Like most artists, Nicole Wray’s life in music has always reflected her real life. As a fifteen-year-old in Virginia, she auditioned for Missy Elliot in her mother’s home. Even then, with her voice so full and arresting—Missy signed her on the spot. Later, in 1998, merely two years after that tryout, she had a debut solo album and a single that smashed up radio and TV, quickly going gold. But back then—young and unsure—Nicole was essentially following someone else’s lead, signing the lyrics they wrote for her and in the way they wanted them sung. Fast forward to now, after a few fits and starts with other labels and projects, and you’ll find a very different Nicole Wray. Today, she’s a mother, a wife, and living for herself and her family. So naturally, this evolution followed into her music: she sings how she wants to, expertly writing lyrics for herself and others. To hear her tell it, it’s these things—and most importantly, an unflinching self-belief—that help lead a young and raw Virginian singer named Nicole to become Lady Wray. The latest step for Lady Wray is her new album, released on Brooklyn’s Big Crown records. Called Piece of Me, the record is—on the one hand—a continuation, picking up where Lady Wray and label co-owner/producer Leon Michels left off with Queen Alone.