Michael Ray has spent years preparing for the release of his self-titled debut album, but now that it's here, he's wondering where the time went.

"It feels fast," Ray concedes to The Boot. "In all reality, it was anything but fast. But when you look back on it, it’s like, ‘Holy cow, it’s actually here.’"

He's also trying to keep himself calm.

"I’ve never been this nervous in my life. Never," the singer-songwriter continues. "Just because, this is your album that you’ve worked so hard for. It’s my first one. A lot of people put a lot of hard work in there, from A&R to myself, to producers and songwriters -- everybody who made this record what it is.

"I’m very excited, and I’m super happy with it," Ray adds. "I feel like we’ve got a great first record, and I’m just excited for people to hear the whole thing."

"Kiss You in the Morning," Ray's debut single from his freshman project, is sitting in the No. 2 spot on Billboard's Country Airplay chart (on the chart dated Aug. 15); it's also No. 10 on the Hot Country Songs chart. But if you're expecting his whole disc to sound like that one song, think again: Ray says that it's impossible to judge the entire album from one track.

"I wanted to make [an album] where the songs were different than the next and that was broader for listeners," he explains. "I wanted to make a record where, if you wanted to go and party, whatever track it is, you can party to it. If you’re going through something, you can hit that track, and it will help you go through it, or give you something, or whatever it might be. I grew up loving those type of records."

In fact, Ray looked to one of his own musical heroes for inspiration as he narrowed down songs for this project.

"In my opinion, Tim McGraw records are some of the best because of that reason," Ray says. "He has album tracks that blow you away. If you buy a Tim McGraw record, songs on there are so good and timeless, like "When She Wakes Up (and Finds Me Gone)" [from 1995's All I Want] or "You Had to Be There" [from 2009's Southern Voice].

"I tried to think that way," Ray adds. "Just because a song might not be a single, I didn’t want it to just be a song. I wanted it to be something that someone could listen to and love, and help them through something, or whatever moment they’re feeling when they listen to that song. That’s what I wanted them to hear."

Michael Ray is now available on iTunes.

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