Tag Archives: New Voice Entertainment

PARMALEE INTERVIEW GROUP SHOT

PARMALEE BRINGS THE MUSIC LIVE!

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

I’ll Bring the Music” – Feels Like Carolina

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

Back in the Day” – Feels Like Carolina

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

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

Think You Oughta Know That” – Feels Like Carolina

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

PARMALEE INTERVIEW BARRY MATT B & W

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

Move” – Feels Like Carolina

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

Already Callin’ You Mine” – Feels Like Carolina

Download the new single through iTunes: HERE

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

Day Drinkin’” – Feels Like Carolina

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

Another Day Gone” – Feels Like Carolina

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

My Montgomery” – Feels Like Carolina

PARMALEE INTERVIEW SCOTT B & W

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

Dance” – Feels Like Carolina

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

Carolina” – Feels Like Carolina

From WAY North of Nashville…..Bev Miskus

PARMALEE INTERVIEW JOSH POSE

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

PARMALEE DAYS OF GOLD TOUR with JAKE OWEN

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

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

PARMALEE INTERVIEW ALBUM SHOT

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

Follow Parmalee on Twitter @parmalee

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

PARMALEE FAMALEE

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

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

 Follow Parmalee Famalee on Twitter @ParmaleeFamalee

©2015Bev Miskus

Photo by Paul Griffin

RICH REDMOND FINDS MUSIC A MOTIVATING FACTOR

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: https://missinginkshop.com/richredmond/store/t-shirts/rich-redmond-logo-t-shirt

RICH REDMOND TSHIRT

http://richredmond.com/

rich_redmond_home

https://www.facebook.com/richredmond

https://www.youtube.com/user/richredmond

http://instagram.com/richredmond

Follow him on Twitter @RichRedmond

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

Rich-CRASH-clinic-comic-logo-2-300x231

http://crashcourseforsuccess.com/

https://www.facebook.com/CRASHwithRich

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

NV3[1]

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

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

http://newvoiceentertainment.com/

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

FUNdamentals of Drumming Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/Modern-Drummer-Presents-FUNdamentals-Drumming/dp/1480398098/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1407775115&sr=8-1&keywords=FUNdamentals+of+drumming

For information, events, and commentary on the book:

RICH REDMOND FUNdamentals of Drumming Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/FUNdamentalsOfDrumming

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©2014Bev Miskus

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STAND BY ME…SUPERFANS!

     We’ve come a long way since the days of groupies and mail order fan clubs. Today there are any number of ways to connect with your favorite music artists through social media, fan clubs that offer exclusive merchandise, opportunities, and events for members only, and mega fan events like CMA Fest. Social media was by far the biggest game changer in the way artists are able to connect with their fans. The list of possibilites that are internet driven seems to increase every year. It’s easy to “follow,” “unfollow,” “like,” unlike,” “tweet,” “retweet,” “favorite,” etc, but what does that really mean? If someone has 5 million “followers” on twitter, does that mean there are 5 million people around the world who “follow” their every tweet and spend their days devoting time and money to this demi-god? Let’s hope not! I’ve spent some quality time on twitter (I swear that’s possible!) this past year and twitter behavior patterns are interesting to say the least. You can tell a lot more than you might think about someone based on their twitter personality, or lack thereof. You can also tell a lot about what type of fan someone is based on the various fan sites that exist, both virtually and in real life.

     Country music has a reputation for attracting a loyal fan base. Country lyrics are all about connecting with their audience. They make people feel something they can relate to, otherwise it’s just performance art. Subsequently, when you feel connected to someone, you tend to care about that person or group and you become invested in their well being. How invested is where fan groups come into play. Every artist who reaches a certain level has a fan club they operate. You join via their online website, pay the member fee if there is one, and gain access to all the perks and benefits they offer. All this exclusivity is generally not free, so potential fan club members have to decide if what they get is worth what they’ll be paying. In addition, if you’re looking for free fandom opportunities, there are now Facebook sites as well as twitter accounts run by, well, we don’t know who they’re run by. In my researching fan sites for the big names in country music, it looks like the foreclosure market hit Facebook and Twitter as well. There are numerous abandoned fan sites on both those social media entities that look bleaker than the estimated longevity of Kim and Kanye’s marriage. Concerts long forgotten, contests long over, pictures nobody recognizes anymore, litter these sites like relics. It seems our ever decreasing attention spans affect our fan behavior. Fan today, “unfollow” tomorrow. If someone better comes along or our favorite falls from grace, the concert tshirt becomes a rag and we move on.

     Whether it’s Facebook or Twitter, there are usually competing sites looking for fan followings. On Facebook, it’s easier to determine who’s running the site and what their motivation is. Sometimes one Facebook page will be the clear fan favorite and wins out over all the others. On Twitter, it gets interesting. I noticed over time that certain fan groups “favorite” and “retweet” frequently and interact through postings on a regular basis. When I decided to launch this summer Battle of the Bands contest, I thought it would be great to get the fan groups involved. I started messaging some of the fan groups I thought were most active to see if they would be willing to talk to me about what they do and how they got started. Again, I found that many of the sites had been abandoned, their last activity being years ago. Some of the ones who were active, did not respond to my request. The bigger the name, the less likely to find an active large fan group on twitter. Lots of pledging their eternal love accounts and marriage proposals, but very little real fan following without illicit intentions. As the stars got a little less bright, I found two gems.

PARMALEE FAMALEE

     Parmalee Famalee is a fan group supporting the band Parmalee, and when I say “supporting,” I mean intent on taking them to new heights. When you commit yourself as a fan group to someone who isn’t yet a household name, the tasks you take on are very different than they would be if you were a fan of Justin Timberlake. Parmalee released their debut album, Feels Like Carolina, last December. Are they a new band? Hardly! The four guys who make up Parmalee have been together since 2001. In today’s music world, getting a career off the ground takes more than a village. Sometimes it takes moving mountains, and that’s where Parmalee Famalee comes in. Parmalee’s record label is Stoney Creek Records. As a record label, they have certain responsibilities in releasing and promoting the album. Does someone from the record label call or tweet radio stations on a daily basis and request Parmalee songs? I doubt it. But their Famalee does!

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(The founder of the Parmalee Famalee, Shari, with Josh, Matt, Barry, and Scott.)

     When I requested an interview with whoever was behind the Parmalee Famalee’s twitter account, I had no idea I would find Shari. The guys from Parmalee are from North Carolina. Shari lives in LA. Not exactly neighbors. Her first exposure to Parmalee’s music was hearing their debut single, “Musta Had a Good Time,” on the radio in 2011. She had this to say about that experience: “The song was so tight – fun and catchy, but with a great lead vocal and first class musicianship.” *(Please see the note at the bottom of this article about Parmalee’s producers, New Voice Entertainment.) She was so impressed by the talent they had and how polished they sounded as a group, that she contacted their record label to ask if Parmalee had any support, like a  fan club. They didn’t, so Shari became the first member of the Parmalee Famalee! Her first live Parmalee show didn’t happen until 2012. At the Buck Owens Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, CA, Shari finally got to see Parmalee in concert and meet the guys she’d committed her support to. When I spoke to her, it was evident from the beginning of our conversation that her investment in Parmalee was not a selfish one. She talked about the guys in the band and their families and all the people who have supported them along the way. The conversation kept going back to the talent Parmalee has and a strict focus on promoting the group coast to coast. I learned very quickly by talking to her that she is organized and fierce in her determination to see Parmalee succeed beyond their wildest expectations!

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(This song is climbing the charts thanks to the Parmalee Famalee’s efforts!)

     There’s a lot of trial and error involved when you set about creating a fan following and Shari’s efforts have evolved over the past couple of years. Parmalee Famalee has a Facebook presence that operates as a closed group. The reason for this is to attract only those fans who are committed to the same goals as the other Famalee members. Currently, the group is made up of actual family members of the guys and those who’ve been adopted by the Famalee! They decided to call themselves Famalee because that is exactly how they work together, minus the awkward holiday get togethers! On their Facebook page is everything you can do to help promote the band plus shared experiences and events involving the guys. The group on Facebook is 1,444 members strong, and I do mean STRONG! If you’d like to join the group on Facebook, simply send them a request to join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/parmaleefamalee/. In addition to their Facebook presence, they have a twitter account at https://twitter.com/ParmaleeFamalee. “Follow” them and you’ll receive updates about the band and reminders of how you can help promote them. Shari has put together a media base list that is enviable to say the least! She has collected resource outlets through which to shop Parmalee’s music nationwide. If Shari were in charge of ground troops, the world would be a peaceful place! If you’d like to see her amazing handiwork, check out the Parmalee Famalee blog site she’s created. This is a Parmalee information vault, complete with everything you could possibly need to call yourself a superfan of the group. For a lesson in fan blogging, or to support Parmalee, take a look: http://parmaleefamalee.blogspot.com/p/links.html.

     When I first had the idea for creating a summer-long contest involving the bands on the road, it came out of a feature article I’d done on Derek Williams, guitarist for Jake Owen, and Rich Redmond, drummer for Jason Aldean. Once voting was set up, I noticed that The Owen Army was responding to this effort consistently and enthusiastically. Their twitter account, @TheOwenArmy, was appearing frequently in my “favorite” and “retweet” notifications. Thinking about this article, I decided to ask the owner of the account for an interview. Meeting, albeit by phone and lots of DMs, co-founder of @TheOwenArmy and theowenarmy.com, Jaime Loomis, was like getting a present you never expected. For Jake Owen, his army is truly the gift that keeps giving!

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(Founders of The Owen Army, Jessi McCorkel and Jaime Loomis.)

     Jake Owen is originally from Vero Beach, FL. Jaime Loomis lives in Connecticut. The other co-founder of The Owen Army is Jessi McCorkel who lives near Knoxville, TN. The two Jake enthusiasts met online through Jake’s fan club site. When they discovered their similar passion for promoting all things Jake, The Owen Army was established in 2011. Again, this is not a selfish effort. The mission of The Owen Army is this:

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You’ll notice the words “dedicated to country artist, Jake Owen” in there. Those words completely describe their amazing efforts on his behalf. Notice the respect for Jake that comes through in that phrase. Many fan groups say they’re “dedicated” to certain things, the object of that dedication often being questionable. Not here. What drives these two women and the members of The Owen Army is their determination to support an artist who they believe in as a music professional and, perhaps more importantly, as a man. They describe Jake as being constantly appreciative of his fans and their efforts to lift up his career aspirations. He engages with his army members regularly and treats them with the same respect they show him. I was told that the man you see on stage and in live appearances elsewhere, is the man you’ll meet on the street in Nashville. In other words, someone you’d want to work tirelessly for.

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(The official Owen Army postcard!)

     I was blown away by what The Owen Army does as described to me by Jaime. This is NOT a casual effort! Take a look at their website and you’ll see what I mean: http://www.theowenarmy.com/. On it are links to all things Jake, links to radio stations where you can request Jake’s songs, an Army store with current items available for purchase, and all the news and information about Jake Owen you need to make you a true recruit! This is definitely a labor of love. Jaime and Jessi take care of their army members as well as they support Jake. They have worked with Jake’s management team to secure merchandise that is given away to members who donate to Jake’s charity during their monthly fundraising events. The biggest give-aways happen annually in August, Jake’s birthday month, and in November as an end-of-year, pre-Christmas thank you to the army! Just this past November they were able to give away a signed Jake Owen guitar! How cool is that?! Along with their donors, Jaime and Jessi’s efforts involve raising money for The Jake Owen Foundation. This is Jake’s official charity and includes St. Jude’s, Autism Speaks, and Indian River County. The Owen Army hosts events and activities that augment Jake’s personal efforts to raise funds for these worthwhile causes. You can also donate through http://www.gofundme.com/theowenarmy. You may purchase items through The Owen Army, the profits from which are donated to the foundation. Their efforts thus far have raised $15,000 for The Jake Owen Foundation! These women are a force of nature! Each year, at Jake’s end-of-year charity benefit in Vero Beach, Jaime and Jessi get to present the check to him personally! Not a bad meet and greet! You’d be hard pressed to find an army more motivated, organized, and enthusiastic than this one. If being in the music industry these days is like going into battle, Jake is in good hands! If you’re a Jake Owen fan, this is your tribe!! Join The Owen Army online at  http://www.theowenarmy.com/Contact_Us.html, connect with them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheOwenArmy, and follow them on twitter at https://twitter.com/TheOwenArmy.

     We throw the the word “super” around a lot these days. It indicates, by definition, something larger than the norm. The term “superfan” is defined as “a person who shows a great deal of enthusiasm for something or someone.” Does the myriad of opportunities we now have to “follow” our favorite stars on social media, attend their concerts weekly if we so choose, and buy an endless supply of their merchandise make us all superfans? Sounds more like super consumerism and super stalking. Mostly, we’re fickle fans. We dole out our favoritism based on what we receive in return. A perceived “relationship” with our favorite star can quickly come apart like the petals of a daisy – he follows me, he unfollows me; he likes me, he unlikes me. Being a fan doesn’t mean what it once did. If you were a Zeppelin fan or a Stones fan, you’ll go to your grave in that old concert tshirt with a vinyl album clutched to your chest and walk right up that “Stairway To Heaven,” hoping that heaven means a Zeppelin reunion. (ask Jake, he knows! #1972)

     This is why the Parmalee Famalee and The Owen Army are such finds. That kind of long term, committed dedication, without expecting a big payout in return, is indeed rare. These true superfans don’t get paid for what they do. They selflessly invest their time and money in supporting and helping to build the career milestones they hope their favorite artists will have. Their satisfaction is in their beneficiaries success. Why do they do it? As I talked to both Jaime and Shari, the words that kept coming up were character and appreciation. It was gratifying to them to be doing something positive for someone they felt was deserving of their dedication. That’s also rare. When budding careers are in their infancy, potential stars are overly appreciative of every helping hand they can find. They reach a stronger foothold and the appreciation comes out a little less often. They reach a pinnacle and, at best, it becomes a patronizing “thx” in a tweet, most likely because their management team reminded them to. Starting a fan club, “famalee,” or an army from the grassroots level, is a daunting task. Record labels don’t pay for this support and rarely reward their success, no matter how deep their pockets become as a result of that charity. Keith Urban rewarded his superfans with an all expense paid trip, exclusive gifts, and probably what meant more to them than anything else, quality time with him. THAT’S impressive! That is character and class personified. I can see Jake Owen doing the same thing someday. If you’ve seen Jake amongst his fans, he glows with appreciation. Watch Parmalee with theirs, same thing. Their fan groups won’t splinter because they’re too deeply rooted in the cause. What unites true superfans with superstars is the perceived commitment they make to each other. It’s easy to find VIP who want to rub elbows with you once you’ve made it to the top. But it’s the people who took up your cause when no one knew your name that will ultimately stand by you, come what may. Congratulations Parmalee and Jake Owen! You both have superfans! And I know the superfans of Keith Urban will agree with me when I say, KU…you ROCK!

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(Keith Urban and his elite group of superfans!!)

From WAY North of NashvilleBev Miskus

Call it a Parmalee Famalee reunion! These pics came from some proud relatives!

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(Jaime Loomis & Jessi McCorkel at the Riverside Cafe in Vero Beach.)

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http://www.riversidecafe.com/

(Where it all started for Jake Owen! There’s no place like home!!)

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

 (Tully Kennedy, Kurt Allison, David Fanning, and Rich Redmond, Nashville, TN)

*Parmalee’s debut album, Feels Like Carolina, was produced by New Voice Entertainment. NV3[1]The four production phenoms that make up that group are Kurt Allison, David Fanning, Tully Kennedy, and Rich Redmond. The combination of Parmalee’s talent and the expertise of these producers made Feels Like Carolina the exceptional debut album it is. For something to sound so good on the radio that someone like Shari would commit herself to the success of a group, entirely based on that one song, speaks volumes about the mastery of that production. If you’re looking for top-notch producers, look no further. You can find contact information for them here: http://newvoiceentertainment.com/index.php or here: http://richredmond.com/. The Wizard of Oz had the Emerald City. The Wizards of Nashville perform their magic in Music City. You can follow the yellow brick road or follow The Highway to hear their creations. That’s Sirius XM on your radio or Hwys. 65, 40, or 24 in your car!

©2014Bev Miskus

PARMALEE DAYS OF GOLD TOUR with JAKE OWEN

PARMALEE – READY TO MAKE THEIR MOVE

     Guys from North Carolina usually know something about fast cars. This one is a 2000 Dodge Hennessey Viper Venom 800TT. It boasts 830HP and can go 0-60 in 2.4 seconds – in the rain. It is advertised as one of the “fastest roadgoing supercars of our time.” If you wanted to see what it could really do, would you test drive it in a Wal-Mart parking lot or find an open road?

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  “Don’t that just make you wanna Move” – Parmalee

     This car came out the year before the guys from Parmalee played their first gig together in North Carolina in 2001, and there was no fast track from there to Nashville. It’s been a slow, rough ride for these guys, but with the release of their debut album, Feels Like Carolina, it feels like they’re on the verge of a breakthrough year. They’ve got a full tour schedule this year which includes a spot on Jake Owen’s Days of Gold Tour beginning next month. Their latest single, “Close Your Eyes,” is spinning on country radio and climbing the charts. Most people probably haven’t seen Parmalee live yet and if they have, it was most likely at a small venue. Having seen a live feed from one of their appearances recently, it felt like I was watching this Dodge Viper, idling in neutral, just waiting to flex its HP on an open road. Unfortunately, the format didn’t allow them to demonstrate their capabilities.

      To find out what Parmalee is really capable of, let’s look at the engine they’re running on with their new album. Feels Like Carolina was produced by New Voice Entertainment, which means you’re going to get a finished product that is sleek, modern, and powerful. Lyrically, this is a country album, but musically, it’s a well-blended hybrid that leans heavily on its rock edge. “Musta Had a Good Time” is a party anthem that could have been the soundtrack for the movie The Hangover. It’s a morning after feel good song to clean up your mess by. The power of this track sets the tone for the album. “Day Drinkin’” and “Dance” will make you want to do both. Volume takes a back seat to the easy rhythms on these two songs which makes it irresistably inviting to follow the lyrics.

      “Carolina” was released as a single and became Parmalee’s first #1 hit. It has since been certified GOLD. The production here fits the feel of the song, making it the perfect choice as the title track of this album. The chorus on “Think You Oughta Know That” sounds like a power ballad and Matt Thomas is certainly capable of delivering that. The acoustic intro of the song builds beautifully into the heart-wrenching chorus and mimics the tug of heart strings the lyrics describe. Truly perfect production on this song! If there is such a thing as a country rock alternative ballad, “My Montgomery” is it. The sassy drumbeats and echo of the guitar that open this song give it a unique vibe that doesn’t fit neatly into a single genre, but whatever it is, it’s an original track that deserves a push of the repeat button.

      “Back in the Day” and “Already Callin’ You Mine” are fun songs to sing along to with great beats. “I’ll Bring the Music” could become their rock anthem. This song was meant to be played LOUD and with a lot of room to break the sound barrier. Stadium crowds will go nuts for this one and it might make a great song to open their set with someday. “Another Day Gone” brings the album to a close on a softer note than it opened but not without showcasing Matt’s vocal prowess in delivering the firm resolve needed to make these lyrics believeable. Looking back at the strength of the 12 tracks on this album, it’s hard to believe this is Parmalee’s debut. The experience they’ve gained over the years and the expertise brought to the production process by New Voice Entertainment has resulted in a killer first album that should launch these guys into the national spotlight.

      Now let’s get back to the image of that fast car. Just looking at it, you may underestimate the power it’s harnessing under that hood and the moves it’s capable of making. Listening to Parmalee on your ipod or at a small venue, you may do the same with them. The songs are great and the music still sounds good, but… The only song I haven’t mentioned on this album is the third track called “Move.” This is my personal favorite and every time I listened to it I felt the urge to turn up the volume. I have (had) a decent sound system at home and decided to take these guys out for a test drive to see just how much noise they could make. There’s a line in this song that says “Aw hell got the Jbl’s so loud you can’t think.” As irony would have it, this is the exact line on which my Jbl’s blew. Crackle, hiss, static…..oops! My husband had a different reaction to this experiment but I was thrilled to confirm my suspicions of how much power was in that song. It also strengthened my belief that Parmalee does not belong in small venues. Liken it to letting Motley Crue play at your child’s birthday party. Just shouldn’t happen!

      I’ll venture a guess that in the 13 years since they played their first gig they’ve logged more miles and played in more smoky bars than they can remember. They’ve overcome bigger obstacles and endured more adversity than any band should have to. 2014 looks like their year to step onto a bigger stage and show audiences what they can do. On tour with Jake Owen, they’ll get a chance to play some big venues that will do their sound justice. I would strongly encourage their management to invest in some powerful speakers to avoid a disastrous sound check. Feels Like Carolina has plenty of HP for them to hit the open road with and get those stadium crowds going from 0-60 in 2.4 – rain or shine. Aww…start it up!!

From WAYNorthofNashvilleBev Miskus

Bringing the stories of country music to life!

PARMALEE DAYS OF GOLD TOUR with JAKE OWEN

        

DOWNLOAD FEELS LIKE CAROLINA  HERE THROUGH ITUNES!

 

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Close Your Eyes” is Parmalee’s new single! You can download it HERE through iTunes!!

HARTMAN ARENA PARK CITY KS

Don’t miss Parmalee on the Days of Gold Tour with Jake Owen! It’s the hottest ticket of the summer! Click here to visit Parmalee’s website for tour info: http://parmalee.com/tour/

©2014Bev Miskus

THOMPSON SQUARE JUST FEELS GOOD

THE SOUND OF COUNTRY MUSIC: THOMPSON SQUARE

     Having watched both the CMA Awards last November and The Grammys this past Sunday, I was left wondering what exactly is the state of the union in Nashville and where does country music fit in our musical kaleidoscope. After years of country music residing on the fringes of our national soundtrack, the genre exploded in 2013. Nashville took New York! Florida Georgia Line and Taylor Swift were heard on XM Hits 1 more often than Justin Bieber and One Direction. Luke Bryan sold out Madison Square Garden faster than the Yankees could sell out a playoff game. On the Fourth of July Tim McGraw sang “Southern Girl” in New York City! Country artists are now hitting the morning talk show circuit in The Big Apple to announce BIG touring plans. What happened to Nashville being the epicenter of big country news? Rolling Stone magazine, based in New York City, decided to open an office in Nashville this year to cover the country music scene firsthand, a little bright lights, big city in  Music City! So Nashville insiders and country music fans should be ecstatic, right? Well…..

     The state of the union in Nashville seems to be a hot topic among country artists, the fans, and the industry’s top brass. Eyeing twitter during the CMAs, the comments ran the gamut from “country music is dead” to high pitched tweets extolling the virtues of Florida Georgia Line! Many fans expressed their  dissatisfaction with what they saw during the live CMA broadcast, saying it didn’t sound like country music at all. During the opening of the show, Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood even took a shot at all the turmoil surrounding the sound of country music. Tom Petty and Zac Brown made headlines last year with their comments on the current state of country music and how ‘real’ country music should sound. As you can imagine, there was no shortage of reaction to this as lines were drawn and sides taken. Even those insiders who haven’t openly expressed an opinion on this topic seem to be using their much coveted award show votes to make a statement. I’m conjuring up images of the Hatfields and the McCoys haunting Music City and the award shows switching to a pay-per-view format just in case a really good fight breaks out!

The Grammys, although billed as “music’s biggest night” and always regarded as the official coronation for musical talent, are never without controversy either. Pre-telecast there is always dissension over who was nominated and who was left out along with the teasers about which mega-stars will be performing and what LSD-inspired collaborations they’ve come up with! Post-telecast you can count on plenty of water cooler reactions to the musical shock and awe they presented. Most of these conversations will start with “can you believe?!” or “did you see that?!”  After all of the talk last year about country music finally becoming “mainstream,” I expected the genre to be more prominently represented at this year’s event. In nearly four hours of air time exactly ONE country music award was presented. The others were relegated to the pre-telecast hours. As for country music performances on the show, the ones that got the biggest reactions from the audience were by those who have long been known as “crossover” artists who happen to live in Nashville. The much anticipated performance by Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, and Blake Shelton didn’t seem to resonate much with the audience. I think the history it was meant to celebrate was entirely lost on the majority of that crowd. Overall, not the coming out party I expected to see for country music at the Grammys. It was like watching one of Cinderella’s step-sisters trying to force her foot into the glass slipper.  You may have been invited to the ball but, sorry, you won’t be moving into the palace. As reported prior to the Grammy telecast, it is rare for the CMA voters and the Grammy voters to agree on the same album as country’s best for the year and that stayed true to form. Obviously no one, not even the supposed experts on the subject, can agree on what the best country music sounds like!

So now what? We agree to disagree and just let iTunes decide whether something gets labeled as ‘country’ or not? Does it really matter how you classify someone’s music? It shouldn’t, but the reality is it sure seems to, at least for the purposes of iTunes, store shelves, guest appearances, and award shows. Hunter Hayes debuted a new song he co-wrote called ‘Invisible’ at the Grammys. Although the message in this song is about bullying, I think he may be on to something else. There’s a line in there about mislabeling something because you simply don’t understand what it is – or what it could be. “Dare to be something more.”  In that line, we may be able to pinpoint what defines country music and sets it apart from all other genres.

Allow me to offer this example. Thompson Square. Even their name offers a clue as to what you’ll find with this duo as they are every bit multi-dimensional. To simply say they are a class act sells them short. They are humble despite being enormously talented. They are grateful and gracious in all situations, both here and abroad. They give of their time and talents to causes they hold near and dear, such as ChildFund International. They sponsor a child through this organization and encourage others to do the same. Last year they donated computers to a school in Honduras and made the trip there to do so personally. They met at a talent contest in Nashville in 1996, having both moved there the same week. Overnight success? Hardly. It would be 2011 before they saw their first hit. That’s a lot of smoky bars and pickle jar living. Their success came the old fashioned way, through endurance and hard work. No golden ticket for these two. They’ve released two albums thus far, both produced by New Voice Entertainment (NV). NV is made up of Kurt Allison, David Fanning, Tully Kennedy, and Rich Redmond. Heard these names before? Kurt, Tully, and Rich are all accomplished (read-kick ass!) musicians who back up Jason Aldean both in the studio and on the road. David Fanning is a singer and songwriter who recently released his debut single, Drink You Away. As producers, these guys are on a level all their own. Their brilliance lies in creating a sound that suits the artist, the album, and the song. No overproduction here! Thompson Square’s latest NV-produced album is called Just Feels Good. There are 13 tracks on the album and three bonus tracks if you buy it at Wal-Mart. One doesn’t always link the words ‘Wal-Mart’ and ‘treasure’, but there it was in the bonus tracks. The last song on the album is called “What Am I Gonna Do (Daddy’s Song).” It was written by Keifer and Shawna Thompson, Vicky McGehee, and Kyle Jacobs. Despite the rumor that good country songwriters are a thing of the past, I found four! Shawna Thompson sings this song in memory of her late father. The musical accompaniment is simple and perfect. The magic in this track is the singer and her song. Shawna delivers a vocal performance here that is stunning. It is an emotional, powerful expression of love for her father through song, and it ends with an old recording of Shawna singing with her dad when she was a child. Some things are timeless. Thompson Square and NV have created a unique, new age sound in country music on this album, but this last song would make Patsy Cline proud. And no doubt, Shawna’s father too.

On some record labels this song might never have seen the light of day; a beautiful song never recorded. Kudos to Stoney Creek Records! Most people will probably never hear this song. You certainly won’t hear it on the radio and Shawna may never sing it on the stage. The reason it’s on this album reflects the values and traditions that make country music unique in the music business. Family first extends far beyond immediate family members to the community of artists, musicians, songwriters, and everyone who makes the country music industry turn. Country artists support each other and give back to the community in so many ways. That kind of support just doesn’t exist in other genres of music unless $$ is involved. But at the heart of it all, it’s all about the music.  No lip syncing, no outlandish costumes (or lack thereof), no twerking, no gimmicks. This is what defines country music – the basics; the ability to let the singer and the song tell the story without involving Cirque du Soleil. It’s not often anymore that we see musical performances, on television or live on the concert stage, that aren’t overproduced and theatrical. Shock value gets more headlines than the actual music does. Not so in country music. Great singers, great songs, and great musicians still command the stage. Shawna could sing her song at Tootsie’s or at Madison Square Garden and every person in the room would feel moved by the time she finished. That’s the power of a great singer and a great song. Patsy Cline could do it. Shawna Thompson can do it. And they both have a place in country music.

Aspiring singers and songwriters move to Nashville with big dreams and often little else. Their backgrounds are as diverse as the stories they have to tell. Careers are made in the telling of those stories. Country music was reality based long before television was. Not everyone should sound like Hank, or George, or Patsy. It wouldn’t be authentic and fans wouldn’t buy it. So if Eric Church wants to be a cross between Waylon and Metallica, “Enter Sandman!” If Parmalee wants to channel their inner Motley Crue, just don’t rent them a hotel room or let them drive your Porsche. Artists have different ways of telling their stories and sometimes a little extra volume is needed for emphasis! As Hunter says, “dare to be something more.” Whether you prefer “I Walk the Line” or Florida Georgia Line, rejoice, iTunes says they’re both country!! Country music is a reflection of the reality of the people who sing it. The fabric of country music is being stretched by a new generation of storytellers whose life experiences have been quite different from those of earlier country artists. Influences aren’t regional anymore, they’re global. How they express themselves musically doesn’t negate their authenticity and shouldn’t deny them a place in country music. Some of the best music in the world is coming out of Nashville right now, just ask your new neighbor, Rolling Stone! You may not be Royals according to the Grammy crowd but you did shake up the music industry last year! And who knows? 2014 just might be country music’s year to Get Lucky!!

From WAY North of Nashville…..Bev Miskus

THOMPSON SQUARE JUST FEELS GOOD

What Am I Gonna Do (Daddy’s Song)–Shawna Thompson–Just Feels Good*

PREVIEW AND BUY THRU ITUNES: HERE

*This song is not available on the iTunes version. It is only available on the CD sold at Wal-Mart as part of the bonus tracks.

FOR INFORMATION ON WHERE AND WHEN YOU CAN SEE THOMPSON SQUARE ON TOUR, VISIT THEIR WEBSITE: http://thompsonsquare.com/tour
©2014Bev Miskus