Herndon may be new to the world of country music as
a solo artist, but this singer/songwriter is far from
new within the industry. As a former member of McBride & The Ride, Herndon already has eight country chart hits including four Top 10 songs. He is the longtime guitarist for Lyle Lovett and the co-writer behind the Kenny Chesney hit "Me and You." It's
no wonder why he titled his debut solo album Livin'
Herndon, an Arizona native, grew up surrounded by music. His late father "Brick" played stand-up bass, drums and guitar, and his two older brothers are also musicians. At the young age of four, Herndon recorded a Christmas album in Hollywood. "It never actually came out, but it's a great keepsake," he
says with a smile.
At age seven, Herndon started playing guitar and learned
how to play the music his dad would listen to on the radio. "He was pretty heavily into the country music scene," Herndon says of his father. "That's really what got me around country music at a real young age. I also loved rock music, so I have a diverse background of a lot of different styles of music. As
I got older and my voice got lower, country music just seemed
more natural for me."
When he was eleven years old, Herndon began performing paying
gigs. As he entered high school, he joined the marching band and continued to play gigs in the evening. He
then attended a jazz college in Mesa, AZ and sharpened his
musical skills by playing at his family's restaurant and
nightspot, Handlebar J, in Scottsdale, AZ.
In 1982 Herndon was asked to join Arizona's hot band in town,
J. David Sloan and The Rogues. Throughout Herndon's tenure
with the band, he became good friends with fellow band member
Matt Rollings, who later on would become Herndon's co-producer
on his debut solo album.
Just one year later while on a month long tour in Luxemburg,
Herndon met Lovett who was performing at the same fairgrounds. With no band at that time, Herndon and his fellow members decided to work up some of Lovett's songs and offered to back him up. "Some of us have been playing with him since," Herndon says. "I've toured with him off and on over the years since 1985. He's
been very helpful."
When Lovett's tour dates slowed down, Herndon decided to
concentrate on his career as a solo artist, when he got a
phone call from the then President of MCA Records, Tony Brown. "He called me and asked me if I'd be interested in being in a band with Terry McBride," Herndon remembers. "He had some songs that Terry had pitched, and he thought it would be a great direction for a band. I
of course said yes."
Throughout the five years of the McBride & The Ride trio, Herndon honed in on his songwriting and realized how important it was. "I always grew up a player, singer and performer," Herndon states. "Of course I loved songs, but for some reason growing up I didn't think about where they came from. It
became very apparent to me how important it was to have your
Over the years, several artists have cut Herndon's songs
such as Kenny Chesney, Aaron Tippin, Lee Greenwood, Linda
Davis, Sonya Isaacs, and McBride & The Ride.
In late 2004, Herndon released his current independent album
titled Livin' The Dream, which he co-produced with Rollings. Herndon co-wrote nine of the 11 songs compiled on his solo debut effort. "He's a real musician and singer," Rollings says. "He has lived music his whole life. That's what he is and what he does. It's
not about fame for Ray, it's about making great music."
Livin' The Dream is a showcase of Herndon's traditionally
crafted, hauntingly compelling songs, weaving his own mellow-smooth
vocals together with an impressive array of guest artists
and musicians including Jessi Colter, Lyle Lovett, Clint
Black, Sonya Isaacs, Jon Randall Stewart, and Isaac Freeman. "I feel that this album is a great representation of my life and who I am," Herndon explains. "I've
had people tell me after hearing the album that they feel
like they know me."
The album's second single is the hard-core honky-tonker "Grain of Salt…(And a Shot of Tequila)," a duet with Clint Black. "We were winding the record down and looking to get some harmony vocals done. Matt and I wanted to get someone really unique. Then Matt suggested Clint and picked up the phone and called him. He knew me from McBride & the Ride and said he'd love to do it. It's
gotten some great response."
Ray Herndon knows that he's been livin' the dream for a long
time, and for a long time to come. "I've gained a lot of experience over the years from not actually being in the hot seat myself as a front man," says Herndon. "I think going in knowing what to expect at this point in my life is better for me than when I was 19 years old. I'm just a believer that things happen when they're supposed to and when you're ready. I
feel that now it's my turn."