Michael Ray performed in Las Vegas at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, the same weekend Stephen Paddock opened fire, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds more. So when Ray heard of the recent shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill on Nov. 7, killing 12, his heart broke all over again.
“It took me right back to waking up on my bus in the middle of the night after Route 91 happened,” Ray told CMT. “We’d played Route 91 on that Friday night, then had stopped in Arkansas, and we were on our way back home. My phone started buzzing on the table by my bed, and I ignored it at first. But then it kept buzzing again and again. When I finally picked up, it was my buddy, and the first thing he said was, ‘Are you OK?’"
"He told me what had happened, and was still happening, and my heart broke," he continued. "So today, it breaks again for all the families of those young kids, as they’re trying to piece together why their loved one just went out to have a good time, and then this.”
When David Ian Long turned the gun on others, before reportedly taking his own life at Borderline, the patrons were enjoying one of the club's most well-known activities, country line dancing. The fact that once again country music fans were targeted makes the event that much more painful for Ray.
“Those fans? That’s our family," Ray said. "That’s where the country music family starts: those fans. They’re there having country music be part of their life, whether it’s listening to the music, seeing a band, or taking those line dancing lessons. These were college kids. They are the future of our country. They aren’t even that much younger than me. They’re unwinding, having some wholesome fun.”
The "One That Got Away" singer hopes fans know how devastated not only Ray, but the entire country music community is by the latest tragedy.
“Those families are living through their worst nightmare right now," Ray remarked. "We want them to know that the country music family is wrapping our arms around them, and we want to be there for them, and let them all know that you shouldn’t let this stop you from living. Don’t let anyone take away your shine.”
Immediately after the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting, Ray partnered with Musicians on Call, a non-profit that brings music to patients in hospitals to help with their healing. It's a cause he remains passionate about.
"I think that you see the impact when you walk into a room a week later, and you see a father or a wife or a mother or a sister, brother, whomever, and they haven't smiled since," Ray told PopCulture.com. "They haven't really said anything, they've just kind of been here. But the second you walk in, you play some music, it takes them away, and that's the great thing of music. When you do a live show with music, whether it's on a stool in front of one person or it's on a stage in front of 50,000 you see the impact that it has."
"And you see the movement," he continued, "and you can feel it, and it takes you away from anything going on in your world at that moment. For those three and a half minutes, for that 75 minutes, nothing else matter except losing yourself in the music."
For Ray, and so many others artists, the tragedies that have occurred in the last year are a reminder to them to be vigilant about their own safety.0comments
“What happened [at Borderline], that is something we’ve always talked about with my tour manager and my security guys, but now we are really talking about it," Ray said. "People can say, ’I’ve never had an issue,’ but you’ve never had an issue, until you have an issue.”
Photo Credit: Getty images/Erika Goldring