Michael Gray has been a musician for about 20 years. He picked up a guitar his freshman year of high school and has been playing ever since. But strumming a six-string was never the thing that excited him most.
"I never wanted to be a great guitarist," Gray said. "It was a means to put some chords together."
What Gray felt most deeply about was writing and composing, something that comes through on his debut release, Songs for the Dying. Gray wrote all the songs and recruited a team of local musicians to help him carry out the production. Despite a reluctance to boast, Gray brings energy to both his guitar-playing and lyric-writing on the album.
"I think everything I write, there's parts of me in it, things I've experienced personally. It feels more magical, like I'm tapping into the ether somewhere, and I'm a conduit for the song," Gray said. "They're out there, and I get to tap into them and bring them into existence."
Gray explained that although he does get inspired at times, the idea for a song is often triggered by chance.
"I'll write the song or write the lyrics and then it'll be a couple months before I go, 'Oh, this is what this is about,' and I see this experience I had or this conversation I had," Gray said.
The exception to that is the song "Deplorations (6/4)." Gray wrote that track after being with his grandmother as she passed away. The album title partially reflects that experience but also addresses existence.
"I think all of us, in a way, are dying or have experienced death, whether it's abuse or depression or heartache," Gray said. "There are these moments that feel like death and darkness and so my concept behind the title was these are songs that deal with these kinds of issues and are for all us in a way ... because all of us have experienced those kinds of things. Probably everyone can relate to a lyric, a line, a mood or a feeling.