Michael Ray made his debut at the Grand Ole Opry earlier this year, and the singer says that he will never take the privilege of singing on the revered stage for granted.

"Playing the Opry is something I take very seriously," Ray tells The Boot. "Standing in that circle, that very few get a chance to stand on, is something that meant the world to me growing up."

Ray grew up listening to classic Opry artists such as Stringbean, Minnie Pearl, Porter Wagoner and Little Jimmy Dickens, who, in turn, greatly influenced his own music.

"My grandfather had VHS tapes of the Opry," Ray recalls. "It’s always been a dream of mine to play here, so being able to play here as many times as I have means the world to me. Playing the first time is the same feeling as the sixth, or however many times it’s been. There’s no other place in music like the Opry."

The "Kiss You in the Morning" singer also cites Gary Allan as an artist who has helped shape his career.

"He was the one who I feel merged the classic country lyrics to this new, cool, West Coast melody thing that he was doing," Ray continues. "To me, I was like, ‘This is awesome.’ And he had tattoos, so I was like, finally someone broke through with tats -- made me know I could get tattoos and sing. He’s probably my biggest influence in the country world."

Ray's self-titled debut album was released in August. The album is available for purchase on iTunes.

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