard the cover? I am sure he would love it!
I have covered several big songs other than “Ice Ice Baby” like “Gangsta’s Paradise,” “Let Her Cry,” “Simple Man,” etc. They are all on my YouTube channel, Marty Ray Project. Rob, Vanilla Ice, did hear my version of “Ice Ice Baby” years ago when I first posted it and he invited me out to Miami to perform with him on his tour. He actually said it was the best version he’s ever heard. It was amazing! There is a video of that performance on my YouTube as well.
I’ve always been a fan of singer/songwriters. As a songwriter, what is your songwriting process like? Do you sit down to write a new song or does it just come to you in your sleep?
Songs come to me in various ways. A lot of times I’ll just come up with a cool sounding line or melody and then revisit it when I need to write a song or if it comes back to the front of my mind. Sometimes, I get to singing a melody and I have to finish it right then. I have written songs that were completed in 30 minutes to an hour and others that took years, it just depends on my mood and how long I stay in it I guess. There are probably 1,000 one liner song ideas in my voice memos.
How many different guitars do you own?
I only own 3 guitars: a Martin that is signed by Willie Nelson, BB King, Charlie Daniels, Tracy Lawrence, and Jim Vest, a Washburn travel guitar, and my first guitar which was a cheap electric. I also own a ukulele.
You are also an actor. Tell me more about that and how you got started in acting.
I got started in acting because of my little brother. He was 18 and told me that his lifelong dream was “unachievable.” I said, “And what dream is this that’s so insurmountable?” hoping he wouldn’t say President or something… He didn’t, thank God. He told me he wanted to be an actor and I said, “That’s not hard, there are millions of actors in this world.” So, after a long talk and a brand new outlook on life, he moved from Blytheville, AR to Memphis, TN with me. I started taking him to acting classes to show him how easy it was to be an actor. While there one night the acting teacher, Forrest Pruitt, told me to get up and act. I said, “I’m not an actor, I’m a singer.” He said, “We’re all something else here, get up there and ac.” So I did and I realized that I actually loved it. Next thing you know I was on TBS, CBS, and AMC, as well as several films. Before the TV networks started calling though I had to perfect my acting chops. Being an actor in a city without a lot of budgeted film projects is tough. So, you start thinking of ways to showcase your acting skills without waiting around on “Hollywood” to see your potential.
You also write movie scripts. A few of those have been produced. Tell me more about that and how that compares to songwriting.
If you’re smart you start writing your own ideas down and hopefully turn them into short films, or web series, or something. It’s a way to give yourself a shot so that Hollywood will see what they’re missing, or at least that’s how I looked at it. I highly doubt any of my early short films had any bearing on me booking any roles, matter of fact, I’m sure of it. That was the initial goal of writing my own films. Those small writing projects led me into writing TV series outlines and feature length scripts that I will sell in the near future, whether I’m in them or not. I love to write stories, whether it’s in a song, short story, or feature film. That’s all life is anyway, an accumulation of a bunch of stories being told, or lived. I just love to create and I know that we are made to create. We should create something every day, no matter how small. I don’t want to keep any ideas that are in my head stagnate, I want to see all of them come to fruition.
Tell me more about your fan club. What is the Limited Edition Membership all about?
The fan club is for the Marty Ray Project fans that want to become Project’rs, as I call them. The limited edition fan club membership is a way for the diehard Project’rs to get the chance to chat with me for a bit on the phone. I love answering all my fans comments and messages and I reply to at least 90 percent of them but, I can’t talk on the phone with all of them. The few that join that limited edition membership will get that chance for sure. I’m truly grateful for all the love and support that my fans have shown me over the years, in everything I do, whether they join the fan club or not.
Thoughts on joining a record label, or do you want to stay independent?
I have met with labels and it’s not for me. I will not allow a corporation to put me in a box creatively. I couldn’t do half the things I’ve done if I were signed to a label. Plus, they’re thieves and liars that want to take from 360 degrees of your career, (i.e. 360 deal). That means they get a percentage of everything you do no matter what. I tell people all the time that I am 100 percent fan supported and I’ll stay that way, unless by some strange occurrence a label caves to all my demands but, I’m sure that will never happen though.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
I grew up singing and listening to black gospel music because I was raised in a Pentecostal church, I still listen to gospel music to this day. As I grew into my preteen and teenage years I began branching out into other music like hip hop, R&B, blues, and rock. The first music I listened to outside of gospel was Boyz II Men and I absolutely loved them. They are still, to me, the greatest R&B group of all time. They really weren’t that far separated from gospel music though. R&B, and my friend’s subwoofers in his SUV, led me into hip hop and I was captivated by artists like Beastie Boys, 2Pac, Biggie, and Dr. Dre. My parents really didn’t like it when I cranked the hip hop up loud though.(Laughs.) It wasn’t until a friend of mine showed me a song called “Sweet Home Alabama” that I ever appreciated southern rock. When I heard Lynyrd Skynyrd for the first time I was hooked for life. I had several albums and could quote almost all their lyrics, same with any band or artist I was infatuated with. FYI “Simple Man” is one of the greatest songs ever written. Southern Rock ushered me into blues and that’s when I discovered BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and others like them. I always wanted to play like those guys but never had the dedication to learn I guess. Truthfully, I play guitar more out of necessity than love. It’s not that I don’t love the sounds and the music, it’s just super hard for me to learn how to play any instrument. I had to learn to play the guitar to be able to write songs without depending on musicians that were unreliable. Trust me, I have met many musicians that weren’t reliable in my life, I’ve met a lot that are reliable too though to be fair. It wasn’t until my mother took me to a Garth Brooks concert that I liked country music. When I saw this guy in a cowboy hat swinging on ropes, busting guitars, and sliding through fire, I was mesmerized. I thought, this guy’s a rock star. From that point on I was one of the biggest Garth Brooks fans and I still am to this day. I’m actually still a fan of all the aforementioned artists, with a few new ones added into my musical catalogue as well. I really enjoy all genres of music, well, most genres anyway, I’ve never really understood death metal so much. To answer your question as long winded as possible I would have to say my biggest influences growing up and now are: Mahalia Jackson, Lynyrd Skynyrd, BB King, Garth Brooks, Boyz II Men, and Elvis Presley, oh, and Charlie Daniels and Michael Jackson, oh, and also Willie Nelson too. (Laughs.) The list of people that have inspired me can really go on for days to be honest, inside and outside of music. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
Tell me more about your band.
My band consist of me and whoever is available to play the day I need them to play. (Laughs.) I have several musicians that I trust and I call them when I need something. If they’re not available for that particular show, then I go down the list. We play just about every genre there is to play and love every minute of it, or at least I do and they tell me they do, you never really know though.
Your bear seems to be a part of you. It has inspired songs and I couldn’t imagine you without it. Have you ever considered shaving it?
I have grown a beard in some fashion or another off and on my whole life, well, since I was able to grow one I mean, so like 12 years old then, haha. I think the full beard and bald head have helped me get into more people’s ears because they’ll click a video just to see the travesty that’s about to happen to whatever song I’m playing, like “Ice Ice Baby,” for instance. Instead they usually become fans of my voice and musical style, which means the world to me. I didn’t grow it as a gimmick or anything just decided to stop shaving one day, turned out to be the greatest decision of my life. I formed a partnership with the best beard manufacturing company in the world because of this man mane on my face. Beardilizer came along sometime shortly after the original posting of “Ice Ice Baby,” which was about 4 or 5 years ago I believe. I’m horrible with the time space continuum thing though to be honest. (Laughs.) That partnership has led to many funny beard parodies and originals and there will be many more in the future. I think about trimming my beard really short a lot actually and anytime I’m eating I think about shaving it completely but, I never go through with it. It’s a love hate relationship for sure.
Tell me more about Expression Not Perfection.
Expression Not Perfection was my first full-length album and it is mixed with several different genres, another thing I could never do if I were signed to a label. There’s some reggae, country, rock, blues, and even some gospel on that album, oh and “Ice Ice Baby” is on there as well. Thanks to Rob for giving the rights. That album came out I think in 2015 and my new album is planned to release in September of this year. The new album is a whole other mix of songs that people would probably never think I’d write, it’s fittingly titled Mixed Emotions.
You are active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… What is your favorite social network? By the way, thanks for being so responsive on Facebook!
My favorite social media is YouTube, if that’s considered a social media, because they have given independent musicians, like myself, an avenue to create, and earn a living doing it, without a major label pulling the strings. They have made it possible to earn a living doing whatever kind of entertainment you can think of actually. There is an audience out there for whatever you create, I guarantee it. Thank you, YouTube! My second favorite social media would be Facebook because of all the love that I receive and get to respond to on there. My least favorite is Twitter, if it went away tomorrow it wouldn’t bother me a bit. I like Instagram as well, I guess. I LOVE talking to my fans on Facebook and YouTube, anywhere they reach out to me, really.
What’s next for Marty Ray Project?
You never know what Marty Ray Project has coming up! God has truly blessed me with doors of opportunity that I could’ve never opened without Him. I’m thankful for all of them. This new album is what’s immediately next for us then, who knows. There are many things in the works though, I’ll tell you that.
Thank you so much for doing this. In all of the interviews I do, I always give the artist the last word. Go.
The last word huh? Humbled!
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