Wilmington-Based Guitarist Everett Gray Lends Talents to Big Names

The in-demand musician knows how to walk the line between supportive collaboration and asserting his originality.

Everett Gray lends his guitar talents to the live performances of some of pop music’s biggest names./Photo by Angie Gray

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Following the musician’s mantra “leave your ego at the door” has served local guitarist Everett Gray well over the years.

While Gray is adept at flexing his hard-won guitar chops—something in fine evidence on his digital-only solo EP, the gutbucket rock-blues hybrid “Fool’s Gold”—the man is also in high demand as a musical collaborator. To date, he’s worked with scores of stars, including Leona Lewis, the Chainsmokers, Jazmine Sullivan and Bebe Rexha.

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“Bebe—she’s such a sweet girl,” Gray says about the international pop star known for such Top 10 hits as “Meant to Be” and “Me, Myself & I.” Gray has been Rexha’s main touring guitarist for more than a half a decade (and counting).

Gray respects Rexha for letting him flex his creative muscles within many of the singer’s catchiest arrangements. “I think the allure of playing with Bebe is there’s not a lot of guitar work on her songs in general, so I’ve had the freedom to write parts,” he says. “I’m able to put [1990s] guitar tones and Texas blues into this pop music. I’m still able to be myself within the confines of what it is, and be able to play the things I like to play. And, knock on wood, it’s been working, because her fans really enjoy it.”

Though Gray spent key formative years cutting his teeth gigging in Texas, Seattle and overseas, he’s also grateful for having paid his dues on the Delmarva live circuit. “The music scene around here is so interesting,” he observes. “This is a great place to be if you want to play covers and make a living at it—because you can. You can make a very good living and take care of a family just by playing the Top 40. It’s unique to this tri-state area.”

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The secret to becoming a great support player “comes down to ego,” Gray says. “When I’m hired to do something, I leave my ego at home, and I’m at the artist’s disposal. It’s not about me. I’m trying to make the music sound as good as it can sound. I don’t get caught up in, ‘Hey, you need to see me play these notes!’ My name’s not on the marquee—and I’m good with that.”

Though he’s on the road as many as nine months a year, Gray hopes to eventually block out studio time once he’s back home to recut some of his own original music with friends and collaborators.

“That’s what makes it magic, because collaborating is where it’s at,” he says. “That’s also why I enjoy touring and playing live. I enjoy the spontaneity of the moment … and connecting with folks. The collective energy in an arena, a club or in a stadium—there’s something special about it. Everybody’s on the same page, everybody’s in the same moment—and that energy is pretty intoxicating.”

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