Today we’d like to introduce you to T-Ray Armstrong.
T-Ray, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
There’s a lot, so I’ll try to summarize it! My name is T-Ray Armstrong or I’m a T-Rex. I’m a professional musician and producer from Barbados. My parents are musicians, so music has always been a part of my life. My Dad sang lead with one of the biggest soca bands in the Caribbean, Krosfyah, and my Mom is a songwriter/artist manager. I grew up hanging out in Eddy Grant’s studio from a young age. All of my parents’ friends were musicians, so I became one from quite young. I started playing the drums and then moved on to the guitar and vocals. I started playing in local bands by the age of 15. Professionally speaking, I became a revenue-generating musician when my former band “Cover Drive” was discovered on youtube by a UK-based record label when I was 17. Back then, we used to post YouTube videos called Fedora Sessions, where we all wore fedoras while covering some of our favorite artists. The label loved it, signed us, and we left Barbados for the UK.
The UK market took to our music, and within a year, we secured a #1, 2 top 10’s, and a top 20 album on the UK official charts. We scored a silver single with our first release. We opened for Rihanna on the Barbados leg of her Loud Tour and toured with Kelly Clarkson on the UK leg of her Stronger tour. We also featured on a Far East Movement record “Turn Up the Love,” which went double platinum in Australia! Success, as we defined it at the time, was quick, but so was “failure,” as we defined it at the time. A top 20 album, despite all of our success, was not enough to keep us signed, and we were dropped in 2012.
The years that followed taught me all about the importance of embracing the journey and not the destination. I moved back to Barbados to regroup and write new songs with my band, now that we had experienced something close to traumatic. The result was “Liming in Limbo,” an EP. But after a year in Barbados, we decided we wanted to tour colleges in the US. So we found a US college booking agent who felt we would be a good fit for that market. We moved out of our house, sold all of our stuff, and left for the US to begin touring.
We toured the college circuit for about two and a half years. We played over 200 shows across the country in 37 states. All while touring, I was co-producing our second official album “Fall Forward” with the guitarist in our band. It wasn’t easy. Lugging around both mobile studio and gigging equipment while traveling in a 2006 Toyota Avalon. Confined spaces, cafeteria gigs, countless miles and hours on the road, and cheap motels, really took a toll. Towards the end of our college-tour run, we opted to explore something different, and we disbanded. After eight years of always being together, we all went our separate ways. I ended up at Full Sail University, studying recording arts.
Initially, my new life felt like a departure from my life as a professional musician. Still, as my good friend singer/songwriter, Angela Hunte, often reminds me, “this is all part of the journey, so embrace it.”
My professional musician life today differs somewhat, in terms of scale, from what it was just a couple of years ago. However, I am still gigging in Orlando, producing music, and in the process of releasing new music as a solo artist. My passion for what I have been blessed to do remains the same. It doesn’t matter if I am playing for 25 thousand people or 25 people, or making $50k for a show or $50, making music and playing music is my life.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I don’t think anyone choosing to pursue a career in music expects smooth roads, and my journey has had its fair share of bumps along the way. I would say the most challenging obstacle for me to overcome was mainly related to changing my perspective, adjusting from being a signed artist to being an independent artist.
Being a signed at 18 and performing for massive crowds singing along to your songs is a fantastic feeling, I can’t lie. But my lack of experience and quick rise to success duped me into believing that being a musician was all being popular. As long as I could still hear the screams, as long as they keep singing along, I’m a professional, successful musician. When my band was dropped, I was forced to confront my ego, and redefine what my definition of what a professional musician truly was. Did I have it in me to keep going if I didn’t hear the screams? If I had lost my “celebrity status”? Am I still good enough? As shallow as that sounds, I was genuinely conflicted. It took me a while to realize how tapered my vision had become, and even longer to settle into the rhythm of being an independent musician. Life as an independent musician is more challenging in terms of workload, but is so much more rewarding for your soul!
Tell us about your music.
Outside of school, I still produce music and play gigs. I love working with live instrumentation and finding ways to fuse them with genres that wouldn’t naturally have them featured. As far as gigging goes, I’m normally on the drums, but you can find me on vocals, guitar or bass now and again, too.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Overall, I think humility is the most important trait you can have. Arrogance is blinding and can stop you from seeing opportunities that could change your life. Minus a few ego checks here and there, staying humble has always helped me in my career.
- Instagram: You can follow me @ImReallyATRex!