TEXARKANA, Ark. — Whiskey River Country welcomes Collin Raye back to Texarkana for a hometown show for this De Queen, Arkansas-born country singer who hit it big in the 1990s.
Raye returns for a show at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 5, on the heels of a November release, "SCARS," which includes Raye's collaborations with a number of music stars: Miranda Lambert, Vince Gill and Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys.
For Raye, a 10-time Male Vocalist of the Year nominee at the CMA and ACM awards with two dozen top 10 records to his credit, the new album gave him a chance to tap into his own songwriting skills on a dozen tracks, and also partner with his brother Scotty Wray, with whom he started out in music.
"SCARS" is also Raye's first release of entirely new songs in more than 10 years. He's happy to get back to his songwriting and says in this way he's come full circle.
He's also been trying to stay as busy as possible, Raye said from his home near Nashville, Tennessee. He said he'd talked with the Whiskey River owner and old friend, Perry Steitler, about doing a show at the Arkansas-side club for a while.
"We played music together at The Pines Country Club back when I was 17 years old, 18 years old, and then me and the band we took off and we headed west," Raye recalled. He has musician friends still here in Texarkana, who praised Whiskey River as a great bar.
Recently, Raye suggested they do a show soon. He thinks with COVID-19 and this winter weather, people will be anxious to get out and see a show.
"I'm excited to come back down. Anytime I get to play Texarkana is a thrill, and I'm glad that there's a cool venue like that there," Raye said. "People want to go party so bad. A place like that to me is vital right now."
Talking about his new album, he quickly mentions how he got started writing songs with his brother. "When my brother and I were starting out playing music together in Texarkana, our goal was never to just make a living at it," he said.
They wanted to be singer-songwriters and have a band like the Eagles, where different vocalists stepped up front. "We wrote everything back then," Raye recalled, noting their skills improved.
But as a solo artist, he had the versatile voice to sing other songwriters' numbers. That led to his string of hits recording others' songs, although he'd always write a song or two for albums. He was honored that he got first dibs with some of those great songwriters.
For this latest studio release, Raye was asked to do an Americana album, which to him means anything goes, and then he was asked to write the material. He was ready for the challenge, also happy to have his brother, a longtime musician for Lambert, on board.
"The title song 'Scars' and another song called 'Ghost Stories,' these were just great songs that we'd just kind of been holding on to," Raye said. Those were his brother's songs, and they wrote several numbers together with Raye writing the rest of the album songs.
"It was a cool experience to get to do that and get to reawaken my songwriting chops," Raye said, noting he's 60 years old now. With age, comes experience. "We hopefully gain some wisdom as we get older, I sure hope so." He had a lot to think about, stories he wanted to write.
"I thought, you know I'm going to write about stuff that I feel like needs to be written about," Raye said, adding, "I'm just real proud of that album. If I I never get to do another album, which I hope I do, if I never get to I'm real proud to put that one out there and say, 'This is me. This is what I'm all about.'"
He'll sing a few of those new ones at the Whiskey River show, but expect this hometown star to also play the hits people love. He knows that people who pay for a show want to hear them, he says. For this show, expect the Collin Raye we know and the Collin Raye who's gone back to his songwriting roots.
(Tickets: $35 general admission. Get tickets at tickets.holdmyticket.com/tickets/370017. Whiskey River Country is located at 310 E. 49th St. in Texarkana, Arkansas.)