Music and Mental Health: Country Singer Frank Ray

Courtesy of John Maggio

By John Maggio

Up-and-coming country singer Frank Ray was in D.C. recently, talking to members of Congress on matters of mental health. Knowledgeable from his work as a former police officer stationed in Las Cruces, New Mexico, he knows firsthand how mental health issues have plagued the first responder community.  He worked there dutifully for a decade before he decided to take, what he describes as, a big “leap of faith” into his country music career.

With popular songs such as “Country’d Look Good On You” and “Tequila Mockingbird”, Ray has started to make a wave in the music scene. Combining country, latin, R&B, and pop music, Ray’s style of music comes “naturally” to him from his youth. He grew up listening to country and Mexican latin music, which he says shaped his unique taste in the music that listens to and makes. 

He also tends to take inspiration from an artist that he has looked up to since his youth, the late Vicente Fernández, whom Ray calls the “Elvis of Mexican Music”. He has also said to be inspired by his good friend and fellow musician, Lainey Wilson, seeing her as a great new representation of women in the country music industry.  Some other artists he’s cited as influences include HARDY, Tracy Lawrence, and the late Selena. But the one person he sees as his greatest inspiration, both personally and professionally, is his wife, Emily, calling her his “beacon of strength” in a difficult industry.

When asked what he thinks about  his work in the industry so far, he said that by far his greatest accomplishment is being able to perform at The Grand Ole Opry. This weekly Nashville concert is to show the giants of the country music landscape and debut many rising stars, Frank Ray included. 

This all paid off, however, as Ray was recently called an “artist to watch” by Rolling Stone and when looking to the future, he hopes for the label to still be true. He wishes to be getting some awards soon, everything from a Grammy to a CMA, as a reflection of the “culture of the country music” community. A collaboration he hopes for in the future is with Bruno Mars, what he would see as a good mixture of each of their “musical arrangements”.

On matters of mental health, he does not understand why it is treated as a political issue, but as an “American” and “human” issue. He is an activist mainly on matters of mental health when related to youth and first responders. For many first responders, especially police officers, he sees it difficult for them to be able to have an outlet for any issues when they represent a field where they have to show strength and confidence. He says it can often be hard for officers to be able to unmask themselves and be able to say that they are not okay. Ray also thinks that people often forget that there is a “heart behind that badge” when they are in a thankless job. He spoke to members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute on the 13th of September. He thinks that this opportunity may help lay the foundation for federal regulation and aid for mental assistance for first responders.

As a former cop in a music industry that is more conservative, he had some thoughts on the political rhetoric and movements towards law enforcement in the past few years. As a vocal supporter of law enforcement, he says he would be the first one to call out any wrongdoing by an officer. Ray says that it is part of “being a human” to call out any injustice. 

Being a non-political issue to him, he also thinks that just because someone is pro-law enforcement, that doesn’t mean they are anti-BLM or vice versa. Constructive conversation is the key to solving the issue.

Ray also stated that he is planning on a tour through the U.S. and Canada sometime “in the next year” but was not at liberty to say any details about it.

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