I was born in the desert town of El Paso, Texas and lived there until I joined the Air Force shortly after 9/11. Music has always been a part of my life and I received my first guitar when I was 10. My uncle formed a band with my cousins and brother and I learned to entertain at a young age. My musical influence was 50’s and 60’s rock n roll, from Elvis to the Beatles and then later on the 1970s singer songwriter music my mother used to listen to. However, it was really the time I served in my first tour in the Middle East where I began writing songs based on the experiences surrounding me during my time in the sandbox.
Upon my return stateside, I went to a bar with one of my sergeants who offered to pay for my drinks if I would get on stage at an open mic and play a Dave Matthew’s song. The club manager heard me perform and offered me a gig the next Friday night and it was there that I realized I could play music for a living. On my second tour of the Middle East, I saved all my paychecks to buy a PA system and a professional guitar and upon completion of military service I emerged into the San Antonio music scene.I spent those early years learning to work a crowd, playing sing-along songs to energize the room, while always mixing in something I had been writing myself to encourage my own creativity. As any bar musician can attest, it is a seamless end of long gigs, for little cash and sometimes you wonder if anyone actually heard me over their drunken chatter. My uncle helped me record a five-song EP called “Sail it Away” and I sold them at all my shows. I made a good name for myself and had steady work for years and even won some awards, but wanted something more and decided to move to Austin. I didn’t know anyone, but within a week I had arranged enough gigs to pay rent and played my first show on Sixth Street at the Blind Pig. Within two years, I was a working musician with steady gigs and on January 26, 2012 Austin’s mayor honored me with my own Jonny Gray Day.