Growing up in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in the rural Northeast Alabama town of Fyffe, Chance Gray spent his childhood soaking in the culturally rich Southern stories passed down through the generations and the intertwined gospel songs about faith, hope, love and the promise of a better place beyond the skies. The son of a Baptist choir director, Gray says his first love of music came from the front-row pew of Corinth Baptist Church. “To me, the music was always the best part,” says Gray with a grin.
When he was 12 his dad came home one day with a 1965 Silvertone acoustic guitar from a yard sale. “I was heavy into sports at the time, but dad said the Dallas Cowboys would never draft me. He handed me that guitar and said, unlike football, I could play it until the day I die. It hurt my feelings, but fortunately I listened,” Gray says. Though he took some lessons, he never really took music seriously until after high school.
"I’d wake up in the middle of the night and just start writing. Sometimes it would rhyme and sometimes it wouldn’t, but it made me feel better."
Gray says he started writing around 14 or 15 years old as a way to cope and sort through life. “My parents were very religious and strict,” says Gray. “In hindsight, I’m sure that I did, but at the time I never thought I had a support system. I was terrified of punishment or the threat of eternal hell fire so I just kept most everything to myself. Many nights I couldn’t sleep for the things that weighed upon my mind and I’d wake up in the middle of the night and just start writing. Sometimes it would rhyme and sometimes it wouldn’t, but it made me feel better.”
Gray enrolled at the University of Alabama in the Fall of 2005 where he studied Journalism and Psychology. Before long he began playing acoustic gigs in college bars with his cousin, roommate and best friend, Jacob Stiefel. After college Gray returned to Fyffe where he thought he’d just live and work like everyone else but music wouldn’t leave him alone. He worked a few sales jobs but by his early twenties was helping manage a local band and writing original songs for them to demo.
After a while it became clear what he had to do. In August 2010, Chance packed up and made the move from small town to Nashville, TN, to write songs and work in the music industry.
Not a suit and tie guy anymore, Gray found work in a downtown dive bar stocking beer and taking out trash to pay the bills while trying to meet people in the industry and throw himself into the mix. He worked there for 18 months and one day he got a call from an unknown number offering him a job on a tour in concert merchandising. “Let me go quit my job and pack a bag, and I’m in,” Gray remembers saying.
The next night he was on a tour and has never looked back. He spent his first few years working merchandise for artists such as Sunny Sweeney, Jerrod Niemann, Chris Young, Thomas Rhett, Olivia Newton-John and comedian, Larry The Cable Guy to name a few. By 2015 Gray found himself on Taylor Swift’s 1989 World Tour, the largest tour in the world that year.
I realized that I had everything in life I had struggled so long for... but there was something else I wanted to do. I wanted to record my own songs.
“It was awesome,” says Gray. “I learned so much and I really couldn’t believe that each night I was a part of something so big and so amazing. Something was missing, though. At the time I was listening to fellow Alabama songwriter, Jason Isbell, a lot. He had become one of my favorites, and I also thought he might need a merchandise manager so one day I sent a random email to his manager inquiring. A few months later I was hired, and honestly, it changed the course of my whole life.”
Gray has spent the last four years touring with Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit and credits the entire organization for many great things in his life.
“It’s hard to explain,” Gray says, “but it just felt like home. I started to believe in myself and I began to heal from my tumultuous twenties and one heartbreak after another. As I began to sober up a bit and get my life back on track I realized that I had everything in life I had struggled so long for. I was working in the music industry and I was writing songs, a few of which made it onto the recordings of friends and local musicians, but there was something else I wanted to do. I wanted to record my own songs. I flipped through a notebook one day and found a bunch of songs I wanted to record, and that’s what I’ve been working on for the last couple of years alongside my touring position.”
Gray notes that it came upon him to share his art with the hope his words would somehow connect with other people the way songs have always connected with him. To accompany the music, Gray wants to also share his photography work and various stories and tales he’s picked up along the way.
“Through my website I hope to create my own little world where I will share my music, photography, and stories because I believe they should all live somewhere other than just my head.”