Michael Ray's opening slot on Brantley Gilbert's 2019 Not Like Us Tour is familiar turf for the "One That Got Away" singer. The artist got to his tour boss during previous travels, including 2016's The Blackout Tour.

"I learned so much from him. He was my first arena tour," Ray explains of his relationship with Gilbert. The then-up-and-comer walked away from his early dates with Gilbert with more than just career advice in his pocket, however.

"I have a long list of bikers' phone numbers from that tour. Judging from Brantley's conversation with me after and theirs during, I can call anytime," Ray relates with a laugh. "I have the tattoos so people don't try me. [Gilbert] has tattoos because you just don't wanna try him. Mine are fraudulent."

Even though he may be a bit less intimidating than the company Gilbert usually keeps, Ray says his tour boss has consistently gone above and beyond to make him feel like part of the family. "With anyone, when you go out on a tour, you're like, 'Okay, how is this gonna be? This is their tour. You're a part of it,'" he explains. "Brantley makes you feel like it's your tour, it's his tour, it's all of ours together. So what can you bring in?"

That attitude, more than anything, is what Ray hopes to emulate in his own headlining runs. "I stole that approach when I'm rehearsing for a show, when I'm doing anything with my band, or when I'm headlining and I have somebody under me -- making them a part of it as much as I can, making my band a part of the creativeness of what we're doing onstage. Because that's how you open your mind to so many other things."

In fact, Ray attributes Gilbert's success in part to that openness and welcoming approach. "I think that's why Brantley has that following that he does, man. What you see is what you get," he continues.

"Brantley is one of those guys that, you'll randomly get a text or a call, like, 'Hey, man. You doin' good?' And he's truly just checking up on your family," Ray adds. "That dude onstage is the same dude texting you randomly asking about your dad."

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