Meet: Mikei Gray The Man Behind The Frst

Give us a potted history of yourself

Before I started The Frst, I lived beneath this radio tower in Nashville, and as a result I heard music in my head constantly, even when I was trying to sleep. But one day my right ear was cut off and sewn back on, and it changed the way I heard music forever (obviously). Luckily though, the music was already playing in my head because of the radio tower. Then one night while asleep in a dream, almost as if someone had whispered in my ear…I heard, “you should call it The Frst”. So that’s what I did…. I left the “i” out as a reminder to keep things fun and free…and while I may be the only full-time member of The Frst, I’m not The Frst. The songs are The Frst. The sound is The Frst. YOU are The Frst. I make these songs because I physically have to- it’s what’s blaring in my head when I try to sleep at night.

Of course, the more common story told is that I was a behind the scenes musician for a long time, fortunate enough to work and tour with many household names. But I also studied under James Paul Wisner (Paramore, Dashboard Confessional, Underoath) for a long time and he taught me most of what I know production-wise.

Who inspired you to start making music

I saw music as my way out of the lifestyle I grew up in, which was a trailer in the middle of nowhere, Florida. It was an escape and a beacon of hope that I might be able to forge a different path, which I’m incredibly grateful for. That feeling of necessity with no ‘fall-back’ plan was what really got me going. Musically though, I remember being really moved by AC/DC and Led Zeppelin when I was around 5 or so. Around age 10 I got into Nirvana and the rest is history…

And the one or maybe two records that inspired you artistically

Well naturally I’ve got to list ‘Death by Sexy’ from the Eagles Of Death Metal. I’ve owned a physical copy for over 10 years. I love the raw but smooth sound. It was also vastly different from anything else going on at the time which I thought was cool, setting themselves apart. Radiohead is another big band for me, if I could only choose one record I’d say OK Computer. I listen to it everyday, it’s just a masterpiece. They were so ahead of their time.

If you’re trying to explain whom you sound like to someone that’s never heard you, what do you say

Maybe of an Indie version of Nine Inch Nails. I rap on maybe half of the other songs though, which ends up with a Nirvana meets Macklemore kinda vibe. I’m kind of looking at Grunge through a modern lense. 

Tell us about your new track

I talk about this in a little greater detail in the new video

But it was such an honor to work with Jesse Hughes and Jennie Vee from Eagles Of Death Metal. They really brought the song to life and added a whole new depth to it. The beginning bit was totally improvised by them on the spot! Josiah at The Cave Studios (LA) did such a great job, and of course Zack & Ken (ZK Productions) really brought it all together. It was a ton of fun to write though, it started with the guitar and a looper pedal, kind of freestyling vocal melodies. The melodies on the demo though are the ones that made the final record. I just try to get what’s playing in my head out into the open. 

6. Where can we get hold of it  

Anywhere there’s music!

…And thank you for listening out there, I really appreciate you! 

Tell us how you write

So I actually write and play everything in The Frst, and that’s kind of the common DNA in the songs, because they shift pretty radically (genre-wise) from one to the next, but somehow it all feels like the same artist. Or at least, that’s one of the comments I always hear, “every song is so different, but all sounds like you.” I think that listeners like variety nowadays, so I don’t second guess it. If I like it, then I put it out.

Tell us about your live show What would be your dream gig

It’s always such a blast playing live…I feel so lucky to have crossed off most of my bucket list venues, but I’m looking forward to getting over to the UK to play soon, we haven’t crossed the big pond as The Frst just yet. There’s such a great Rock scene there I can’t wait to jump in.

What can we expect from you in the near future

There’ll be another new single in September, and one more big collab after that scheduled for this year. I kind of quietly dropped the last album one single at a time, and didn’t even package it together because I wrote so much new material and I didn’t want to distract from these new collabs. I’m always writing, it never stops…More music, more videos, more collabs, and more bad jokes [Laughs]. 

Tell us your favourite records that are rocking your headphones/tour bus/stereo

Loving the new Queens Of The Stone Age and Foo Fighter records! Of course, the Eagles Of Death Metal are always on repeat. But I also like a lot of newer sounds coming out like Sueco, NOISY, Finn Foxell, Lil Dusty G, etc…I’ll listen to just about anything that’s a little ‘left-of-center.’

Find out more via The Frst’s Website or Facebook

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