Growing up, Rayland's father Bucky (a multi-instrumentalist for Bob Dylan, Steve Earle and Ryan Adams, among others) made sure music was just a natural part of life, a soundtrack to childhood. One day, while out on a motorcycle trip, Bucky bought his son a guitar: a used, blue electric one. He was in elementary school, no older than third grade.
While he spent much of his teenage years playing sports, by 21 he'd picked up the guitar again. The sound of six strings ringing had always been comforting, only now its draw proved stronger: it was a surprise, perhaps most to Rayland himself, how naturally and harmoniously songs came. Instead of finishing college he moved to the small town of Creede, CO, playing open mics at a taco bar and busking for tips. Later, he took his father's old friend up on an offer to spend some time at his home in Ashkelon, Israel.
"I was supposed to be there for two weeks," he says. "I ended up staying for six months." Life in Ashkelon, a coastal town close to Gaza, involved a cadre of sounds: bombs detonating in the cornfields, sirens going off so frequently that few took notice or cover. Rayland drowned the noise with his host's enormous collection of records and documentaries: Townes Van Zandt, Dylan, Leonard Cohen. "I would spend my days and nights just studying all my favorite people and musicians, and that's when it clicked." One night he couldn't sleep, so he went outside to a barn in the back of the house with his guitar. "When I came back in, I said to my friend, 'I think I wrote a good one out there.'"
He's spent much of his time on tour: with The Civil Wars, who personally invited him to open, as well as Grace Potter & the Nocturnals. Now Rayland lives in a small, crowded house with five people, four chickens, a dog and a fish named Okra near the Nashville fairgrounds. He sleeps in a covered porch with no air conditioning or heat—"like camping," he says, enthusiastically at that. His hometown has played a vital role in shaping him musically. "There is an incredible group of young artists, songwriters, painters and filmmakers here, just a huge community of really rad people. It's been vital to have a great creative group of people I can feed off of all the time."
Rayland's songs are a calming force for anyone looking for change, for love, or wanting to walk in a different direction—because it was his own quest for all those things that motivated the music. "I had nothing to write about until I was 25. I had to live through a lot," he says, "and when I sing I don't hold back. It's an emotional release for me and there's no makeup on it. It puts me at ease, and that's what I hope it will do for those who listen."
Stay In Touch
Skip the FOMO, we’ll make sure you don’t miss a thing! Sign up for exclusive updates, events, and offers – just for fans like you.