What’s the next step after making your relationship Instagram official? Red carpet official!
“I just walked the carpet with the most beautiful woman — Miss Carly Pearce — for the first time,” he said of making their debut during PEOPLE’s red carpet broadcast. “We took some photos…we’ve been drinking wine [and] hanging out, just taking it in. It’s country’s night to party.”
Ray, 30, then went through the finer points of going “Instagram Official” vs. “Red Carpet Official” with your special someone.
“I think the first step is announcing it on Instagram,” he says. “You’re allowing everyone in — everybody’s coming in! People see it on Instagram but then red carpet is that seal of approval. Instagram’s your step out to test the water…with the toe, and then you have both feet in!”
Check out PEOPLE’s full CMA Awards coverage to get the latest news on country music’s biggest night.
Ray says the pair were on the same page about announcing their romance with a snuggly Instagram photo in July..
“We did it together. We wanted to be together,” he says. “We were together a little while beforehand and it was very important to us. We’re very close to our fans and we always try to make everything very personal and so we didn’t want it to be from a publicist. We wanted it to be from us, genuine: ‘Hey, we’re both madly in love with each other and we want to be able to tell you guys and let you all in.'”
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According to the country crooner, Pearce, 28, is having a major impact on his songwriting — in a good way.
“I’m normally writing sad songs and I’ve never written so many love songs in my life,” says Ray. “This third record is going to be a positive one.”
The 52nd annual CMA Awards air Wednesday, Nov. 14 from Nashville at 8 p.m. EST on ABC. PeopleTV, the advertiser-supported OTT streaming service from PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly, will live stream its Country Music Association Awards pre-show, “PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly Red Carpet Live: CMA Awards,” beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET/2:30 p.m. PT. The show will wrap before the ceremony begins at 8 p.m. ET.