A natural in a number of genres, Red Deer singer Dean Ray has long been making his mark as a dynamic Central Alberta performer.
The Dean Ray Band performs July 20th at the ENMAX Centrium as part of Westerner Days, with doors opening at 7 p.m. and showtime set for 8 p.m. He will also be performing on the Bud Barn and Beer Gardens – Chillabong’s Stage July 18th through to the 21st.
Ray, whose latest CD is the aptly-titled and completely engaging Live It Loud, is adept at performing on his own, or as part of a duo, a trio or hitting the stage with a full band. He’s also thrilled about introducing lots of new tunes at the Westerner Days shows, many of which will ultimately land on a new project set for release early next year most likely.
He has performed across North America and throughout the Caribbean at casino showrooms, rodeos, night clubs, colleges, universities, arenas and corporate events.
Ray says it is not just writing songs – it is about writing great songs that all audiences can relate to and also that allow them to be involved in his show. He had an early start – Ray started playing music when he was just six years old, and drew inspiration from his uncle who was an Elvis impersonator.
The band thing just came naturally in his late teens which has led his career on his way to becoming a successful indie artist. “I would be excited when he would come over,” he recalled during a recent interview.
Through Kindergarten and Grade 1, Ray was learning a bunch of Elvis classics, and a seed to further explore music on his own one day was sown.
“I was thrilled to hear him play,” he said.
“He was kind of the music guy of the family.”
He landed his first electric guitar at 14, and is essentially self-taught.
“I got my first band at about 18, and then we started playing colleges and universities in Calgary and Lethbridge and all over,” he explained, adding they even landed on the same stage as singer Colin James at one point.
For Ray, his journey as a performer has been somewhat organic – it wasn’t so much a single moment in time when he made the specific choice to be a musician.
And of course, during the early years, there were the naysayers who continually pointed out how unlikely a successful music career would be.
But that made Ray try all the harder.
“The last 10 years I’ve been going full time, and I love what I’m doing,” he said, adding he’s been playing something in the neighbourhood of 200-plus gigs per year.
“I’m already booked up to the end of the year already.”
And over time, he has also found that he was comfortable in both the rock and country genres. That openness to diversity has meant a pretty extensive fan base has been popping up over the years far and wide.
“Because I play internationally, a lot of my songs are known in Europe as well. It was pretty cool because a buddy of mine told me he was on a honeymoon with his wife.
“He called me and said, ‘Dean, guess what song I just heard at the airport? Live it Loud!’ And this was in London, England.”
For Dean, whether he’s hitting the stage with his original cuts or belting out a classic cover, it’s all about the connection with fans.
“The audience is what makes music worthwhile. I really feed off an audience – everywhere I play – whether there are 20 people in a coffee shop or 2,000 in an event I’m playing for.
“It’s all about the people. I’m one of those guys that always gets people involved with the songs, and to get them singing.
“When you get to play ‘live’ – that’s what it’s all about.”