Meet Michael Ray. You probably already know the country artist from his number one hit song "Kiss Me In The Morning." Michael recently stopped by iHeartRadio HQ in New York City recently, where he treated us to an amazing performance of his chart-topping single, in addition to a few others from his newly released, self-titled album.
But that's not all, Michael also talked to us all about his tattoos! The country singer has ink all over his arms, and he shared the stories behind them all.
Michael Ray explains his tattoos and the stories behind them below in our exclusive interview.
Michael has several large tattoos, and they are all located on his arms, and all hand drawn and inked on by his tattoo artist, Randy. He tells iHeartRadio that he got his first tattoo, a cross, at the age of seventeen on his left forearm. In fact, his first tat turned into a matching tribal sleeve with his dad. They are now bonded by ink for life.
On his cross tattoo & tribal sleeve on his left arm:
"First one is this cross [when] I was seventeen. When I was about thirteen, my dad started getting tattoos, and he always had motorcycles, and so everybody around us always had tattoos. I always wanted some sort of faith based tattoo where I could see it. I always wanted to do music, and I know there were ups and downs, so [the tattoo] is a reminder that God's with you type thing. So, my dad didn't have as many as he has now yet, and so he said, 'Man, why don't we get the same sleeve, same arm?' I was like 'well that's cool.' I'll have that forever, so, I was like 'Man, whatever you want I'll get.'"
"And so he went on the internet and found these Irish missionary crosses, actually, that is supposed to mean, God's always with you through the ups and downs. So it actually has some really cool meaning. So him and I got it together. We did not tell my mom, and, well, my parents were divorced, so my dad didn't care. However, I had to deal with my mom during the first three months of shock of like, 'I can't believe you did that to your body.' And then we just started adding the tribal around it. The first part of it I got was up on my arm, then did the forearm part, and then the underneath. Then it goes all the way up just above my shoulder."
The whole sleeve took around five and a half hours to complete all together, and done in two parts. "One part was about two hours, the part on my bicep. And then the forearm part was a good three."
Michael was around 20/21 years old when he started filling in his sleeve with his dad, and he said the most painful part was underneath his arm, and around his elbow.
"Underneath. Underneath the arm is the worst. For me. Somewhere underneath [his arm] is connected to my right knee, because my leg wouldn't stop moving. It was like scratching a dog. So Randy was like, 'Dude, what is wrong with you?' It's the worst. But that and the elbow. When I got the elbow done, it just swelled up like a baseball."
And the country singer has a the perfect cure for such swelling and pain: "Ice and ibuprofen. Some liquor. Jack Daniels."
On his right forearm, Michael has an old-fashioned microphone with some music notes surrounding it in honor of his passion for music and his career. He tells us he got this tattoo at 23 years old, and he actually used to use a mic just like this that he borrowed from a friend's cousin.
On the microphone and the music note on his right forearm:
"I wanted something with music in it, so I talked to my tattoo artist, Randy, the same guy that's done all my stuff. I was like, 'Man, I want something with music. I want something that's cool.' At the time, my buddy's cousin let me use this style microphone. And my grandmother, and my aunt, her sisters, were always big Elvis fans. So I always saw this microphone Elvis used. And I just happened to be using one of these, because my buddy's cousin let me borrow his. So through high school, and playing different bars and stuff. I was like, 'Man, I want this old school microphone. I'm using this.' I originally wanted it to go all the way around my arm, and he was like, 'Man, let's just do the forearm thing.' So he free hand drew this on my arm, and then with marker, and then tattooed it."
Above the microphone, on his right bicep, is a celtic-inspired design, that is currently unfinished. The design itself incorporates the Native American and Irish cultures -- of which Michael is both.
On his Celtic Tribal tattoo on his right bicep:
"This other one up here, it's not finished yet. I got this one, and then I started doing the sleeve, or finished up the sleeve. And then I think this one was in between the microphone and the sleeve. But, I'm Native American and Irish. So it's just a Celtic knot with a different type of Native American tribal."
Michael is certainly not done getting tattoos just yet. After he finishes his Celtic tribal tattoo, he tells us he wants to finish the entire sleeve on his right arm, and also get some tattoos on his ribs, but he doesn't have a specific tattoo in mind at the moment. However, he does want to get something in honor of his family, specifically for his grandfather who recently passed away earlier this year.
On his plans for future tattoos:
"I want to get something for my family. My grandfather passed away earlier this year, so I want to get something for him. And I want it to be pretty drastic. So, whenever I find out what it is, I'll know, and then get it done."
Now that you know all about Michael Ray's body art, check out what he had to say about his number one debut single, "Kiss You In The Morning," his new album, and more!
On his reaction to "Kiss You In The Morning" going number one:
"Honestly, I don't think it's sunk in. It's one of those things where you work so hard for it, but I know that the odds of having your first single go number one is very, very slim. So I know how fortunate it is that I have this, and that this is happening. Seeing it up there, obviously, that's the goal. You don't put a song out and go, 'Oh, man, I hope it hits fifteen.' We were all shooting for it, and the fact that it happened is just like 'holy crap!' We have the number one song."
So, what exactly is the story behind "Kiss You In The Morning?" Michael told us what the song is all about, and what it was like recording it.
On what "Kiss You In The Morning" is about & recording the song
"Well two of my buddies wrote it. Justin Wilson and Michael White. And when I heard it, I just thought they wrote something with really cool, clever lyrics with it. The melody was flowing on it, and the way that they worded some stuff. I just thought it was a cool way of saying something that, you know, whether it's a new thing, or maybe it's with that significant other, and y'all just want to go out for the night, and you keep it going into the next day. So I just loved the melody of it. Loved the lyrics they used on it, and the demo was already huge."
On top of his debut single topping the country charts, Michael also released his new self-titled album. The country singer tells us there are a few very personal songs on the record, including one about his family and home called "Somewhere South."
On his song "Somewhere South" from his newly released self-titled album
"My grandfather passed away earlier this year, so there's a song on there, two songs, that are probably the most personal. A song called 'Somewhere South,' which all of my family still lives in Florida and Houston, and I don't get to go home that much because we're on the road all the time. But, it's just that picture of when you're on your way home, the sights that you see, the images that you see when you're driving home. You start slowly getting back into your comfort zone. People you can just let all guards down with. The bridge mentions my grandmother and my grandfather in it."
Watch Michael Ray's "Kiss You In The Morning" music video below!
Photos: Rachel Kaplan for iHeartRadio