Meaningful Message

Collin Raye made serious inroads into the Nashville country scene in the early ’90s when he signed as a solo act with Epic Records. Long before that, however, he and his brother, Scott, were learning their craft one gig at a time, playing Nevada casinos as The Wray Brothers. They even made it to Laughlin back in the ’80s.
Along that route, Raye discovered he could sing just about anything audiences could throw at him. The reason for that — his pure, age-defying, soaring tenor vocals.
To this day, his vocal range still allows him to easily handle Eagles’ songs, covers of his idol Glen Campbell’s hit songs, and during one of his last visits to Laughlin, Raye single-handedly tackled Don McLean’s “American Pie” beautifully. And he still sings all of his own songs in their original keys. Members of the Eagles can’t say that any more.
A collection of romantic songs on his break-through album, All I Can Be, turned the release into an immediate best-seller. Singles “Love Me,” “In This Life,” “That Was A River,” “One Boy, One Girl,” “My Kind of Girl,” and “That’s My Story,” were among the more than 20 Raye hits making it to the Top Ten.
He built a career on meaningful and emotional songs, becoming known for his “message songs”— like “Little Rock,” “Love Me” and “Not That Different.”
His songs also became more than hits, taking on separate lives of their own with some of the songs played at weddings and lyrics carved on tombstones.
Ten times nominated as country music’s Male Vocalist of the Year, with five platinum albums and 16 No. 1 records, Raye has consistently used his stardom to advocate and advance a lot of social causes. At the 2001 Country Radio Seminar, Clint Black presented Raye with the organization’s Humanitarian of the Year award for his issue-oriented music and his tireless charity work.
In 2010, after the loss of his precious 10-year-old granddaughter, Haley, Raye and his daughter Britanny (Haley’s mother) established The Haley Bell Blessed Chair Foundation to honor her memory. The foundation supports and assists families of the cognitively and physically disabled with a primary emphasis on supplying wheelchairs and other necessary medical equipment to elevate the quality of life for the disabled family member in need. He wrote a special song for Haley called, “She’s With Me,” which carries a powerful message for families of special needs children.
Additionally, in 2011 Raye released his first inspirational album, His Love Remains, which quickly shot to No. 1 on Amazon for inspirational and religious music.
His most recent album is a re-release of his recorded work entitled Twenty Five Years Twenty Five Hits.
Despite the difficulty of finding ’90s music on traditional radio stations in this day and age, Raye maintains a busy touring schedule that takes him all around the country. He is a regular fixture on the Laughlin music scene and this time he returns to the Riverside for a series of shows in Don’s Celebrity Theatre Friday-Sunday, Jan. 3-5.
The thing is, ’90s music never really went away in spite of Nashville’s move toward fresh faces instead of established artists like Raye who hit a musical homerun every time they came up to bat. And the fans have been forever loyal.
“I always try to stay as relevant as possible,” Raye said. “There seems to be a growing demand for acts from the ’90s — my radio era. And not just by die-hard fans. Promoters, different venues and festivals are really wanting us on their bills now.
“The only thing I can make of that is I think people are getting kind of tired of the whole “bro-country” deal and miss those good songs,” he added. “When Garth decided to do his world tour, I saw that as an indicator because he doesn’t do anything that isn’t calculated, researched and thought out. If he’s planning on making his big comeback, that means something. The rest of us can kind of benefit from that — the same way we did the first go-round.”
His most recent album, Twenty Five Years Twenty Five Hits, marked a milestone in his hit-filled career.
“I’ve been going for more than 25 years now,” he said. “If you count ‘What If Jesus Came Back Like That,’ which was an accidental hit that snuck on the chart because of Blair Garner and ‘After Midnite’ in Los Angeles playing it over and over and over on his syndicated radio show, then I’ve had 25 hit records. The album has those, plus three bonus cuts.
“I think the new versions are far better than the original versions,” he added. “Sometimes it’s just strictly sonically better — the studio sounds are better today than they used to be during the early ’90s stuff. It was quite an undertaking because we did every song in the original key that I cut ’em in — that was tough.”
One of his favorite albums was a tribute album to Glen Campbell he recorded in 2013, called Still On The Line.
“I do a couple of Glen Campbell songs in the show, too. I just idolized him as a kid watching ‘The Glen Campbell Good Time Hour’ on CBS,” Raye said. “He’d have Bob Dylan on or Johnny Cash — it was an incredible musical show. I always thought he hung the moon. Eventually, when I got into the business, I got to know him and we became friends.
“One of the coolest moments ever was when the Academy of Country Music chose me to be the guy to induct him into the Hall of Fame,” he added. “I’ll never forget that.
“When we first heard he had Alzheimer’s, I wanted to make that record while he could still comprehend it. So often we wait until someone’s dead, or in the case of Alzheimer’s, where they don’t know what’s going on, before we pay tribute to them,” he said. “I wanted him to know it and hear it. I’m so proud of that record — so proud of it.
“The bonus of doing an album like that is that it gives me the license to play some of that music in the live show. I like to sing ‘Gentle On My Mind,’ ‘Galveston,’ and ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ anytime I want — and have a legitimate right to do ’em, because I cut ’em.”
And it’s his signature vocal range that allows him to include those Jimmy Webb-penned songs in his shows, along with those unexpected musical treats to surprise audiences.
“I’ve been able to maintain my range,” he said. “That is an amazing thing to me. I can still sing them the exact same way — and in many ways I think I sing ’em better because as you get older you start to develop a character to your voice that wasn’t there when you were younger.”
Raye also has songs that became more than hits. His music is a part of people’s lives.
“Not a show or meet-and-greet goes by that someone doesn’t ask, ‘Are you gonna sing ‘The Gift’ or ‘If I Were You,’ or ‘In This Life, or ‘One Boy, One Girl, because ‘that was our wedding song,'” he added. “‘One Boy, One Girl’ is one I would never have thought was a wedding song, but a lot of people relate to how the couple meets in that song. Sometimes they use album cuts that never made it to radio. ‘All My Roads’ has been played at a ton of weddings.
“The other side of that are funerals,” he said. “That is a tremendous compliment. Weddings and funerals are significant moments in people’s lives — when they’re starting life together or when they’re celebrating someone’s life at the end — and for your music to be included in that is about as good as it gets.”
Raye’s Laughlin shows are filled with his hits, some covers and a surprise or two.
“I always love coming down there. I love playing the Riverside because it’s one of those rare places I stay in one place for more than one day and I get to enjoy it,” he said. “I can tell my little stories and my little jokes and just talk about the music and do a few songs that I wouldn’t do in a larger venue. I enjoy that more, actually. And we’ll do some covers, and we always do at least one Eagles song.”
Why? Well, because he can.


COLLIN RAYE

Don’s Celebrity Theatre within the Riverside Resort

Friday-Sunday, Jan. 3-5 (7 p.m.)

See “Showtimes” for ticket info