Michael Ray is hard at work on his next album, and the process is making him "the most excited I've ever been about putting a record out, ever," he says.

On the red carpet before the BMI Awards on Tuesday (Nov. 8), Ray spoke to Taste of Country about the inspiration behind the project, and why the album-making process has hit closer to home than any of his projects to date.

"[I've been] able to really dive into some stuff I feel like people have been waiting for me to put our for a few years," the singer says. The new project will take cues from some of the older material that he explored on his Bootlegger Sessions EP.

Ray doesn't mention the specifics of what fans want to hear him sing about — his publicist says he's invigorated by a new life he's started in Georgia, and "being able to gather again" — but it's easy to speculate that new songs might touch on his highly public 2020 divorce from Carly Pearce. In her 29: Written in Stone album cycle, Pearce wrote openly about her experience of their breakup, documenting the tear-stained early days of "Messy" and offering a final, clear-eyed and composed retrospective in "What He Didn't Do" — the latter of which is her current single. In between, she spelled out some of the specifics of her heartbreak, singing about "The year I got married and divorced" in the title track, "29."

Could Ray be ready to offer his side of the story?

"Well, I think there's some things that need to be said," he goes on to say. "Things have been one-sided for too long. So, there's some things that need to be talked about. I'm over it. They're over it. So let's do it."

Over the course of his past couple projects — especially in the Bootlegger Sessions — Ray has cemented his love for '90s country, and he says those influences are only deepening in his new material.

"You're gonna hear a lot of [Lynyrd] Skynyrd, a lot of traditional country music mixed with '90s country music. We just took a lot of eras that I was influenced by and put them together."

Plus, Ray hopes his next batch of music will include a duet that will come as a pretty big curveball.

"We're working on one right now — so, it'll be a big one," he teases. "No one's expecting it. And it's 90 percent there. If it happens, no one's gonna see it coming."

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