How I Came To Write The Love I Leave Behind
It all began in July 2015. I was staying at Lady Bird Johnson Park in Fredericksburg, TX. I had decided to park my RV there for a month while I waited on a job north of Fort Worth. I don’t remember the date, but I do remember the circumstances. (I came across this FaceBook entry by accident that sets the date as July 26, 2015. It was a memorable day.)
For several years I had been listening to a lot of Texas inspired music, mostly written and performed by Texas singer/songwriters. One of my favorite female singers, Courtney Patton, was hosting a picker’s circle at Luckenbach. Those were great events. A singer/songwriter/guitar picker would get some friends together and play (unplugged—no accompanying drums, bass, steel guitar, etc.) songs for the crowd that would gather.
Anyway, Courtney was hosting the day with Jamie Lin Wilson, and a young lady out of Waco by the name of Kayla Ray. To the crowd’s delight, Erin Enderlin was squeezed in at the last minute. I definitely knew who Courtney Patton was, and had heard many Jamie Lin Wilson tunes, but I had to do a bit of internet research to learn something about Kayla Ray. After the fact, I picked up information about the accomplished songwriter, Erin Enderlin, who is from Arkansas by way of Nashville.
The more I heard these ladies sing, the more captivated I became. Especially with Kayla. Her haunting voice, and the lyrics of her songs, along with her presence, made me want to hear more of what she was singing. When I got home, I purchased the only album she had released at the time, Love & Liquor, and attempted to find more of her songs on the internet.
Well, through the years I didn’t keep up much with what Kayla was doing. Not long after that summer afternoon I moved father west, and had other things to occupy my attention. But every once in a while I’d catch her beautiful voice somewhere on the internet. The pandemic is where all that changed.
I was holed up in Carson City, NV, and to satisfy my need for live performances I’d search the internet for videos of some of my favorite singers. Then, I discovered that some of these singer/songwriters were performing for their Facebook groups. I began to catch Paul Thorn, Guy Forsyth, and Hayes Carll. One day I came across a notice that Kayla Ray was going to be broadcasting live that very day. I made a point to tune in.
Let me back up a minute, and tell you that I was still writing, more than ever. Things were closed down, and I used story-telling as a way to keep my mind active. I had been working on a story about the life of a guitar picker by the name of Memphis Mike. The story wasn’t going anywhere, so I had parked it on an external hard drive in hopes that I might resurrect it someday. There it sat, lonely and untold.
Back to Kayla. That first night, I almost didn’t get to hear Kayla sing. She was late. I didn’t know it at the time, but she’s not usually on time. I think it’s all an act, but that’s a story for another time. Her lateness almost caused me to disconnect, but since I didn’t have anything else occupying my time, I sat back and waited while I read a book. I’m so glad I did. She eventually appeared and entertained close to 100 of us for over two hours. (A few weeks later, she went four hours and was shut down by the Facebook goons. I guess they have a limit on the amount of time you can use.)
Well, I began tuning in every week for Kayla’s We Do What We Want Wednesday on Facebook (which was always posted on her fan page on Facebook). It was great. I was hearing songs I’d never heard before. By then, she had released her second album, Yesterday & Me, and her single Jameson Waltz. Her story-telling and singing—her songs, and those of others—were great.
At the time, I was watching Hayes Carll on Tuesdays on his Alone Together Tuesday sessions. So between Hayes and Kayla, I was able to enjoy a regular supply of music I like. Throw in the broadcasts from others–Erin Enderlin, Paul Thorn, Guy Forsyth, Cody Canada, Sequestered Sonwriters, and many more–and you could say I had a full calendar of pseudo-live music.
One day I came across an article about Kayla leading a music-based program for incarcerated men at a Central Texas Jail (you can read it here). I found it very interesting and informative. Here was a young lady, not only composing and singing songs, and touring, but also trying to help those who had run afoul of the law. On top of that, she was enrolled at the university, working towards her under-graduate degree. All of that was running around in my gray matter as I listened to her that night. The next morning, I woke early, long before sunrise. For some reason I couldn’t sleep. A thought had sprouted and taken root—Memphis Mike was going to meet Kayla Ray.
One thing led to another, and the story got told. Many changes occurred over the course of the next several months. Even though I was working on other things, this story continued to rise to the top. It’s not a long story. As a matter of fact, it’s rather short. It’s too long to be called a short story, and too short to claim to be a novel. I doubt it reaches the status of novella. At best, you could refer to it as a novelette.
Just before I sent the story off to my editor (Whitney at Whitney’s Book Works) I came up with the title The Love I Leave Behind. It’s a play on Kayla’s composition The Songs I Leave Behind. That’s only fitting because I use so many of her songs as a basis for the story I wrote. If you know her music, you’ll recognize the references. If you don’t know her music, take a moment and listen to a few of her tunes here. Be careful, though. You might find yourself searching for more.
The story was published in January 2021 (reviewed by Big Al’s Books and Pals). In May that year I was fortunate enough to meet Kayla Ray. She was performing at a small venue (The Pickled Porch) in Angels Camp, CA. The night before she had played for a crowd at the Calaveras Frog Jump. The day I spent listening to Kayla perform for the lunch crowd on the porch, and then the rest of the day with some local fans, is a day I will never forget.
One day, Kayla Ray will be a name that many will know, and I’ll be one of the fortunate who can say I’ve met her. Thank you, Kayla, for being who you are. Keep singing, and I’ll keep listening.
Read about Kayla’s work with the incarcerated here.
Read Big Al’s Books & Pals review of The Love I Leave Behind here.
YouTube channel RockN2Country reacted/rated to one of Kayla’s songs, Pining For The Carolina Pines. Don gave the tune one of the few tens he’s ever given a song. You can see his reaction here. A month later he reacted/rated Brand New Way. You can see his reaction to that tune here.
Don at RockN2Country is quite a fan of Kayla’s. He’s reacted to a few of her songs. You can find them listed here.
Find The Love I Leave Behind here.