Category Archives: COUNTRY MUSICIANS



Photo courtesy of Bill McClintic of 90 East Photography.

     The first time I saw Kevin Murphy play drums was at an outdoor amphitheater in Virginia, his home state. He was perched atop a riser, high above the stage, and surrounded by a massive drum kit. At the time, I had no idea he called his kit Thunderdome. It couldn’t have a more appropriate name. Five minutes into his playing that night, I felt transported to an AC/DC concert, rocked by the eruptive power of “Thunderstruck.” It took me a few minutes to get my bearings and remember that I was at a country music concert and Randy Houser was on stage. Randy, himself, is no diminutive presence, but this drummer was commanding his own space. I didn’t wait for the show to be over to ask who this guy was. I used my drummer lifeline, tweeted a friend, and got his name…@bigrightfoot.


     I’d only heard the name ‘Thunderdome’ as part of the movie title, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, released almost 30 years ago. Max was a gladiator and Thunderdome was an arena for such participants who resolved their conflicts by dueling to the death. The rule: “Two men enter; one man leaves.” Who knew that Nashville would be the oasis for Max’s musician counterpart, Kevin Murphy, and that Thunderdome would become a place where this gladiator duels with the music….and always walks away the victor. Aunty Entity, ruler of Bartertown in the movie, eyed Max up skeptically and proclaimed him, “Just a raggedy man.” Make that mistake with Kevin Murphy and you’ll have missed the rough poetic genius behind all that musical muscle.


      Kevin was born with a natural gift for music that would take years (and his parents’ sometimes-reluctant moral support) to fight its way to being a conscious career dream. By the age of 12, the drummer inside him was looking for something to hit – anything. He started out hitting a bucket and spent hours starring in his own air drum performances in his room. Living in a rural area of Virginia, he didn’t even see his first drum kit until he got to high school. When he sat down behind it for the first time, he played Men At Work’s “Who Can It Be Now?” He’d never had a lesson or even a real drum set to practice on. He says it wasn’t great, but recognizable. From that moment, he knew he’d found a place where he could raise some hell and hopefully not kill himself in the process. Admittedly a hellion at that age, drumming provided a safe harbor. His first kit was no one’s ideal, but it satisfied his need to have “anything to hit on” and he said once he got it, that’s all he did for years. Describing himself as a lonely kid, drumming gave him something to pour his feelings into and develop a relationship with on a primal level.


     At 16, Kevin had the last in a series of car accidents that nearly killed him. His parents’ reaction was to relocate him to Northern Virginia to live with his grandparents with the hope that his out of control lifestyle wouldn’t follow him there. Feeling like a nomad anyway, the move didn’t bother him. He would now have a new playground on which to satisfy his urge for excitement and something new to partake of. In the movie, when Mad Max does something to displease the ruler, she exiles him to a desert wasteland where he is forced to dig deep to survive. Kevin’s move in the middle of high school forced a similar introspection. He saw himself at that time as a poor student who wasn’t smart enough to do anything else but play drums. Narrowly defining oneself is common among teens and Kevin saw only one direction leading out of the desert. In his eyes, drumming was the only thing that made him interesting to talk to, and girls started paying attention to him. At the end of high school, he saw only one option, and he took it.


     East Tennessee State was the only college Kevin got accepted to and the only one he would need. They wanted him to play drums there and he studied under the direction of Rande Sanderbeck. His instructor seemed to know him better than he knew himself at that time and over the next three years, he nurtured his playing and prepared him for the direction in which he already knew he would go. Rande gave him the confidence and the improved skills to turn his passion into a career choice and convince his parents that he was making the right decision to leave college and pursue music. In that conversation, they posed the question of how he would turn an abstract music dream into a successful job. For a musician, how do you define “making it?”


     When Mad Max set out on his own to recover what had been taken from him, he started with nothing but sheer will and determination. Kevin jumped right into the fire. He went straight from college to touring in a van with a band. The nomadic lifestyle he’d grown accustomed to would serve him well as a touring musician. His resume over the next decade would be built on touring well over 200 days per year with a number of different bands including Full Stop, Egypt, Earth to Andy, Jimmie’s Chicken Shack, and Tonic. Though the sound of each of these bands was variable, Kevin’s drum style was always imposing. The music allowed for such, and in most cases, demanded it. Mathematical interpretation was not required or desired. His playing was right at home in the “nail everything to the floor and play as violently as possible” wheelhouse, as it was with Egypt and Jimmie’s Chicken Shack. He spent 11 years touring with Tonic and filling in with other bands when the opportunity presented itself. Networking is crucial in the music business to building a lifelong career and often essential for paying the bills.


     With the rock bands Kevin played in over the years, he had the latitude to bring his style of play to work every day. Despite what many think of playing music for a living, it is a job like most others. Not all aspects of it are glamorous, and how well you succeed at it depends on how much you put into it. Kevin’s take on playing music for a living is that musicians are always searching for something they can’t seem to find; looking to fix something that’s probably broken inside. He says you have to be overly driven to do this for a living and my conversations with musicians would absolutely support that notion. When they’re not on tour, they’re usually doing something else related to music. Session work is a good time filler, resume builder, and networking gold mine. A single recording session could turn into that future big gig. The trouble is, the more you tour, the less you’re at home and available for such work. Eventually, people just assume you’re gone and stop asking.


     Production work is another avenue many musicians take to expand their creative opportunities, especially drummers. I asked Kevin what it is about drummers that seems to make them such outstanding producers. He’s done a fair amount of production work, including producing an album (Redemption) for country singer, Josh Gracin. From their position on the stage, especially as high as Kevin sits, the drummer is the only person in the building who can see and hear everything that happens. He has a comprehensive view from up there, and in order to keep things moving in proper time, he has an input for all surrounding sounds. It’s his job to listen to the little things and correct anything that goes astray, should something get off track. He says it’s not a big jump to having a comprehensive view for an entire album. Like taking what drummers do naturally on stage and doing that same job in the recording studio, only with a lot more creative leeway. The only problem with production work is the same as with session work; the more you tour, the process can stall very quickly and opportunities become fewer. As Kevin puts it, “I’m better in a studio than I am live, but in Nashville I’m known for touring.”


     The trail that Mad Max followed in the movie led to a seedy community called Bartertown, where there was a gatekeeper who wouldn’t let you in unless you had something to trade. For our purposes, let’s just call this town Nashville. Kevin made the jump to country music with a full resume. He was a successful tour musician with a style that no one could imitate, moving to a genre that wasn’t exactly known for bolting drum kits to the floor for their own protection. Until you make a connection with someone and get hired for steady work, the Nashville job scene for musicians isn’t much more than being a day laborer for country artists. You may do shows for friends or a little subbing here and there, but it often takes an old acquaintance to get your foot in the door somewhere. Kevin got hired by Randy Houser in 2010 to play drums for a couple of months. It wasn’t that Randy wasn’t happy with him, but he’d promised to give his best friend a shot at being a tour musician and he was ready to assume that role. After eight or nine months, Kevin was called back and asked if he was interested in rejoining Randy’s touring band. This says a lot about Randy Houser, and Kevin Murphy. There aren’t many country artists who have the guts to put unique and powerful personalities on the stage with them. Kevin’s playing isn’t designed for a confined space any more than his personality is. Randy experienced Kevin’s playing for two months, and later invited him back. For Kevin, being able to play his explosive style of drumming isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity. He’s not going to tone it down and lose himself in a darkened corner of a stage.  He wanted back in.  “I feel at home with Randy and the guys.” The fact that Randy and Kevin recognized something unusual in each other, is what has created the most confrontational band in country music. As Aunty Entity says to Max at the end of the movie, when she spares his life because she’s grown to respect him, “Well, ain’t we a pair…raggedy man.”


     Kevin’s drum kit was nicknamed ‘Thunderdome’ some time ago by friends who’ve obviously witnessed what happens there. When he climbs the steps to sit behind that massive kit – that IS bolted to the floor – he is a man at work in an extraordinary office. His presence is meant to be an imposing thing and his job is to move you on a primal level. His drumming “should make you want to do one of three things – dance, f***, or fight” – (sorry, but that line was just too good not to use). Randy’s job is to further define those feelings through the lyrics of a song and his incredible vocal delivery, in Kevin’s opinion, but the primal stuff starts with him. Kevin Murphy is a gladiator whose weapon of choice is his drum kit. He attacks each performance like his very life depends on the sound he creates. Depending on the set list, it can be bone crushing, heart stopping, or jaw dropping in its intensity. He didn’t arrive at this place by being lucky. He’s here because he’s done a lot in his 20 years in the industry. He comes prepared to do his job, even on short notice, and even when the job he’s been asked to do isn’t his.


     The second time I saw Kevin Murphy on stage was just recently inside Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore. I thought I was prepared this time for what he was capable of and knew what to expect from a Randy Houser set. Not even close. I couldn’t have been more surprised if they’d launched a grenade in my direction, which in effect, they did. The reach of Kevin’s drumming pulled the entire arena into the duel happening inside of it. The power of the music and Randy’s vocal ferocity were a force the audience couldn’t match, try as we might. Sitting atop this mighty onslaught was Kevin Murphy, smoke surrounding him and Thunderdome barely visible through the haze. The audience was in a frenzy, and defeat never felt so good. For a musician, THIS is when you know you’ve “made it.” When people leave the arena and can’t stop talking about your performance, nor can they wait for the next one, you are officially a damn good drummer. It’s not the venue that makes the musician. The musician creates a venue with his playing. Wherever he is, Kevin Murphy gives us Thunderdome – the ultimate drum arena.


Note: As much as we think that Kevin and Randy Houser should never be separated, should AC/DC request his presence on their 2015 tour, we will prepare ourselves to be THUNDERSTRUCK – BEYOND THUNDERDOME! Angus Young, meet Kevin Murphy! Angus and everyone else can hit him up on twitter @bigrightfoot.


Covering our #countrymusicnation.

All of the pictures in this article are courtesy of Bill McClintic of 90 East Photography. To view more of his incredible work and for professional inquiries, please visit his website:

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When Kevin isn’t heating up the stage with his drumming, he teams up with a couple of friends to make an artisan hot sauce/condiment that is sure to bring the heat with a hint of sweet! Mad Hatter Foods’ Habanero Pineapple Sauce is a super-condiment that will compliment most any food. Check out their wonderland of innovative sauces here:


A Kevin Murphy interview couldn’t simply take place over the phone. It demanded a unique vantage point from behind Thunderdome and center stage at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore. Drummers really do have the best seat in the house and the view from center stage is a pretty awesome thing. Thanks Kevin, for an unforgettable interview!


©Bev Miskus2014



     On the surface, music and sports don’t seem to be related. One involves the more abstract concept of sound and the other is based on physical activity. Generally, you have to make a choice between being a musician or an athlete. Both require extreme dedication if you’re planning to turn your passion into a profession. Athletes are often seen with headphones on when preparing themselves for competition or working out. We all go to the gym or take that run with music in our ears as motivation. So what does a musician do for release? If you’re immersed in music related thought or practice for hours every day, where can you find a less abstract surface on which to realign your center of balance?

     For professional bass player, Mike Ball, that surface was an ice rink in Boston. When he was growing up just north of Buffalo in Tonawanda, NY, he may have envisioned going to college to study music, but I doubt he ever dreamed that his love of hockey would find an outlet there as well. He was fortunate to live in a place where his passion for music and hockey weren’t mutually exclusive. While music did eventually become the focus of his life, he never lost touch with his physical outlet. From the age of eight until he was 22 and completing college at Berklee, he made hockey a part of his life. Immersed in musical instruction and performances, this sport would challenge him in similar ways through interaction with teammates and reaction to a physical situation.

      Like the confines of a hockey rink, concert arenas allow for interaction between fans and players while showcasing player performance and the skill they bring to their chosen instrument. Mike’s parents were an important factor in the path he chose, passing on their love of music in the most physical way that music can be expressed. He described growing up absorbed in musical experiences. His father had always wanted to play an instrument but was never able to make that a realistic part of his life. Instead, he and his wife made going to concerts and listening to music a priority. Mike experienced the concert scene from an early age with his parents and quickly found his passion in musical performance. He began playing drums in elementary school and switched to the bass in junior high. Fully embracing this new instrument, he played in the jazz band throughout high school as well as the all-county band, musicals, and theater productions. Taking a cue from his parents, he didn’t limit himself to the music of a single genre. He found influences in a spectrum of sounds from artists like Van Halen, ZZ Top, Garth Brooks, and Sawyer Brown. This well-rounded exposure would prepare him for the demands of a college music program at one of the top music schools in the world.

     Setting his sights on becoming a professional musician, Mike chose the Berklee College of Music in Boston as his training ground. Not everyone is cut out for the rigors of this program nor the college path in general. But like Mike, BERKLEE COLLEGE OF MUSIC LOGOthose who do challenge themselves in this way get to learn from a host of experiences, music related and otherwise, that will greatly improve their chances of being a successful professional musician. From 2007-2011, Berklee was home for Mike, studying bass performance as his chosen focus. What he didn’t expect to find amongst the opportunities offered there was the chance to continue playing hockey. The Berklee Ice Cats were in their infancy as a club, having formed just a year before Mike’s arrival. A freshman student from Atlanta, John Kingsley, had the idea to start the club in 2006 as an outlet for fellow music students who needed a break from musical immersion. For most all music students of this caliber, they’d made the choice between sports and music long before arriving at Berklee. The demands of each don’t allow for companionship. John found that releasing his energy through hockey was a welcome respite and might make this sport and the study of music compatible.

     Mike Ball found the best of both worlds during his years at Berklee. He was able to study music, improve his bass performance skills, and play a sport he loved with like minded people. Being a part of the Ice Cats didn’t just garner him BERKLEE COLLEGE OF MUSIC HOCKEY TEAMhockey stats to hang his skates on, he would learn to make business decisions as part of a club that had to manage itself and, in large part, find creative ways to fund its existence. This co-ed group of musicians, moonlighting as hockey players, learned to interact in ways on and off the ice. Impromptu jam sessions were commonplace and bands were formed among teammates. Theirs would be a locker room with live music playing to relax before games. Put a hockey stick in an Ice Cat’s hands and watch Guitar Hero come alive! These musicians, interacting and reacting through sport, were preparing themselves for being part of a band at the professional level while clearing their minds for musical creativity.

     While at Berklee, in 2009, Mike traveled to Nashville as part of a school sponsored trip. He said he knew when he saw it for the first time that he would come back there. He briefly considered moving to New York City to pursue his music career but quickly decided that Nashville offered better opportunities for networking. There is a large community of Berklee alumni living in Nashville, another selling point that made the move all the more attractive. So in 2012, Mike made the move official and has called Nashville home ever since. He describes the feel of Music City as being a very big small town. The community of musicians who live there provides a camaraderie and a sense of shared purpose. Becoming a part of this, however, means being prepared when your feet hit the ground.

     Finding your way, once you’ve relocated to Nashville, isn’t about buying a guidebook  or looking for the answer on YouTube. Mike Ball spent the majority of his young life preparing himself for that move and the pursuit of his musical dream. Being in the right place, at the right time, won’t help you if you haven’t BALL, MIKE - ON BASSprepared for the opportunity. Mike was fully prepared to begin working and set out to improve his skills through practice and playing as often as possible. In September, 2013, he was hired to play bass for rising country duo, Haley & Michaels. Landing that first big gig in Nashville is an accomplishment and a challenge all the same. Suddenly, you’re part of a team you’ve never been on and expected to jump onto a moving train, or in this case, a van. Not only do you have to learn the music and adjust to your fellow band members, often very quickly, but you have to look and sound good doing it on a stage in front of large numbers of people. You’ll have to travel with people you barely know and get along reasonably well for as long as that van or plane ride takes. Put all these factors together, and you have the ultimate challenge in being a team player.

*Photo above courtesy of Bill Tetrault.

     In addition to the challenges of the road and the expectations of performing live music, there is also the business side of things. Just like the Berklee Ice Cats had to fund themselves, you are now your own fund provider. Though you may not spend much time at your Nashville home base, you still must have some place to store your gear between gigs. The music business doesn’t always provide steady employment and smart musicians takes advantage of BALL, MIKE - TRACKINGopportunities that come their way. In July, 2014, Mike added a second gig to his resume playing bass for Justin Adams. This means learning the music of two artists, working with two different sets of musicians, and coordinating travel arrangements for two separate schedules. Mike is the consummate professional and prepares for each role diligently. When he’s off the road, he continues to practice and push himself further to improve. Nashville has a healthy session scene for accomplished musicians and what you do in your down time may be as important as what you do on stage. Mike takes part in a tutorial series in conjunction with 1092 Studios where he provides instruction for bass players. These informative lessons are invaluable to aspiring musicians in showing the background and multi-tasking necessary to play an instrument at the professional level.


   On stage with Justin Adams. Photo courtesy of Bill Tetrault.

      Mike Ball is a professional bass player. He came to Nashville, not just with an instrument in a case, but with the knowledge and experience to understand how to create meaningful music and make the appropriate contribution to the sound that surrounds him. He isn’t a lone figure on a stage and his bass will only do as much as he knows how to make it do. Each part of a bass guitar serves a purpose. Every outlet it’s connected to contributes to its overall tone and the sound it’s capable of. Knowing how to finesse just the right sound in the right spot, can make a song extraordinary. Being able to set up and play a bass guitar in multiple genres of music is no pedestrian achievement. Mike Ball understands music from the inside out. He turns theory into a style of play that suits the arrangement he’s been given, pushing that bass sound to its relevant maximum and never overindulging its capabilities. The stage beneath his feet becomes the oft familiar ice beneath his skates. When the puck drops to the ice at the end of his stick, he must take in his surroundings and quickly assess the best path to achieve his goal. Most often, this will not be a slap shot directly on target. Finesse will be required. Team play will be necessary to score, lifting the team to its ultimate goal of winning. Mike will finesse his bass with the same goal in mind. Taking in the movement of his surrounding players, his fingers will coax just the right tone and intensity from the notes he’s been given to produce his contribution to the overall goal of creating music that makes you feel something. When the song is finished and the audience has been moved by its creation, Mike the Ice Cat has taken the motto of his alma mater and channeled it into his playing. “To be, rather than to seem.” Once worn on the sleeve of his hockey uniform, now realized in his professional career – an exceptional cool cat on bass!


 Covering our #countrymusicnation.

Follow Mike Ball on Instagram @MikeBallBass

Follow Mike Ball on Twitter @MikeBallBass

Check out Mike’s music on Reverbnation:

Watch Mike’s 1092 Studios Tutorial Series: Finding The Right Bass Tones Part I

Watch Mike’s 1092 Studios Tutorial Series: Finding The Right Bass Tones Part II

Watch Mike’s bass cover of Brent Mason’s “Geared Up.”

©2014Bev Miskus



     Modern Drummer. If I use that phrase in conversation, I usually get a blank stare in return. If I say that Ben Sesar is Brad Paisley’s drummer, I’ll get a stream of comments about Brad Paisley. This is what has happened to drummers in the modern world. Over the years, the little drummer boy has marched into pop culture and largely lost his identity. When rock bands came of age, fans knew who the drummer was in most of these iconic bands. Keith Moon was a brand within The Who that he created and stamped into the fabric of what that band became, not the other way around. Drummers in Nashville today, despite the credentials they carry on their resume, don’t often claim an identity until SESAR, BEN - 1they’ve made it onto a major tour. Their success is attributed to the name the headliner lends them, not any particular assets they bring to the stage. Yet one of the first things I notice when everyone else is losing their minds over the headliner that just arrived like a phoenix on the stage, is the drummer. In my interview with Ben Sesar, he compared the stage experience to that of a running car. The first thing you notice about a car is what it looks like. How it shines, how it’s detailed, its shape and size, gets most of the oohs and aahs – just like the headliner. What makes it notable is how it runs. A perfect engine requires having all its moving parts working in unison to deliver the smooth ride and expert handling that give it value and reliability. When an engine purrs, we pay it no mind. It if starts making an odd noise, we notice. The quality of the music a band makes keeps us buying concert tickets and coming back for more. Look and listen closely. The man in the driver’s seat of our concert experience is the modern day drummer.

     Ben Sesar jumped off the stage, not literally, when I saw him recently at a Brad Paisley concert. There was a leadership and a strength in his playing that told me he was a serious drummer with above average credentials – way above SESAR, BEN WITH BRAD PAISLEYaverage. When he blew me away with his drum solo on Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher,” I had to know who he was. If you Google ‘Brad Paisley’s drummer,’ you’re going to get a YouTube video of a GMA performance where Brad plays with a 6 year old. Fairly confident that this was not him, I went to the only source I know for reliable drum information, Rich Redmond. Now having his name, I gave Google another try. First result: Once I find a musician’s identity, I can’t just look up their number in the phone book and call them. If they don’t have a website, facebook page, or twitter account, there really is no way to contact them. Through his website, I was able to send him a message and ask for this interview, in addition to finding out more about him. Having a website is a basic component of building a brand for yourself, but first, you have to do the work to make yourself stand out in the professional world of musicians.

     Becoming a drummer on a major tour does not happen without the solid credentials to put you there. Ben was born and raised in New Jersey, a very gifted drummer from an early age. He finished high school confident in his SESAR, BEN - 3abilities, feeling like he had something to show his new classmates at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Instead, what he found when he got there, shocked him. The other drum students seemed to play on another level, and all of the drum swag he thought he possessed eroded. He described it as starting from ground zero in learning how to play and figuring out how to get where he wanted to be. His fellow students had no idea how to teach him what they knew and the teachers couldn’t get him there either. He was left to his own devices to bridge the gap between their abilities and his. What he did learn from Berklee, though, was valuable in other ways. He gained a solid knowledge of theory, ear training, and non-drumming principles. It was a foundation to build his playing techniques on. What he felt he lacked at that age may have been more life-changing than he realized.

     Music is an evolutionary, progressive process. It is never a finite encounter. In some professions, what is learned in college is the bulk of information you’ll ever need to succeed in the real world. For professional musicians, it’s just the beginning….at least for the good ones. Feeling less qualified than his peers, Ben developed a zest for learning everything he could about improving his playing. Even to this day, he still takes an occasional lesson. He played in bands to SESAR, BEN - 2advance his skills and stayed in Boston after college to pursue a music career with a rock band there. One of his fellow bandmates, who was also from New Jersey, was a singer/songwriter named Dylan Altman. When that band gig ended in Boston, he and Dylan got in a car with their meager belongings and drove to Nashville. Like many who arrive in that city with little more than a hopeful resume, Ben said he knew one person there who he stayed with for two weeks. Quickly, he and Dylan reformed the band and rented a house. Over the next two years in the late 90s, every Tuesday night, you could find them playing at a dive bar called Jack’s Guitar Bar. He described their style as a jam band with heavy guitar influences. Far from being a dream gig in a marquee venue, it’s often these early Nashville experiences that shape a musician’s style of play. The nature of the Nashville bar scene, with so many skilled musicians in town, is a very organic environment. Show up with an instrument and you never know who might be there and what will come of the fusion. Ben recalled a young Keith Urban showing up frequently to see them play when he was new in town. Keith had a band called The Ranch back then and asked if they could jam together. They played a few gigs in that bar and Ben said he could tell even then that Keith’s playing was something special. Who knew that their paths would continue to cross over the years since those early sessions in that dive bar?

     Whenever I ask a musician how they landed the big gig, all of them have a six degrees of separation story to tell me. Ben’s happened in 1999 and involved a receptionist at a record label that he knew and Brad Paisley’s manager. It sounds very clandestine but in the world of music industry relationships, it’s the norm. Come as it may, he got the audition and landed the job. Do the math and you can figure out that Ben has been Brad’s drummer for 15 years. That’s SESAR, BEN - 5quite a long lasting relationship by Nashville standards and one that has shaped Ben’s career. Brad’s guitar skills are well known, but he is also an impassioned musician all around and takes the entire process of recording and performing very seriously. Ben respects him for that and has developed as a drummer in this environment. Being a part of a group of very talented musicians tends to elevate everyone’s level of play. All of the guys in Brad’s band have been there nearly as long as Ben, and he noted that no one has ever quit. Over such a long period of time, they’ve developed an onstage telepathy that allows them to communicate solely through the music. He said they can read each other’s mood within the first few notes of a song. Having the luxury of a band that can read each other so completely, Brad will often change the arrangement of a song at will. This requires exceptional skill to pull off cleanly and keeps things fresh and interesting for the musicians and the audience alike.

     Being a spectator, I can tell when a band has been together for awhile and when they’re truly invested in the music. Watching Ben play, I could see the intensity he plays with and how he steers the music so precisely, however the song demands it. His connection to the music begins in the recording sessions. PAISLEY, BRAD - WHEELHOUSEIt is not the standard in Nashville for session players to tour with the solo artist. Brad Paisley’s band is one of few exceptions. Ben has played on ten of Brad’s albums, every one since he joined the band. Since 2000, all of Brad’s band members, with the exception of one, have been a part of the recording sessions. A few years ago, Brad built a recording studio in his house, where both Wheelhouse and Moonshine In The Trunk have been recorded. This created a family atmosphere for the recording process, which enticed the final band member to come along for the ride. Ben describes the experience of being a part PAISLEY, BRAD - TIME WELL WASTEDof Brad’s band as joining a family, which is exactly how Brad wants it to be. Everyone contributes to the creative process and shares pride in the finished product. It is through such session playing that Ben has found opportunities to share the stage and his inspired play with some music legends. Joe Walsh, John Fogerty, George Jones, B.B. King, Don Henley, Hank Williams, Jr., and ZZ Top are just a few of the names on his impressive resume. He also appears on live television on a regular basis whenever Brad performs and has multiple award winning albums and song recordings to his credit as a session player. While the opportunities may come from the career Brad Paisley has built, being a part of it was earned. Getting there, and maintaining that level of musicianship, comes from hard work and diligent practice.

     Ben is both a fan and a student of music. He watches the musicians that inspire him and listens to the music that moves him. He sees music as a means of communication, and how well you speak through it depends on your commitment to improving your play and developing your own style. Part of Ben’s learning process comes from teaching students privately in his home. He says it’s one thing to teach someone how to play something and another SESAR, BEN - 6entirely to inspire them to be creative in the process. In his lessons, he promotes creativity through movement. Being expressive in one’s play involves pouring raw emotion into your actions and attempting to make the listener feel what you’re feeling. This is where the role of teacher becomes mentor. Leading by example is the only way to encourage a pioneering vision in a young student. Despite the abundance of music that’s being made in Nashville, Ben says that musicians still have to carve out their own paradigm if they want to raise their value and improve their chances of working at a high level on a long term basis. With the music industry downsizing a little more each year, opportunities are fewer and personal branding for musicians becomes more vital.

     Making yourself an asset in the music market that Nashville has created is an individual pursuit. There aren’t managers for musicians that advocate on their behalf, or inherent support from one’s peers. Developing a recognizable style and padding your resume through years of playing and life on the road isn’t guaranteed to make you a household name or a sizable bank account. No amount of YouTube watching will accomplish this either. Ben’s sense of immersion into the process and his desire to improve his skills consistently is what makes him stand out on the stage even when the spotlight isn’t on him. In reviewing my notes after our phone conversation, I noticed that there wasn’t a lot of personal emphasis in what Ben talked about. He gave me a sense of the big picture and how he fit into it. This is very much the way drummers in Nashville find themselves on the country music stage. Most of them won’t get SESAR, BEN - 4the killer drum solo that Ben did, albeit during the cover of a rock song. Country songs just don’t call for that. Their role is to marshal the collection of contributing sounds from their position at the back of the stage, channel the energy from the music, and return it to the audience with just the right amount of style and force to support the storytelling of the song. Ben recognizes that not every song needs a heavy hand to make a statement. Sometimes the lightest touch can speak volumes. Knowing the difference is what makes a modern drummer’s role invaluable. In the ever changing landscape of country music, versatility is key, and being able to keep that musical engine running smoothly on the stage requires experience not often appreciated. Modern Drummer: someone who marches to the beat of their own drum while incorporating that unique beat into the sound of today’s music in a way that makes a statement. On and off stage, Ben Sesar exemplifies the vision of a modern drummer with a soul that is passionate about music. As fans, we should consider this a gift.

 From WAY NORTH of NASHVILLE…..Bev Miskus

  Covering our #countrymusicnation.


Ben is available as a teacher, speaker, and clinician. For information on the services he offers, visit his website:

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©2014Bev Miskus



DAN WELLER @FGL #musician #MasterofBandAdmin



Download the song through iTunes: HERE

DAN WELLER demos how to Maximize your Band’s Assets

     Brad Paisley and Keith Urban teamed up a few years ago to offer their advice on how to Start A Band.Let’s see what they had to say.Just get you a guitar and learn how to play/Cut up some jeans, come up PAISLEY, BRAD - START A BANDwith a name/When you’re living in a world that you don’t understand/Find a few good buddies, start a band.Sounds easy enough. Is there anything else we need?Scrape up some money, buy a van/Learn Free Bird and Ramblin’ Man.Is that it?Grow out your hair.Got it. Now if we do all of these things, what can we expect in return for our investment?All those girls who were too cool to talk WELLER, DAN - START A BAND CHORUS LYRICSto/They’ll be waiting in the line out back/Might get your picture in the hometown paper/Maybe buy your momma that Cadillac.Really?Never buy another beer again.Awesome!With a little bit of luck you’ll be packing the stands.Wow!No need to study/Call up some buddies man, start a band.Does this sound like good advice? Let’s ask Florida Georgia Line band member, Dan Weller. Why? What makes him qualified to hand out advice about the music business? A whole lot more than the stereotype would infer.


     Dan Weller is currently on tour with Florida Georgia Line. His job description involves playing keys, banjo, acoustic, and singing harmonies on all the songs. His audition did not require submitting a formal resume. If it had, you WELLER, DAN - FGL ALBUM COVERwouldn’t be surprised he got the job. What would shock you, is the calculated path he took to his current success. Dan was born in Wichita and raised in Hays, Kansas. He wasn’t a child musical prodigy and did not opt for an early exit from school to start a band and pursue a career in music. Those things would come later. When he was six or seven, he took an interest in his dad’s full size classical guitar. At the time, he said it was bigger than he was. With his oversized intentions and a book, he taught himself to play some chords. Nearby, at Fort Hays State University, there was a grad student there named Mark Selby. He WELLER, DAN - FHSU LOGOtaught private lessons while attending grad school and pursuing his own musical interests as well as an advanced degree in music. At eight, Dan was fortunate to get to work with someone of Mark’s caliber. After Mark graduated, Dan began taking lessons from Mark’s college instructor, Dr. Martin Shapiro. Being exposed to the possibilities in higher learning, Dan took advantage of the opportunities he found there. By 8th grade, he’d started taking college courses.


     By high school, Dan was intoxicated…..with higher learning and broadening his musical experiences. Sophomore year, he took his guitar playing skills to new audiences. He played both acoustic and electric guitar in the pit for musicals at the university and was eventually invited to audition for the FHSU Jazz Ensemble. Throughout his remaining high school years, he continued this relationship with the university music program and took courses there to WELLER, DAN - STRIPED SHIRTsupplement his high school curriculum. Looking back at the advice Brad and Keith gave us on starting a band, Dan put his own twist on this endeavor; he started a band AND stayed in school. Around 16, honing his electric guitar skills, he joined a band with other classmates called Broken Promises. So let’s see how he’s doing. He has the guitar/learned how to play/not sure if he cut up his jeans, but he did come up with the name. In fact, he’s named and/or come up with the logo for every band he’s played in. So far, I think he’s doing pretty well with these start a band instructions. By comparison to his peers at the end of high school, I’d say he was definitely more experienced in the music world. 


     Entering college with both academic credits and music experience at that level, Dan’s years at Fort Hays State University would serve to sharpen his focus on the theory behind the music skills he had and allow him to cut his teeth on the business side of the music. Many of the classes you take while earning a bachelor’s degree may seem rote and without purpose. I would bet at the time Dan WELLER, DAN - FHSU LOGO WITH TIGERwas taking those music theory classes at FHSU, he was probably as bored as everyone else in the class. Recounting to me how he landed the gig with Florida Georgia Line, he now credits those tedious classes for his current employment. Seems like there should almost be a statue of Dan Weller outside the music department building on campus with a hologram of FGL on stage surrounding it. The memorial plaque would read: Stay in school. This could be you. Embarking on the business side of things during this time, Dan started another band he named Apollyon, later changed to Zion. Their genre was rock/pop and they traveled around to nearby states playing mostly clubs WELLER, DAN - BITING PACKAGEand frat parties. This would mark the beginning of Dan’s interest in entrepreneurship, being involved with the band’s investment in their equipment and setting up a side business to earn capital from renting it out. Most of us were lucky if we could oversee the funding of beer and pizza on the weekend. The only thing we invested in was a hangover, and the return on that investment was not pretty. Dan, eye of the tiger, college survivor, Weller, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a major in damn good business sense. The return on his start a band investment so far – his picture in the hometown paper and occasional free beer.



     After college, Dan would do more than get his picture in the hometown paper, he went to work for the second largest newspaper publisher in the U.S. at that time, Knight Ridder. This was the parent media company to 32 daily newspapers, one of which was the Miami Herald. He started out selling newspaper ads and went to Miami to further his training. His time there would give him a greater understanding of multiple forms of media and how to tailor ads for clients to maximize their intended reach. The experience he gained from his time with WELLER, DAN - WICHITA STATE UNIVERSITY LOGOKnight Ridder and clients sparked an interest in entrepreneurship with a goal to understand the inner workings of a business from every angle. Should he someday decide to own and operate a business, there would be no naivete in the venture. Supplementing his hands on education, he pursued a bachelor’s of business administration (BBA) degree in entrepreneurship and marketing from Wichita State University. During this time, he would embark on a new start a band project with the zeal of a student and the detailed perspective of a budding entrepreneur. Perhaps stamping his lofty expectations on the name of the band, he called it King Me. Following dutifully the next set of Brad and Keith’s “Start A Band” instructions, “When you’re living in a world that you don’t understand/Find a few good buddies, start a band,” Dan set out to be an example of just how to go about understanding what you don’t. Most young, eager musicians watch successful bands and try to follow their lead. This band leader got an MBA. While working on his MBA studies at Wichita State University, with the help of the supportive staff in the Entrepreneurship Department, he officially made “Start A WELLER, DAN - START A BAND LYRICSBand” his grad project. Put that in your lyrics fellas! The department staff served as mentors on the project and allowed the use of university resources to help with marketing and development of the group. As a result…the band never played outside of Wichita, Kansas. Sounds like they were a flop, huh? Without leaving that zip code they managed to receive national airplay on stations even the big players in the market couldn’t reach. Suddenly, they were receiving calls from major labels wanting to know how they did it and RCA and Roadrunner even showed some interest in the band. I’d say they earned an ‘A,’ and Dan became a master. Adding to the lyrical instructions, “Scrape up some money, buy a van/Learn Free Bird and Ramblin’ Man”…and get an MBA, if you can!


     Despite the success King Me had achieved, Dan parted ways with the group he’d help start after earning his MBA. Turns out, starting a band is the easy part, keeping all the parts moving in the same direction is more problematic. If band members cannot agree on a singular goal, goodbye harmony. Putting his education to work, Dan moved to Kansas City and took a job with Arthur Anderson. His work there was team oriented and their task was to take apart struggling WELLER, DAN - JUMPINGbusinesses and put them back together more efficiently. After about a year at this, he accepted a position with Anderson’s Global Consulting Group in Dallas. Over the next three years, he worked a stable day job and played music on the side. Prior to 2001, though he wanted to, Dan hadn’t really considered playing music professionally full time. He was focused on getting a solid education and some financial footing. While based out of Dallas, he performed with touring house bands who played in nearby states and joined backing bands for regional artists on the Texas circuit. His only connection to Nashville during that time was getting a call to play with the band Rushlow. Tim Rushlow had formerly been the lead singer for Little Texas and formed a band based out of Nashville. Dan played with them for a short time but the gig didn’t last long enough for him to consider WELLER, DAN - BLACK AND WHITE WITH GUITARrelocating to Tennessee. In 2004, he moved back to Kansas City and became a full-time stay-at-home-dad. He and his wife had planned this arrangement (one would stay at home) prior to marriage and job opportunities. The time of their son’s birth landed Dan the at-home-employment gig. You might say divine intervention brought Dan back to playing music on a regular basis. He’d started playing bass because of his background in marketing. He told me that “you could throw a rock and hit a guitarist, but no one played bass.” You might even call this a classic example of principles of econ 101 – simple supply and demand. His bass skills were such that no one even knew he played guitar until it came up in conversation. As you would expect, these were gospel gigs he played on and he said it was a nice change of pace. Once they heard him play guitar, they were looking for a new bass player – ’nuff said! Enjoying the music again, he started looking for guitar gigs in WELLER, DAN - FENDER FORUMthe area and played around with a few bands. Through an online connection on The Fender Forum, he’d met a guy he instantly became friends with. Jason, by that time, had moved from Atlanta and lived in Nashville, working as a third generation professional musician. In 2007, Dan started making trips to Nashville for “weekend runs” with Bobby Pinson, Jamie O’Neal, and Carolyn Dawn Johnson. The Pinson gig came about through Jason and he got to play with both his online buddy and a bassist he’d recommended from KC. As gigs go, he said this was “one of the best, most fun groups” he’s worked with. Their time together would qualify under the instruction: “Call up some buddies man, start a band.” Done!


     Everyone who’s in the music business will tell you that it’s all about relationships. Bands are built around them, and sometimes, they form in the oddest of places. If you’ve seen Dan Weller, and heard him play, this next part of his story is gonna shock you. Our exceedingly educated, musically gifted Dan Weller, one time Arthur Anderson associate, is going to start his next gig….in a Walmart parking lot….playing with….Colt Ford. I can hear you WELLER, DAN - WALMART PARKING LOTgasp from here. Brad Paisley is from West Virginia, and even he couldn’t fathom this scenario for his “Start A Band” lyrics. Dan had met a few of Colt’s band members when they were passing through Texas. His online friend Jason (relationships!)  had started working with Colt and, as instructed, he called up some of his buddies again to round out this band. When they passed through KC, Dan would meet up with them and hang out. In a bind, Jason phoned a friend. He innocently asked Dan what he was doing the next couple of weeks. Being the star student Dan is, he asked what he needed to learn and where to meet them. For those of you who don’t know, WELLER, DAN - COLT FORDKansas City is split between Kansas and Missouri. Dan lives on the Kansas side. At 3am, in a Walmart parking lot, on the Missouri side of KC, Dan was picked up by Colt’s bus, given a bunk to sleep in, and woke up in Minnesota to play a gig. There was no rehearsal. Two weeks later, Colt asked him to stay on full time, and he spent the next two years touring with him. Honestly, I thought this seemed an odd fit, until he explained Colt’s performance philosophy. Dan couldn’t say enough good things about this man. He said that Colt believes in giving his fans the best show he can, regardless of who gets the spotlight on the stage. He encourages his band members to showcase their skills and give the audience the best show they possibly can. Often, band members are cautious in pushing too much, even if the song calls for it, in fear of upstaging the artist. He said Colt Ford is one of the most generous headliners you will ever find. He called him a “salt of the Earth” kind of guy who isn’t FORD, COLT - DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCEanything on stage that he isn’t off it. Dan played lead guitar on Colt’s 2012 album, Declaration of Independence, and that seems fitting. Colt allowed him the independence to be the musician he can be and the album is better because of it, the fans love it, and Colt couldn’t be happier about it. His time with Colt Ford laid the groundwork for his current gig with FGL, but there is a cautionary lesson to be learned. Don’t start a band in a Walmart parking lot, because not even Brad Paisley could come up with a lyric for that.



     Dan’s connection to the guys from Florida Georgia Line began while he was touring with Colt Ford. They were a very new group at that time and had just started opening for bigger artists on a regular basis. FGL was touring out of a van and trailer and literally had nothing in the way of creature comforts. Dan would often sneak them bus stock because venues offer nothing until you reach a more VIP status. His list of the “essentials” he swiped for them included: vodka, tequila, rum, and peanut butter. FGL touring WELLER, DAN - FGL TOUR 2012without Fireball?? Somebody call social services! This is clearly abusive. Tyler and Brian used to joke with Dan that if they ever needed another guy, they’d hire him. Hmm…By May of 2012, Dan had been on the road for roughly 400 shows with Colt Ford and needed a break. At that point, he thought he was done touring. He had a few other opportunities come his way, but he’d WELLER, DAN - BLACK AND WHITEdecided that if he was going to go back out on the road, it had to be with a band that was singularly focused. In FGL, he found that. “Cruise” had just dropped with the promise of an album still being finished. Their appearance on Jimmy Fallon had been their first national TV exposure and they were scheduled to open for Luke Bryan on his upcoming tour. Dan dropped them a note and offered his services if they needed anyone with the intention of just trying to help them out. He says he wasn’t looking at it as a potentially lucrative gig and they made no illusions that it would be. When they passed through KC for a show, he was told that they needed a lead guitarist who could sing and cover keys/utility or a singing keys guy who could cover guitar/utility. If he was hired, the other slot would be filled eventually.


     Prior to this audition, Dan had known Tyler Chiarelli (current FGL guitarist) for about eight years in Kansas City. They’d crossed paths being in different bands on the same bill. Brian Bonds (current FGL guitarist) came to KC one weekend to hang out with his friend, Tyler. Dan meets Brian WELLER, DAN - WITH BRIAN BONDSand….this is fast becoming a testament to six degrees of separation. At the time of Dan’s audition, Brian Bonds was the band leader for FGL (relationships!). He auditioned on every instrument they threw at him….piano, organ, electric and acoustic guitar, banjo, and vocals. He landed the gig and opposite Brian, they were expecting a KILLER dual guitar assault. As FGL’s popularity went through the roof, they started to fill arenas and began making lists for a keys player. “With a little bit of luck you’ll be packing the stands.” Check that box on the return investment promise! Being half of this expected new WELLER, DAN - ON KEYSKILLER guitar attack, he never expected the pat on the back he got from management. They LOVED what he was doing….on keys and utility. Their plan was to hire another guitarist. Talk about shock and awe. Looking on the bright side, Dan says it’s improved his keyboard skills tremendously and at the same time, he sees the irony in this. He sums up the experience by saying, “The highest profile gig I’ve ever had has me primarily playing the two instruments I have the least experience with (keys/banjo or ganjo).” He then thanks FHSU for his theory, aural skills, and keyboarding courses. This would seemingly negate that advice, “No need to study.”


     Now that we’ve come to the end of our “Start A Band” project, let’s see how Dan and Florida Georgia Line have fared. The only instruction we haven’t addressed is the “grow out your hair” idea. Tyler Hubbard has that one covered and the rest of the band supports the cause through hair dye and styling products. As for the return WELLER, DAN - BRAD PAISLEY START A BAND LYRICSon investment they promised, “Maybe buy your momma that Cadillac” is probably covered and “All those girls who were too good to talk to/They’ll be waiting in the line out back”….covered in spades!!! Equally covered is “Never buy a beer again”…..or an alcoholic beverage of any kind. And as for sneaking them bus stock, probably no longer necessary. The lesson to be learned from the highly educated and experienced Dan Weller, is that music is indeed a business so it’s important to understand the mechanics that make a band, and its musicians, financially successful. As a musician, it’s necessary to study theory in WELLER, DAN - BLURRED BLUEorder to expand your skill set and maximize your potential assets. Entertaining an audience is about putting on the best show possible. If you restrict your assets’ potential, you undervalue them, causing your stock value to fall. Marketing is about taking what you have and using it to the best of your ability to ensure the greatest return on your investment. By working together, as FGL and their band members do, they give the best performance possible every time they take the stage. With each member giving their all, it’s a demonstration in how to maximize your band’s assets and succeed in the music business. The “Start A Band” instructions may be the encouragement you need to get started, but if you stay in school and build your music business foundation, your band is likely to be on more stable ground and may someday have you raising a shot glass in toast: Here’s To The Good Times!


Download the album through iTunes: HERE

From WAYNorthofNashville…Bev Miskus

Bringing the stories of musicians in country music to life!


To stay connected with Dan Weller:


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Catch Dan on tour with FGL! Visit their website for tour dates:


Download Colt Ford’s album through iTunes:  HERE

Thanks to all of the partner companies who support Dan Weller and professional musicians! Please support these companies who help make it possible for Dan and others to do what they do so well!!

©2014Bev Miskus



    Feature photograph courtesy of William McClinticIII Photography.

     From the moment we’re born, we become rooted in our birthplace to begin the arduous task of personal growth and fulfilling our reason for being. This rooted existence is nurtured by the family we’re part of, the friends we make along the way, and the places and experiences that influence us on our journey. What we become often reflects the investment made and happenstance that may occur. Musician, Judd Fuller, was born in New York City, one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Although he would be raised mostly in Westport, Connecticut, his music career is a product of the dynamic world 424163_10150702916777154_928712201_nfusion that NYC thrives on. When I first saw Judd, he was playing bass and singing harmonies alongside country music artist, Rodney Atkins. Dressed in a cowboy hat, he looked the part. It wasn’t until I interviewed him that I discovered a world class musician, much larger in scope than that cliched hat would suggest. His reputation as a professional musician is steeped in street cred, with credentials as solid and diverse as the artistic graffiti found in the NYC subway system. The layering that produces the finished product is a time-honored tradition that draws respect from other artists and fans alike. With Judd Fuller, each layer I chipped away at revealed new details that both support and define this unsung masterpiece.

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     The supporting cast of characters in this story all have their place amongst the layers, but it would be Judd who picked up the brush and turned a blank space into a work of art. The Judd family household was filled with the elements of music in the form of records, instruments, and some very talented siblings. Surrounded by music, he absorbed the passion and diversity in the offerings. He has a sister who’s a talented singer, a brother that’s an accomplished JUDD FULLER1jazz bassist, and another who writes songs and plays guitar. They were always in bands of one genre or another and the music scene was ripe with new sounds at that time. He began playing the guitar when he was ten, escaping to his room to learn the hits of the day and impress his family and friends, feeding the growing desire of his musical soul. You couldn’t grow up in this era and not be influenced by the rock and roll that defined classic vinyl. Judd formed his first band in the 8th grade, STORM! He says they were terrible, in no way a threat to KISS or BTO, but admired by their peers just the same. In high school, he listened to “everything” and absorbed it like a sponge. He found diversity in the likes of the Grateful Dead, Merle Haggard, Gram Parsons, The Eagles, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. His high school years were a manifestation of interpreting those iconic vinyl artists into a sound his young, raw band could somewhat recognizably play. While others were marching with bands on the field, he was already marching to the beat of his own making. (WmMcCIII Photography)

     Post high school, Judd attended Lafayette College in Easton, PA. For those with an intellectual bent, albeit musically inclined, college was an expected outpost to expand one’s horizons and notch a more worldly outlook. He would continue to play with various bands throughout his college years until that nagging voice in his head began to question his residency in such an JUDD FULLER OLD & IN THE WAYacademically infused setting. By the end of college, he’d been bit by the bluegrass bug when he was exposed to bluegrass supergroup, Old and in the Way. They’d sprouted in the 70s and played traditional sounding bluegrass along with their unique bluegrass-injected versions of the Stones’ “Wild Horses” and Peter Rowan’s “Panama Red.” Judd’s interest in this genre would seem out of place for a guy born in NYC, but as his layers are revealed, their revolutionary interpretive music would come to define Judd’s unique wheelhouse and foreshadow a future reunion with a ghost of his bluegrass past. Their self-titled debut album, Old & In the Way, was released in 1975, and their banjo player and vocalist was Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. This album would become one of the best selling bluegrass albums of all time, proving that Judd’s JUDD FULLER PHOTO BY BILL kneelingmusical instincts would lead him to the most solid of roots from which to grow. Never shying away from the need to quench the thirst of his developing roots, he joined a bluegrass band and played with them regionally in the early to mid-80s, frequenting clubs and outdoor festivals, and even daring to expose their music on stages at rock and roll clubs. He admitted, “we were not always well received there.” This time in Judd’s life would be my first indication that the need to nourish his musical soul outweighs the pull of the conventional norms of the day. Cutting yourself off from a supporting root runs the risk of having to survive in unfamiliar soil. Rather than jumping on a raging bandwagon, he chose to stay on his home turf and hone his craft in an evolving and familiar place. (WmMcCIII Photography)

     In the latter half of the 80s, Judd lived in Milford, Connecticut for a time before moving back to his birthplace, NYC. There, he cut his teeth in JUDD FULLER 72ND STREET SUBWAY STATIONperformance art by playing on city streets and at the 72nd Street subway station. He said it was an eye opening experience for many reasons and one he feels gave him some valuable lessons in playing in front of people from all walks of life. He still remembers an instance when a homeless man, listening to him play nearby, chased away two kids who’d come along and tried to steal his hard earned money. Here was someone who so obviously could have used the money himself, but he defended the investment Judd had made in earning it with his intolerance of taking something you hadn’t worked for. There is a sense of irony in this when you compare it to the way some performers show up to play a gig and take the gate profits without giving the audience the quality concert they invested in. Judd’s commitment to the stage and his personal contributions to the overall performance were obviously influenced by this lesson in honesty, drenched in  reality. This would be where art imitating life comes full circle. When I asked Judd who his most influential guitarist was, he answered with a name I was unfamiliar with – Al Anderson of NRBQ. Al was born in Connecticut and from 1971 into the early 90s, he was the lead guitarist for this all-hopped-upgroundbreaking rock group. Their acclaimed album, All Hopped Up, was released in 1977, and was the product of a musically explosive period. They drew from the seeds planted between Woodstock and the punk rock era and made a record that suited their individuality. “I Got a Rocket In My Pocket” was a song off this album and one I think illustrates the talent they were holding. As I continue to chip away at the colorful past of Judd Fuller, this song title accurately represents the force of the skills he was building and the potential for reaching the stars his talent allows.

     The 90s would see the rocket power of Judd Fuller’s talents explode in the incarnation of a band called ENTRAIN! He was a founding member of this 207298_1012268000893_3749_ngroup along with drummer, Tom Major. In 1993, Martha’s Vineyard served as the proving grounds for the sound they would develop and test on summer tourists and the rich and famous. The members of this eclectic group brought together a wealth of colorful music roots and twisted them into the songs and sounds that they performed like they were “fired out of a cannon,” according to Judd’s recounting. The band collectively wrote the songs for their albums, and the diversity from which they wrote provided an invaluable lesson in what good can happen when you create from your diversity, rather than allow those differences to divide and lay waste. Judd played bass and sang both lead vocals and harmonies on the albums he contributed to and in the live shows. The two outstanding albums he was a part of are Can U Get It (1996), JUDD FULLER ENTRAINand No Matter What (1997). On Can U Get It, he wrote or co-wrote most of the songs on that album and sang lead vocals on “Scatter The Fire,” A-La-Hey,” “Hear My Prayer,” “House On The Hill,” and “Dancin’ In the Light.” There is a richness in his voice and a palette of tones he draws from in his lyrical interpretation, painting an inflection bold or soft as needed. His vocal range covers the spectrum of genres he’s sampled, the roots of each JUDD FULLER NO MATTER WHAT 1997supplying the grounding from which he sings. Categorically, Entrain is listed under world music. Their appeal has earned them that classification. In 1995, they won the Boston Music Award for Best Live Show. The positive energy they bring to their music is perfectly suited for a live performance and something I saw in Judd as I watched him perform a bass solo that electrified in the connection he made between the instrument and the listener. It lit up the night sky with a thunder and lightning approach his playing exemplifies.

     I marveled at the way Judd’s solo made me feel and wondered how he did it. Chipping away below the surface, I found the music of my youth influencing my reaction. When Judd was with Entrain, there were a multitude of opportunities 10400241_1072743138887_3614_nto play alongside some of music’s greats. He played with Bo Didley on a few occasions, played bass for Carly Simon on some demo tracks, and got to sing a duet with the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir. “Not Fade Away” was a song Bob had originally sung with Jerry Garcia. Jerry had just passed away and Bob was performing a few gigs on Nantucket. Judd was asked to sing with him in place of 207302_1012268320901_3345_nthe legendary Garcia. As a fan of the group, and of Jerry’s for some time going back to his youth and bluegrass days, this was a surreal moment for Judd and one he hasn’t stopped marveling at. His time with Entrain was an enlightening experience for him and he learned a lot over the five years of their collaborative efforts. In 1998, business differences caused him to leave the group and pursue other interests.

     As the new millennium was coming into view, Judd found himself listening to country music. His dad was a writer, and he had always appreciated the written word and the quality of the lyrical writing he found in country songs. 208262_1012267960892_3369_nThe storytelling that defined the songs of the genre would peak his interest in the music and inspire him to try his hand at writing. This would be yet another feature of his layered existence that continued to evolve into the 21st century. In 2001, Judd played on a bluegrass acoustic recording session with a musician who lived nearby in Connecticut. He hadn’t known Liam Bailey prior to this session and had no way of knowing then that he was looking at a premonition of gigs to come. This same year, he began playing in a band with the former lead singer of the J. Geils Band, Peter Wolf. Peter had been with J. Geils from 1967 until 1983. Since that time, he’d launched a successful solo career based out of NYC and reunited w198998_1012268040894_4268_nith J. Geils for a few dates a month beginning in 1999. Judd was part of Wolf’s backing band on his solo tours, continuing to add to his colorful and extensive resume. When the band started falling apart in 2004, Judd moved to Martha’s Vineyard and managed a club there during the summer. This interlude gave him the opportunity to take stock of his career and his personal life and decide in which direction he wanted to go.

     By 2005, he’d written a few country songs and opted to make the move to Nashville. It was a city that pulsed with a musical vibe, even in genres that belied its singular country heritage. Taking a conservative approach to a long-term commitment in Music City, he rented a studio apartment near the Gulch, a vibrant community located between Music Row and downtown Nashville. He signed a six-month lease at $500/month. For those of you ready to pack up and move there for that steal of a deal, don’t. Today’s prices make JUDD FULLER STUART KIMBALLthat laughable, according to Judd. Within three months of landing in Nashville, Judd would get the opportunity he’d hoped for courtesy of a connection to his past he was unaware of. When Judd was playing in Peter Wolf’s band, he’d played alongside guitarist, Stuart Kimball. Kimball left in June of 2004 when he was asked to join Bob Dylan’s backing band. Back in the 80s, Kimball had a KEVIN RAPILLOband called Face To Face. A young Kevin Rapillo, Connecticut resident, worked as a crew member for that band and through the years, Kevin and Stuart had remained friends. Fast forward to 2006. Kevin was the drummer and musical director for rising country star, Rodney Atkins. Tasked with putting together a permanent band to back up Rodney, he contacted his old friend Stuart to ask for recommendations. As luck would have it, Stuart suggested Judd as a bass RODNEY ATKINS IF YOU'RE GOING THROUGH HELLplayer, and without so much as an audition, Kevin hired Judd. Unbeknownst to both of them, they had once lived just 15 minutes apart in Connecticut and hadn’t crossed paths. There would be a short week of rehearsals before this new road band would set out to promote Rodney’s new album, If You’re Going Through Hell. Finding themselves in need of another musician, LIAM BAILEY2Judd recruited his old bluegrass recording partner, Liam Bailey. Liam was living in Seattle at the time when Judd convinced him to take the plunge into country music and move to Nashville. All those layers of colorful characters from your past can suddenly reinvent themselves and resurface in the picture of your present day life. (WmMcCIII Photography) (Kevin Rapillo & Liam Bailey pics)

     When painting that new picture of your suddenly vibrant life, Judd cautioned me about hiring Liam Bailey as a painter. Finding themselves bandmates in a country band, Judd and Liam became roommates for a time. Judd and his wife had purchased an unfurnished home in Nashville that was devoid of color and nearly all of the creature comforts of civilized IMG_0379living. Describing the items these two lived with brought to mind the much coveted “man cave.” In this case, however, they were living more like modern day cavemen with the added bonus of a television. Judd found his meager surroundings advantageous when it came to painting the house and thought that his new roommate would help with the chore. I have been given permission to print the following statement as fact: “Liam Bailey is the slowest painter on Earth.” That said, hire him as a musician but NOT as a painter.

     The band would round itself out in the next few years with the additions of lap steel player, Dan Galysh, in 2008 and Phil Shouse, lead guitarist, in DAN GALYSH1 PHIL SHOUSE32010. The many talents these guys possess include being multi-instrumentalists and impressive vocalists in their own right. In addition to bass, Judd plays the mandolin, piano, drums, and guitar. He also sings harmonies with Rodney in their live shows. The 970164_10151539269899272_1772248563_ncamaraderie this group has, both on and off the country stage, has led them to partner in side projects. They are involved in several outstanding bands that they play in and write music for when time permits. Judd and Liam let loose in a fun band called The Drop Shots. With an uncomplicated feel and great dance rhythms, this group plays Jamaican Rocksteady- influenced, reggae style music. Rocksteady began in Jamaica in THE HIMMSthe late 60s. Lasting just a few years, it gave way to the rise of reggae music that has dominated that culture ever since. The early core of Rodney’s current band – Kevin, Judd, and Liam – play as a trio in The HiMMs. Their self-titled debut album, The HiMMs, was released in January of this year. If there is a 21st century sounding rock that embodies the sound, feel, and message of musical revolutionists of the 20th century, this is it. Listen to the first track on the record, “It’s Better To Love,” and see if it doesn’t put a bug in your ear. The fifth track, “The Animal,” is genius in its instrumental PHIL SHOUSE ROCK N ROLL RESIDENCYmosaic of rock stylings of the last century. Brilliant! Since June, Judd has played with Thee incomparable Rock and Roll Residency with Phil. They perform most Tuesday nights at Dan McGuinness Irish Pub in Nashville. They are a cover band for all things classic rock and you won’t find a better representation ANYWHERE! These guys are a MUST SEE for anyone who is a fan of classic rock bands. Sensational! Judd’s other drop in gig is with a band called Them Vibes. Their music is considered rock and roll Americana. This suggests root driven rock with a nod to the genres that led to and fueled its origins. (WmMcCIII Photography) (Dan Galysh & Phil Shouse pics)

     In the downtime Judd rarely finds, he loves fly fishing and watching Mets baseball. He has three dogs he likes to run in the woods with – Hazel, Twiggy, 1015996_10200779086473428_1970777580_oand Rowdy. This would suggest a laid back, easygoing persona, and one our conversation supported. Judd didn’t relate the events of his life in music in a hyped-up way. Recounting some of the accomplishments on his resume, it sounded as if he hadn’t thought about them in awhile. There is nothing contrived about him. He is the product of a passion for music that was likely stamped into his DNA and fostered in an environment alive with the sounds of a musically diverse era. The roots he came from he continues to cultivate in the full on  way he lives through music. Looking beneath the live musician I saw on stage, I found the hues he JUDD FULLER3brings to his live performance mixed from the primary colors of his past. Judd Fuller is a masterpiece of performance art,brought to life through a palette of musical experience, combined with a passionate soul. The strings of his bass, like subway lines, allow his fingers to traverse the miles between the stops he’s made and deliver him to a spotlight solo. Forgoing the brush, he splatters that solo across the stage with the zeal of a graffiti artist who’s just spray painted his art form with dramatic results. The signature his bass leaves behind is one you’ll be drawn to, on every stage and every street corner it appears on. Take a moment to appreciate what went into it and applaud the amazing musician who created it – Judd Fuller, creating art through music.  (WmMcCIII Photography) (Judd with bass)

2014-08-24 21.47.45

Judd Fuller – masterpiece of performance art

(WmMcCIII Photography)

FromWAYNorthofNashville….Bev Miskus

Bringing the stories of country music to life!

 Photographs marked (WmMcCIII Photography) are courtesy of Bill McClintic III at 90 East

Note: The sketched photograph was created from the photo on the bottom right of the last paragraph. The original in color was taken by William McClintic III Photography.

All rights reserved.©2014

Follow Judd on Twitter @jwdfuller

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Visit their website at:

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©2014Bev Miskus

Photo by Paul Griffin


Student of Percussion. Maestro of Motivation.

Orchestrator of the sound of success.

   Some of the most successful men in history weren’t born into privileged circumstances. Their success was a direct result of hard work, drive, and the ingenuity to think outside the box. Musicians aren’t always thought of as masters of innovation, even though the very life of music depends on it. The music industry is a microcosm of the interdependence the world thrives on. As a student, you develop the skills on which to build your foundation. The centrifugal force that launches your career is then entirely dependent on you. This often requires a multifaceted approach, making use of the knowledge you’ve acquired and pulling from the reservoir of resources you’ve accumulated Cannon-4over the years. Rich Redmond is one of the most respected musicians based out of Nashville. With Music City as the hub of his career, he has developed a business plan that includes studio sessions, touring with a top country artist, teaching demonstrations, motivational speaking, songwriting, producing, and writing and recording educational materials for drum instruction. Percussion is the pulse that drives his every move. The heart he puts into sharing his passion provides the beat he uses to energize his instructional  activities. He is doing what he loves and pushing the limits of his dreams. By carving out his unique niche in the market, he is creating a brand name that signifies excellence in drumming and sound motivational techniques. His CRASHCourse for Success highlights his interdependent life, his past experiences, and how to nurture your dreams in the environment that’s right for you. It’s a succinct format in an energy infused presentation. Before you head to class, I’ve already done your homework. Here are the CliffsNotes on your extraordinary instructor!

      In our interview, Rich told me that there are no rules in the music business. This makes the industry an equal opportunity employer. There isn’t one particular path to playing at Madison Square Garden or wherever your dreams may take you. Rich’s journey began in Milford, Connecticut, but it would be a relocation that had the greatest impact on his future. His father accepted a job in El Paso, Texas when he was 11 years old, which put him in 5th grade at a Hand Drum 2Texas school about the time he would join the band. Texas has a rich music history and provided the right climate to nurture a budding musical passion. In high school, he invested every spare minute he could squeeze out of a day into becoming a better musician and carried that dedication into his pursuit of higher education. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University and went on to the University of North Texas where he got a master’s degree, both in music education with an emphasis in performance. This is the point where ingenuity is crucial and having people skills is a major advantage. Rich Redmond has both. He moved to Dallas after college seeking opportunities to find a music gig. As a major market, it offered the best chance to land a spot with a band. When things weren’t happening in the manner he had hoped, he had what he called “a mid-life, at 26 years old, crisis.” Looking at his options, he set his sights on New York, Los Angeles, or Nashville to jumpstart his career. In 1997, he made the move to Nashville with the hope that this location was the right direction.

     When Rich’s name is mentioned in advertisements, often he is tagged as Jason Aldean’s drummer. Their union didn’t happen overnight, nor did the success they’re enjoying today. Priority number one when moving to Nashville is lodging, food, and a means to pay for both. Rich hustled gigs being a new guy in town and began the process of building relationships. The music business runs on those relationships and the early ones he forged proved to be invaluable. Working in a night club, Rich found a band in need of a drummer. He landed the gig with a band called The Blues Other Brothers and met the son of one of his bandmates. Fast friends, he and Kurt Allison worked the night club Action 2circuit over the next two years. Musicians tend to gather in such places and in 1999, they met Tully Kennedy. His uncle would introduce them all to a young kid named Jason Aldean. These four guys, haphazardly thrown together, had no idea how far their partnership would take them or how strong their nucleus would prove to be. Over the next five years, this new band of brothers traversed every corner of the Southeast region, in a less than luxurious van, in an attempt to establish their careers and get Jason signed to a record deal. Keeping their options open, Rich, Kurt, and Tully joined lead singer, Tim Rushlow, (formerly of Little Texas) in 2003 and released an album. It resulted in two hit singles and a successful debut record, but it would be the lone release from this promising group before Tim pursued a solo career and Jason Aldean was signed by Broken Bow Records. The year was 2004, and Rich had been in Nashville seven years already. His lucky seventh year was the result of intense preparation, tireless efforts to seek out opportunities, and the patience to wait for the right gig to present itself.

     The career that Rich Redmond has built in the last decade is a master class in itself. His education and instinctive creative sensibilities have enabled him to maximize the possibility in every mile of his journey. Since 2003 when he was with Rushlow, Rich has not toured with anyone whose record he didn’t play on. That’s not the norm in Nashville, where records are generally recorded using studio musicians and solo artists build their road shows using tour musicians. Jason Aldean was one of the first solo acts to buck that tradition and tour with the guys he used in the recording sessions. This allowed Rich to experience the best of both worlds and expand his portfolio as a well-rounded musician. He’s now played on many recordings and has performed in every state and many countries around the world. Having gotten beyond the challenges of touring out of a van, he says riding in style now allows him to pursue RED_7622opportunities not otherwise within reach. He’s been able to capitalize on big market locations while on tour and test the waters in other genres. His credits include sessions with major artists outside of country music and numerous television appearances in prime time. His tour gig today involves a schedule of roughly 80 dates. That usually means three days on the road and four days at home. Rich finds few limitations in that weekly set up. It all comes down to your ability to slice and dice the days to accommodate your interests. Survival in the music business requires adaptability and an acute sense of timing. The economics and predatory innovation that drive today’s music market have forced record labels, artists, and musicians to reconfigure outdated formulas. With fewer dollars being spent on music and less records being made, Rich believes it just makes sense to use the same musicians in the studio and on the road. For professional musicians, this means not being able to rely on traditional revenue streams and being forced to think outside the box in terms of employment.

     For a guy with the talent, energy, and personality that Rich Redmond has, he can truly do anything he sets his mind to. His natural bent towards teaching, expert musicianship, and knowledge of the industry, laid the groundwork for his progression into producing. He told me that spending 350 days a year with his bandmates, Kurt and Tully, led to their decision to start producing acts together. It was a logical outlet for their talent and compatibility. The first artist they worked with was an emerging talent named David Fanning. That collaboration would prove to be so successful that they eventually made NV3[1]him the fourth partner in their production team. As New Voice Entertainment, they have worked with Thompson Square, Lindsay Ell, and Parmalee, producing both of Thompson Square’s acclaimed albums, Parmalee’s smash debut record, and a hit single for Lindsay Ell. None of these acts came into the production process with a record deal intact. Utilizing the relationships in the industry they’d built over the years, New Voice was instrumental in getting their hopeful artists signed to a label. As producers, their job is multidimensional based on the needs of the artist. Whether it’s performance coaching, stage presence, sound direction, musicianship, song selection, or image building that needs work, New Voice provides the tools to develop their potential. It’s a rewarding experience to build something from the ground up and Rich finds the challenges and creative opportunities exciting.   

     One of the manifestations of his enormous talent as a drummer and vast experience in the music business is a program he created in 2007. Rich Rich-CRASH-clinic-comic-logo-2-300x231Redmond’s CRASH Course for Success was a product in the making long before he envisioned it. His mother taught him to read great literature from an early age. He read all the motivational masters as well as the biographies of some of the most successful men in history. He has long had an interest in self-help and personal growth opportunities. Combining these interests with his aptitude for teaching students of all ages, Rich has developed a tight, one hour format for his motivational program. Audiences will get to hear and witness his impressive drum style during the presentation. He shares his background in music and illustrates how each step along the way has played a part in his life journey. He Overhead Joyencourages interactive segments throughout the lesson and leaves his audience with motivational ideology they can apply to their individual situations. The importance of cultivating meaningful relationships is stressed throughout the session. What makes this such an impressive program is its adaptability for any age group or themed environment. Rich can spend this hour with a classroom full of kindergarten students or a conference room full of employees on retreat with a Fortune 500 Company. Both groups will come away from the experience with a fresh perspective and/or an enlightened mind. For corporate groups this might mean finding a renewed sense of direction in their careers or life paths. For young students, this exposure might make an impression that changes the course of their lives. The spark that ignites a passion may well come from this hour of interaction between a passionate instructor and an engaged student.

     Any good teacher will tell you that there is no greater feeling in the world than making a difference in someone’s life. Rich expressed this in our conversation several times while talking about projects he’s involved in. He ventured into songwriting four years ago, trading his demo sessions for writing sessions with some respected friends he’s made in the industry. John Eddie, Adam Fears, Erik Halbig, Elisha Hoffman, Mark Holman, Rebecca Lynn Howard, Kevin Kadish, and Jake Scherer are among the co-writers Rich mentioned as always inspiring something great to come out of a session.  Like teaching, he considers this a more long-term investment. Great songs are timeless and their longevity will pay dividends well into the future. Some might call songwriting a way of creating a legacy for yourself. If a song becomes a beloved hit, the writer’s name will be forever linked to it. Creating a brand that is synonymous with your name and life’s work is another way to cement a legacy, but as Rich sees it, it’s also a way of paying forward the gifts you’ve received in your life. He has 35 FUNdamentals of Drumming Amazonyears of experience in the music world and a couple of his recent projects have allowed him to share what he’s learned. FUNdamentals of Drumming for Kids is a book he’s written and just recently released. It’s a Modern Drummer publication being distributed by Hal Leonard. Although it’s marketed for children, he says the content is suitable for beginning drummers of any age. The hope is that the book will become standard stock in music stores across the country and a staple in the curriculum used by band teachers and music instructors nationwide. Currently, he is in the final production stages of filming a DVD project that he financed himself. Rich Redmond’s CRASH Course for Success: Drumming In The Modern World is a 4 ½ hour, double-disc educational product that draws on his many years of playing experience. He hired award winning director, Eric Dorris, for the project and plans to use an established company to distribute the product online and to brick and mortar outlets globally. It’s the possibility of reaching a global audience that keeps Rich Redmond thinking outside the box.

     When you’re a high school student in the marching band, it’s easy to dream about a future that puts you on grand stages, but harder to envision the path that will get you there. Rich Redmond’s success story isn’t a rags to riches, overnight sensation, one in a million tale. It’s a working man’s diary that lets you in on the secrets he’s learned over the years. He will tell you that the music business doesn’t require that you get a college degree to be successful, and many of the guys he’s played with don’t have them. That being said, he’ll encourage you to get one. He looks at those four years of higher education as an investment no one can ever take from you. Earning that degree looks great on a resume, but what you learn, and the experiences you have during that time, may prove to be life-altering in ways you can’t yet imagine. The career you’re looking for likely won’t arrive in a package, neatly wrapped, and dropped on Barbera_Redmond-1472your doorstep. The music industry has undergone a tremendous upheaval in the new millennium. Longevity and financial success now require that musicians do a little bit of everything they’re interested in. It may also mean finding a revenue stream that is not reliant on the music business. Diversify your portfolio, as they say on Wall Street. There are a lot of options for music majors coming out of college that go beyond the cycle of band student becomes band instructor. Rich firmly believes that opportunity is only limited by your creativity. There is lucrative work in the music business if you arm yourself with knowledge, develop your talent, and travel the miles it takes to find it. Finding the right gig is just a stepping stone to the path that will lead you from side man to name brand.

     The first time I heard Rich Redmond playing the drums, I had no idea who he was, and, I didn’t care much for country music. The energy he was playing with crashed through my car radio and struck me like a bolt of lightning. Passively 3Dlistening to the song was not an option. In our interview, Rich talked about the responsibility that comes with his job as the guy on stage that sets the tone for the performance. As a drummer, he provides the back beat to the music and is a source of energy for the audience and all the guys on stage with him. When Rich first moved to Nashville, he was a rocker (and still is!). He immersed himself in the world of country music, found his place in that wheelhouse, and has become one of the best drummers in the genre. He’s managed to find the positive in every step of his professional journey and has the gift of being able to encourage and inspire others. Whether it’s expert drum lessons you’re looking for or a CRASH Course for Success motivational presentation, you won’t find a better teacher or mentor than Rich Redmond. He exudes passion and positivity and his musicianship reflects his personality. He encourages bigger than life dreams and lends the courage to take that first step. Unlike the stock market crash of 1929 when many people lost everything, his version of a CRASH just might lead to your biggest gain. Rich Redmond is a percussionist. On stage, he orchestrates PLaying 1the sound of the many instruments at his command into a musical backbone that supports the body of musicians around him creating performance art. To produce such a powerful sound, he must strike the instruments with the perfect balance of precision and force to energize the music in a manner that elevates the song into a concert experience. He lives his life with the same level of orchestration, keeping everything perfectly in tune with the impassioned work he does. Today’s world is often out of sync. The Rich Redmond experience will teach you how to synchronize your personal percussion and create the harmony that leads to a lifetime of beautiful music. The sound of success is just a CRASH course away!


From WAYNorthofNashvilleBev Miskus

Bringing the stories of country music to life!

There are a myriad of ways to keep up with and connect with SUPERmusician, RICH REDMOND!! He’s just a link away…

Rich has a very cool t-shirt with his signature logo on it for sale in his merchandise shop online. It’s good quality at a great price! Purchase yours today:



Follow him on Twitter @RichRedmond

For information on his CRASH Course For Success and how to book him:


For information on his production work and to connect with NVE:


Tully Kennedy, Kurt Allison, David Fanning, and Rich Redmond

Tully Kennedy, Kurt Allison, David Fanning, and Rich Redmond

Purchase his award winning and highly acclaimed new book through Amazon:

FUNdamentals of Drumming Amazon

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RICH REDMOND FUNdamentals of Drumming Facebook

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©2014Bev Miskus



     Derek Williams lives his life in 3D. When I suggested to him that someday I might like to write his life story, he told me he wanted that to be a pop-up book. Naturally. No Flat Stanley in this guy! I first became aware of Derek’s existence DEREK WILLIAMS FLAT STANLEYvia twitter, and it was obvious that his virtual life form was more than just @rowdyrickriot. His personality jumped out of my computer like a poltergeist. Following him on twitter was like casting myself in Monsters, Inc. I knew better than to click on the big white button that says “Follow,” throwing myself through the portal into the unknown world of rowdyrickriotopolis, but I just had to find out what this riotous monster with a guitar was like. He is employed by Nashville, Inc. His current boss and top scream producer is Jake Owen. Jake does his best to keep his rowdy employee in line, but it’s like trying to contain a room full of screaming women at one of his concerts…insert your laughter here. When Derek clocks out after his weekend shift on tour, he returns to his home in rowdyrickriotopolis where he is a husband, guitar teacher, career mentor, CEO of That’s My Gig, and founding member of an underground rock band called Black Market Surgeons. Not being from the confines of Nashville, Inc., it took awhile to convince rowdyrickriot that I am not toxic and get him to tell me his 3D musical story. In him, I discovered a penchant for both screaming and laughter – the best of both worlds, so grab your popcorn and silence your cell phones, you don’t want to miss a word of this!

     If we go back to Derek’s youth at the age of ten, we would find him in a house in Nashville, Tennessee, nonplussed by the possibility of monsters under the bed and probably pondering his next daredevil experiment. If it were July of 1994, he’d be thinking about what he wanted for Christmas. Santa was quite organized in those days and liked to get a head start on all that toy building. Derek had decided he wanted a BMX bike that year until his brother convinced him they should both ask for guitars. Following the natural order of things, it would become a competition between the two brothers to demonstrate who was the better guitar player. Just for the record, Derek said, “I won.” When I _DSC7975asked him about the music he was listening to growing up in the 90s, he rattled off names like Soundgarden, Nirvana, Slayer, and Nine Inch Nails. Teaching himself guitar, rock and metal songs were routinely testing the acoustics in his bedroom. After this recounting of his early bedroom guitar sessions, I asked him when country music entered the picture. His answer, “never.” That answer couldn’t have startled me more than if he’d hidden under my bed and jumped out in the middle of the night. So this future employee of  Nashville, Inc. was born and raised in that zip code, country music capital of the universe, and one of it’s native sons did not grow up listening to or liking country music? WOW! He should end up a wax figure in the Country Music Hall of Fame just for the novelty of it. This should give you some insight into the mind of rowdyrickriot. It’s like being born a fish and saying “yeah, I really don’t like the water much.” Talk about swimming against the current! *(3)

     Throughout his high school years, the building of rowdyrickriotopolis began. It would lead to his telling his guidance counselor that he wanted to be a rock star when he grew up. Shockingly, she was not impressed. Go figure! I got the feeling that when Derek sets his mind to something, just get out of the way. He began his advanced education at a community college, became a star student, and went on to Austin Peay State University with a full scholarship. There, he earned a BS in Classical Guitar. We often think of guys in the band as just that – guys who play in a band. If you’re going to make a living playing in a band, a great amount of preparation is needed for that to occur on any successful level. Derek became a student of the guitar the moment he got it. He used his parents record collection to teach himself to play when lessons were not available to him. When he realized at the end of high school that his dream was only _DSC7972within reach if he continued to learn and sharpen his guitar skills, he started small and worked diligently. He made the most of every opportunity he was given and learned music theory and finger style while studying some of his favorites in classical and jazz guitar. These include David Russell, John Scofield, and Pat Metheny. On the rock side  he cited Jimmy Page, Tom Morello, Joe Walsh, and Alexi Laiho among his greatest influences. Reminding myself that Derek Williams plays guitar in a country band, I was surprised to find the well-rounded musician, rowdyrickriot, behind that gig. There’s a quote on his website by Louis Pasteur that says, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” Over the next few years, Derek prepared his mind and his guitar for any opportunity that might come his way. *(4)

     As preparedness goes, Derek had practiced hard, gotten a college degree, and gained some valuable experience with a local band. Work over. Time for fun! Well, Derek didn’t see it that way. He did not put on his Ray-Bans and bask in the self-satisfied glow of his achievements. He treated it as merely a foundation on which to build the career of his dreams. Despite touring with a band signed to a major label, he continued to practice guitar skills for hours every day. Over time, he and his guitar became an instrumental jukebox, able to play any song you could ask for off any number of pop and rock albums. Anyone who’s been DEREK WILLIAMS WITH BRIAN BONDSsuccessful in the music business will tell you that it’s all about the connections you make, the professional relationships you build, and how prepared you are when the right gig comes along. Through the connections Derek made while touring, he played with other artists signed to the label and eventually got a record deal himself on the Warner Brothers label as part of a rock band called Flashmob. Based out of LA, they started working on material for an album and found themselves out of a deal before the album was released. Let this be a cautionary tale for those who think signing a record deal gives you a golden parachute for life. It doesn’t. Not by a long shot. Relying on previous connections he’d made, Derek was offered a gig playing with Nashville country artist, Whitney Duncan. Terrific! Just one problem. He had no idea how to play country music on his guitar, but as you’ll find out shortly, Derek was prone to taking on tasks he had no idea how to perform. Lucky for him, he’s a quick study!

     I asked Derek at this point why he ended up back in his hometown under the employ of Nashville, Inc. rather than staying in LA and pursuing another gig with a rock band – his obvious wheelhouse. The short answer is because guitar players don’t get paid to play something no one’s buying anymore. Heading into the 21st century, making a rock album was a risky venture with no guarantee of breaking even, much less making a profit. Record labels weren’t as generous _DSC2970with their funds and less inclined to make questionable investments. Country music was quickly moving towards the popularity that rock enjoyed in the 80s. There were a host of opportunities available in Nashville for talented musicians looking for work. Derek was talented; they had work; and he didn’t need a map to find anything. For six months he chained himself to the task of learning to play country style guitar in his room. He studied country guitar greats, took some lessons, and leaned on his ability to absorb things quickly. Earning the first reference on his country guitarist resume, he was now ready to be promoted from within and apply himself to landing the next big scream inducing job at Nashville, Inc. *(6)

     Derek’s landing his first big gig with Jake Owen was the equivalent of having to adjust from Matchbox racing in your garage to Nascar driving at Talladega in four days. Enter the mind of rowdyrickriot. For Derek Williams, this may have been problematic. But for his rock star musician alter ego, piece of cake! Brian Bonds, currently a guitarist on tour with Florida Georgia Line, had been a member of the short-lived Flashmob with rowdyrickriot. He learned of a position open with Jake Owen’s tour band and recommended Derek to Jake’s bass player and ba_DSC2829nd leader, Robby Emerson. Jake was looking for someone permanent for the position and was trying out new guitarists. Generally, this type of opening isn’t advertised in a formal way at Nashville, Inc. The word of mouth referral system (read good ‘ol boy) is how most of these jobs are auditioned and filled. When Derek accepted the audition, these were the requirements: Must be able to play a 90 minute set consisting of 18 songs at a live show in front of thousands of fans in four days. You will be expected to play acoustic and electric guitars as well as the ganjo and baritone guitar. Oh, and by the way, this live show IS your audition. Go ahead and scream Derek; it’s all part of the job! *(7)

     After purchasing a ganjo and baritone guitar, (helpful if one wishes to play them) Derek spent 12 to 14 hours a day over the next few days learning what he’d been tasked with. There would be no rehearsal before the live show. Welcome to baptism by fire. With five minutes to go before showtime, Jake called a band meeting. Derek had not met Jake at this point so this was his introduction. His new boss welcomed him to the band and asked if he played drums. Huh? Naturally, Derek answered “Yes.” Jake then told him that the encore song was the Beastie Boys “Fight For Your Right to Party,” and his band members always switched instruments for this performance. Derek may have DEREK WILLIAMS WITH JAKE OWENwished to scream in fear at this point, but the unflappable rowdyrickriot simply laughed at the very idea that this would really happen. Derek learned a valuable lesson that night. When Jake Owen says he’s going to do something, he WILL follow through on that. Always. Derek played a flawless set that night and was quite proud of his effort until Jake made an announcement to the crowd of 12,000 fans gathered at the amphitheater in South Carolina. He proudly introduced his new guitar player/clueless drummer to the screaming masses and waited for Derek to begin the song in his usual drummer’s place. Taking his seat at the drums, he turned to Myron (real drummer) and asked him how to play the song. A stunned Myron attempted an air drum lesson. Derek began to “play” and his shocked bandmates turned around in horror at the sound he was making. Suffice it to say, John Bonham’s legacy is safe. The next day, Jake congratulated him on having a good first show and pointed out the fact that he “sucked at drums.” After the third show, Jake admonished him for having lied about his drum abilities, but couldn’t help being impressed at the “balls” he showed in lying to his boss on the first day, knowing there was no way he could fake this. Shockingly, Jake told him he was obviously a team player and wanted him in the band. Personally, I wouldn’t advise trying this at your next audition unless your potential boss is likely to be impressed by your “balls.”

     Derek got this gig with Jake Owen in April of 2012. Fortunately, it’s lasted two years so far and it’s a job he’s enjoying. What he told me was frustrating for him was the lack of mentoring available when he got out of college. He could continue to take lessons and improve his playing skills, but there wasn’t anyone who offered advice or career counseling on how to get a job as a professional musician. Even when he moved back to Nashville, there were plenty of qualified and talented guitar teachers available, but no one who would tell him how to land that dream gig. So in July of 2013, That’s My Gig was launched. Derek and THAT'S MY GIG LOGOhis wife are partners in this venture and share the daily requirements of running an online blog. What makes this one different than any other blog or magazine devoted to the music industry, is the topics it covers and the 3D approach it takes to the subject matter. There are lots of magazines and blog sites devoted to individual instruments and every type of equipment a musician could need. Rolling Stone and Rolling Stone Country cover artists and musicians from nearly every music genre. That’s My Gig is a how to manual that tells you how to get yourself in those other magazines by landing the gig that’s right for you. Call it the nuts and bolts behind what RS covers.

     Despite the fact that I’m not a musician and have no need to know how to land a gig, I found this blog fascinating. The musicians they interview cover many genres and I find it very entertaining to read how these rock stars became part of the bands we know and love. There are many colorful characters in the music world and That’s My Gig brings them to life in a virtual 3D kind of way. I can almost hear them play when I read these interviews. To further illustrate the life of a touring musician, Derek does a video series called “The TMG Tour Journal.” This is a tongue-in-cheek look at life on the road and never fails to make me laugh as well as provides “valuable” (just don’t ask me to put a price tag on it) information about what you can expect while touring with a bunch of guys…on a bus…with limited use of facilities and often unappetizing meal options. To take those tantalizing thoughts one step further, there is a ‘Road Life Video Series’ called “Survival Tips on the Road.” There are ten of these video tips covering subjects that may not be pleasant to think about but could save your life on the road. Derek’s coverage of “The Brown Monster” (not a Disney character in Monsters, Inc.) will dispel any glamorous notion you’ve ever had about the life of a rock star on the road. Viewer discretion is advised! In addition to print and video selections available on That’s My Gig, the third DEREK WILLIAMSdimension in their 3D approach is the music lessons and career counseling they offer. There are several counselors available through TMG that offer services ranging from lessons to performance skills, image building, and career advice. Derek described this as full service career counseling. For kids or adults who have music skills and want to pursue a professional career but don’t know where to start, he offers a personal plan for each student and works with you on reaching your goals. The end game is to turn his students into his peers.

     So who is Derek Williams @rowdyrickriot? It’s a burning question and one that keeps me up at night. There’s Derek Williams, student of classical guitar, music teacher, career counselor, and CEO of one of the best music industry _DSC7849blogs out there. This educated, responsible, creative Derek would tell me that there aren’t any monsters under the bed, just fear of the unknown. His job at Nashville, Inc. is to demystify the dark path to a big city, bright lights career with the enlightening secret that hard work cannot be avoided. Lady luck is a passing muse and will not give you a free pass to your dream job. Education and the lessons learned through hard work are two things no one can ever take from you, and the greatest assets to your resume. Jake Owen hired Derek Williams because he had the credentials for the job, he’s entertaining, and he can provoke a scream or two from an adoring crowd of fans. Remember, screaming fans keep Nashville, Inc. in business! @rowdyrickriot is the driving force that brings enthusiasm and energy to everything Derek Williams does. Rowdyrick is a riot that can make the ordinarily mundane things in life funny. This alter ego demands attention in the form of hospital metal sensation, Black Market Surgeons. Their cutting edge sound is so sharp, it’s illegal in most countries around the world (or is it banned? I forget.). Rowdyrickriot dared Derek Williams to walk through the forbidden door into the world of Nashville, Inc. Fearless, he entered the Scream Factory (a/k/a the concert stage) with his alter ego in tow and conquered the tour test he was given. SCREAM if you love rock star Derek DEREK WILLIAMS 4Williams! Moonlighting, @rowdyrickriot takes the stage on the Laugh Floor. His comedic delivery of “The TMG Tour Journal” and unabashed reporting of road survival tips wins over audiences day after day. A professional musician’s life is a revolving door, and those that are most successful learn how to balance their work no matter which side of the door they’re on. Derek Williams is a model employee at Nashville, Inc. Rowdyrickriot knows that laughs are ten times more powerful than screams and he is content to be the power behind the rock star. As a famous monster once said, “Once you name it, you start getting attached to it.” Aspiring rock stars, this is Derek Williams @rowdyrickriot. If you want to land that dream gig at Nashville, Inc., hire this multidimensional character as your mentor. *(11)

From WAYNorthofNashvilleBev Miskus

Bringing the stories of country music to life!


For all things Derek Williams, visit his website at:

For information on the career counseling services he offers, visit his web page at:!careercounseling/c1h6a

For assistance with gig placement, contact Derek via his web page at:!gig-placement/cnyn

To book a session with Derek, visit this link:!book-now/c24vq

Indiana, PA William McC 5

Photo courtesy of William McClintic III Photography 

Subscribe to Derek’s YouTube channel here:

 Follow Derek on Instagram:

LIKE Derek’s facebook page:

Follow Derek on Twitter @rowdyrickriot


Read his AWESOME blog, TMG, at:

Keep up with Derek’s life on the road through his Tour Journal at:

For a list of career counselors and the services they offer, visit TMG here:


VOTE for Derek Williams in the BATTLE OF THE BANDS: ROAD RAGE SUMMER contest here:

*Photos 3, 4, 6, 7, and 11 are courtesy of William McClintic III Photography. You can contact Bill through his facebook page here:

©2014Bev Miskus


PHIL SHOUSE…amped and ready to ROCK!

 The featured photograph was taken by Sara Kauss.

On the road with Rodney Atkins. Rock N’ Roll Resident in Nashville.


VAN HALEN I album cover

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

Photo by Tim Boone

Photo by Tim Boone

     Nashville is country music’s hometown, but that’s not the only music you’ll find there. On any given night, in a landmark location downtown, you might find Keith Urban and Steven Tyler teaming up for an impromptu performance. Whatever musical accompaniment you’re in the mood for can probably be found, playing live, somewhere in Music City. Liken it to a gDAN MCGUINESS IRISH PUB NASHVILLEeographical jukebox that will spin just about anything you can think of. If I wandered into Dan McGuinness Irish Pub on a Tuesday night, I might think there must have been something in that brownie I ate, because this sounds like a concert I was at in 197….. a long time ago. What I’d really be listening to is Thee Rock N’ Roll Residency, performing one of their weekly sets of classic rock PHIL SHOUSE ROCK N ROLL RESIDENCYmusic from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. On lead guitar, looking and sounding the part of a 70s guitar shredder, would be Phil Shouse. Watching him, I would wonder “what the hell is a guy who can play classic rock songs like that doing in Nashville, Tennessee?” Well, when he’s not moonlighting as Eddie Van Halen or some other guitar god, he’s on tour with Rodney Atkins. No, Phil does not have multiple personalities, but his guitar does. Some nights, when Phil lifts it from the case and holds it to his body, it melds with the surroundings – a 21st century country concert stage. Chords sound as if struck by white lightning, a burst of energy and then relaxed, content to “Take a Back Road.” Alternately, smelling fish and chips through the worn leather of the guitar case, the strings tingle with anticipation. Firmly in hand, Phil twis10379992_10152882487413098_67616204712200356_ots the knobs on his eager instrument, sending it back to 1978. Memories of “Runnin’ with the Devil” slide across the strings like an evil temptress, daring Phil to jump into the fire, his fingers blistered from the heat of an “Eruption.” Now that you’re “On Fire,” I think I’ll turn up the volume for the telling of the Phil Shouse story…amped and ready to rock!

Photograph above taken by Carter Elizabeth Heim.

     Before Phil took up residency in Nashville, his hometown was Decatur, Alabama. As a toddler, he didn’t know that the year 1978 would change his life PHIL SHOUSE AEROSMITH POSEand direct his future. Aerosmith was atop the rock n roll world at that time, and their vinyl LPs were being played by his older brother who was 13 years his senior. The drum set in the house belonged to him. Phil showed a musical fascination that he says started at birth, when he would climb up on his brother’s drum set at age four and play like he was Joey Kramer of Aerosmith. No doubt, his family and the neighbors appreciated these early live performances. His brother’s record collection spun like classic vinyl Joey_Kramerthrough his formative years and today he remembers it as the spark that ignited his passion. When he was old enough to join the school band, he wasn’t allowed to play the drums (no, not because his mother bribed the band teacher – shhh!) because he didn’t have piano experience and didn’t know the theory required. Up to this point, Phil had learned to play music by ear, not by any visual instruction. Determined to be a part of the band, he quickly learned to play the saxophone and learned the theory. This would bridge the gap between middle school and high school and prepare him for learning to play the instrument he lives for.

     At 13, Phil was living in Nebraska. His father had just accepted a job transfer to  Alabama, which meant moving just prior to high school – always fun. To take his mind off the anticipated turmoil of the move, his mother bought him the object of his desire. He’d wanted a guitar for some time and this seemed like the right opportunity to put one in his hands. Like putting a paintbrush in Michelangelo’s hand, becoming a master of the instrument was just a matter of time. Although he would continue to play the saxophone throughout high school, eventually earning the honor of all-state saxophonist, his obsession was playing guitar. Given a choice of activities, this was it. Always. Marching band aerosmith-live-bootlegtook up a lot of his time in high school, so except for a few lessons here and there, Phil taught himself to play. He told me he used to get a guitar magazine, and each month it contained the music to learn new songs. Between that resource and the natural ear he has for music, he was a quick study. When I asked him what made him want to become a professional rock star, he answered as if it was happening in that moment. His brother’s record collection was harboring his dream. It waited patiently for Phil to come of age and discover its magnetic force. Aerosmith‘s 1978 release of Live! Bootleg was a double live album, popular in the 70s, and it was packaged as a gatefold LP. This packaging PHIL SHOUSE JOE PERRY LIVE BOOTLEG '78 2allowed for the inclusion of artwork, liner notes, and/or song lyrics with the records. Phil saw a picture in that gatefold of Joe Perry that was taken from the back. He was on stage in front of thousands of people and he had a guitar slung across his back and one in front of him. He remembers every detail of that picture and described it to me in HD. Also in 1978, Van Halen released their debut album containing the VAN HALEN ERUPTIONinstrumental called “Eruption.” About the end of 8th grade, Phil heard this song on his brother’s CD player. He said his jaw dropped to the floor, and he remembers it being a life-changing moment. It’s been a few years since this happened (just a few), and yet his enthusiasm is still fresh. I haven’t seen Phil’s high school yearbook, but I’m certain if he was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he answered without hesitation – a rock star!

     So Phil graduated from high school and went on to Rock Star University…no wait, there aren’t any of those. Plan B? Start a band and hope you become the next Aerosmith! Plan C? Start college and keep playing gigs whenever you can 10387004_10152882485153098_4543986619469426096_oget them, and try not to starve to death in the process. Phil did try the college experience for a few years but quickly learned he was more cut out for the Hendrix Experience. Apparently he isn’t any better at sitting still in a classroom than he is at standing still on a stage. He told me you’d have to tie him down for that to happen. Ten years would elapse between the end of high school and the beginning of his Nashville residency. During that time, he played with a lot of different bands in the southeast before becoming a regular with two in particular that were based out of Nashville. There was also a girl in that locale who added the incentive, should any have been needed, for Phil to make frequent road trips to the city. Being just a two hour drive, this wasn’t such a bad commute. But in 2004, he decided it just made sense to relocate to the musical land of opportunity.

Photograph above taken by Carter Elizabeth Heim.

     During his first year in Nashville, he did what most new residents do – work odd jobs to pay the bills, pick up gigs where you can get them, and hope for that big break. In 2005, while playing on a pedestrian bridge during a festival, he was PHIL SHOUSE MORNINGWOODspotted by David Lee Murphy. Liking what he saw in Phil’s playing, he hired him. This gave him somewhat steady work but was still a “for hire” like position. The following year, a good friend who worked with an alt band based out of New York City, recommended him for a lead guitar position. A phone interview was all it took to secure the job. With his new band, Morningwood, he would spend a year touring the world, getting to meet some of his rock heroes, and making late night television appearances. It was a whirlwind year that led to some unwanted down time in 2007. With not much going on, he was back to hustling gigs. Country artist, Chris Cagle, was looking for a guitar player and offered him a tour spot. It would turn into his longest gig to date, lasting two years. By 2010, he’d been in Nashville six years and was still looking for the right fit musically.

     Through the years, he’d become friends with the drummer/band leader for country artist, Rodney Atkins. Repeatedly, he tried to get Phil to join the band and go on tour with them. The timing was never quite right until now. In the PHIL SHOUSE TWO OLD HIPPIES CMA FESTfall of 2010, Phil made the commitment and became the lead guitarist for Rodney Atkins. It’s a relationship that’s lasted four years so far and one he’s very thankful for. Rodney encourages mobility on the stage from his band members and would think there was something wrong with them if they played idly behind him. This suits Phil’s alter ego and untamed guitar just fine. He gets along great with his bandmates, something he says is most essential when living on a tour bus together, and finds that musically, they have a lot in common. Judd Fuller plays bass for Rodney Atkins and is also a part of Thee Rock N’ Roll Residency with Phil. Imagine these two rock stars on a country tour bus, guitars just begging to “Rock ‘n’ Roll All Nite.” Since real rockers don’t go to bed until the sun rises, they channel their inner KISS and “Shout It Out Loud.” Are they secretly recording a country KISS tribute album? Thankfully, no. But they might be practicing for some kind of KISS tribute…

Photograph above taken by Bill McClintic.

     In addition to their regular Tuesday night rock performances, they participate Kissmas-copy-662x1024in a charity event held every December in downtown Nashville. Fans are asked to bring a donation of suggested items that are distributed locally for Christmas. The annual holiday show is called KISSmas, in tribute to the iconic rock band, and Phil Shouse becomes Paul Stanley for the evening, makeup and all! This means two hours of being in character and mimicking every action and chord played by the legendary rock star. This is another talent our Nashville guitar hero has. His superpower? Turning himself into some of rock’s greatest guitar players, who themselves would be awed by his abilities. The classic rock star trapped inside of him has taken on PHIL SHOUSE AS EDDIE VAN HALENthe role of Eddie Van Halen in a cover band that has perfected their Van Halen imitation. You won’t find a better likeness anywhere in the world. Not only did Phil learn to shred a guitar like Eddie (his stage name was Shredward Dan Halen), he learned to “Jump” like the rock star. And they say playing video games isn’t educational. See what you can learn from endless rounds of Guitar Hero? I’d say Phil’s probably mastered that game and now he’s a professional musician! See how easy that was? “Dream On.”

     When you think about classic rock bands, how many of them are still around and still making music? Some of the most legendary bands only lasted a few PHIL SHOUSE AEROSMITH WITH KISSyears, yet we’re still obsessed with the music. Landing a long term gig with a band and being able to spend your life living that dream, and paying the bills, is a long shot. It’s often more about living day to day than being able to plan a comfortable retirement. Phil told me that you’re not going to get rich being a side man, but for professional musicians who live to be on tour, that’s whats available  – if you can get it. He says the smartest thing you can do is have a backup plan. No gig lasts forever and you may not always be able to find one when the mortgage is due. Diversity is the key, and the work you do in your spare time may well become your safety net. Having an income that does not rely on the music industry is a smart move, and one he’s currently working on.

     Nashville is full of musicians all hoping to become professionals. Finding steady work, in a genre you love, shouldn’t be that tough in a place called Music 1378681_10101039197661762_1768814183_nCity. But even in country music, finding the right gig – or any gig at all – is challenging. If classic rock is your passion, it’s nearly impossible. Phil and I talked at length about the guitar gods that came out of the classic rock era and the music they got to play. He feels there hasn’t been a great classic rock guitarist since Slash. He told me that nobody wants to hire guitar players that play like the rockers of the 70s anymore. It’s a dying market. I found this almost surreal that I was talking to a guitar player in Nashville, Tennessee in 2014 who could easily trade licks with Joe Perry, Eddie Van Halen, Jimmy Page, and Slash, but could only find opportunities to play this way with cover bands – IN THE COUNTRY MUSIC CAPITAL OF THE WORLD???  No wonder “Jamie’s Cryin’.” I hear ya sister!

Photograph above taken by Nathan Cox.

     Wouldn’t it be ironic if the next great rock band came from country music’s hometown? With every award show lately, they’ve seen fit to put a rock THEE ROCK N' ROLL RESIDENCYperformance on the stage. Eric Church and Lzzy Hale loudly demonstrated “That’s Damn Rock & Roll” just last month. In August, Nashville will release its ode to Motley Crue, which I have to believe will lead to a collaboration at the CMAs. So it only seems natural, in the progression of things, that Music City should have its very own classic rock band. If I may recommend a band leader and lead guitarist, I know just the right guy. He was born in the 70s, raised on classic rock, and plays guitar like his life depends on it. The spirit of 70s rock drives his passion for the instrument, and it comes alive when his fingers touch the strings. Dexterity alone can’t make that sound. Only someone truly connected to the music can translate the intensity of rock’s passion into the dramatic sound that reverberates through the listener. Setting the stage for the guy I have in mind,PHIL SHOUSE TWITTER picture the Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tennessee. It’s sold out and packed to capacity. The crowd is tense with anticipation, awaiting the arrival of their resident guitar hero. He walks out on stage and the light hits him from behind. He’s outfitted with two guitars, one slung across his back and the other in its usual tuned and loaded position across his chest. The fans go wild! Phil Shouse is ready to rock…andEverybody Wants Some!!

From WAYNorthofNashville...Bev Miskus

Bringing the stories of country music to life!

Follow Phil Shouse on twitter @ThePhilShouse.


 Check out Thee Rock N’ Roll Residency on facebook at :


If you’re in Nashville, stop by Dan McGuinness Irish Pub at 1538 Demonbreun Street. If it’s Tuesday night, BE THERE for a NOT TO BE MISSED classic rock performance by THEE ROCK N’ ROLL RESIDENCY. For information about Dan McGuiness, visit their website: or check out their facebook page:


 To see Phil LIVE! on tour with Rodney Atkins, visit his website for upcoming shows and ticket information:


Watch Phil Shouse as Eddie Van Halen in this video promo for the ultimate VAN HALEN cover band – THE MIGHTY DAN HALEN!!!


©2014Bev Miskus



BRIAN BONDS @FGL #Guitar Slayer #21st Century ROCK STAR!




Download the song through iTunes:HERE

     When we think of rock stars today, we always seem to look backwards. The classic rock of the 70s and the glam rock of the 80s produced a large number of larger than life personalities that defined for generations what it meant to be a rock star. The flamboyant, reckless lifestyles these idols lived, created the iconic DEF LEPPARD ROCK OF AGESimages we still adore.    As many of these rock legends fade into their twilight years, will this be the end of rock stars as we’ve come to define them, or will they pass the torch to a new breed of rock stars that will put their own stamp on the “ROCK OF AGES?” We’ve never thought of being a rock star as a career choice, more like a byproduct of spending too much time on your hobby, and certainly not a nine to five gig. Welcome to the new century, and a new way of looking at, and listening to, rock stars!

     When I first saw BrianBonds perform live, it was like a blast from my past. I could have photoshopped him into any 80s or 90s rock video and he would not seem the least bit out of place. Reality check – I’m at a Florida Georgia Line photo (8)concert in the middle of winter, 2014. No time travel or fireball whiskey involved! BK and Tyler were holding court in this arena and the musicians surrounding them were unlike any I’d seen on a country stage before. If you haven’t been to a show, it’s staged like rock concerts used to be. Everyone on that stage had their moments to shine, and together, they were like a fireball-fueled “ROCKET” exploding indoors. Brian Bonds guitar playing was something you just didn’t see anymore, and certainly not at a country DEF LEPPARD HYSTERIA 1concert! I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. Had there been more alcohol and less security involved, I might have rushed the stage, clung to his leg, and begged him to keep playing – and at that time, I didn’t even know his name! Who knew that five months later, I’d be interviewing my new rock idol? I’ll try to keep the “HYSTERIA” to a minimum.

     Nothing about Brian’s story is ordinary, more like extraordinary. His hometown is Miami, Florida. He first picked up a guitar when he was ten, inspired by seeing DEF LEPPARD on television. Every guy wanted to be a rock star after seeing DEF LEPPARD, but how many DEF LEPPARD LOGOactually fulfilled that dream? Welcome to the “nothing in moderation” world of Brian Bonds! When Brian sets his mind to doing something, it’s an all or nothing mentality. If he was going to learn to play guitar, he was going to learn everything there was to know about playing that instrument. He had a top-notch guitar instructor in Miami who would later be instrumental in his making the move to Nashville and landing his first gig. Growing up, he and his twin brother, Eric BRIAN BONDS 3Church, shared the same musical DNA. Now you’re all going “I didn’t know Eric Church had a twin brother!” See how easily rumors get started? So they weren’t biologically connected, but they definitely could have smoked a little smoke, drank a little drink (or a lot!) listening to Megadeath, Metallica, Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams, Jr., and Garth Brooks together. If you add Brian’s muse, DEF LEPPARD, to that mix and shake it up real good, what you would pour into a glass would be rock star in a country band, Brian Bonds! Shaken, not stirred. Now to add the proof to that drink on the rocks you just poured, add his guitar idols – Eddie Van Halen, Brent Mason, and Zakk Wylde, and you get “ROCK! ROCK! (Till You Drop).”

     When Brian left Miami to chase down his rock star dreams, he moved to Atlanta. The area serves as a music hub for many genres in the southeast region. While living there, he picked up gigs with regional artists and gained some valuable stage experience. When he wanted to take it to the next level, he set his photo (9)sights on either Nashville or Los Angeles. The deciding factor came in the form of his old guitar teacher. They’d stayed in touch over the years and he’d since moved from Miami to Nashville to further his own career in music. He shared with his former student an insider’s view of the current opportunities available for musicians there, and based on that assessment, Brian decided that Nashville was where he needed to be. In 2006, he packed up a U-Haul and drove from Atlanta to his new home base…Nashville, Tennessee!

     For most musicians who take that leap of faith and move to Nashville, it generally takes a long time, sometimes years to get that first promising gig. For Brian, he was still driving the U-Haul when he was offered his first gig. He saw the area code 615 come up on his phone and was not exactly expecting a job offer to be on the other end of it. He arrived on a Monday and accepted the gig on Tuesday morning. Turns out his guitar teacher had been offered this position but it wasn’t something he was looking for, so he recommended Brian. Solo BRIAN BONDS BLUEartist, Chely Wright, was to begin a European tour and her guitar player had backed out. Brian opted in and his career took flight – literally. Over the next four years, he immersed himself in the Nashville music scene. He played with a lot of local talent and did what he called “van and trailer gigs” during that time. For a short while, he played with Love and Theft on dates here and there and continued doing showcases in town. He was making connections and laying the groundwork for something on a grander scale and careful not to make a serious commitment until he found what he was looking for. In 2010, he found it, in the form of two guys representing the two states he’d previously lived in. Nashville served as the melting pot that lit this new alliance on fireball, I mean fire!


     Brian was playing some showcases where BK and Tyler happened to be one day and before he left, they handed him their demo CD with some acoustic performances on it. He listened to it, liked what he heard, and decided to give FGL LOGOFGL a shot. It turns out that his new bosses had the same approach to building a career that he did. They weren’t looking to be an overnight sensation, though many people today think they were. The FGL fan base is the result of a relentless grassroots effort by BK and Tyler to win over fans one bar, one town, one radio station at a time. Their first big break came in 2011 when they opened for Brantley GilBRIAN BONDS 1bert in St. Louis. They were very well received there and decided to build on that. Brian told me the strategy was to come back and play every venue they could within a 300 miles radius and continue to broaden their fan base. He said they’d play in small places for maybe 10 people sometimes. The next time it was 30. Then it was 100. The combination of the show they put on and their proficiency in using social media, eventually built the loyal legion they have today. Brian said when they were on the road, there wasn’t a moment they weren’t working. Miles between cities were spent working social media and connecting with fans. Fans in cyberspace become your audience in the next town you come to. When they arrived to play the show, Brian described it as “putting on an arena show before we had an arena.”

     Brian hadn’t made a long-term commitment with FGL when he started, he was waiting to see if this would be the right fit for him. In 2012, with new music coming out and momentum building from their extended road trip, FGL made Brian an offer to “Stay.” Had they sung it to him outside a burning trailer, irony would be served so well here! Prior to “Cruise” erupting like Mount Vesuvius, these rock stars you see today didn’t have the luxury of throwing furniture out of hotel windows oBRIAN BONDS STAYr randomly trashing sports cars. They were traveling by modest means and staying in roach motels with two rooms for everyone. They couldn’t afford to pay Brian Bonds what they knew he was worth, but they laid the cards on the table and he liked the hand they dealt. FGL was a unique opportunity for Brian because no one else in country music at that time was doing what they did. The staging they’d been doing, and would continue to use, showcased the musicians in their band in the way rock concerts used to. This was a non-negotiable factor for him. Would Jimmy Page ever have played in the BRIAN BONDS 4shadow of Robert Plant all night? PERISH THE THOUGHT!! That would have been a Stairway To Hell for a guitar legend. Putting someone with the talent of Brian Bonds standing still, playing on a darkened part of the stage, would be equally tragic. Thankfully, Brian put his faith in the future of FGL and they put what meager dollars they had into him. “Cruise” was released in August of 2012 and that would soon mark the end of  their relationship with roach motels and cruising cross country in a van. Burn it down!

     The meteoric success these guys have achieved over the past two years has not been lost on any of them. For Brian, it built the foundation for him to envision a lasting career and work towards developing a brand for himself. A year ago, FGL was invited to perform on the season finale of The Voice. At that time, this was the largest and most visible television performance they’d had.

A TMG LOGOcareer musician’s blog based out of Nashville called That’s My Gig(, asked Brian if he’d like to write about the experience. He found this opportunity to be a great outlet for sharing things from a musician’s perspective. Here’s a look at what he penned: ( Since that time, he has continued as a contributor to That’s My Gig and has taken on the role TMG BRIAN BONDSof career mentor and guitar teacher to aspiring musicians. It’s just the beginning of branding his identity as a professional rock star. We don’t often think of our stage idols beyond what they do as performers. The reality is, that’s just a small portion of what their job entails. Fame is fleeting, and if you don’t invest in your own longevity, no one else will either. Brian doesn’t think on a small scale. Ever. When I asked him about his favorite places to play, he didn’t respond with venue names, he said Chicago and Canada. That told me a lot about the way he thinks and the size of the audience he hopes to reach. He’s working on a website and t-shirts that should be available in the next few months (and I will be buying the first t-shirt that’s printed!).

     Brian Bonds, professional rock star, is a practical dreamer with his feet firmly planted on the ground. He doesn’t buy into the reality show mentality of winning your opportunity and expecting everything to just fall into place after that. It used to be that the rock star lifestyle was a giant dose of unreality. Many of them lived their lives in a 24/7 cycle of performing, binging, sleeping it off, and starting all over. That would be a recipe for a short life and an even shorter career in today’s world. When Brian comes home after time on the road each BRIAN BONDS AND BKweek, it’s not recess. He goes about the other tasks he’s taken on as part of the Brian Bonds complete picture he’s painting. It’s a colorful portrait that illustrates the multifaceted musician he is. Many of us watched our rock idols of the past perform on stage with a curious eye, wondering what outlandish things they might do that night. The music was epic so we overlooked the antics, on and off stage. We used to take a “PHOTOGRAPH” of our favorite rock star at a concert. Now we shoot video clips of their performances. Working within the frame of that moving picture, Brian Bonds can be captured as a 21st century rock star. Play through it and you’ll hear the “ROCK OF AGES” come alive in the pickups and blend with the energy he generates before amplifying back to the audience a rock-infused country song. Add his unique and perfectly planned out stage look, and you’ve BRIAN BONDSjust seen a modern day rock star resume. Wanted: professional rock star with experience in bad ass performances. Must be able to work on the hyper-energized stage FGL concerts provide, play like a classic rocker minus the spandex, and reboot the sound of a country song into the rockin’ country the fans go crazy for. Off stage, you will be expected to build your own rock star brand empire by seeking out opportunities to grow as a musician, mentor others, and share your experience through demonstrations and multimedia platforms. If your name isn’t Brian Bonds, keep looking. The position of “ROCK OF AGES” torch bearer has already been filled!

From WAYNorthofNashvilleBev Miskus

Bringing the stories of country music to life!

You can follow Brian on twitter @brianbonds

Catch Brian LIVE! on tour with Florida Georgia Line!! Visit their website for tour information:

To find out about career counseling or music sessions with Brian, visit TMG‘s website:

You can vote for BRIAN BONDS, representing TEAM FGL, in the Battle of the Bands contest here:

This poll is closed! Poll activity:
start_date 19/05/2014 11:19:05
end_date 01/09/2014 23:59:59
Poll Results:
Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line both have high energy shows with bands that can MAKE SOME NOISE, but someone has to have bragging rights! Does KENT SLUCHER, representing Luke Bryan's band, ROCK your world? Or does BRIAN BONDS, representing Florida Georgia Line's band, make you wanna be a ROCK STAR?

Brian has recorded a special message to all the fans who have voted for him! Watch it now!!


And just for fun, a look back at rock stars of the 80s!


Def Leppard fun fact: “Rock of Ages” is from their third studio album, Pyromania, released January 20, 1983. It featured new guitarist, Phil Collen, and was produced by “Mutt” Lange.DEF LEPPARD POSTER





Photograph courtesy of William McClintic III Photography


Days of Gold is available on iTunes: HERE

      We’ve all heard the saying, “what a difference a day makes,” but for Nashville musician, Joe Arick, he’s had several life changing days. He is currently on the Days of Gold Tour with headliner, Jake Owen. For Joe, it’s not so much how he got this particular gig, the story lies in what led him to a career in music. Lucky for us, Joe was born too late to be on tour with the likes of Motley Crue or Guns ‘N Roses, otherwise he may not remember so vividly how he got from Columbus, Ohio to Nashville, Tennessee. Not to say that Joe isn’t a rock star, because he definitely has his moments, but I don’t think he throws furniture out of hotel windows or wrecks luxury sports cars on a regular basis. He does have a very broad definition of what a “splash” of alcohol means, (liken it to the size of a splash Shamu makes at Sea World) but other than that, he seems to limit his rock star activity to the stage.

     Joe’s interest in music isn’t all that far fetched considering he shared a home with ¾ of a gospel quartet. His mom, dad, and sister were all singers. Joe had no interest in singing. He remembers being six years old when he attended a Christmas program at school and was mesmerized by watching his teacher play the piano. There was a piano at home, but he wasn’t allowed to play it. His family used it to practice their music and his father had told him not to bang on it because he didn’t want to have to tune it on a regular basis. The old “this is not a toy” lecture. Listening as well as any normal child of six would, he snuck in to play it when his dad was at work. His mother approved of his playing, Joe got better at it, and dad was none the wJOE ARICK CMT TALENT PASSiser. Ah, how many things have been learned using this strategy? Tell dad only what he needs to know, wink wink! When the piano player the quartet had been using quit, Joe’s mom let the cat out of the bag and told his dad that he could play. Having to prove himself, Joe sat down at the piano and demonstrated his covert abilities. Dad, as all dad’s are, was shocked that something so sinister could happen under his own roof, unbeknownst to him. Joe was asked to further prove his musicality by following along on the piano while his dad played the guitar. Impressed with his son’s skills, Joe became a member of the group and traveled with them throughout Ohio playing in churches. Talk about nailing your first audition!

     As it turns out, Joe’s musical talent wasn’t limited to the piano. When he was 13, his grandpa gave him the next instrument he would conquer – his guitar. The first song he taught him to play on it was “Wildwood Flower.” Perhaps that was the first indication that Joe would eventually turn his sights on Nashville. He continued to teach himself guitar by JOE ARICK FRONT OF STAGEplaying along with the piano. His junior year in high school, he wanted to join the jazz band. The instructor told him no because he couldn’t read music. I’m picturing here that Julia Roberts moment in Pretty Woman where she comes back to that snobby Rodeo Drive boutique looking fashion week fly saying “Big mistake. Huge!” Joe didn’t contest this decision, he simply joined the choir. One afternoon when he was jamming with some of his friends, this same misguided instructor heard him playing and reacted with a stunned “Wow!” He ate crow for dinner and Joe joined the jazz band. This would turn out to be another karma filled day in Joe’s young life. Quickly, AJ became Joe’s favorite teacher. He taught him the theory behind what he was playing and turned out to be a bJOE ARICK GUITAR PICKSig influence in Joe’s decision to continue playing music beyond high school.  All of this didn’t keep him busy enough, however, so he learned to play keys, bass guitar, and eventually the harmonica. Now you’re thinking he’s just going to end up one of those drop out music guys who takes Brad Paisley and Keith Urban’s advice and starts a band! Nope! Joe, I can teach myself to play any instrument, Arick, was also tops in his class academically. He set his sights on studying medicine in college and planned to continue the long tradition of his family and join the Army after high school. Through military service, he would get financial assistance in paying for his education. Against his guidance counselor’s wishes, he didn’t take the SAT or ACT at that time. You didn’t see any of this coming, did you? What happened next is going to blow your mind!!

     So Joe has his mind made up, he’s got an appointment at the military recruiter’s office to sign the final paperwork, and his life plans are complete. Joe’s probably already taught himself to play “The Army Goes Rolling Along” on four different instruments and he goes happily off to boot camp. What was that? I think I just heard a needle scratching across a vinyl record. Joe didn’t go off to the Army? Please be seated for this next sentence so if you faint, it’s a shorter distance to the floor. THE ARMY RECRUITER TALKED JOE OUT OF JOE ARICK AND DEREKJOINING!!! Breathe into a paper bag if you have to. I’ll wait. I didn’t ask for the guy’s name because he’s probably in the witness protection program by now. He encouraged Joe to walk out of that office a free man! He said, “Go for it Joe, or you’ll regret it!” I can imagine Joe’s reaction, seeing his future rock star self in a purple haze, selling t-shirts that say “The Joe Arick Experience.” Wake up Joe! You’re not quite there yet. Write this date in your diary though. It’s another life altering day in the life and times of  soon to be music man Joe Arick! (and the crowd goes wild!!). This would turn out to be the day that Joe made his career choice. It wasn’t something he fell into because he didn’t know what else to do with his life. I have no doubt that Joe could have done anything he set his mind to. When the music bug bites, it can unleasJOE ARICK TAKIN A SELFIEh a gravitational force within that is limited only by the size of your dreams. Sharpening his skills over the next five years, Joe played with a country band in Ohio. Also during this time, he met a singer/songwriter named Sarah. She was very supportive of Joe’s career aspirations and when the time came, the two of them made the move to Nashville together to pursue their common goals. At this young age, it’s easy to jump the gun and rush into something unprepared. Moving to Nashville before you have the music chops to showcase can upend your big plans before they’ve had a chance to take root. Nashville is a city bursting at the seams with talented immigrants all eyeing the same dream. When Joe decided he was ready to take the next step towards his career choice, he didn’t need a GPS to tell him how to get to Music City. Everything he’d done musically up to this point led him in the direction he needed to go to further his education and solidify his resume.

     The first thing aspiring career musicians discover when they take up residence in Nashville is that they just walked onto the set of a reality show they didn’t sign up for. The reality of how things “work” in Music City is that you’ll most likely work menial jobs before you ever earn a dime playing music there. When Joe made the move to Nashville, his first priority was being able to pay the bills. He got a job as a server in a restaurant and began the all important task of networking. He picked up gigs whenever he could get them playing with bands on the go. In 2005, he landed his first official Nashville touring slot with Ohio native, Danielle Peck. As you get your feet wet in the music world, musicians get a feel for where JOE ARICK KEYSthat sweet spot is for them. Some prefer to stay off the road and attempt to make a living doing studio work. Others, like Joe, enjoy being on the road and take auditions whenever the opportunity presents itself. In 2010, he got a referral for an audition with Gary Allan’s band. He said it went really well and he was hopeful it would pan out. At the last minute, they decided to go with someone else. Being a free agent, Joe moved on. Jake Owen was looking for a keyboard player and asked him if he’d like to audition. In February of 2010, he played his first live show with Jake. The arrangement suited them both and Joe became an official member of Jake Owen’s band!

     Not everyone enjoys the life of a touring musician, but Joe certainly does. Sometimes it’s about finding the right guys to work with, and touring with Jake Owen has given Joe JOE ARICK ON HARMONICAan abundance of opportunities to grow as a musician and express his own creativity. In 2013, he added his harmonica playing to the studio recording of “Days of Gold.” Although Joe prefers the road to studio work, he does like to play on things he’ll get to be a part of  in a live show some day. He finds satisfaction in creating something in the studio and getting to see it come alive on the stage. Jake Owen is a very generous guy, on and off stage, and he likes to showcase his talented band members whenever possible. He encourages them to do solo work during live performances when appropriate and Joe says that is what makes this gig so enjoyable. Not all headliners would allow such creative freedom on the stage and  Joe finds JOE ARICK ROCKER POSEthe whole live experience very fulfilling. Every time you play a live show, it’s an anything can happen event. The set list, the venue, the audience, all factor into what transpires on the stage. If you can live with the less than pristine conditions that exist when touring and have a roll with the punches personality, it’s a good life for a musician. Joe says touring with a country artist isn’t like other genres where you’re on the road constantly for months at a time. He’s typically on the road three or four days a week and at home with his family the others. There are always exceptions based on the schedule, but there is a certain rhythm to the routine after awhile. He appreciates the quality time he gets to spend being dad and is happy he can support his family doing what he loves, and what he loves is music!

     Asking Joe about his favorite road moments, some of which you can read in detail on his facebook page at, I was struck by how excited he got telling me about them. He is a true music fan of all different genres and goes to see his JOE ARICK FENWAY PARKfavorites in concert whenever he can. He finds traveling exciting and is taking the time to appreciate each mile crossed and city experience. He’s played a lot of big venues in the last couple of years and been a part of some groundbreaking tour stops, but his favorite place to play will always be the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. No matter how often he’s played there now, he says “it’s still magical every time.” He’s been able to cross quite a few marquee venues off his bucket list but there’s still one he hopes to play some day – Ohio Stadium. Being an Ohio native, it’s long been a dream of his to play there and one he JOE ARICK WITH BILLY GIBBONSthinks may be within reach. A couple of his favorite stage moments have been sharing a bill with one of his hip hop favorites, LL Cool J, and playing with the legendary Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. For a musician to get to play alongside someone you listened to and idolized growing up, it really doesn’t get any better than that. Joe doesn’t take these hallmark stage moments for granted. He knows every day you can make a living being a musician is a gift, and he is thankful for that. Besides his AWESOME musical ability, Joe has the perfect personality for a rock star who doesn’t take himself too seriously.

     There are a lot of characteristics that make a musician rock star cool and ego isn’t one of them. Instruments have a lot to say, and the message received by the audience all depends on how that message is delivered. You can have the biggest stage presence in the room and if you can’t play, the audience will focus their attention on someone who can. A rock star is JOE ARICK KEYTARsomeone who can generate a roar from the crowd based on their bad ass performance. Joe Arick can multitask on the stage by switching instruments any number of times it’s called for. He can pull a rock star move that ends up on America’s Funniest Home Videos and still get up and finish the song. He might not laugh about it then, but he will later. He’s not above playing the keytar to further define his rock star cool abilities and if it drives a certain headliner crazy, all the better! The fans have your back, Joe, if a flaming arrow ever comes your way! I think we’ve only scratched the surface of what rock star Joe Arick can do. In addition to his musical talent and showmanship, he writes a very funny accounting of tour events, he’s a video star on That’s My Gig (just read it and don’t ask questions – you can thank me later, he’s a mentor, and most impressively, he’s a master of mixology on a tour bus. Don’t think that just happens overnight! He’s handled plenty of dirty ice in his four years on the road, risking all kinds of possible CDC encounters, just to make mind numbing drinks for his friends. He knows his JOE ARICK - BLACK AND WHITEway around an empty liquor cabinet and a picture frame to make sure he pours only the cheapest possible alcohol into that drink. He’s so good, he can sniff the vintage of moonshine and identify it down to the very still, state, and month it was made in. If that’s not rock star cool, I don’t know what is. All of the life changing days in Joe Arick’s life prepared him for the days of gold he’s now living and the rock star lifestyle to which he’s become accustomed. I hope someday soon I can witness his musical finesse on the stage, stare into those Eric Church cool shades, take a selfie with him and that manly keytar, and have him mix me up one of his famous cocktails, the dirtier the ice, the better! Oh, and Joe, can I have just a splash of rock star cool in that when you hand it to me in a purple haze? Dream on!

From WAYNorthofNashvilleBev Miskus

Bringing the stories of country music to life!

Joe Arick – rock star mixologist!


You can see Joe perform live on the Days of Gold Tour with Jake Owen! Visit Jake’s website for tour and ticketing information at

William McClintic‘s photos are tagged with his name in the bottom left hand corner of each picture. You can connect with him via his facebook page at

©2014Bev Miskus