Michael Ray never takes a moment of his success for granted – and he has Darius Rucker to thank for the inspiration.

After joining the musician on his Good for a Good Time Tour with Dan + Shay, the “Kiss You in the Morning” singer tells PEOPLE a moment of clarity onstage with Rucker helps him keep gratitude top of mind.

“He would always give one of us crap when the other was singing,” Ray said of their group performance of Rucker’s Hootie & The Blowfish hit “Hold My Hand.” “He [said], ‘Hey, man’ so I pulled my in-ear out and he’s like, ‘Can you believe we get to do this for a living?’”

“It just blew me away — somebody who has his success,” he continues. “He’s one of the best guys I’ve gotten to know, one of the best artists and I just took so much away from that. Going, ‘This guy, after going this long playing to so many people, still gets that excited.’ I don’t want to lose that.”

While traveling across the country on the Think a Little Less tour, there is one particular person in his life Ray never forgets to update: his longtime girlfriend, Carli Manchaca.

“She’s great — she knows she’s got me wrapped,” Ray jokes about how he handles all the lady fan attention amid balancing his relationship. “One thing that I always try to do is keep a regular schedule of calling and talking on the road, and try not to go too long without being home. Sometimes it’s hit or miss, so FaceTime and iPhones have definitely made it easier.”

Thankful ❤️

A photo posted by Michael Ray (@michaelraymusic) on

And post-tour date nights are all about keeping it “chill.”

“Sometimes we’re just chillin’, kickin’ back and grillin’ steaks on the grill and listening to music and drinking wine at the house, and sometimes it’s hanging out with our friends at Tin Roof in Nashville,” he says about their ideal date night. “Once in a while, I think it’s always nice to have that date night and go to a nice restaurant.”



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