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NOVEMBER 29, 2021

𝑱𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒍𝒆 𝑨𝒍𝒍 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑾𝒂𝒚: 𝑮𝒓𝒂𝒚 𝑺𝒌𝒚 𝑴𝒖𝒔𝒊𝒄 𝒄𝒆𝒍𝒆𝒃𝒓𝒂𝒕𝒆𝒔 𝟐𝟓 𝒚𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒔 𝒊𝒏 𝒎𝒖𝒔𝒊𝒄 𝒑𝒓𝒐𝒅𝒖𝒄𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏 𝒃𝒖𝒔𝒊𝒏𝒆𝒔𝒔

ʙʏ ꜰʀᴇᴅᴅɪᴇ ʙᴏᴜʀɴᴇ ᴍᴇꜱꜱᴇɴɢᴇʀ-ɪɴqᴜɪʀᴇʀ

Matthew Gray, owner and producer of Owensboro’s jingle and music company Gray Sky Music, is celebrating their 25 years in business. Gray, while proud of this accomplishment, wasn’t certain it was possible to hit the milestone but notes that the hard work has paid off. “In the first, I’d say five to 10 years — no,” Gray laughed. “It was just kind of intimidating at the time to actually run my own business. I thought that maybe I was on my way to working in this capacity with somebody else or with another company at some point. But, as time went on and just kept chomping away at it, kept working at it — I realized that being in control of my productions and the way they sounded was part of what people were buying.”

Born and raised in Owensboro, Gray didn’t grow up with grand plans of starting his own business but was fond of music early on — playing music all throughout childhood since the age of 5 in church, orchestra, and attended many summer camps in Maple Mount, where he was introduced to Jim and Julie White, whom Gray notes “...have been very instrumental with music education around here forever.” “I would say the pivotal moment was probably when I was about 15 years old,” Gray said. “The church was already starting to kind of give me a little bit of spending money to show up and play every week. At that moment, I kind of thought .... you know what, I can see myself doing this for the rest of my life.”

Around this time, Gray notes that an unfortunate event convinced him even more to not give up on something he truly loved.

“I had a really good friend that got killed in a motorcycle accident,” Gray said. “He was a really, really good guitar player. When he passed away, of course it was devastating and shocking and everything, and I think he was going to go into music. He was a few years older than I was and I was like, ‘I’m a musician. I have been my whole life. I think I can probably pick this up and do something with it.’ ... This was the only thing I knew the best.”

After high school, Gray enrolled in Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, where he studied broadcasting and minored in music composition.

While Gray admits that he enjoyed television production, he was “always drawn” to the audio and music side of things, which led to his internship at a jingle production company in Nashville working as a back-up engineer.

Gray fondly recalls the experience, where he worked with producers and writers on jingles and would clock in close to 14-hour days.

“It was the dream — it was wonderful,” Gray said. “Every day I drove down there (to) go to work and wasn’t even getting paid for it, I was like, ‘This is awesome. I can do this for the rest of my life.’ And there were long days — these guys were writing jingles for Taco Bell, Budweiser, McDonalds — all the national jingles back when jingles were big on national (television).

“That’s when I realized I really wanted to do something with audio and music for the rest of my life, for my career, and not necessarily television or being on the backside of the camera type of thing.”

After graduation, Gray founded Gray Sky Music in 1996. Soon enough, Gray found initial success creating jingles for local entities such as Owensboro Body Shop and Welborn Floral before getting a national opportunity with the Catholic pro-life education organization American Life League (ALL).

While the jingle business is everywhere, many folks tend to have less than favorable stereotypes about the genre, which Gray said are not accurate — stating that jingles have been very prominent in helping businesses gain attention and success.

“(People may) think jingles are not real pieces of music — that they’re kind of parodies, or funny, or people that are kind of second-rate musicians or singers or artists are the ones that create jingles, and that’s simply not true,” Gray said. “There’s so many jingles out there that have been produced without any seriousness to them, which has kind of tainted the system a little bit. ...But, there was a time when the jingle was one of the most powerful tools that you heard on the radio going back to the 30s and 40s to advertise things because there was a lot of talk radio back then. A lot of the commercials were done live … and if you could interject a piece of music to advertise a company, business, or product — that stood out.”

Gray said that creating jingles is more intensive than one would think and it requires serious work and planning.

“...You hear these things and they get stuck in your head, but you don’t know where they come from,” Gray said. “Especially in today’s world, there’s so much electronic music that people think any kid in their bedroom can just pull up the tracks and put them together and make a song out of it, which they can. But, there’s a whole other skill that it takes to write a jingle — to actually know the business and to know, more importantly, the personality of the business, and the customers and the potential customers of that business. What are they going to like? What is it that is going to perk their ears up and glue them to that business and get that branding? ...I’ve got a skill for that and I can put those words together (and) put that music together to where it sounds like … it was written just for that business. It’s not just something they pick off the shelf....”

Gray notes that jingles can take about eight to 10 people to complete, while Gray does all of that work by himself.

“It’s pretty interesting that people don’t know what goes into it,” Gray said.

Gray has not let the public typecasting of jingles get in his way by creating “impressive pieces of music and melodies that make the words get stuck in your head.” “They’re serious too,” Gray said. “Likened to a soundtrack to a movie or a TV show.”

But, Gray offers more than jingles by honing his music skills to work with artists and songwriters on producing songs, playing most of the instruments himself, and utilizing a rolodex of musicians to help out if needed. Additionally, Gray offers audio services to videographers needing dialogue and voiceover material balanced out and recorded. Just recently, Gray was commissioned to compose the theme music for an upcoming cooking and style show on WISH-TV in Indianapolis.

Beyond that, Gray has worked with well known musicians, offering his services and expertise to Jerry Gaskill’s, drummer for the Missouri progressive metal band King’s X, second solo album “Love and Scars.”  “I’m kind of doing what I wanted to do — just in small pockets throughout the country,” Gray said. “You may not hear my stuff on ABC nationally, but my stuff is all over the country in different places.”

With a little under three decades under his belt, Gray doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.

“(What keeps) me going is determination (and) never giving up,” Gray said. “... I just (want to) keep it going and never give up because it’s where my heart is. I couldn’t imagine not doing music for a living. That will probably take me through.”

JANUARY 19, 2020 - Updated FEBRUARY 28, 2020

The Right Mix: Gray Sky making music for 24 year

by Keith Lawrence

In October 1995, Matthew Gray had just graduated from Western Kentucky University with a degree in broadcasting and television production. Jobs in that industry were scarce around here. And his wife, Nicole, was pregnant with their first child.

So, Gray took a job as music director at Immaculate Catholic Church. But he needed a part-time job. So, in June 1996, Gray started Gray Sky Music.

He still has both jobs nearly a quarter of a century later. “I started out doing jingles for businesses,” Gray said last week.

“Recording Arts Studio was downtown then and there wasn’t room for another recording studio for music,” he said. “I wanted to do something unique. So jingles were what I pursued.” The first jingle that got airplay was for the American Life League, a grassroots pro-life organization. That was followed by Welborn Floral and Owensboro Body Shop. “People didn’t know who I was,” Gray said. “So, I’d create a jingle and then see if the customer liked it.” He began to develop a relationship with the radio stations in the area. “Nicole worked at a radio station for a while,” Gray said. “And I developed a relationship with other jingle companies.” Back then, he had to go to Nashville to get musicians to record the jingles.

Gray Sky Music is located in a studio behind his home in western Daviess County. “With technology, working from home became a lot easier,” Gray said. “Now, I can do everything over the internet.” Back then, he said, “I was doing five jingles a month. Now, I do five to eight a year.”

Through the years, Gray has been recording several local artists and songwriters making demos to send to artists in hopes of getting a song recorded. “I’ve had a steady stream of recording,” he said. “In the last 10 years, I’ve established a reputation.”

Gray is currently working on an album by the Kentucky Youth Chorales' Dickens Carolers. “The kids are incredible,” Nicole Gray said.

She started two businesses in the past six years. Nicole Gray Photography uses the recording studio as a photography studio.

“I shoot events, formal portraits, professional photos, weddings,” she said. “I took a picture of the bridge wrapped by fog once and sold several prints. I’m as busy as I want to be.” A year ago, she started Nicole Gray Media, an advertising agency.

“OMU is a client,” Gray said. “So is Old Hickory and Owensboro Family Pharmacy. It’s all related — music, photography, advertising. It all goes hand in hand.” The three businesses have always been a two-person operation.

But sons Nicholas and Andrew are now making their own music and videos.

OCTOBER 9, 2020 - Updated NOVEMBER 18, 2020

Connecting through the art of songwriting: local man producing first album with Gray Sky Music

By Bobbie Hayse Messenger-Inquirer

Songwriting comes natural to Cameron Thompson, an Owensboro native who currently studies business management at the University of Kentucky. Thompson is currently working on an album with local producer Matt Gray, of Gray Sky Music, that is slated to be released later this month or in mid-November. He previously released a single, “Kentucky Weather,” on YouTube, and has had some success with it. Since its July release, it has gotten more than 4,000 views on the platform.

He’s always been able to sing well, he said, but about a-year-and-a-half ago he picked up a guitar and started learning to play, as well as write lyrics. “I have written about 15 songs total,” Thompson said, adding that his main inspiration is country musician Jason Aldean. “I try to relate my music to his and others who in the country-rock genre.” One song, in particular, that means a lot to Thompson is titled “Letter To,” which is about his adoption story. The song explains how he feels toward his adopted family, and wraps up thanking God for adoption and what it has allows him to accomplish in life. “That’s one of my favorite songs on the albums for sure,” he said. Gray, who has been producing the album with Thompson for about seven months, said he is excited about it. Every once in awhile, he said, a wonderful lyricist comes along. Thompson is that. “He wrote all his songs on this album,” Gray said. He likes to express himself through music, Gray said.

The album will be released on all digital formats, which is something a lot of artists are doing lately. The days of cutting a mix tape or creating CDs for sale is becoming obsolete, Gray said, and “you have to learn to adapt.”

Thompson will be utilizing some online marketing tools to share the album on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and what Gray called “the whole nine.” Gray also said he is honored to work with Thompson. “I think it’s been a great learning process for him, and I always like being a part of that, especially working with young people. I am very impressed with how deep he is with some of his thought processes and things. He has some good material in there.”

Thompson graduated from Owensboro High School in May and said the end-goal for this album is for it to get noticed. He plans to move to Nashville after graduating college and “take it all the way to the top.”

Bobbie Hayse,

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