Mikei Gray of The Frst Chats About "Rules" and More New Music: "Say What Needs to Be Said, and Nothing More"
After years spent as a studio and live guitarist, touring with artists ranging from Sean Kingston to Florida Georgia Line and Steve Miller Band among others, Mikei Gray began to forge his solo career with new project, The Frst in 2017. Flash forward two years, and The Frst has released a handful of successful singles, including latest track, “Rules” and is gearing up to release more new music to close out 2019 and ring the new year in the right way.
For Gray and his ever rotating cast of accompanying Nashville music heroes, the mission statement behind The Frst is, “There’s no I in Frst,” a message that keeps the project grounded and reminds Gray to only release music that is important to him and to say needs to be said. With “Rules” out now and more new music slated for release before the year comes to an end, it’s safe to say that The Frst are not slowing down any time soon. Get to know a little bit more about the project and listen to “Rules” now below.
Can you tell us a little bit about The Frst for anyone who might be hearing you for the first time?
Hi, thanks for having us! The Frst is a rock & roll collective in Nashville, which means we’re a studio based band with a revolving cast of Indie all star musicians, such as: Andrew Leahey, Nathan Cogan (Taking Back Sunday, Fox Harbor), Jeff Hutchins (Insane Clown Posse, Bubba Sparxxx), Justin Smith (Maggie Rose, Them Vibes, Eliot Root) and Eric Barfield (Kris Allen, John Berry).
We dropped our debut (Another One) just under a year ago, where we smashed up distracted drivers’ iPhones in the street with a Louisville slugger…It got people talking, and eventually aided in getting a hands free law here in TN. It also put us on the map musically speaking.
The Frst is still a relatively young project, having started in 2017. Having played and toured in other bands before, what did you want to be able to do with this project that you haven’t had the chance to do previously?
Very simple - write and say what I felt needed to be said, with zero commercial aspirations. Ironically that was the element that gravitated listeners in the beggining. When you get to certain levels in your career, there becomes a ton of outside pressure, from every direction really - to write what a particular fan, friend, or executive thinks will be your next big hit. Plus, the fact that we all have other musical jobs, allows us to tour when and how we want to, and again, not play dates just to simply stack the calendar, but make unique performances that are truly memorable.
Your mission statement for the project is “there’s no I in Frst.” How does this bleed into the way you write and what the project stands for?
It keeps us, and mostly myself, grounded. We really wanted The Frst to stand for something more than just a batch of songs, but also wanted to avoid the cliches of becoming too topical or political. The goal is always, “say what needs to be said, and nothing more.”
What important lessons have you learned from other projects that you’ve been able to bring over into this one?
There’s always someone out there who’s more proficient than you, so don’t be a d**k! [Laughs]. The biggest lesson is to be fearless in the pursuit of your craft. Portugal The Man for example had 8 other studio full lengths before Woodstock dropped, and I think most bands would’ve either tried too hard to remain the ‘indie darlings’, or they would have chased success, by going after a hit. PTM accomplished both, by trying to do neither. I’ve also learned when it comes to Live shows, the placement of songs is everything.
You’ve released a few new tracks this year, most recently your latest single, “Rules.” What goals did you have in mind for these new songs when you first started working on them?
Freedom and Fun were the goals, but we also wanted to treat the videos as important as the music. Rules was the song that started the band. I had recorded a demo with all the parts, but It needed a live band, so I called up each of the guys, and that’s how The Frst became a band. We knew right away Rules would be a strong single for us, but we needed to lay some groundwork. Another One, Cycles, and Seven Eleven were all written while Rules was being recorded, very impromptu. As you see in the videos, I’m playing all the instruments there, which was very scary to me at the time, but a necessity to get The Frst off the ground. The guys really encouraged me to go after it, since they were locked into tours for awhile, but also wanted Rules to be a success. It was a team effort, for sure.
Can you tell us a little bit about “Rules”? What inspired the song?
Well, 'Haven’t we all broken a rule or two'? [Laughs] Lyrically, I took bits and pieces of experiences, maybe or maybe not based on true stories, and musically we sorta mixed Doo-Wop and Punk or as I’ve now been told is called “Indie Surf” [Laughs]. The bit in the video where the cop jumps on the drums instead of breaking up the party, is a true story from where I grew up, in FL. I just thought it’d be a hilarious scene.
With “Rules” out now, could fans expect some more new music soon?
Absolutely! Our next single is called, “Ammo” and it will be released November 8 everywhere! The video showcases our goofy sense of humor again, and It was probably the most fun shoot we’ve had yet. I can’t say what the theme is just yet, but it’s a team sport. [laughs].
Do you have any other big plans for 2019?
Of course! We’re shooting our 2nd unreleased music video this week, which I also can't talk about at the moment [Laughs], but I will say it's titled “Pawn Shop” and it’ll be out in very early 2020. Other than that, we’re just trying to get some new ink to finish out the year.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks again for having us! Yes, be kind to each other out there, politics aside, we could all use a little more compassion! See ya in 2020!