For Mat Charley and Joe Berger, the destination has long been clear.

“I’ve spent probably 15,000 hours by now just writing songs,” Charley says.

“Since I watched Michael Jackson’s 30th Anniversary concert special,” Berger says. “I watched it on TV — it blew my mind.”

They make up two thirds of the folk-pop crossover band Raynes.

Mat, from Minot, and Joe, from Mandan, began playing together as students at University of Mary — but they knew they needed one final piece to complete the puzzle.

“We found Mark [Race] on Instagram,” Charley says.

“So I’m from a very small little city in northeast of England called Durham,” Race says, “which no one’s ever heard of – especially around these parts. It’s a very diverse mix of people.”

“It was love at first loop!” Berger recalls. “He hit this high note — it was just incredible. I texted Mat back, ‘We need this guy. Let’s do it.'”

It didn’t take much convincing. “Within like six hours, I think, he had responded and said ‘Yeah sure, I’d love to,'” Charley says. “So I think a week from that point, he was on a flight from England to LA.”

Lead vocalist Mark Race committed to joining Raynes. He’s now waiting on a work visa to allow him to move stateside.

But that hasn’t slowed the trio down. “The magic of the internet today is that you really don’t have to be in the same room or the same country to do stuff together,” Charley explains.

Last November, Mat, Joe, and Mark took their stacked songbook and growing list of followers to New York City in pursuit of a publishing deal with Sony/ATV — the biggest music publisher in the world.

“We played a song or two for them in the offices, and the next day they had started the workings of offering the deal,” Charley says.

The deal with Sony was inked this past June.

Now, Raynes is prepping for a major music release — and these two North Dakota natives are savoring every moment.

“I’m gonna keep working hard and striving every day,” Berger says.

“This is what I’ve been working for,” Charley says. “This is it.”

Mat Charley, Joe Berger, and Mark Race — a transatlantic trio of musicians — are all people you should know.

Click here to visit Raynes’s website and find links to their social media pages.

The band recently released a set of four Christmas songs. Click here to listen to them on Spotify.