ELI YOUNG BAND - TURN IT ON EP

EYB TAKES A GAMBLE ON NEW MUSIC AND COMES UP A WINNER

ELI YOUNG BAND - TURN IT ON EP COVER

AVAILABLE NOW THROUGH ITUNES: HERE

     If you walk into a casino hoping that lady luck is on your side, perhaps what you need to do is put EYB on your playlist. Originally a garage band from Texas, Mike Eli, James Young, Jon Jones, and Chris Thompson have been together for 15 years. Professionally, they’re the Eli Young Band. They have found unprecedented success in the music business, despite the odds being stacked against them. The hand they were dealt consisted of four unique musicians, each with different taste in music. First, they had to come up with a sound that would win over music fans in Texas. Beat the house there and they had to play again, taking on the house capable of dealing them a record deal. The Nashville music scene is stacked like a house of cards. You might be invited to sit in for a game, but staying in the game takes skill, and sometimes the luck of a lady……or at least one (#1) “Crazy Girl.”

     To understand the sound of a band, you have to follow the roots of each of its members. The guys from EYB met in college in Denton, Texas at North Texas State, just north of Dallas. They started hanging out, playing the music they liked for each other. For Chris (drummer) it was Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and grunge rock. The first country he got into was Dwight Yoakam. James (lead guitar) listened to more country, like Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson, but was tuned in to some rock music as well. Mike (lead vocals) was purely a country listener and liked the old school, Opry stuff. Jon (bass) added some jazz, big band, and funk to the mix. When they started writing and recording music, all of these sounds showed up at the table. Before Mike came along, James, Jon, and Chris were playing Weezer and Radiohead covers. When Mike entered the picture, he and James sat around playing country songs. Shortly thereafter, the two became an acoustic duo playing the Denton bars as Eli & Young. Within about a year, Jon and Chris joined them and the Eli Young Band was formed. They thought about changing the name to something less personal but Chris said they could never agree on anything that sounded cool enough. Once the merchandise started being made, EYB stuck.

     Many country bands start out with a dream of hitting it big and set their sights on Nashville. For EYB, that was never a planned destination. Chris said when they first started playing together, they did it just for fun and free beer. There was never a conversation about being a country band, moving to Nashville, and scoring a record deal. It may surprise you that they still don’t live in Nashville. When they decided they wanted to make a go of being a professional band, they cut their teeth in the Texas music scene. Texas has a vibrant music scene with a ton of venues that book live music. Once you start playing, the challenge is to have the songs that will attract a fan base. Soon, they were selling tickets and records at a rate better than a lot of their peers in the Texas market. To traditionalists in the Texas scene, Chris said EYB never fit that mold. It wasn’t until they’d achieved national success that Texas lauded their roots.

     Not wanting to pigeonhole themselves as a Texas band, EYB made a conscious effort to play the national scene. Gaining traction at that level was no easy task. It took years for them to get anyone’s attention in Nashville. Seen as outsiders living in Texas, it took some success for them to break through. They had to overcome being disregarded as a Texas band by Nashville insiders and country radio. Fans loved the music and bought tickets to their shows. Without any hits on the radio, EYB was selling 3,000 tickets to shows around the country. This herculean feat had record labels asking them how they were doing it. With little support from the industry, they’d achieved what few others had. No longer just a little Texas band, the Eli Young Band was commanding a Nashville audience and country radio was about to spin their hits like crazy.

     From the time they started recording, the sound of EYB has had people talking. With so much diversity in their roots, it’s not surprising that their music is a unique blend that’s not easy to put in a box. Chris says they never decided to be a country band. They’d put out two records and were well on their way to being an established band when their publicist asked how they wanted to be classified, rock or country? Their decision was based on Mike’s voice sounding undeniably country to them and their early sound being somewhat Americana. They felt they leaned more towards country so that’s the box that got checked. Through the years from about 2005 to the present, their sound has evolved as they’ve grown through the process. The early sound was more of a rock/blues fusion and through the first two or three albums, their sound was well defined. Chris felt that by 2011, “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” was a defining change in that sound. By 2014 with 10,000 Towns, it changed further. It was still essentially EYB, but as Chris called it, “a different version of us.” On their upcoming EP, there are some early sounds and some elements of pop/rock in the mix.

     The process of writing and recording music for EYB has been an evolutionary one. They’ve always written music together, but in the early days, Chris said they would sit around and write together with their instruments and fill in the words later. Now it’s an opposite process that he says is much more efficient. In the crafting of an album, they work like a rock band. The guys play on the albums and write most of the songs. They do bring in other studio musicians to play instruments they don’t. For everything else, what you hear is EYB. Over the years, they’ve grown a lot as musicians in this process. The down side is that the process has been slow going, often putting two to three year gaps between releases. The new EP they’re about to release, Turn It On, marks a complete departure from the way they’ve made and released music in the past. The making of 10,000 Towns was a long and arduous process that Chris described as “chiseling something out of rock.” Alternately, he said the making of Turn It On was a shoot from the hip, trust your gut experience.

     Chris was excited to share with me the uncharacteristic way this new EP came together for them. Wanting to get away from the long periods between albums, they started writing new material as soon as they finished the last record. They had songwriters come out on the road with them, two of which were Ross Copperman and Jeremy Stover, who would end up producing the project. In one afternoon they wrote “Drink You Up.” Chris said they went and played a ELI YOUNG BAND - TURN IT ON EP COVERshow and when they came back, Ross had done a computer demo of the song and added sounds to it that were different than what they would normally do. Those who got to listen to it, liked it. A couple months later they were in the studio recording some music for no particular purpose and wound up with Ross and Jeremy again. In two days, they cut the four songs that ended up on the EP. When they recorded these, they brought in some earlier vocals Mike had done on the bus and a few other parts and put them all together. Chris said it was like making songs in reverse. Doing this with no particular project in mind, they didn’t tell anyone they were recording. When the label got wind they were in town and working on new music, they showed up at the studio the second night of recording. The sound of the new stuff was very different than what they’d done in the past and they were concerned the label wouldn’t like it. Republic Nashville president, Jimmy Harnen, sat on a couch and listened. Two songs in, he was sold. A week later they had a meeting. The label planned to release the four new songs immediately as an EP. Chris said that in just a three week period it turned into a new project. They’d had complete freedom to do things their way and the label loved it. Rarely does this happen.

     Turn It On has a spirit about it and that spirit may have come from the making of the record. Putting this together quickly, Chris described it as “capturing a moment instead of crafting something.” He feels that if there’s too much lag time between the writing and recording of a song, you can lose the spirit of it. The four songs that are on the new EP put the depth EYB has in neon lights. It’s the excitement of finding something new and encapsulating that spark in a recorded performance. The energy that sizzles in every song is a wellspring they can tap into when they play them live. Imagine a bar after closing time. The lights have been turned off and the jukebox is unplugged. Finishing your shift, you’re the last one to leave. You notice new music from EYB has been loaded into the jukebox. Wanting to be the first to hear it, you plug it in and “Turn It On.” What explodes from the speakers is a sound capable of lighting up the room and filling the place with excited fans ready to have a good time. Play through the songs just once and you’ll be hooked on the feeling.

     The title track and first single to be released from the EP, “Turn It On,” takes no time for small talk. From the first few notes, you’ll be tapping your feet and moving to the music. The enthusiasm in this one grabs you immediately. Mike Eli’s deliciously smooth country vocal suddenly bursts as if the lyrics demand he swallow Pop Rocks. Even the neon lights are buzzing with the excitement in this one. No way you can listen to this just once. This may soon be your new favorite song….until you hear the next one. “Plastic” is about standing out in a crowded room full of country girls. The music is a slow dance with a groove and not a cliched lyric rolls off Mike’s tongue. It’s a guy looking across a bar at a girl he’s fascinated by and appreciating what makes her different. This one could be a game changer on country radio, proving that it’s possible to put more than just one type of girl in a country song. Bravo to the songwriters on this one (Mike Eli, Ashley Gorley, Ross Copperman, Jeremy Stover)! Hooked on this one? Just wait…. “Your Place Or Mine” is irresistible, much as the lyrics suggest. Mike delivers a killer vocal on this that sets the mood from the outset. There’s no doubt this one is headed for a late night rendezvous. The intrigue laden instrumentals that show up throughout give this complexity from a musical standpoint that adds to the “it’s complicated” set of circumstances. Out of breath? Hold that thought….Chris described “Drink You Up” as the next song that may change things dramatically for EYB. I’d say, bet on this being a number one. Absolutely infectious, this one has the appeal of an open bar. When the music gets quiet in the middle of the song, it’s like waiting in line for that next drink. As soon as you get it, the party starts all over again with Mike’s vocal pushing you towards the dance floor. Expect this to be played in every bar in the country, country music themed or otherwise. With any luck, EYB will be there live to play it for you!

     For eight years, the Eli Young Band toured the country headlining their own shows, routinely playing a two to three hour set. Once their music got some radio airplay and they were making a name for themselves nationally, they got offers to be a part of larger tours. Over the years, they’ve opened for Kenny Chesney, Jake Owen, Darius Rucker, and many others. This year, they’re going back to headlining their own shows and playing fewer of them. Family time is important to the band and less time on the road affords them that opportunity. As luck would have it, one of the stops on this year’s tour was at Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, West Virginia. The odds of this happening were definitely not in my favor, so I seized the opportunity to see their live show. Having conducted this interview just prior to the performance, Chris told me a few things I could expect to see. They planned to open the show with one of the new songs off the EP, “Drink You Up.” Admittedly, this was a gamble. They had never opened a show with a brand new, unreleased song they’d just learned to play. The intent was to shock the audience. He said they were nervous about it but they would feed off that energy to open with a bang. It was a gamble that paid off.

     I’ve seen a lot of concerts in the past couple of years that have included some of the biggest names in country music. Few have blown me away like EYB. What they bring to the stage is an unbridled, live band performance. Opening with “Drink You Up,” the audience was captivated by a song they’d never heard before and pulled in by the amount of energy EYB hit the stage with. At the end of the song, people were looking at each other with surprised expressions of “what just happened?” They kept the energy high going straight into a rock-edged version of “Revelations.” I knew most all of the songs in the set list, but nothing was played as I expected it to be. Mike is outstanding as a front man. He had control of the audience from start to finish and he makes his way through the set list as if he’s telling the story of who they are through the music. Musically, the transitions are flawless and hands down the best I’ve seen. Mike’s storytelling between songs adds to the experience of the music you’re about to hear. Even the songs you know well become something new in their live performance. “Dust on the Bottle” became an intro into their own hit, “Dust.” From there, they introduced the new single off the EP, “Turn It On.” You would never know it hadn’t been heard before. The crowd responded to the high energy fun this song invites and the band played it like it was already a fan favorite. No doubt, it will be.

     The rest of the set was one special moment after another. During “Prayer For The Road,” their new video played on the screens on either side of the stage. I could tell that many in the crowd hadn’t seen this video before and were glued to it. I had seen it, but listening to EYB play the song live along with it, gave it a poignancy you rarely see. Absolutely stunning. Mike’s intro to “Drunk Last Night” had the audience more than ready by the time they launched into the song that everyone had been waiting for. They followed that #1 hit with another, “Even If It Breaks Your Heart.” It seemed everyone there knew the words to this one and helped Mike sing it. A slow, acoustic version of Garth’s classic, “The Thunder Rolls,” led into the acoustic opening of “Guinevere.” This beautiful ballad is a showcase for the talent in this band, ending with a killer drum solo by Chris Thompson. From there, they went back to one of the earliest songs they’d written, “Small Town Kid,” and ended the regular set with their first #1, “Crazy Girl.” Having played all of their hits, the encore was a surprise. Apparently, someone in the crowd had been asking for some Skynyrd so EYB finished with an outstanding rendition of “Gimme Three Steps.” It seemed a perfect ending for a set that began with a song that represents how far they’ve come from that Texas garage band that probably played Skynyrd more times than they care to remember.

     Leaving that show, I felt I had a good sense of who EYB is as a band. Chris said there’s a brotherhood and a depth to their relationship and it shows in their live performance. When you watch them together on stage, it’s like seeing them grow musically before your eyes. The set gives you the highlights of their years together, but the way they interact on stage, you get garage band camaraderie in the form of four exceptional musicians. They seem comfortable with their musical identity and clearly enjoy the music they play. When I asked about the choice of the new single, Chris said the label chose it and they were fine with that. They only record songs they love and believe in and it shows in the way they play. In making the new EP, they’ve taken a gamble on changing the process, the sound, and the way in which it’s being released. I predict Turn It On is headed for a big payout with four songs that are all capable of hitting that number one spot. Luck might be a lady, but with this EP, the odds for a winner favor EYB.

     From WAY North of Nashville……..Bev Miskus

Visit EYB’s Website: http://eliyoungband.com/index.php 

ELI YOUNG BAND - TURN IT ON EP COVER ART

“Turn It On” Audio – http://vevo.ly/O90noV

“Plastic” Audio – http://vevo.ly/IqwkoJ

“Your Place Or Mine” Audio – http://vevo.ly/daWuGE

“Drink You Up” Audio – http://vevo.ly/dh7mD0

EYB NEW EP - TURN IT ON DROPS MARCH 10!
Listen to the four great songs on this EP. Can you pick a favorite?

Eli-Young-Band-2014-300-01

Check out EYB’s latest album, 10,000 Towns: http://waynorthofnashville.com/eli-young-band-10000-towns-and-a-lot-of-familiar-miles/

©2015Bev Miskus

MEADOWS, TRAVIS SOLITUDE

A CONVERSATION WITH SONGWRITER, TRAVIS MEADOWS

   ONE MAN. ONE GUITAR. AND THE TRUTH.

     Jason Aldean’s hit song about Nashville, “Crazy Town,” describes rolling into town and shaking off the “where you came from dust” so you can become somebody famous. “It’s a crazy town full of neon dreams, Everybody plays everybody sings.” That’s the artist side of things. Sell your soul to the devil for a hit record. For every artist who comes to Nashville hoping the city is a dream catcher, there’s a songwriter who moves there to tell stories. He’s not looking to shake off where he came from because that’s the foundation of his character and the source of his inspiration. While an artist may be willing to edit his image, a songwriter is only as good as the truth he can tell. Travis Meadows didn’t come to Nashville with aspirations of standing in a neon spotlight or becoming a songwriter. He was a songwriter long before he set foot in Music City and fame wasn’t something he coveted. His craft is dependent on taking life’s moments of stark reality and turning them into lyrics. “Davidson County Police” is a song Travis wrote that describes some of his truth. Blue lights shining in his face, it’s as if he was asked to take a songwriter’s oath: “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” Hand on the Bible, Travis answers in the affirmative. The truth is all he knows.

     To be a songwriter, you must first be a writer. In Travis’ words, “You either are or you aren’t a writer. You don’t become one.” For Travis, the writing started around age six or seven when be began rhyming things, writing poems. His progression from poetry to songwriting took place casually in his childhood. He grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, the dirt beneath his songwriting roots. About the age of ten, he started playing drums and learning rock songs. KISS’ “Detroit Rock City” and Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak” were among the first he recalled having played. Around eleven, he connected the dots between poetry and songwriting. He wrote a poem and started making up words. “Lonely Heart” was his first song. A tectonic shift in his life happened when he was eleven, the age he remembers his first addiction started. He describes himself as having an addictive personality. When he does something, it’s all or nothing. His songwriting would become a product of those addictions and an addiction in itself. This was the beginning of Travis’ lifelong need to write songs.

     You might expect that Travis Meadows cut his songwriting teeth and his performance skills in Nashville. He didn’t. When Travis stepped off the bus, or got out of the car, the sign he saw said ‘Gatlinburg.’ Around the age of 21, Travis moved to Gatlinburg and learned to play the guitar. This would be no casual MEADOWS, TRAVIS GUITAR CLOSE UP EYES CLOSEDpreoccupation. When he was learning something new, it consumed him. He would play a song for 24 hours, marking it indelibly in his mind. One of those he learned was “Helpless” by Neil Young. Travis said he never followed bands much. He was more a fan of the singer/songwriters like Neil Young and Bob Dylan. What led to his taking a seat behind a microphone, putting a guitar in his hands, and singing his songs to entertain people wasn’t emulating those musicians he admired. It was a fellow Mississippian turned Tennessee resident that caught his eye. Watching Elvis movies, Travis saw a regular guy going about his life turn into something special when he picked up a guitar and started to sing. People suddenly paid attention to him. Encouraged, Travis started performing for the lunch crowd at a deli in Gatlinburg. He says he started out playing just three songs. He added a fourth and eventually was able to make selections from 100 songs he knew. This was the beginning of a dream for Travis that would lead to his making a bucket list move a few years down the road.

     Travis didn’t move to Nashville to become a famous songwriter. He moved to Nashville because he wanted to write with the best songwriters. Starting out an unknown entity in Music City, he went about trying to get a publishing deal. He’d had a few hits on Christian radio but now had to get the guys in the country market to pay attention to him. He had a series of meetings where he was playing some Christian songs while the guy that was supposed to be listening to him was otherwise occupied checking his email. At the last of these meetings, he decided to play some country tunes. This made the listener start taking notes. A day or two later, he had three publishers meetings. He said the first two went so bad he didn’t bother to go to the third one. He left demoralized. Songwriting was what he’d come to Nashville to do. There was no plan B. What happened next he describes as “the beginning of the end that started the beginning.”

     After an unplanned hiatus from songwriting, Travis found his way back to his passion. He says he traded dingy, dank bars for open mic and writer’s nights at more reputable establishments. These places are the proving grounds for some of Nashville’s best songwriters. Surrounding himself with new walls and new MEADOWS, TRAVIS SINGINGfaces was the inspiration he needed to write again on a level that might just land him a publishing deal. He described this new source of inspiration as “digging water from a different well.” Travis had been writing songs for an Australian country singer named Adam Brand. On the day that Scott Gunter from Universal came to see him perform, he played three of those songs. Unlike his previous experiences, this turned out to be a life changing day in a good way. Scott loved the performance and signed him to a publishing contract. He also learned that day that Adam Brand had recorded one of his songs. I doubt it happens often that a newly signed songwriter has a recorded song on the first day of his publishing contract. This would be his lucky day. If you ask Travis how he landed this deal, he’ll attribute it to luck as much as his credentials as a songwriter. He says landing a deal is a crap shoot based on the particular day and whose ear is doing the listening. Music is subjective by nature. Just as we choose music based on what we’re in the mood to hear at a given time, so might the guy whose job it is to decide the fate of your deal. Your future as a professional songwriter may be at the mercy of his mood.

     So Travis Meadows is now a professional songwriter living in Nashville. His dream come true! I’d always wondered how songwriters make money, so I took this opportunity to ask one. Travis’ response: “Hell if I know.” He says quarterly checks appear in his mailbox and calls it “magic money.” Explaining what he did know, he summarized the two types of royalties that songwriters earn. Performance Royalties are paid when music is performed publicly. This would include radio, in a bar, over Spotify and Pandora, etc. PROs (performance rights organizations) such as ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC, collect performance royalties from music users and subsequently pay the songwriters and publishers. Mechanical Royalties are paid to songwriters and artists whenever music is sold. This would include vinyl and CD sales as well as streaming. For songwriters, mechanical royalties are set by the government (9 cents for every dollar earned via sale).  To receive his royalty check, Travis had to decide which PRO he wished to join. He was with ASCAP for 15 years before switching to BMI. The rate of payout fluctuates and often determines which PRO a songwriter will sign with. Travis doesn’t dwell on the subject of money when talking about songwriting. He says if you got into songwriting to make money, you’d be better off as a plumber. For him, it’s never been about making money. Commercial success rarely happens to writers. In his words, “Writers write because there’s something on the inside that needs to get out.”

     While songwriting is Travis Meadows’ occupation, it’s not a nine to five gig. Inspiration can come at all hours to a writer and may strike when you have nothing more than a napkin to write on. Creative passion doesn’t punch a time clock, nor can it be ordered up like a hamburger with toppings that suit the consumer. Songwriters have taken a beating for the cliched sound of country radio these days, lambasted as if they’ve suddenly run out of words. Travis says he pays no attention to country radio. He keeps busy – “head down and hands on the plow.” His spark comes from inside and his songs reflect the truth that built the man. He quoted Harlan Perry Howard, a hall of fame songwriter, when relating the belief from which he writes. “Country music is three chords and the truth.” Travis understands the role radio plays, often filling commute time with non-thinking music. Someone has to write the music to fill that spot and there are songwriters who do that exceptionally well. For something deeper, you’ll have to look outside the box. Many have been quick to report the demise of  good songwriting in country music, never having looked past the store window that radio represents. Great songs are written every day by truth tellers like Travis Meadows, but it’s unlikely you’ll ever hear them. Travis says that sometimes great songs slip through to country radio, but historically, the best cuts never do. For the holy grail of Nashville songwriting, attend a Writers’ Round.

     Travis played a Writers’ Round at Douglas Corner recently with friends, Lucie Silvas and Tyler Bryant. Patti McClintic was there for that event and had this to say about the experience: “Travis is enjoying commercial success with hit songs he’s written for Jake Owen, “What We Ain’t Got,” and Dierks Bentley, “Riser.” He played both of those songs for the crowd gathered at Douglas Corner and they were well received, but it was his lesser known songs that brought down the house.” Patti said it was difficult to choose which songs she felt most impacted by and which she would talk about because all of his MEADOWS, TRAVIS GUITAR FINGER UPselections deserved a mention. The two she settled on were “Minefield” from Travis’ 2011 album, Killin’ Uncle Buzzy, and “Black” from his 2007 album, My Life 101. In her words, ““Minefield” speaks to anyone who has ever found themselves in a dark place, found the light, and succumbed to the darkness once again, generally thanks to one’s own poor decisions. To hear Meadows explain how this song came about, reveals how honest he is about his own difficult past. He makes no apologies for that past, and rightfully so. “Black” is a song written for a grandfather that served as a surrogate father for Meadows as a boy. The relationship was a good one and left him with fond memories. The title refers to the black coffee that “granddaddy” used to drink. “Real men drink their coffee black.” This song was so powerful, as I glanced across the capacity crowd, I could see people trying to nonchalantly wipe tears from their cheeks. Rare is the writer that can evoke such raw emotions from the listener.” In such a setting, Travis has the opportunity to explain his connection to the song and the  circumstances that inspired its writing. Being in a room with several songwriters, all performing their powerful truths, is a cataclysmic experience. Patti called this the “perfect storm of songwriting” and summed up her review by saying, “It was the best ten bucks I ever spent.”

     Outside the Writers’ Rounds, where the truth is less self evident, country music is a changing genre. There’s been a lot of debate about the sound of country music and where it’s headed in the future. Traditionalists want to pull the genre back to its roots while others think the time is right to push the boundaries. Travis keeps an open mind about the music and doesn’t see the need to compartmentalize it. He referenced Eric Church when talking about this subject, saying that his fans aren’t necessarily country fans. Eric has amassed a following based on his music and who he is. If this were a game of rock, paper, scissors, music beats genre. The impact of the digital age on music hasn’t been lost on Travis either. He says that people buy songs these days, not albums, and they make playlists that include different genres of music. He isn’t surprised that this type of genreless listening has found its way into the music and thinks it may not be such a bad thing. He also reminded me that this isn’t the first time country music has had its boundaries tested. In the 60s, Ray Price added orchestral parts to the music, breaking from the traditional honky tonk sounding arrangements that were the accepted norm of the day. Travis sees country as a genre in a box, imposing its own growth restrictions. As a songwriter whose craft depends on his growth as a person, he relishes the artistic freedom that growth allows.

     Travis Meadows says he’s growing as a person and channeling that growth into a new album. There’s no time limit on the project and he’s not sure what the finished product will look like. As of now, he has about 17 songs for it but admits he has no idea what will end up on the record. What he does know is that MEADOWS, TRAVIS WITH HARMONICAthis album will definitely be lighter than the first two. When he wrote Killin’ Uncle Buzzy, he says the purpose was to save a life. He never intended for it to be heard. When it was so overwhelmingly accepted and lauded for the truths it told, it cast a long shadow on what was to follow. Travis says just to get past the reverberations of Uncle Buzzy, he wrote and released Old Ghosts & Unfinished Business. He admits there was no other reason for it. This time, he wants things to happen organically. He’s playing shows, going about his daily life, and thinking about what he needs to say. In order to say something new, he says he has to answer the question, “Who is Travis today?” The music will reflect that personal growth.

     For Travis Meadows, his life and his life’s work is in the songs he’s written, and he says he loves them all. I asked a hard question of a songwriter, to choose a few of his favorites from among the vast catalog. Travis said the list would change daily, but these rose to the top on this day: “Learning How To Live Alone” (Killin’ Uncle Buzzy), “Davidson County Police” (Killin’ Uncle Buzzy) because it was heavy and life changing, “Lucky One” (My Life 101), “My Life 101” (My Life 101) because it was his truth, not what they wanted to hear, “Old Ghosts” (Old Ghosts & Unfinished Business) because he made peace with the ghosts of his past by turning and looking at them, “Riser” (Dierks Bentley, Riser), and “What We Ain’t Got” (Jake Owen, Days Of Gold). Having come to Nashville to write with some of the best songwriters, I asked who he most enjoyed writing with. He said there were many, so just to name a few he listed Jeremy Spillman, Tony Lane, Tom Douglas, and Melissa Peirce. Travis said you never know what’s going to come out of a writing session, sometimes you come up empty, but every once in a while you come up with something great. With characteristic humility he said, “As a songwriter, you have to smile at heaven when you write something bigger than you because it’s too clever for you to have written.”

MEADOWS, TRAVIS WITH JAKE OWEN BLOCK PARTY

     I requested an interview with Travis Meadows the songwriter, what I got as a bonus was a conversation with Travis the man. There is no separating the man from his work. His work is merely a manifestation of the the life he’s lived and the man he’s become. He spent a good many years of his life learning to be comfortable in his own skin. As he put it, “I had to learn to be me.” His MEADOWS, TRAVIS WAIST UPsongwriting is the embodiment of all that he’s learned and the truth of his actions. Commercial success is not what motivates him. He told me that he writes what he loves, not what you want to hear. At the end of the day, when he signs his name to a song he’s written, he does so knowing it was the best he could do that day. He’s become known for writing good songs. Even with the spotlight that writing hit songs for Jake Owen and Dierks Bentley has given him, Travis is most at home where songwriters gather. He said playing at the Ryman was not the pinnacle for him. Playing the 9 o’clock show at the Bluebird Cafe is a gratifying pat on the back that says he’s made it in a songwriter’s town, where the best of the best come to tell their truths. His was not a neon dream. Travis has found that success for a humble man is simply three chords and the truth.

From WAY North of Nashville……..Bev Miskus

Watch the video for Jake Owen’s “What We Ain’t Got”!

Songwriters: Travis Meadows, Travis Jerome Goff

Travis said when they wrote the song, it was with the idea that it would be a guy and a girl song. Jake’s video gave it new life. He said he never envisioned it like that and it’s become bigger than he ever thought it could be.

Visit Travis Meadows’ website: http://travismeadows.com/

MEADOWS, TRAVIS MY LIFE 101

Download My Life 101 on iTunes: HERE

MEADOWS, TRAVIS KILLIN UNCLE BUZZY

Download Killin’ Uncle Buzzy on iTunes: HERE

MEADOWS, TRAVIS OLD GHOSTS & UNFINISHED BUSINESS

Download Old Ghosts & Unfinished Business on iTunes: HERE

MEADOWS, TRAVIS SOLITUDE

Photographs courtesy of Bill McClintic at 90 East Photography.

Visit his website for contact information: http://www.90eastphotography.com/home.html

The essential Travis Meadows playlist!

Learning How To Live Alone” – Killin’ Uncle Buzzy

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

Davidson County Police” – Killin’ Uncle Buzzy

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

Lucky One” – My Life 101

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

My Life 101” – My Life 101

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

Old Ghosts” – Old Ghosts & Unfinished Business

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

Black” – My Life 101

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

Minefield” – Killin’ Uncle Buzzy

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

What We Ain’t Got” – Jake Owen – Days Of Gold

Songwriters: Travis Meadows, Travis Jerome Goff

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

Dark Side” – Eric Church – The Outsiders

Songwriters: Eric Church, Travis Meadows, Jeremy Spillman

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

Riser” – Dierks Bentley – Riser

Songwriters: Travis Meadows, Steve Moakler

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

©2015Bev Miskus

STRIKING MATCHES JUSTIN AND SARAH WITH GUITARS FACING

STRIKING MATCHES SIZZLING GUITAR PLAY BREAKS THE SILENCE ON NEW ALBUM

   

Striking Matches – “Hanging On A Lie” – Nothing But The Silence

Download “Hanging On A Lie” through iTunes: HERE

  Sarah Zimmermann and Justin Davis are two singer/songwriter musicians who could easily have chosen separate paths in the music business and been wildly successful. As fate would have it, they were matched up in a college class as randomly as the choice you would make selecting a single match from a box of 100. Justin didn’t expect to be impressed with Sarah’s guitar playing, but her fingers on the instrument left the entire classroom standing in a backdraft of sound and skill. When the two decided to combine their musical talent, striking their guitars against each other, a flame was born. The depth of their combined play puts the heat in the music they make. Their dynamic vocals control the intensity of the lyrics, adding and subtracting friction through tight harmonies. With their new album, Nothing But The Silence, Striking Matches has created a live recording of songs that live and breathe in the moment and continue to take shape each time they’re heard. To classify it under any one particular genre would be a disservice to the creative process. When you strike a match, you get a single flame. Untouched, it will burn itself out very quickly. Touch that flame to another thing and you’ve just started a fire, whose possibilities are endless.

     Several of Striking Matches original songs have been featured on the television show, Nashville. The exposure has been good for them and their music. However, for a better example of who they are and what you can expect on their new album, watch the lyric video for “Missing You Tonight.” It is, by far, the most expressive, musically artistic lyric video I’ve seen. They worked with Dillon White on this and said he had a vision for it going in. He felt it was important that the two of them appear in the video and play on it. Rather than using a closed caption approach, the lyrics often appear directly on the bodies of Sarah and Justin, putting into words what their hearts were feeling. Sarah lights a match just as the lyric says, “I don’t wanna start a fire, and I don’t wanna start a fight.” Mirroring the two sides of a broken relationship, she and Justin appear on opposite sides of the wall between them. Sarah blows out the single flame, leaving Justin in a cloud of smoke. Guitars in hand, they pour out their feelings for each other through intense play. Giving in to the emotion, Sarah lights another match and starts a fire. Unable to fan the flames, they turn towards each other and meld into one as the video ends. The heat from this passionate union and the wreckage it can leave behind create the theme and content for their fiery new album.

     For Striking Matches, making an album is very much an organic process, inside and outside the studio. They were fully involved from the inception of each song to its recorded state on the album. The heart of their music comes from what these two create with the strings of their guitars, both solo and intertwined. It was important to them that the album sound like a live recording, a living representation of a moment in time, captured in raw form. Justin referred to it as an “auditory photograph.” In the studio, there were just four people and the producer, T Bone Burnett. Sarah and Justin agreed he is not a heavy handed producer, bringing out the best in them and making only subtle changes in sound or direction. What you hear on this album is what felt right at the time, whether it be how it was played or who sings which part of the song. With so much to say both musically and lyrically, I wondered what made them choose the title, Nothing But The Silence. They said they’d already put out a self-titled EP and wanted something that was a title and a message. The title track took a long time to write, and when it came time to record it, they said it just felt right. It was a light bulb moment when everyone in the studio realized they’d found their title. The 11 songs on this album hold a mirror to the vulnerabilities of the heart, exposing every tumultuous beat in the aftermath of a breakup. The heart doesn’t often heed storm warnings until its been tossed around and left on the brink of destruction. What remains in its wake is the silence.

     “Trouble Is As Trouble Does” opens the album with a relationship gone wild. It’s a fast-paced acoustic guitar chase that’s been mic’d and plugged into an amp to blend the sound of the two guitars. This one feels like you’ve just climbed atop a bull and when that gate opens, this is no eight second ride. It’s 3:50 of exhilarating guitar fun! Now it’s time to get serious. “Make A Liar Out Of Me” turns the heat up to inferno with a sultry intro and a sexy guitar that answers every breathless lyric. When Sarah comes in with her vocal, it slides easily into Justin’s, leading to the sexual tension that builds in the middle of the song with the intensity of the guitar playing. The blistering guitar solo at the end is a mixture of grinding and passion that brings this one to a climactic close. Recording this solo as a live moment made it tougher to do, but Justin said it’s an important part of who they are musically. There was pride and awe in his voice when he told me that Sarah did that solo all in one pass and in his words, “annihilated it.” Yes Justin, the girl can play!

    The title track, “Nothing But The Silence,” is a musical conversation between two broken hearts. Justin’s vocal dominates here, with Sarah’s taking the lower, softer track. The volume builds as these two hearts break their silence, then drops back to a whisper as they retreat to reconsider the risks. Most often when we hear the blues, it’s sung from a single perspective. Striking Matches taking this on gives us two hearts singing the blues in harmony. The duality creates a groove that ebbs and flows with the emotion of the lyrics. What they’ve created here is a palpitating piece of music. “Hanging On A Lie” will be the first single released to country radio, and this song holds nothing back. Sarah opens this one with some pointed accusations and a guitar that echoes the level of her aggression. This is the sound of a woman too pissed off to sing the blues. Justin’s vocal plays timid antagonist against Sarah’s demand to “open up your mouth if you’ve got something to say, don’t keep me waiting, don’t leave me STRIKING MATCHES JUSTIN AND SARAH BACK TO CAMERAhanging on a lie.” The driving guitar play towards the end is pure emotion meets instrumental. This is music therapy! “Never Gonna Love Again” is a song Sarah said changed tremendously from the demo they came in with to the recorded version on the album. When they worked on it in the studio, T Bone Burnett suggested a more tribal beat throughout. Initially, Sara said she thought it felt so wrong, but after the first pass, she was sold. It was one of those organic, unrefined moments in the recording process where they went with what felt right at the time. The tribal beat sets the pulse of the song, with the instrumental sections adding the mood. This captures the anguish of a broken heart perfectly.

    “When The Right One Comes Along” is a song written by Justin Davis, Georgia Middleman, and Sarah Zimmermann. It was featured on the television show, Nashville, sung by Clare Bowen and Sam Palladio. The song certainly fits the theme of this album. Sarah and Justin do a vocal slow dance here with the simplest of musical accompaniments. Sarah’s lead vocal is pure and stunning, with Justin adding a soft touch in just the right places. This is a breathtaking moment on the album that feels like you just witnessed the perfect union. Sarah and Justin work in vocal tandem on “What A Broken Heart Feels Like” to give an upbeat feel to a heartache song. It’s misery loves company that surprises in a feel good, sing-a-long song. Sarah and Justin taunt each other in the playful, “Miss Me More.” It’s acoustic with a flair that turns vindictive into fun.

    Sarah and Justin’s vocal flexibility gives them an advantage in the creative process that most artists don’t have. As a duo, they can add depth through perspective, strength to a character, or emotion to a lyric. It comes pretty easily to them who will sing what and that doesn’t change between writing and recording. The exception to that was “Like Lovers.” When they got into the studio to record this one, the story of the song seemed best told from a two-part person. Imagine a darkened stage with nothing more than a single spotlight on two voices. The music they sing to is just enough to remind you it’s a song. Listening to this, it feels like we’re eavesdropping on an intimate conversation. At times, the vocal is barely above a whisper. As they relate the passion that once was, the strength of the vocal increases with it. It burns itself out in the crescendo at the end, trailing off in soft resignation. On an album full of vocal gems from these two, this is as beautiful as it is powerful. An exceptional blending of voices by any standard. “Missing You Tonight” will be released as a single on AAA radio. You can watch the lyric video and learn the words to this rock-edged, guitar driven song. This one plays out on the strings of another era, when guitars were as expressive as the lyrics they accompanied and solos took on a life of their own. The only thing missing here is the turntable to play it on. 

     If the purpose of the final cut on an album is meant to leave you with a lasting impression, “God And You” is the gold standard. Justin said there was so much they wanted to say on this album that it felt like the last song was the ending of a novel. “God And You” felt like that epilogue moment, and it was engineered so that the last chord rings out, the resonance of a powerful message. If the soul could tell you how it was feeling, this is what it would sound like. Justin’s voice has a reverence in it here that perfectly suits the lyrics. Sarah’s harmonies add the object of his reverence. Their combined voices give this a spiritual tone. In April, Striking Matches will be heading to the UK for a few shows, one of which is in an old church. I can’t imagine a more perfect setting for this song.

    Striking Matches is one of those rare acts in music that is the same, yet never the same, no matter where you see them. The quality will always be at the View More: http://sarahbarlow.pass.us/strikingmatcheshighest level, but their intense connection to the music and extraordinary talent, give new life to their stage performances as the music is created in the moment. They believe that music changes as people do and it should be played against the elements that exist, whether indoors or out. When Sarah and Justin come together, both vocally and musically, they are two matches striking a stage that erupt into one flame. Their sound, like fire, has no boundaries. It will grow out of what feeds it and roar as it might until it burns itself out. All that remains is the concert experience in the smoldering embers, evidence of their living, breathing performance. When they leave the stage and the crowd goes home, there is Nothing But The Silence - a guitar driven, vocally intense music experience. The album drops March 24.

From WAY North of Nashville…….Bev Miskus

STRIKING MATCHES NOTHING BUT THE SILENCE

Pre-order Nothing But The Silence through iTunes: HERE

Visit Striking Matches‘ website: http://www.strikingmatches.com/

Watch the video for “Trouble Is As Trouble Does” (1Mic 1Take)

©2015Bev Miskus

ERIC CHURCH SOLO SALT LAKE CITY

ERIC CHURCH – ONE MAN BAND

     Live music is vulnerable to all sorts of things – weather, malfunctioning equipment, power outages, travel delays, someone having an off night, etc. Headliners often have to cancel shows due to illness or family emergencies. It is highly unusual, however, to have an entire band and crew succumb to illness, leaving only the headliner standing. It takes a lot of people to put on a show these days, many of which you don’t see or know their names. This situation was put under the spotlight this past weekend at an Eric Church concert in Salt Lake City. With only himself to bring to the stage, and nothing more than a spotlight to announce his presence, Eric Church decided the show must go on and this would be no abbreviated version. He played a full 19-song acoustic set for his fans and delivered what few would have attempted. This certainly was not the fully amped show the audience was expecting, but it speaks volumes about the entertainer, the man, and the importance of the band and crew members.

     We take a lot of things for granted at a live show, all the moving pieces and the people who contribute to that enormous sound and bright lights that fill the arena. At each new venue, the pieces of the concert puzzle have to be put together, and not just anyone can make that happen. Each crew member has a specific job to do and the expertise to know how to do it. They are not easily replaceable, especially on the spur of the moment when crunched for time. Should an entire crew go down or simply not show up, no one would knock on Eric Church‘s bus door and ask him to put his own stage together, move heavy equipment, or unload the trucks. Not that Eric would consider himself above doing any of these tasks or refuse to try, as many would, it just wouldn’t be asked of him. This is what he has crew members for, assuming they’re healthy and available.

     What we hear and what we see at a concert is also dependent on a skilled group of people to hook things up, put them in the right places, and push the right buttons when the time comes. Having the equipment is one thing, knowing what to do with it is quite another, and essential to making that live music performance come together. Band members don’t walk onto the stage and start playing for an audience without first testing the sound of their instruments. This is what sound check is for. However, if their equipment never makes it off the truck, never gets hooked up, and the sound engineer is absent, welcome to the silence. The same holds true for turning that sound into a spectacle the audience can see and hear. Not that every concert needs to be a light show, but there is an importance to casting the right light on the right part of the stage at the right time. It would appear odd to highlight the guitar player during a drum solo. It would also be unusual not to put Eric Church under the spotlight while he was singing. All this doesn’t seem too complicated, but without the equipment in place and the guys who know how to run it, Eric’s “Dark Side” would be more than a song in the set list.

     Let’s assume for a moment that everything got delivered, the sound and the lighting equipment is in its place, and the crew has assembled all the pieces. The sound and the lighting engineers are in their places and the lights in the arena go down indicating show time. Something’s missing. There are no instruments on the stage because the entire band has the flu. Suddenly that big sound you were expecting to hear is not in the building. How often do we show up at a concert, watch the headliner all night, and take the sound of the band and the musicians playing those instruments for granted? Most people won’t know their names and couldn’t pick them out of a lineup immediately following the concert, yet the sound we expect to hear at that concert is largely dependent on them. When was the last time you bought an acoustic album? Live music is all about putting the sound behind the singing, often in a very big, very loud way. Not to say that the headliner doesn’t contribute to that sound, but the full concert experience depends on having a band to back him/her up. If it’s the quality we’ve come to expect from an Eric Church concert, these will not be average musicians, and their presence cannot simply be replaced. What we may take for granted, Eric Church does not.

     When Eric became aware that his band and crew would not be able to set things up and perform their duties at the show, he had a decision to make. The majority of headliners in his position would have canceled the show, rescheduled it, and left. This show has been rescheduled, but it was not canceled. With only a spotlight and an acoustic guitar, Eric took the stage as scheduled and played a full set that included 19 songs. This is not something he’d practiced nor was prepared to do on short notice, but not wanting to disappoint an arena full of fans, he showed up and gave it everything he had, as he would on any other night. For one of his most powerful songs, “That’s Damn Rock & Roll,” Lzzy Hale did join him on stage and together they were an acoustic powerhouse. Lzzy’s scream needs no amplifier, and neither did this song. It was an anthem for the entire evening.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

     As much as Eric Church was a one man band at this show, he understands better than most that no one is. He gets the importance of the people around him and probably knows every name. Being on the road for as long and as many dates as these guys often are, is a sacrifice for all of them, not just the guy whose name is on your concert ticket. Eric’s decision to perform in this situation was not only an indication of how much he values his fans, but how much he respects his band and crew by carrying on when they couldn’t. Despite the fact that the fans were expecting a different type of show that night, I doubt a single one of them left disappointed. Eric demonstrated what an entertainer does when the spotlight comes on, “Give all ya got till there ain’t nothin’ left,” even if you’re alone in the middle of it on an empty stage. Caring about his band and crew, that’s Eric the man. Pulling this off as only Eric Church could…… “That’s Damn Rock & Roll.”

From WAY North of Nashville……..Bev Miskus

WATCH Eric Church and Lzzy Hale perform “That’s Damn Rock & Roll” acoustically!

eric-church-2015-outsiders-tour-poster

See Eric Church LIVE on The Outsiders World Tour: http://ericchurch.com/events/upcoming

ec_to_cvr_5x5_300_web

Download Eric’s Grammy nominated album, The Outsiders, through iTunes: HERE

©2015 Bev Miskus

PARMALEE INTERVIEW GROUP SHOT

PARMALEE BRINGS THE MUSIC LIVE!

     “Suntans and white tank tops….Summertime and no flip flops…..A little country, a little rock, yeah, yeah.” Sounds like summer in Parmele, North Carolina, where four guys grew up and nurtured their musical roots. Matt and Scott Thomas are brothers who grew up in Parmele along with their cousin, Barry Knox, and friend, Josh McSwain. Barely a dot on the map with a PARMALEE INTERVIEW PARMELEpopulation of just 278, the closest concert venue was 88 miles away in Raleigh. The Walnut Creek Amphitheatre opened in 1991 and has played host to over 20 years of live music, including many concerts these guys attended. Watching some of their favorite bands perform on the big stage fueled their dreams of becoming a band worthy of playing here some day. Ten years after the opening of this venue, in 2001, these brothers formed a band that was as much a product of their musical influences as it was their talent and home town. Once Parmele born and bred, now bound together as Parmalee.

I’ll Bring the Music” – Feels Like Carolina

     For those old enough to remember the tape deck and the audio cassettes it played, it was a tedious process to fast forward to the exact spot you were PAISLEY, BRAD COUNTRY NATION WORLD TOUR WITH PARMALEE AND THE SWON BROTHERSlooking for in the music. Oftentimes you had to rewind when you overshot it and fast forward again to hit it just right. This is much like the process a band goes through in their formative years. I met with Parmalee on their tour bus outside the WVU Coliseum, where they were set to open for Brad Paisley on the winter leg of his Country Nation World Tour. They were comfortably confident on this day that they were prepared for the task. Their set list for the evening opened with “I’ll Bring the Music,” but to find out where that music came from, we’ll have to rewind to the music they were listening to “Back in the Day.”   

Back in the Day” – Feels Like Carolina

     Watching the bands play live at Walnut Creek is how Parmalee learned to play like one. Pearl Jam, The Allman Brothers Band, and Foo Fighters were among their favorites, but it wasn’t just the music that influenced them. Bands such as these have longevity on their side and it shows in their live WALNUT CREEK AMPHITHEATRE RDUperformances. Studying them is how these four guys honed their stage presence as a band. In the studio, there are a lot of things to play with that can affect the recorded sound. Live, it’s all about what you can make happen as a group in the moment, which means skill and interaction must balance to put on a high quality, entertaining show.

     Fast forward to the stage they’ll be playing on with Brad Paisley. When selecting the songs for the set list, knowing your audience is key. Parmalee PARMALEE INTERVIEW BARRY MATTmakes it their job to figure out what kind of crowd they’re playing to and uses the opportunities they have to play something they would like. Whether the fans prefer Bob Seger or Snoop Dog, they “Think You Oughta Know That.” Many of today’s headlining acts play to pre-recorded tracks. Parmalee doesn’t. Everything you hear, they’re actually playing. Their philosophy is if you’ve come to see a live show, you want it to sound live. Part of the fun for a band is keeping it fresh on stage and creating unique moments within each performance. Doing that means knowing your bandmates well enough to anticipate each other’s moves and react PARMALEE INTERVIEW JOSH ON GUITARaccordingly. Within their set, there is no down time for these four guys. Creating a live, organic performance means working through every minute on stage as if the band’s success depends on it. Unlike the headliner, whose set is likely in sync with lights, sounds, and videos, Parmalee has some leeway to change things up and still have their lighting engineer on target. Matt knows his limitations when the mood strikes to stray from the preset program and keeps it fresh, yet manageable.

Think You Oughta Know That” – Feels Like Carolina

     For Parmalee, being a band means their approach to the set list is creating an outline for an original performance. It is in no way a simple reproduction of their PARMALEE INTERVIEW BARRY MATT JOSHrecorded album. Within several of their songs, it works well to add snippets of popular music covers that vary based on the audience. Call it creating a live mixtape on the fly. One of the advantages they have to playing songs not everyone is familiar with is vocal flexibility. Fans become attached to their favorite songs as they were recorded. How it was sung on the one day of its recording is pressed in PARMALEE SCOTT IN COLORour memories. When the singer strays from that version, audiences don’t always react favorably. As the lead vocalist, Matt tries to stay close to the recorded sound while changing it up as he sees fit. As for the music, Scott says he never plays the drums live the way he played on the record. His versatility pushes the rest of the guys to adjust and create in the moment. Today,  Parmalee is an outstanding live band because they understand and embrace this concept and can adjust to suit any size venue or setting.

PARMALEE INTERVIEW BARRY MATT B & W

     With only four guys to create the sound of Parmalee, instrument choice and volume control matter. How much equipment they’re toting depends on the PARMALEE INTERVIEW BARRY POSEsize of the room that sound has to fill. Looking back, the guys credit playing all those shows in small rooms when they were just starting out for giving them a full spectrum vantage point. Being able to “Move” seamlessly between different sized venues, and not compromise their sound, is something Parmalee has done for years. They may play an acoustic setting where no amps are required one night and switch to two electric guitars and a bass the next in an arena. More equipment is needed to produce the volume an arena demands and how loud the drums are will determine how high that volume needs to go. Making adjustments is what sound check is for.

Move” – Feels Like Carolina

     Parmalee has the middle slot on Brad Paisley’s tour, which means their sound check will come after his band has finished and before the opening act, PARMALEE INTERVIEW BARRY JOSH ON KEYS MATTThe Swon Brothers, gets their turn. I asked them for their assessment of being in the middle relative to what they were used to. For most of the years they’ve been playing together, they’ve headlined their own shows, playing sets as long as 75+ minutes. They’ve had the opening slot at festivals but not on an organized tour, essentially skipping that step to where they are here. Being in the middle makes them less vulnerable to PARMALEE SCOTT ON DRUMSwhat happens during the day, which can lead to delays and a crunch for time. Opening acts take the fall for what may go awry on show days, sometimes missing a sound check entirely and having to “throw and go” when the lights go down. Parmalee’s set on this tour is 45 minutes long, “a breeze,” they called it, from what they’re used to as a headliner. Comparatively, they said an opening act may have two songs the audience is familiar with in a short set. Parmalee said they have three songs the fans may know and a longer time to entertain with songs they don’t. Their new single, “Already Callin’ You Mine,” was just released to radio, making it one more the fans will soon recognize off their debut album, Feels Like Carolina. There are no cover songs in Parmalee’s set, so the songs on the album get shuffled to make up the set list. It would be the launch of this first album that set the wheels of their tour bus in motion.

Already Callin’ You Mine” – Feels Like Carolina

Download the new single through iTunes: HERE

     The first thing I asked about, when I sat with the guys for this interview, was the bus we were sitting on. They’ve done a lot of traveling in their 14 years as a band, most of which was not on a comfortable tour bus. Van and trailer gigs are the norm for a band starting out, and Parmalee said that getting the bus is PARMALEE INTERVIEW MATT ACOUSTIC COLORprobably the biggest change for a band. When they started playing the big festivals, the bus became a necessity, making their time on the road a whole lot easier. A tour bus is considered a big perk for a band, but Josh said having a crew with them now is an even bigger perk. When I asked what the criteria was for hiring a crew, the guys laughed and said, “Getting paid enough to have one.” Fair enough. Last year, they were able to hire two guys to assist them. Now, they have six crew members and a driver along for the ride, making it a snug fit with PARMALEE INTERVIEW BARRY TAMBOURINE11 guys on the bus. They’re also hauling a trailer packed from top to bottom with equipment. Prior to having the crew, they would arrive for a show and have to set everything up themselves. They said it’s taken about a year to find the right guys that fit the bill and the budget, mostly going by word of mouth recommendations and choosing from what they called a small community of roadies in Nashville. The other big change for them this year is finding themselves on stage with someone they idolized, Brad Paisley. Brad is one of the most skilled guitar players in Nashville, and that fact is not lost on these guys. Sharing the stage with him has left Parmalee a little awed by where they are and cognizant of where they’ve been. Now that they have the bus, they can toast this with a little “Day Drinkin’” in style.

Day Drinkin’” – Feels Like Carolina

     Between show dates, the guys are back home in Nashville working on their upcoming new album. There is no scheduled release date for it yet, but we PARMALEE INTERVIEW JOSH B & Wdiscussed the process of recording in Nashville, which is unlike any other place in the world. Taking advantage of present day technology and the resources they have available in Nashville makes them appreciate how far we’ve come in the evolution of music. The guys remember listening to things on the tape deck with their dads and said they came of age doing things on analog tape. They’ve gone through the process of making music in a lot of different ways, appreciating the experience for what it’s taught PARMALEE INTERVIEW MATT POSEthem. Only in Nashville can you potentially write a song, record the demo, have top musicians play on it, press it, and have it ready for sale in one day. Not that anyone does this, but Nashville has the resources to make it possible. Recognizing the advantages of digital music and the speed of the process, they still expressed a desire to have at least one of their albums pressed in vinyl. Having a record player, like Barry does, and a collection of vinyl albums is hip again. Perhaps if they get a vinyl copy of the new album, they can listen to it at Barry’s house, and talk about the days when vinyl was king. Just “Another Day Gone.”

Another Day Gone” – Feels Like Carolina

     In some ways, Parmalee has embraced the old school way of recording and settled into the process with their second album. They’ve found things easier this time around because they’ve gotten to know the songwriters better and have been able to write with some of the best in Nashville. They’re writing as th5O88P53Lmuch as they can, and with the luxury of not being pushed to finish the record, if a great song comes their way, they can opt to record it. They’ve recorded four songs so far, but the process is ongoing. It’s not as simple as going into the studio and in one day having a finished product. Parmalee works with New Voice Entertainment on the production process, a group comprised of Rich Redmond, Tully Kennedy, Kurt Allison, and David Fanning. Getting the four of them and the four guys from Parmalee in one room PARMALEE INTERVIEW JOSH ON KEYSat the same time is a balancing act that requires finding small blocks of time over the course of a year to complete the process. They may cut 20 songs for the record and have to whittle it down to 12 or so, but that’s a positive problem. While writing is a big part of the new project, so is playing on the album. On most of the records recorded in Nashville, studio musicians are used instead of the guys who play on tour with the artist. These professionals can knock out a recording in one day. Parmalee, as a band, plays on their own records. They spend most of their time playing as a live band and that’s the sound they want to capture on the recordings. This requires time and patience to get it to sound the way they want it to, but they see it as part of being a band, and they love it. Like the lyrics of  “My Montgomery” state, “trading these Chicago lights for fireflies,” there’s something to be said for finding brilliance in what comes naturally.

My Montgomery” – Feels Like Carolina

PARMALEE INTERVIEW SCOTT B & W

     From the studio to the venue, if there’s one thing Parmalee‘s music makes you want to do, it’s “Dance,” and in 2014, those dance floors got bigger. On select dates, Parmalee opened for Jake Owen on the Days of Gold Tour. If you saw one of these shows, you “Musta Had a Good Time.” This took them to PARMALEE INTERVIEW BARRY WITH JAKEsmall arenas and amphitheatres across the country. In addition to those dates, they played large festivals that sometimes had them performing for 60,000 people. They opened a show in Ohio for Florida Georgia Line and Jason Aldean and played Faster Horses in Michigan. Aside from the festivals though, the sold out crowd at the WVU Coliseum was the biggest they’d played for. As it so happened, I was witnessing Parmalee PARMALEE INTERVIEW MATT AND JOSHhistory, and this is just the start of a big year for them. They have three months on tour with Brad Paisley, after which they will go back to headlining their own shows again. Their first USO Tour is coming up in a couple of weeks. It’s a ten day trip and a chance to support the troops they’re looking forward to. In late April, they’ll be playing Stagecoach for the first time, and when the summer season arrives, they will once again be performing for multitudes at outdoor festivals.

Dance” – Feels Like Carolina

     When most people talk about their dreams, you picture it as something that exists only when you “Close Your Eyes.” When I asked Parmalee what their dream venues were, their eyes were wide open and looking towards the future. The three places that came out first were Madison Square Garden, The PARMALEE INTERVIEW CAROLINA LYRICS PICHollywood Bowl, and Red Rocks. Then, almost in unison, they declared the Walnut Creek Amphitheatre in Raleigh their ultimate choice. “Carolina” became Parmalee’s first #1 single with lyrics that may have foreshadowed these dream choices. “…she feels like Carolina, looks like California, Shining like those New York lights on Broadway.” They’ve played the side stage at Walnut Creek but haven’t had the chance to play the main stage yet. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time. Having met these guys, one thing is certain, Carolina will always have their back as much as this band of brothers will always have each other’s. In their music, on the stage, and in life, these four guys exude a bond that is palpable. The music and the talent they play it with is entirely a product of who they are and where they came from. They take nothing for granted and appreciate the journey they’ve been on and the places it’s taken them so far. No matter what stage they play on, in any city in the world, as long as they can play music together the only way they know how, it Feels Like Carolina.

Carolina” – Feels Like Carolina

From WAY North of Nashville…..Bev Miskus

PARMALEE INTERVIEW JOSH POSE

All of the LIVE photos of Parmalee are courtesy of Bill McClintic at 90 East Photography. Visit his website to see additional photos and for booking information: http://www.90eastphotography.com/home.html

PARMALEE DAYS OF GOLD TOUR with JAKE OWEN

Feels Like Carolina is available through iTunes NOW for just $5.99! HERE

Read my review of Feels Like Carolina: http://waynorthofnashville.com/parmalee-ready-to-make-their-move/

PARMALEE INTERVIEW ALBUM SHOT

Visit Parmalee’s website: http://parmalee.com/

Follow Parmalee on Twitter @parmalee

 Follow Parmalee on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/parmaleemusic

PARMALEE FAMALEE

For information on how you can join the Parmalee Famalee and all the amazing things they do, read my interview with Shari: http://waynorthofnashville.com/stand-by-me-superfans/

Become a member of the Parmalee Famalee on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/parmaleefamalee/

 Follow Parmalee Famalee on Twitter @ParmaleeFamalee

©2015Bev Miskus

Big & Rich Capture A Feeling In “Run Away With You”

BIG AND RICH RUN AWAY WITH YOU

Download “Run Away With You,” thru iTunes: HERE

     Country music lyrics have taken a beating lately for being stuck in a rut, lacking a compelling storyline, and overselling the same setting. Nouns play a big role in most country songs. In the new single from Big & Rich, verbs drive the story and the music captures a feeling. It seems ironic in a song about running away that you’d find such a perfect example of capturing something. It’s often difficult to describe feelings and even more challenging to convey a feeling through music. When you can put both together and pull the listener in to the emotion, you’ve just written a hit song.

      “Run Away With You” is one of those rare songs that grabs you immediately. Not a word had been sung when I knew it was going to take me somewhere. It’s one of those close your eyes songs that compel you to let go and just listen. When John Rich starts singing, the journey begins. The tenderness in his voice conjures the feel of a soft touch and the spark you feel when you’re close to someone you connect with. When Kenny adds the harmonies, the spark turns to a fiery passion that ignites the desire to throw caution to the wind and run away with your heart’s desire. The pulse of those two beating hearts is steady and rhythmic in the music the guitars play until the feelings of love pull you under with the strength of a rip tide. The tight harmonies wash over the strings of the guitars and manifest a seductive, powerful sound. A boundless love finds room to run when the heart is open to the possibilities.

I miss your midnight kiss

And loving you all night long

This life’s like a rip tide

We’re barely hanging on

Caught up in the worry

And always in a hurry

Losing what we’re all about

Let’s slow it down

Take our love and get out of this town

 

     Big & Rich‘s new album is called Gravity. What better place for a song like “Run Away With You” that describes the gravitational pull of two hearts that belong together finding their unified center of gravity in each other. It isn’t popular these days to put thought provoking songs on the radio. The trend is towards mindlessness over emotional engagement. Big Kenny and John Rich have created a powerful piece of music here that is lyrically thoughtful and musically moving. Listening to it makes you feel something and want to hear it again. When great music meets radio airplay, everybody wins.

 

From WAY North of Nashville……Bev Miskus

Download Gravity through iTunes: HERE

BIG AND RICH GRAVITY

 

Visit Big & Rich’s website: http://www.bigandrich.com/

©2015Bev Miskus

 

PAISLEY, BRAD WV GUITAR 2

Country Roads Take Brad Paisley’s Winter Tour Home To West Virginia

    

Download Brad’s #1 single, “Perfect Storm,” through iTunes: HERE

       Brad Paisley came home this past weekend to kick off the winter season of his Country Nation World Tour in Morgantown, West Virginia. He performed two shows at the WVU Coliseum with a lot of students in attendance, none of which were likely expecting to be schooled by Brad in the art of concert Brad-Paisley-Country-Nation-World-Tourperformance 101. The cost of this class was the price of admission and on Saturday night, this was a sold out class. As one of the lucky students in this coliseum turned classroom, I watched a master class in live performance by a headliner who appreciates the art form that live music can be and the professional musicians it takes to create such art. Every aspect of this show was staged only to the point of being a platform for audience interaction, opening act participation, video enhancement, and inspired musical excellence. Not one detail was missed in the preparation for this show when taking into account all of the elements that would be present. When Brad’s drummer, Ben Sesar, broke into a drum solo late into the evening, I already knew where this was leading and I was ready to shout these lyrics: “Got it bad, got it bad, got it bad…….I’m HOT FOR TEACHER!!”

     Brad Paisley is an entertainer who values family and music and his live show is an extension of those values. His opening acts on this tour are two family based groups, The Swon Brothers and Parmalee, both of which share Brad’s approach to creating music and delivering an organic, in the moment performance. The Swon Brothers, Zach and Colton, engage with the audience THE SWON BROTHERS LATER ONas if they know every person in the room. Their opening slot only allows for the playing of a few songs, giving them little time to make a lasting impression. Most people aren’t familiar with their original music just yet, so it’s not as much about what they’re singing as it is about their delivery. Covering a Boston classic was a comfortable fit and leaving the audience with their radio single, “Later On,” provided the first link to a future musical identity. It was a solid performance that was well received.

     Parmalee is a band made up of two brothers, Matt and Scott Thomas, a cousin, Barry Knox, and their best friend, Josh McSwain. They’ve played together for a very long time and their live show is a product of that relationship and longevity. Parmalee’s music is arena ready and could easily be reproduced on the stage with nothing more than a turn it up mentality. Fortunately, these Parmalee_CountryMusicRocks_net-copyguys are a band in every sense of the word and understand the opportunity they have to create something new with each performance. They opened with “I’ll Bring the Music” and it was a statement they delivered on. Matt was brilliant in introducing each song with a scenario that played on relatability. In the absence of having instantly recognizable intros, giving the listeners a connection to the music keeps them attentive and engaged. It also allows for improvisation within the songs because the audience isn’t attached to a singular recorded version. While Matt was talking to the crowd before each song, the band provided a unique segue that gave them flexibility to keep it fresh. They used particular creative license in “Musta Had a Good Time” and “Dance” by adding snippets of other songs the audience knew well. Parmalee’s set was an invitation to dance and have a good time while leaving this West Virginia audience with a sampling of music that Feels Like Carolina. I’d say the crowd’s reaction made these boys from Carolina feel like home’s not so far away.

Download Parmalee’s new single, “Already Callin’ You Mine” thru iTunes: HERE

     At this point in the show, the opening acts typically disappear and the headliner takes the stage. Not here. Never before have I seen such a creative and thoughtful opening to a headliner’s set. In the spirit of family and the tradition of Appalachian folk music from West Virginia to Tennessee, the stage PAISLEY, BRAD COUNTRY NATION WORLD TOUR WITH PARMALEE AND THE SWON BROTHERSset up was like what you’d find on a front porch in the mountains. As if family had just dropped in and started playing together, Brad’s band members assembled at the front of the stage with The Swon Brothers and Parmalee. With an improvised lyric, they sang an Appalachian standard, “Good Old Mountain Dew.” Towards the end of the song, Brad simply walked onto the stage from the right side and took his place amongst the other front porch players as casually as if he were no one in particular. They finished the song and went immediately into “The World” followed by “Camouflage.” This mini-set ended with the intro to “Moonshine In The Trunk,” which was the perfect way to come full circle with the theme of this opening. “Good Old Mountain Dew,” an ode to moonshine, was written in 1928 in ballad form about a man accused of making illegal alcohol during prohibition. The title track from Brad’s latest album is “Moonshine In The Trunk.” In the song, he describes a joy ride with a girl that feels like an illegal liquor run…..and this would be the feel of the rest of the evening.

PAISLEY, BRAD - WVU

     The band took their regular places on stage and the roar of that car engine launched us into full throttle “Moonshine In The Trunk.” It was the perfect kick start to what would be an incredible night of music and entertainment. Brad’s set included 27 songs, and he and his incredible band didn’t give an ounce less WVU COLISEUMthan their best to every one of them. The setting of the WVU Coliseum, on the campus of the state’s flagship university, was home field advantage for Brad and he played to it brilliantly. His banter with the crowd, knowledge of what riled them up, video footage of the campus, lyrical changes to suit the location, and love for his home state made for an A+ performance and a showcase of musical ability. His many years of success in the music business have taken him far outside his Southern Comfort Zone and the borders of his home state, but on this night, he was full of Mountaineer pride and it resonated through the strings of his many guitars.

CURRIE, RANDLE BRAD PAISLEY STEEL PLAYER

RANDLE CURRIE (STEEL GUITAR)

     If Brad were to provide a syllabus for this master class in concert performance, it would be broken out into five key components – creating the music, use of video, audience interaction, staging, and set list. These essential elements aren’t something he puts together at the start of the tour season and sets to auto pilot at each show. He creates the framework and allows space Little+Jimmy+Dickens+Country+Comes+Home+Opry+96U-gIIrDKRlwithin that to tailor each show to its audience. His videos are highly imaginative and entertaining without detracting from the music. During his singing of “When I Get Where I’m Going,” there was a video tribute to his late friend, Little Jimmy Dickens. It was a very moving moment in the show, at the end of which, Brad tipped his hat towards the screen. During the song, “Crushin’ It,” the video included pictures of the WVU campus as well as live footage from WVU football games. His commentary during the song mentioned the school’s team getting no respect on ESPN and its being the number one party school in the world. Both of these facts were met with cheers from the audience.

HOOKER, GARY BRAD PAISLEY GUITARIST

GARY HOOKER (GUITARIST)

     Creating moments with the audience is something Brad does naturally and his use of the stage often helps to encapsulate such moments. He invited a young couple to join him on stage for his singing of “Then.” A few of his band members joined him at the front of the stage, creating an opening within their circle for the couple to dance in. If you’ve seen a Brad Paisley concert before, you know where this is going…..guy drops to one knee, asks girl to marry him, she says yes, and they finish the dance. Magic moment, courtesy of Brad Paisley. His awareness of his surroundings, and in this case, knowledge of his audience, helps to create unique moments in the show where he can ad lib between songs or within the song and entertain in the moment. When fans attend a concert, it’s nice to leave knowing that you had an experience no one else will. This is what a live performance is all about.

SESAR, BEN BRAD PAISLEY DRUMMER

BEN SESAR (DRUMS AND PERCUSSION)

     At the heart of every concert experience is the music, and no one understands that better than Brad Paisley. His dedication to excellence in music drives his performance at each show and gives the fans an opportunity to see organic live music as it happens. Brad doesn’t just play through the music, he breathes life PAISLEY, BRAD WV GUITARinto it through his exceptional guitar playing and the talented musicians he shares the stage with. Unlike many of today’s live acts, Brad and his band do not use pre-recorded tracks. Everything you hear is being played live in the moment. Brad is a rare exception to the norm in that he uses his tour band to play on his records. They’ve been together for 15 years and that longevity contributes to the quality of their live shows. Watch their interaction during a song and you will see the individual contributions create the whole. The six gifted musicians who share the stage with Brad are Gary Hooker (guitar), Kendal Marcy (keys), Kenny Lewis (bass), Randle Currie (steel guitar), Justin Williamson (fiddle), and Ben Sesar (drums). Throughout the show, each one of them may get a chance to spotlight their ability in a particular song. How that plays out depends on the set list.

LEWIS, KENNY BRAD PAISLEY BASS PLAYER

KENNY LEWIS (BASS)

     Brad Paisley has an extensive music catalog to draw from and the set list for this show was a greatest hits manifesto. Out of this extensive 27 song playlist, only two of the songs were covers, John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher.” The other 25 songs were an ebb and flow of fun songs with a sprinkling of his tender ballads. “Southern Comfort Zone” and “Waitin’ On a Woman” used the video backdrop to support the stories. “I’m Still a Guy” was a hit with the men in the audience and we were invited to disregard the current cold season in favor of warmer temps with “Beat This Summer.” “Mud On The Tires” showcased the dynamic fiddle playing of Justin Williamson and we got to ad lib a famous TV line WILLIAMSON, JUSTIN BRAD PAISLEY FIDDLE PLAYERin “American Saturday Night” – LIVE from Morgantown, it’s Saturday night!! “I’m Gonna Miss Her” and “She’s Everything” were back to back examples of the diversity in Brad’s songwriting, humorous and heartfelt. Four songs off the new album were part of this set with “River Bank” anchoring the end of regulation time and “Perfect Storm” leading off the encore. Just weeks ago, “Perfect Storm” became Brad’s 23rd number one hit and the performance of this song was worthy of the accomplishment. With the help of the video showing stormy seas and the sound of thunder and lightning crashing, the song erupts from the stage. Hearing this on the radio or on an ipod is like trying to contain the ocean with a few sandbags. The power of the song was made for an arena setting where the video can provide that imax feel and the band can demonstrate its full bodied potential behind the intense playing of Brad on guitar. This was truly an encore moment.

MARCY, KENDAL BRAD PAISLEY KEYS PLAYER

KENDAL MARCY (KEYS)

     The evening ended just as this set began, with an ode to “Alcohol” and both of the opening acts back on stage for the singing of it. Brad’s live bobble head counterpart makes an appearance here to serve the troublesome beverage to those on stage. The playing of this encourages a sing-along and sends everyone home in a celebratory mood. Brad’s extended guitar play at the end of the song put an exclamation point on an outstanding night of live music. Brad’s home town of Glen Dale, West Virginia is just 85 miles from Morgantown. Since moving away to Nashville, he’s played some of the most prestigious venues in the world and traveled in style on the superhighways music has led him to. Yet it’s these simple country roads in West Virginia that supported his journey and welcome him back home on occasions like this. I’m not originally from West Virginia, but I’ve lived here for the past 12 years. “Take Me Home, Country Roads” is a special song to the people of this state and I’ve heard it many times since moving here. Watching Brad sing this in Morgantown, surrounded by family, friends, and fans from his home state, was as moving a moment as you’ll find on a concert stage. The power of music, as grand as it can be, can often be felt most deeply in the simplest of arrangements. A simple lesson from a master class in musical performance by West Virginia‘s own, Brad Paisley. I think all in attendance would agree that on this night BP, you nailed it, as they say!

Brad-Paisley-Crushin-It

From WAY North of Nashville….in West Virginia…..Bev Miskus

The drum solo at the end of this is performed by Ben Sesar!

PAISLEY, BRAD - MOONSHINE IN THE TRUNK

Download Moonshine In The Trunk through iTunes: HERE

Visit Brad Paisley’s website: https://www.bradpaisley.com/home

Download Feels Like Carolina through iTunes: HERE

Visit Parmalee’s website: http://parmalee.com/

Download The Swon Brothers through iTunes: HERE

Visit The Swon Brothers’ website: http://www.swonbrothers.com/

©2015Bev Miskus

 

STRIKING MATCHES – MISSING YOU TONIGHT

STRIKING MATCHES MISSING YOU TONIGHT

Download “Missing You Tonight” through iTunes: HERE

     Push play on this song and you’ll know right away that Striking Matches is not a current radio cliché. Their new album, Nothing But The Silence, is available for pre-order NOW through iTunes with a drop date of March 24! Just looking at the names of the songs on this album tells me this is no ordinary silent treatment. This record has a lot to say, and the first song released from it is a silent scream.

     “Missing You Tonight” reaches back to the sound of the 70s from the moment those dueling guitars start speaking. These two talented musicians can both play, and the harmonies they achieve on this song, together with the intensity of the guitar playing, is an expressive throwback to a time when music was all powerful. The lyrics are beautiful here, but it’s the language those guitars are speaking that sweeps you into the passion and the pain of this song. Take the pull of two people who are missing each other on opposite sides of the glass. Each picks up a guitar and pours out their emotion in a “My Guitar Gently Weeps” kind of way with a bigger guitar sound for emphasis. Every ounce of emotion comes from the guitars in this with the harmonies acting as punctuation.

     The lyric video is brilliant and as emotionally expressive as you’ll see in this format today. The use of mostly black and white in the color scheme highlights the message and  makes the spare use of color an exclamation point on that message. One match. One extinguished flame. Two hearts reaching out towards a burned out connection. Two sides of the same feeling….Striking Matches.

WATCH the lyric video for “Missing You Tonight!”

Pre-order Nothing But The Silence through iTunes: HERE

STRIKING MATCHES NOTHING BUT THE SILENCE

Visit Striking Matches‘ website: http://www.strikingmatches.com/

©2015 Bev Miskus

 

 

EGYPT - ALL FOUR

EGYPT HITS THEIR GROOVE AT JAMMIN’ JAVA

     It isn’t often anymore that I go to concerts without expectations. I usually know all the music, a lot of the musicians, and have a pretty good idea of what I’m going to see that night in the live show. Much of what we see on tour these JAMMIN JAVA LOGOdays is formulaic. It’s not that the music isn’t good, but it’s mostly predictable. Everything from load in to load out is scheduled. I’ve always felt that music isn’t at its best in a managed environment. Musicians need creative space and the music needs free reign to become what it will in that moment. If it’s not an experience, it may as well be a recording. Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Virginia, is an unusual venue for live music. It’s located in a strip mall without any indication of what’s inside. You could easily pass by and think of it as nothing more than a neighborhood coffee house. Their tag line says “Music + Community Est. 2001.” The Brindley Brothers – Daniel, Jonathan, and Luke, are musicians and music lovers who bought the business with their passion and philosophy in mind. Their mission statement declares their intent to offer “the best live music and the finest concert experience in an all-ages community environment.” This was my second show at this venue and both times I left with the feeling I’d just witnessed something unique. On this night, my Jammin’ Java experience would be courtesy of Egypt’s Reunion Show.

EGYPT AD

     A reunion show indicates going back to something you’ve seen before. I hadn’t even heard of this band before interviewing a Nashville drummer. He’d spent some time playing with them years earlier, prior to moving to Nashville and landing a country gig. These guys don’t play together regularly anymore. They reunite on occasion for fun, their fans, and love of the music. I’d heard from more than one local source that they were extraordinary and their music was a force to be reckoned with. “Mind-blowing” and “ear-splitting” were two phrases used to describe them. Sounds like my kind of night! Two opening acts were on the bill for this show and I hadn’t heard of them either. This was going to be uncharted territory for me. I didn’t know the musicians, the music, or even what genre you’d classify these guys under. What was going to happen on the stage that night was as much a mystery as what lay behind Jammin’ Java’s front door to an unsuspecting patron. There’s something to be said for having a completely open mind when you’re listening to music. Freedom of expression in its highest form is music without the mind’s limitations.

     The first opening act was a trio that hasn’t played together a lot made up of three local musicians – Wally Worsley (lead singer, guitarist), Mike Tony Echols (bass), and Deren Blessman (drums). What struck me immediately was the way they settled into a groove and looked comfortable with each other on stage. People don’t always think of musicians as professionals, but clearly, I was listening to three who have rock solid credentials. It’s one thing to be asked to play something solo. It’s quite another to play a set after a single rehearsal and sound like you jam together nightly. Their music had an edged groove that told me it was going somewhere harder and faster. When it did, I wanted to move along with it. It was ease meets exhilaration through instrumentation. They warmed up the room perfectly and set the stage for what was to come……Hot Buttered Elvis. Yes, you read that correctly. When listening to a band with such a colorful name, it’s best not to have any idea of what you’re about to hear. Liken it to Alice in Wonderland falling through the rabbit hole. When she hit bottom, she discovered things labeled “eat me” and “drink me,” not knowing what would happen when she did. Fast forward to the tea party and let’s just say The Beatles have been hired as entertainment. They begin playing their classic hit, “Come Together,” and suddenly Metallica shows up and crashes the scene. Not wanting to cede their gig, the two bands engage in a psychedelic musical tug of war. Sharing the stage, you now have an understanding of the music of Hot Buttered Elvis. Open your mind and enjoy the ride! The probability of this band sounding like anyone else is zero. They are an entertaining experience that must be seen to be appreciated.

     Put simply, Egypt is music as it should be. Their prime goes back 20 years to a time when music was an organic creation – uninhibited and uncensored. Bands formed amidst a diversity of influences and emerging genres. When allowed to develop freely, music drew breath from the souls of its creators without regard for the boundaries the music industry may wish to impose. I don’t have the background on the formation of this band to know when or how they came together. The four members who took the stage at Jammin’ Java are Jeff Brodnax (lead vocals), Joe Lawlor (lead guitar), Andy Waldeck (bass), and Kevin Murphy (drums). They’ve all gone on to do different things musically, but on this night, they were totally in sync, and watching them perform took me back to an inventive time in our music history.

EGYPT JAMMIN JAVA

     Each one of these band members is an outstanding musician in their own right. What they contribute individually is staggering in scope. Together, they’re a musical force. As much as I tried to focus on them individually, that only lasted for short bursts of time. The sound of the whole kept pulling me in to the experience that IS Egypt. I got the feeling from the moment they started playing that not even they knew where the music would lead. One of their songs is called “Flow” and the lyrics describe perfectly their musical philosophy: “Get up and go with the flow if you know what you feel and you feel that it’s real. Your heart will tell you so. Get up and go with the flow if you know what you feel and you feel that it’s real. It’s time to touch my soul.” Standing in the audience, I felt the music, rock at its core, grab me with the intensity of a summer sun and move me with its groove like a strong, steady wind. “Sun & Wind” gives you the feel of Egypt’s music in a single song. With a funk groove and a powerful rock beat, this music is intent on moving you inside and out.

     Looking at the creators of this music, it wasn’t hard to see how it became such a force. Jeff Brodnax is a vocal performer. He doesn’t merely deliver the lyrics through his  sublime vocal chords, he puts his entire being into it. His voice is like honey with a hint of a sting. Just when you get used to enjoying its EGYPT - JEFF LEAPINGsweetness, ouch! But what sweet pain! He commands the stage with his presence, his voice, and his engagement with the other musicians. I haven’t seen a lead singer jump around in quite some time. Lost in the moment of the music, he would literally leap into the lyric. Jeff is a front man as they were intended to be. Joe Lawlor seems the quietest of the bunch to me, until you put a guitar in his hands. Joe impresses me as one of those guys who would sit LAWLOR, JOE AT JAMMIN JAVAidly by as everyone else in the room was showing off their skills. When it was his turn, he’d get up, drop a Hendrix like performance, and leave quietly. #nuffsaid. Egypt’s music is all about big guitars, big beats, big statement. Joe doesn’t have a big over the top style. He lays it down to the point you find yourself staring at the guitar trying to figure out how he’s making all that come out of it. I might have said “damn!” more than a few times watching him play. This music comes alive on the strings of a big guitar and Joe is beyond capable of keeping it alive throughout the performance. Energetically, this is no small task!

     I have to be honest. I don’t notice a lot of bass players. Perhaps that’s because country music doesn’t give it much of a platform. Andy Waldeck I noticed. Andy BRODNAX, JEFF AND ANDY WALDECKis a bass playing personality unlike any I’ve seen. Typically, I find bass players to be laid back. Not here. Andy had worked up a sweat by the end of the second song, and he was just getting started. The music supports some aggressive bass playing and Andy was more than up to the task. His musicianship and energetic style of play cannot be denied on the stage and adds an unusual spark to the live show. Give this man a bass solo and step back. Sparks will fly! I’d only seen Kevin Murphy play drums prior to this show with a country band. In that genre, drummers don’t have a lot of MURPHY, KEVIN ON DRUMS JAMMIN JAVAspace to be creative because the songs and the headliners don’t often support it. Rock drummers tend to be more flamboyant with their style of play as the music lends opportunities and their personalities become part of the show. In this setting, Egypt’s music was a playground for Kevin’s abilities and his drum character to shine. A certain strength and energy are necessary to carry Egypt’s music to its full potential and Kevin’s role was to provide that. When the music hit that perfect groove, Kevin created feeling in just the right spot, putting an ebb and flow in its movement. When a drummer gets lost in the music, you know something exceptional is happening. The music you’re listening to may never feel like that again. THIS is live music at its best.

     Jammin’ Java has created a concert space with an ideology behind it that allows for freedom of expression in musical form. They believe in “taking care of the artist first and letting everything else fall into place.” This was the perfect venue for Egypt to showcase their music. They brought the musicians, the instruments, and the music. When they put it together on the stage, it became a once in a lifetime experience. Watching these guys play was like witnessing them create something in the moment. They took the basics and let the music EGYPT WITH KEVINdevelop between them, playing off one another for energy and inspiration. For me, this wasn’t as much a reunion as it was a retrospective on how music used to be made and performed. The soul isn’t linked to what sells on iTunes and great music isn’t made with that in mind. It becomes great because it means something to the musicians who created it and to the people who hear it. “Sun & Wind” is off Egypt’s 1996 album, Soul Hammer. The recorded version is nearly eight minutes long. Most kids these days don’t have an attention span that long. Radio wouldn’t play it because of its length, and record labels would never allow its production. In the classic rock era, songs of this length were not uncommon. “Stairway To Heaven,” at 7:55 in length, is one of the greatest rock songs of all time. It was the most requested song on FM radio in the 1970s despite NEVER having been released as a single. Great music finds its way to the listeners and endures the test of time. Thank you, Egypt, for a night of truly great music. “Sun & Wind” forever….

EGYPT – “SUN & WIND” – SOUL HAMMER

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

From WAY NORTH of NASHVILLE…Bev Miskus

Special thanks to Terry Harrison and Rainier Homoroc for allowing me to use their photos from the event.

The video of Wally Worsley, Mike Tony Echols, and Deren Blessman was courtesy of Jeni Blessman.

EGYPT SOUL HAMMER

Download Egypt’s Soul Hammer through iTunes: HERE

EGYPT DROWNING IN THE PROMISED LAND

Download Egypt’s Drowning In The Promised Land through iTunes: HERE

HOT BUTTERED ELVIS

Visit Hot Buttered Elvis’ website: http://hotbutteredelvis.com/

WORSLEY, WALLY

Visit Wally Worsley’s website: http://www.wallyworsley.com/

ECHOLS, MIKE TONY

Visit Mike Tony Echols Facebook page for contact info: https://www.facebook.com/mike.t.echols?fref=ts

BLESSMAN, DEREN

Visit Deren Blessman’s Facebook page for contact info: https://www.facebook.com/deren.blessman

JAMMIN JAVA LOGO

Check out what’s happening at Jammin’ Java: http://jamminjava.com/

©2015 Bev Miskus

HOUSER, RANDY VISIT TUCSON

RANDY HOUSER RIDES IN LIKE A COWBOY AND STEALS TUCSON’S HEART

     Randy Houser was born a long ways from Tucson, Arizona, but it could easily be his adopted home town. The video for his current single, “Like A Cowboy,” tells the story of a cattleman who spends much of his life on the road and only comes home long enough to hang his hat, kick off his boots, and leave an FOX THEATRE TUCSONimpression. In a drastic and dramatic divergence from the usual way music videos are made, this one was shot at Old Tucson Studios using real actors. Randy played the role of the cowboy cattleman with an authenticity that defies his real life career. The concert at the historic Fox Theatre in downtown Tucson gave Randy marquee billing. He arrived to a red carpet welcome and a packed house. The introduction he was given, prior to taking the stage, was one of love and appreciation for his embracing this town as his own and allowing a piece of their beloved location into his music. It was clear from the outset that this cowboy had indeed stolen the hearts of the people of Tucson.

     Tucson, Arizona has the feel of an old west town that has grown with the changing times but hasn’t let go of its significant heritage. Old Tucson Studios and the Fox Theatre were both built in the 1930s and became important locations within the town very quickly. The studios have hosted the filming of OLD TUCSON STUDIOSmany movies and television westerns over the years including Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and Little House on the Prairie. The theatre has undergone improvements and renovations since its opening in 1930, but the markings of its unique identity are preserved yet today. It is the only known example of a Southwestern art deco movie house. The acoustic package that was installed with the arrival of “Talkie” movies, “Acoustone,” was painstakingly repaired in the latest rehab to the facility and is the only example of this material in existence. When Randy took the stage at this theatre, his presence embodied the screen image of an old western cowboy who’d just walked over from the studios to hang his hat and sing for awhile, putting that one of a kind acoustic package to the test with his substantial vocal ability.

     Visit Tucson played host to this unusual concert event, treating it like the opening of a new movie where the star of the film arrives at the theatre to a red VISIT TUCSON LOGOcarpet reception. Camera bulbs popping and the appropriate VIP lined up to greet him, Randy was feted outside before he would witness an equal amount of love and appreciation waiting for him inside. The outside of the theatre was a visual backdrop for the “Like A Cowboy” singer to bring his character to life in the midst of the video setting. Inside, the KIIM-FM_logoaudio  would become the focus of the evening where the power of radio met the unbridled power of Randy’s voice. Local radio station, 99.5 KiiM, had clearly done their job in promoting the event and Randy’s music. The audience participation in singing along to “Like A Cowboy” made it feel like a local anthem with words they’d known since the founding of the town. Having only been heard on the radio for the past few months, it showed how much of a JACKSON, BUZZ KIIM TUCSONrole radio still plays in bringing the music to the fans. Award winning radio personality, Buzz Jackson, was on hand to mingle with listeners and see the show. Buzz was just recently named the 2014 CMA winner for Medium Market Personality of the Year. This is a tremendous achievement and one the city of Tucson should be proud of. The work that Buzz and all of the radio personalities do at stations like KiiM helps to fill the seats at local venues with fans who know the artist and the music. 

     Randy Houser is a country singer as they were meant to be. The genre suits him like a cuHOUSER, RANDY DRUM HEADstom made saddle. From the moment he appears on stage, he is a man in his element. Imagine an old west saloon where patrons are happily going about the business of drinking, gambling, and socializing when those double saloon doors swing open to the sound of heavy boots on the floor. Everyone in the place turns to observe who it is walking in with those “Boots On.” He surprises, not because the audience wasn’t expecting him, but because of his commanding presence when he slings a guitar across his chest and belts out his opening song. As any good cowboy in an old western movie does, Randy is carrying a loaded gun, only this one is in the form of the band that backs him up.

WILLIAMS, WARD TUCSON

     If there was to be a gun fight in this old western town, Randy would appear as the central figure. Flanking him to his right and left, would be the members of his posse. Randy made a point, several times during the evening and at the BUTLER, JUSTIN TUCSONend of the show, to introduce his band members and thanked them for giving their all during a long tour season on the road with him. The talent of his band was fully apparent throughout the night, and Randy’s approach to his stage show is particularly responsible for the ammunition they bring in the form of rock solid playing ability. With Justin Butler on lead guitar, Ward Williams on lap steel and guitar, Tripper Ryder on bass, John Henry Trinko on keys, and Kevin Murphy on drums, Randy has the advantage of having the strongest musicians on stage with him. Three songs into the set, we were about to witness “How Country Feels.”

MURPHY, KEVIN TUCSON WITH TRIPPER

     The title track on Randy’s third studio album, How Country Feels, is a marking of his territory. It’s a statement of what you can expect from his set and the HOUSER, RANDY TUCSON CLOSEUPplaces he’ll take you through his music. This was a bit more of a casual set up than most of the shows he’s played this year, and this being the last of his tour dates for 2014, he sang what he was feeling. He told a few stories, talking to the audience as if it were a gathering of old friends, and invited us to sing along with him. Randy’s rapport with the audience is a genuine camaraderie. He puts no distance between himself and his listeners other than the way he delivers his life experiences through song. His connection to the music, especially as a songwriter, allows him to move an audience with the “Power of a Song,” even when it’s a song no one has heard before.

     The song list for the evening was an assortment of his hits, old and new, a Garth Brooks cover, a couple of new tunes no one had heard, and a rock edged HOUSER, RANDY TUCSON AUDIENCE SINGING ALONGrespite that felt raw and unhindered by any genre restrictions. It was rock in a wild wild west presentation. Towards the end of the show, Randy brought out a co-writer of his, Gary Nicholson, who accompanied him on a stunning ballad, “No Good Place To Cry.” You couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the intensity of the emotion Randy delivered through a vocal that was completely untethered. It was a night full of vocal show stoppers whether country rock in nature or ballad tender. To finish this outstanding night of music, Randy would leave us with three signature moments signifying the depth of his country roots.

    “Like A Cowboy” was probably the most anticipated and grandly delivered moment of the show. The video for the song was shown on the big screen prior to the start of the event. The director was present along with a representative HOUSER, RANDY LIKE A COWBOYfor Visit Tucson who talked about the making of the video, the importance of the location, and Randy’s immeasurable contribution to its authenticity. This would set the stage for its live delivery in an even bigger fashion than any of us could have anticipated. As if you had opened up the west for expansion, Randy’s vocal filled it. Never before have I witnessed such a perfect union between a setting and a song brought together by the only man in country music capable of pulling that off. You could have encapsulated this one for its pure perfection. Timeless. He could have sung this in the early days of Tucson’s existence and it would have been no less appropriate or touching.

    The trouble with perfection is how do you follow it? If you’re Randy Houser, with “Whistlin’ Dixie.” This song is an encore, not just for Randy, but for the entire band. It’s as if this son of the South rides at full gallop into a western HOUSER, RANDY TUCSON WITH GUITARtown with his band of brothers on horseback. Like a warning shot fired into the air, the opening drum beat gives these guys a chance to walk off ten paces before they turn around, take aim, and let it rip, guns blazing (or instruments in this case). A country song gets no bigger than this. The band shows off their enormous talent here and together with Randy’s proclamation of a vocal, create a sound capable of leaving a flesh wound. The smoke won’t clear from this until their final salvo is complete. Randy’s mega-hit, “Runnin’ Outta Moonlight,” would be the impression he left us with. “This is one that we don’t want to miss no.” The audience held onto this moonlight performance knowing full well that it would be the last they’d hear from their adopted cowboy on this night.

     The life of a cowboy isn’t all that different from Randy Houser’s real life profession. As a successful country singer, he’s on the road more than he’s at home. Along with his band of brothers, they crisscrossed the country this year HOUSER, RANDY LIKE A COWBOY VIDEOplaying more dates and cities than they can remember. At each venue, they gave their all to the music and the fans, having been a part of two headline grabbing tours this year with Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley. This stop in Tucson was the end of the road for 2014 and a fitting one for this road weary cowboy. Tucson is a big city with a small town feel that welcomed Randy Houser at the end of a long ride. Every detail of his visit to this city played out like the lyrics to the song in the video he recorded here.

I’ll ride in on a sunny day, sing you a song

Steal your heart away, like a cowboy

Hang my hat like I’m here for awhile

Kick off my boots and drive you wild,

like a cowboy

Baby you know I can’t stay long, you’ll

wake up I’ll be gone

Until then I’ll hold on,

like a cowboy.”

     In the short time that he spent with the people of Tucson, Randy left a piece of himself. He does that with every performance he gives. He lives and breathes the music he sings and invites his band and the audience to be a part of it. You feel what he’s feeling when he sings a song. It’s real. It’s authentic. It’s How HOUSER, RANDY OLD TUCSON STUDIOS FILMINGCountry Feels at a Randy Houser show. He stole my heart away the first time I saw him perform live, and I watched it happen again to a theatre full of people in Tucson, Arizona. No one wanted him to leave the stage and ride away that night. But, as all cowboys do, he did ride away. In 2015, he’ll cinch his saddle up and find another wind in the form of a tour with Luke Bryan. Buy a ticket, hope for a sunny day, and let him steal your heart away again…Like A Cowboy.

From WAY NORTH of NASHVILLE…Bev Miskus

Covering our #countrymusicnation.

HOUSER, RANDY HOUSE BAND

     The Randy Houser fan club is now officially open for membership! Join The House Band on any one of three levels available. Visit his website for all the information you need to become a fan club member: http://www.randyhouser.com/the-house-band.html

     For all the latest news and information on Randy Houser, join the Facebook group dedicated to supporting him, his music, and his band. Check out the Randy Houser House Fans Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/RandyHouserHouseFans/

HOUSER, RANDY TUCSON SMILING

     Visit Randy’s website: http://www.randyhouser.com/index.php

Follow Randy on Twitter @RandyHouser.

Like Randy’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RandyHouser

Watch the video about the making of the “Like A Cowboy” video in Tucson, Arizona.

Watch the full length music video for “Like A Cowboy.”

Download “Like A Cowboy” through iTunes: HERE

HOUSER, RANDY - HOW COUNTRY FEELS

Download How Country Feels through iTunes: HERE

LEE, PALMER

    Palmer Lee opened for Randy Houser, treating the audience to several of her own songs. This gifted singer/songwriter has a beautiful voice and the confidence to put some grit in her songs. You can connect with her on Twitter @palmerlee. LIKE her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/palmerleeofficial/timeline

Listen to Palmer on soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/palmer-lee

VISIT TUCSON LOGO

    Thanks to Visit Tucson for a great concert event! LIKE their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/VisitTucson and visit their website to plan your next trip to this beautiful city: http://www.visittucson.org/

    Special thanks to Deborah Jane Power for her hospitality in hosting me for this special concert event and for providing all of the concert shots included in this article!

©2014Bev Miskus