Singer-songwriter Sean Coray has overcome a lifetime of adversity to become the man he is today. “My real mom never really wanted me, so a different family took me in when I was younger,” he says. “I bounced around a lot as a kid, and I grew up feeling like I didn’t belong. But I don’t like to sound sappy; everybody goes through stuff.”
Coray draws inspiration from his desire to simply do something good with his life. “Maybe there’s someone out there who’s struggling or growing up rough like I did and sees me succeed or even just playing at some café, and that may give him hope,” he says. “When you’re doing something that you love and makes you happy, you’re putting out good energy into the world.”
Most of Coray’s songs focus on love because “that’s what I hope to find someday.” While some of his lyrics come from personal experience, others are merely wishful thinking. “I have a song called ‘Good Girl,’ which talks about how you find a girl and you ask her out. In the song, that guy’s been outgoing his entire life, so it’s about me in that I wish I could be that guy rather than the guy who’s super shy.”
Planning to become a musician since he could comprehend what he was hearing, he says, “My adopted parents were into old-school music, and they used to play a lot of Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Herbie Hancock, Marvin Gaye and Ray Charles,” which inspired his lifelong dream.
Although Coray began singing when he was 8 years old, he only picked up a guitar in the past seven years. “A friend of mine told me I needed to learn an instrument because the moment you do, it creates demand for you and allows you to write your own songs, opening up other avenues.”
John Mayer is currently Coray’s biggest influence, but he listens to a bit of everything. “Jazz, blues, country, folk — I take all of that and mix it in with my style,” he explains. “A lot of times when people see my color, they expect me to come off singing some R&B or something, but when you actually hear my music, it’s the opposite of what you’d expect.”
Coray has written about 60 songs, “but they’re not all finished,” he says. “Sometimes, I’ll come up with something and sit on it and come back to it a few years later.”
Despite his evident talents, the musician has never studied music theory. “I’ve always just played by ear, taught myself and learned from the people I’ve played with,” he says. “I know that more than one note makes a chord, and then I just build from there.”
Coray spent about a year and a half in California pursuing his dream, but family and fate drew him back to the Midwest. “California was a cool moment, but I went out there with a certain game plan, and life doesn’t always work out like that,” he says. “California’s expensive, so I ended up sleeping in truck stops and Wal-Mart parking lots and crashing on musician friends’ couches. I started to have doubts, and my grandma was sick too, so I decided it was best to come back.”
Although Coray would love to tour the country or open for John Mayer in front of thousands of people, his ultimate goal is to simply get by while pursuing his dream. “I feel like society’s version of success has become pretty jaded over the years,” he says. “In all honesty, if I’m just able to pay my bills with my music, then I would be happy.”
Help Coray make his dreams come true by checking out his “Find A Way” EP Release Show at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8, at the Stage at KDHX.
For more information, visit SeanCoray.com. M