“When I left Harlem, there was a moment on the way to Nashville, three hours up the road, where I asked, ‘What are you doing? Why are you the way you are?’ Home, everybody I cared about in the world was there… Even when you have the dream, you have that foundation. But then, I just kept going.”

Ray Fulcher is a lot of things. National Barrel Racing Horse Association 18 and under Finalist at 12… Master of Social Sciences and Education… University of Georgia Bulldogs football staff, working with the Quarterbacks on the field…Car Salesman… ATV Parts & Service Manager… Son, friend, (ex)boyfriend, music lover… And he was very good at all of them. But there was this one thing. Music.

The kid who always turned the radio up when “Ocean Front Property” came on, in spite of his father’s admonition “I can’t think when it’s that loud,” would see Eric Church at Georgia Theatre in Athens, Georgia — and a light came on. Alone, no smoke or neon, this artist Fulcher didn’t really know played “Lightning.”

“There wasn’t a line in that song that I could relate to personally,” marvels the soft-spoken artist. “It’s about a guy on Death Row. But in that moment, every single word I felt. I thought, ‘However he’s doing that, I want to make people feel like that, too.’ Not that I was pursuing music then, but the power of it just hit me.” Like a lot of young men poised between youth and grown, Fulcher put together a few duos, the occasional band. They played “Tuesday’s Gone,” “River of Love,” “Let Her Cry,” “For What It’s Worth,” “All Along the Watchtower.” They drank some beer, had some laughs, wrote a few songs, talked to the people. Typical local band stuff, though the tugging at Fulcher never let go.

Even after moving home, he kept playing out, working jobs while he waited for a space to open up at the high school he’d attended. His life was set: teach social studies, coach football. It was the perfect small-town life with all the sweetness, roots, and dreams. What else was there?

After all, who dreams of 30+ million artist streams without a major label deal? Over 3 billion streams as a songwriter in a few short years? Four #1singles co-written with one of your best friends? Or playing on some of country music’s biggest tours? You can’t dream that. Impossible. But you can trust the fire in your gut, or the tugging at that “sensible” part of your brain. Sometimes, you just keep driving. And when you’re Ray Fulcher, who knew exactly one person in Nashville, who saw a musician he’d met once hit Facebook about being in Nashville alone, you let faith take you where dreams can’t imagine.