Music Bugle Exclusive – Q & A – The Frst

Photo courtesy of Earshot Media.

By Nicholas Jason Lopez

There’s no “I” in “Team,” but there’s also no “I” in “The Frst” and that’s by design.

Mikei Gray had started his career as a touring musician, as he played venues like the Grand Ole Opry and Vans Warped Tour, for artists like Sublime With Rome, Village People, Florida Georgia Line and Portugal. The Man.

One night in 2017, the Nashville-based singer/guitarist was asleep and, as he later recalled, “The Frst” was told to him as something to start while in a dream, so that’s what he did. No “I” means things are kept fun and free. It allows for lineups to change and collaborations to be made.

Gray declared that he may be the only full-time member, but he is not The Frst. It sums up, rather, the songs, the sounds, the mission at hand.

He has had one hell of a 2023, whether it was getting to collaborate with Kellin Quinn and Matty Best (Sleeping With Sirens) on “Bruce Lee” and “You’re On Your Own, Kid” or with Jesse Hughes and Jennie Vee (Eagles Of Death Metal) on “Murderabilia.”

The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with Gray about what he feels his proudest accomplishment is, if social media helps or hurts musicians and much more, which you can check out below.

Music Bugle – How would you describe Nashville to someone who has never been there before? 

Mikei Gray – Truly “Music City,” although maybe slightly cliche, really is the best description. You’d be hard-pressed to find more live music, songwriting sessions, or collaborations, all happening all at the same time, in any other city in the world. Everyone here is in the industry and everyone is pretty damn good. There’s a lot of friendly competition.

Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?  

Mikei Gray – “Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are,” from Kurt Cobain.

Music Bugle – You’re certainly noticed for your collaborations. Hands-down, we would probably imagine one of your biggest was with Jesse Hughes and Jennie Vee from Eagles Of Death Metal. What was your reaction upon learning you would collaborate with them for “Murderabilia”? 

Mikei Gray – My jaw was on the floor! I was actually standing in line at Walgreens when I got the text from Jesse saying, “I’m down.” I made a slight sound out loud, like “Oh!” but I caught myself quick enough that everyone around me just thought it was a cough or sneeze. (Laughs). I couldn’t believe it. 

Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise? 

Mikei Gray – I’m all over the place! I love the reissue Bowling For Soup released…. The Dangerous Summer’s new album is also killer. Obviously, I haven’t stopped listening to the Eagles Of Death Metal since I was a kid! (Laughs) There’s been a ton of great releases this year, though. I’m still digging the new 100 gecs record and the new Avenged Sevenfold album. Both are pretty out there.

Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians? 

Mikei Gray – The easy answer would be “hurt.” It takes a lot of time away from the creative process, writing, recording, rehearsing. You can’t put a price on your thoughts, although society has definitely tried to and what I mean by that is, sometimes you need to zone out for a minute to come up with a cool idea. We don’t get that anymore, but on the flip side, you used to spend a whole year in the van playing tiny clubs and that’s been replaced by social media now, so in that sense, it saves time and money. You can reach new fans faster than ever before. They’re also more distracted than ever before, though, so it’s a double-edged sword. 

Music Bugle – What do you feel is the next step for your career? 

Mikei Gray – Damn, I’m still enjoying the hell out of collaborating with all my favorite artists! Talk about a dream come true. More of that would be great. Next year, we’ll do more shows again, but right now, I’m loving being in the studio.

Music Bugle – What show are you currently binging in your free time? 

Mikei Gray – This little program called, “Pro Tools”! (Laughs). Honestly, this guy Finn Mckenty, aka The Punk Rock MBA, has been a guilty pleasure. I’ve been binging all his YouTube videos. He covers a lot of different topics in the scene. A lot of it might be common knowledge, but the way he debates things is very entertaining. I usually throw it on during my lunch break.

Music Bugle – That being said, where do you go when you need a break? 

Mikei Gray – Oh, I walked right into that one, huh? (Laughs). It sounds cliche, but the studio! Grabbing a guitar, cranking up an amp and just noodling around for a while is the best form of therapy for me… 

Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music? 

Mikei Gray – The freedom! In two senses…One is, incorporating a little bit of every genre means that nothing is off-limits. I love that freedom. In past bands, it’d be like, “Oh, this doesn’t sound like our style, we need to reel it in,” so that freedom is fresh and keeps things from getting stale, because I genuinely do love every genre. The second is, being the only full-time member allows me a different kind of freedom to “steer the ship.” Wherever the inspiration is, I chase it. Nowadays, if the music is guitar-based, it’s considered “rock,” so I like to exploit that a little bit, you know, really test the limits of the genre. You can hear that on songs like “This Is Me Now” or “Scary Movie.”

Music Bugle – What has been your proudest accomplishment so far? 

Mikei Gray – Wow, that’s a tough one. Again, working with my heroes has just been mind-blowing. Playing my first stadium was certainly a big one. 40,000 people is no joke, adrenaline-wise! (Laughs). “Tarantino” hitting #1 at FM radio was also a big moment, but if I could only pick one, maybe playing Warped Tour since that’s not even a possibility anymore. I was so young and that was such a big deal back then. I wasn’t jaded yet either. The line-up was so good that year. Running around in man-thongs with Every Time I Die at the after-hours BBQ probably takes the cake! (Laughs)


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