It's a good year to be Ray Fulcher.

The artist and songwriter has played an important role in Luke Combs' career, penning more than a dozen songs — including four No. 1 singles — with the "Better Together" singer across his two major-label two albums. Fulcher has been signed to a publishing deal since the mid-2010s, and has released some songs of his own, too — but with a newly signed record deal, a trio of brand-new songs scheduled for release on Friday (June 24) and his Grand Ole Opry debut planned for the same night, the stage is set for an eventful 2021.

"There's a lot coming ...," Fulcher admits about a week and a half before the big day, "so the human part of me is like, 'Oh, man;' it's hard to not get a little anxious or worked up. But then that other part of me is like, 'I'm super excited,' because this is why I moved to town, was for weeks like this."

The 2014 University of Georgia graduate has actually played the Opry once before: with Combs, on a night in 2018, as a featured songwriter of sorts. "He was in the circle; I was kind of off to the side," Fulcher explains, so Friday night will be his first time standing on those floorboards taken from the Ryman Auditorium stage.

"You're probably not human, or you probably don't really love country music, if you're not a little nervous standing on that [stage]," Fulcher says. "It's just so much history, and so many moments. So many of your heroes have been right there, and there's just so much beyond that that it represents."

Fulcher is well prepared for the occasion, though; in fact, a couple of years ago, he wrote a song that he decided he'd pull out should he ever get the chance to play the Opry. Coincidentally, the day after he scheduled his debut, he was booked for a co-writing session with those same songwriters: Lance Miller and Brad and Brett Warren.

"So I went in there and was like, 'Hey, man, that song we wrote: I want to play it at the Opry, but I want to get even a little more honest,'" Fulcher recounts. "So we reworked the first verse to make it zoomed in on my story even more ... The bones of the song and everything it was saying, it's still the same; it's just even more detail about my story."

It's a song no one has heard just yet. Fulcher won't divulge the title ahead of time.

"I'm really excited about it," he says. "It's kind of cool to keep my word to myself."

In addition to his three newly released tracks — the radio single "Girl in It," "Way Out" and "Bucket List Beers," all produced by Jonathan Singleton — Fulcher is working on more music, both writing new songs and digging into his back catalog. He's been honing his ability to pick out not just good songs, but good for him songs.

"I've gotten better over time ...," Fulcher admits. "It took me this long to kind of figure out not only what I want to say, but how I want to say it, you know? But now I've got a better feel of that and a better gauge."

He's had a good teacher in, among others, Combs, who he'll be back out on the road with later this year. (His other 2021 tour boss, Ashley McBryde, is plenty skilled at it, too.)

"I think that's what I've really learned from him, is just: Authenticity at all costs is gonna win ...," Fulcher says of Combs. "He's so good at being himself, and just watching that, it's such an inspiration for me."

Fulcher's full 2021 tour schedule is available at RayFulcherMusic.com

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