Michael Ray also dishes to PEOPLE about his adoration for girlfriend Carly Pearce: "I not only love her as one of the most amazing women but I love her art, and her voice"

By Perri Ormont Blumberg
November 12, 2018 07:35 PM
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It’s Monday afternoon and Michael Ray is a bit tired, but all is well in the world of the 30-year-old country star — he’s in the same ZIP code as girlfriend —and fellow musician — Carly Pearce, “a little last-minute trip,” he tells PEOPLE. And it’s certainly not the first time the “Kiss You in the Morning” singer has hopped on a plane to see his better half, such as when he’s surprised Pearce in Detroit and Buffalo earlier this year.

“My last day on the Rascal Flatts tour was in Michigan — I was sitting in a nail salon with one of my friends, and he showed up. He flew in and said, ‘I’m not missing your last show,’” Pearce previously told PEOPLE with a big grin. “It was this out-of-body thing where I’m like, ‘Wait, oh my God, okay, that is you!’”

Today, though, Ray is catching up with PEOPLE to rave about another — albeit more unexpected — crush of his, guitarist and rapper Post Malone.

“He has this quality of being himself, unapologetically. And his lyrics and art are something I really clung onto as a fan,” Ray explains. After Malone played in Nashville, Ray was introduced through a mutual acquaintance and a fast camaraderie blossomed. “[I was impressed by] his knowledge of music and how broad it is. He has a love and respect for all genres and [it was great] to have an intimate conversation about the country tradition.”

Putting his own spin on smash hit “Psycho” seemed like an obvious choice for Ray to tip his hat to the musician.

“I wanted to add that mysterious sound to the track,” Ray notes of his decision to add steel guitar to his rendition. “It’s not usual nowadays and I knew it would really stand out and bring our version of ‘Psycho’ full circle.”

michael-ray-post-malone
Michael Ray; Post Malone
| Credit: John Shearer/WireImage; Kevin Mazur/Getty

Ray teamed up with Spotify and headed to Sound Stage Studios in Nashville to record the Spotify Single, in just one day.

“I really wanted my creativity shown in this. I wanted my hands involved in every part of the production. To have my band brothers out in the studio with me, to work with your buddies that you spend more time on the road with than you do with your loved ones at home, was really cool,” he adds of the collaborative experience.

“To get to know Post and a little of who he is and how he [approaches] music, it made me want to make it that much better. I wanted to do the song right. It’s such a great song and such a massive song of this generation,” Ray says, gently jeering at the fact that there will “always be twang” in his cover of any song.

Now, back to that other crush. Performing with Pearce, in particular, has been a cherished opportunity for Ray: “She is one of my favorite singers, she makes me better whenever I get to collaborate with her. Being able to stand on the Opry stage together someplace that’s so important to her and myself individually, and to have that now together, was almost a surreal feeling. The other day we were on the Ryman stage and they asked us if we would do a duet and I jump at the opportunity to be able to sing songs with her,” he tells PEOPLE.

“I not only love her as one of the most amazing women but I love her art, and her voice, and how smart she is about what she does and how she sings. She’s five steps ahead at every moment.”

Michael Ray’s sophomore album, Amos, is available now. See his upcoming tour dates here.