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Country

Michael Ray on the Success of His Debut Smash 'Kiss You in the Morning': 'It Was Mind Boggling'

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Michael Ray has been living the ultimate dream since his debut single “Kiss You in the Morning” soared to No. 1 late last year.

“The success of ‘Kiss You in the Morning’ was mind boggling,” says Ray in an upcoming special celebrating his debut. “Before it was even out, people were singing it at shows. Country radio just literally open-arm embraced it. It was the coolest ride to be on because I grew up listening to country radio. The top 40 countdown on Sundays was like a religious thing I did after church.”

Now, the Eustis, Florida native, 24, is working his follow-up single “Real Men Love Jesus” and will tour with Darius Rucker this summer. His dedication to the road – he spent eight years touring the country in a van, but is now cruising in a tour bus – has also earned him quite the fan base. Though sometimes people are fooled by his tatted up look.

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“People ask me what kind of music I do and I say ‘country’ and they’re like, ‘What?'” says Ray. “People look at me and think rocker, but my heart is country. I love classic country. I love the history of it and the men and women who paved the way for us to do what I’m doing now. Country music is real stories for American people.”

Check out a sneak peek of the singer sharing his story in AT&T AUDIENCE Network Presents: Michael Ray, airing Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET.

“I am so excited to be able to share this project we shot with the world,” Ray tells PEOPLE exclusively. “It a powerful experience to be able to revisit so many memories and places that have had a profound impact on my journey so far, especially while standing on the sacred ground that many of my heroes have stood before me.”