Michael Ray has always made it clear that he's a student of '80s and '90s country music, and that he draws heavy musical inspiration from the likes of Shenandoah, Gary Allan, Joe Diffie and Travis Tritt.

When Ray dropped his new single, "Whiskey and Rain," in September 2020, he doubled down on those influences, digging even deeper into his roots than ever before.

Now, as he continues to ready his as-yet-unannounced third studio album, Ray says those throwback sounds will continue to come across loud and clear in the music he's got coming. "Whiskey and Rain" is a heartbreak song, but he's applying his classic country leanings to all kinds of subject matter, the singer tells Sounds Like Nashville.

"There's songs on there really about where I'm from. There's songs on the record that are just good, party anthem songs and there's 'Whiskey and Rain' and songs like that on there," he explains.

"Man, it's country!" Ray exclaims, summing up his new project.

Over the course of the 2020 pandemic, in the absence of touring, the singer spent more time with family in his home state of Florida — a state known for all kinds of different music, with an emphasis on twangy, gritty rock 'n' roll in addition to country. Those diverse influences also feed into his next musical chapter, the singer explains.

"I think, collectively, what people are gonna hear is the inspiration from the '80s and the '90s, some of that Florida southern rock feel," Ray offers. "All that stuff that I pulled from growing up is going to be all over this album.

When it comes to specific songs on his new album, Ray's keeping his cards pretty close to the chest, so it remains to be seen what subject matter he'll take on over the course of the project. Still, it's tempting to read his personal life into "Whiskey and Rain" — a heartbreak ballad — in the wake of his divorce from fellow country star Carly Pearce over the summer of 2020.

Both singers have stayed relatively quiet about the reasons behind their split, though Pearce has opened up about the aftermath of the heartbreak on her end, and several new songs (such as her single, "Next Girl") have left fans wondering how authentic the lyrics are to the couple's real-life split. Whether Ray will delve into his side of the story in his next album remains to be seen.

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