The Cadillac Three Interview:
Story Behind “White Lightning”

Writer and Entertainment Journalist Josh Belcher - Rocking God's House (Cropped)Nothing does my heart better than to see a good person make their mark on the world in a positive way.

And Kelby Ray’s band The Cadillac Three are doing just that.
Their new single “White Lightning” will be, without a doubt, the smash hit of the summer. (The first time I heard it I got goosebumps. And then more goosebumps appeared on top of the first wave of goosebumps. Not even kidding.)
“White Lightning” describes, in perfect detail, how a man can truly fall in love with a woman; and it captures that experience in its purest, simplest form — all from a country boy’s perspective. I’d dare say the lyrics rival that of the greatest stanzas in a Nicholas Sparks novel. (And I won’t be surprised if Mr. Sparks uses the song in one of his movies.)  As you listen to the song, it feels as if the song is reading your thoughts, and that’s always a mark of one of the greats.
The Cadillac Three have been an official group since 2013 when they signed with Big Machine Records, the record label home of Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw, and Rascal Flatts. However, members Jaren Johnston (lead vocals, guitar), Kelby Ray (bass guitar, acoustic guitar, dobro, vocals), and Neil Mason (drums,vocals) played together in a previous band, a rock group called American Bang that was active from 2005-2011. After a successful transition to country southern rock, they found their stake in country music. And, for the record, I’m predicting they will be a mainstay on the radio and in the music industry for years to come.
Back to my friend Kelby Ray.
Kelby Ray of The Cadillac Three Band At Rocking Gods HouseLong ago in a galaxy far, far away (okay, not that far away — just Brentwood, Tennessee), Kelby and I worked together at Alpine Bagel Company. I was a young, aspiring drummer and radio host, and he was a guitarist who always had a very eclectic variety of music playing during work. I remember one time telling Kelby: “I know you have to be an amazing musician just by all of different types of music you listen to.” (And kudos to me; I was right.)
However, what I remember the most from my time at that bagel shop was how Kelby made it a great place to work. He was a really funny, laid-back type with a unique personality and a certain coolness that made people admire and respect him. And, when it comes to music, Kelby can play a plethora of instruments. He is what is called a “utility man” in Music City — the kind of indispensable musician who’d be voted the MVP of whatever band he’s in.
I caught up with Kelby recently and got an insider’s glimpse of The Cadillac Three, including the full story behind “White Lightning” and how it was written:
In an era of country music when the dobro is all but non-existent, what made you decide to play it in The Cadillac Three?
Jerry Douglas made me want to get a dobro. Jerry Douglas is the man. He is the number one influence for me right there. And Jaren turned me onto Alison Krauss when we were in college, and I bought a dobro, and it is kind of like what happened when I first got a guitar when I was in 8th grade. I bought a guitar, kind of played it, got frustrated with it, let it sit there for about six months and whatnot, picked it up again, and it was easier. And that is the same thing that happened with the dobro. I just got one because I thought, oh man, I really like the way Jerry Douglas plays those. Maybe I can do that. And it was really hard, so I set it down for six months, and then I picked it up again, and it was easier. I started jamming on it, and then I waited.
Going from guitar to bass to doing lap steel now mainly — I played dobro today at an acoustic show at a radio station, and that is the only time I play dobro — but I mainly am just playing lap steel now. But I never would have thought, back when you and I were hanging out and working together, that I would ever end up playing a steel guitar professionally.
From the time, almost a decade ago, that we worked together at Alpine Bagels to now, did you ever dream you would be playing in a band that is admired by so many fans around the globe?
Neil Mason of The Cadillac Three Band At Rocking Gods HouseI just always wanted to play music. [laughs] And I just luckily joined the band back in ’05 when Jaren called me and said, “Hey man, do you want to come play guitar?” which ended up leading to about five years with the rock group American Bang playing guitar, which ended up leading to playing bass, then about a year or two later him asking me again, “Hey, can you come play some bass again?” [laughs] to, “Hey, can you come put some lap steel on this?” and then it turned into, “Hey, this sounds so cool,” and then I figured out how to run the bass through it too, and I’m like, “We don’t need a bass player now.” [laughs]
Ever since I was in high school I wanted to make a living playing music, I didn’t care how, and I would have never guessed back in 2000 that it would end up being this way, but it is the coolest way possible. It is great to be in a band like this. Like how many people get to be in a band with their best friends? We met in high school, we started a band in a garage, and we took off with it. We are the story that you hear; that is what we did. We have a one-day-I-hate-this-guy-the-next-day-I-love-him kind of dynamic, [laughs] and that happens because we are like brothers, and that is the way it goes. It’s the best way that it could have possibly happened for me I think.
The song “White Lightning” is going to be this year’s summer anthem. Could you give us some insight on how it was written and how it became your new single?
Jaren Johnston of The Cadillac Three Band At Rocking Gods HouseJaren wrote it by himself. He tells the story that he was drinking wine one night, and just had an idea to write a love song that kind of had a cool spin on it. “She stole my heart faster than this, faster than that,” and kind of had the idea to drive it home,
and he got home and cracked open another bottle of wine and just wrote it: knocked the whole song out in like an hour or two.
And his wife was listening to it — she heard him writing it in the other room — and she told him she thought it was really good. And she is usually very critical of him and his songwriting [laughs] because he writes a song a day, and they are not all going to be perfect. But he said she stuck her head in that night and was like, “Man, that is really good.” So he knew right then he was on to something.
It took a little while after he wrote it for him to start to play it live because you have to be real confident to start a song like that, and he did it a few times and it just caught on. I think it’s just that moment in the set where we are not just pounding out riffs and playing as loud as we possibly can. It’s a nice little break in the set; that’s why it has done so well, and it has a really cool story.
Do you consider yourself a Christian or a spiritual person?
I would consider myself a very spiritual person. I definitely believe in God; we are definitely a spiritual group.
Download “White Lightning” here and learn more about The Cadillac Three at their official website.