The “Think a Little Less” singer, 29, was among the artists who performed at the Route 91 Festival, taking the stage two days before the Oct. 1 shooting that left 58 dead and 489 injured. Days later, he was contacted by Musicians On Call, a national nonprofit that places artists at hospital bedsides, and he was invited to return to Las Vegas.
Though in Chicago at the time to watch the Cubs in the World Series playoffs, Ray didn’t think twice. “I said, ‘I’m going,’” he tells PEOPLE. He and fellow artist Brandon Ray were the first performers from the festival lineup to visit survivors.
Ray explains that he made the rounds, performing a song each for patients at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center. The experience, he says, left him in awe of the power of music.
“Sometimes you do end up taking a little bit for granted the power of what we do,” he says. “You go and sing a song, and their family says, ‘Man, that’s the first time they’ve smiled since this.’ It’s just an overwhelming thing of gratitude to be able to be part of Musicians On Call.”
Since then, he says, he’s “kept in touch with a few of the survivors” to offer support — and assurances that they can enjoy live music again. He’s eager to make it happen, and he’s issued standing invitations to his concerts.
“I wanted to encourage them to come out and see us,” he says. “I want them to know when you come to one of our shows, I want you to come [backstage]. I want you to feel safe. I want you to not have to worry about anything. Please, be our guest. Come to our show.”
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During his time in Las Vegas, Ray also was among the artists who appeared at a lobby performance for staffers and first responders at University Medical Center, and that experience was especially meaningful to the “Kiss Me In the Morning” singer.
“My dad’s a first responder,” he explains, and “my uncle, my stepmom, my whole family.” His concert invitation, he adds, applies to all the Las Vegas caregivers, too. “If you ever want to come out,” he said, “we’ll take care of you.”
Ray is currently on the road through the end of the month on his “Get to You” tour.