Tag Archives: Rich Redmond

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

07-Ben-Sesar-Drum-Lesson

BEN SESAR: MODERN DRUMMER

     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: bensesar.com. 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.

SESAR, BEN FACEBOOK

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

Connect with Ben on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ben.sesar.3.

Follow Ben on Twitter @bensesar.

©2014Bev 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

WAY North of Nashville has moved to its new home under a new name! If you’re already a subscriber here, please visit the new site and hit the subscribe icon located on the upper right side of the home page. It’s the ‘W’ in a circle. Thanks so much for reading our work and visiting the site! Don’t miss a beat at:  http://nashvillethreesixty.com/

©2014Bev Miskus

Rich&Derek

I WANNA BE A ROCKSTAR…Real Life Lessons From Nashville Rockers Rich Redmond and Derek Williams

 

      These rockstars aren’t too cool for school….they’re cool because of it!

ROCKSTAR – NICKELBACK- ALL THE RIGHT REASONS

JASON ALDEAN’S BURN IT DOWN TOUR AND JAKE OWEN’S DAYS OF GOLD TOUR ARE ALL THE RAGE THIS SUMMER! THEY BOTH HAVE ROCKIN’ TOUR BANDS, SO SHOW SOME LOVE FOR THE GUYS ON THE ROAD AND MAKE SOME NOISE! LET’S HEAR WHOSE BAND ROCKS YOUR WORLD! GIVE NEW MEANING TO THE TERM ‘ROAD RAGE’!

This poll is closed! Poll activity:
start_date 17/05/2014 13:27:01
end_date 01/09/2014 23:59:59
Poll Results:
Both of these guys ROCK, but somebody has to have bragging rights! Does Rich Redmond, representing Jason Aldean's band, ROCK your world? Or does Derek Williams, representing Jake Owen's band, make you wanna be a ROCK STAR?

     As the song by Nickelback explains it – “We all just wanna be big rockstars, And live in hilltop houses drivin’ fifteen cars, The girls come easy and the drugs come cheap, We’ll all stay skinny ’cause we just won’t eat…Hey, hey, I wanna be a rockstar.” As a life plan, being a rockstar is probably not a career choice your parents or your guidance counselor is likely to embrace. When I hear high school kids proclaiming their rockstar dreams out loud, they’re often labeled ‘dreamer,’ ‘delusional,’ or ‘deadbeat.’ Society seems to have a love affair with music but a gross misconception of musicians. Rockstars have often enabled those misconceptions by letting their wild lifestyles and larger than life personalities overshadow the music. Largely the term ‘rockstar’ is linked to personality rather than music professionalism. More often than not, being a musician isn’t considered a day job, or even a real job. The average person on the street thinks being in a band is all fun with little or no real work involved. If so, I wanna be a rockstar!

     When I looked up the word ‘rockstar’ in the dictionary, it is listed as a noun – “a famous singer or performer of rock music.” What’s lacking in that definition is the verb ‘work,’ preceded by the adjective ‘hard.’ If all there was to being a rockstar was buying a guitar or a drum set, taking a few lessons, and embracing your inner badass, there would be more rockstars than politicians (and how sweet that would be!). When a college student says they’re pursuing a music degree, generally it’s viewed as an easy course of studies with limited job opportunities pursuant to graduation. Over the course of three years, I had the opportunity to follow a college student at Shepherd University who was teaching my daughter piano lessons while working towards a music degree. Observing what her weekly schedule was like and all that was involved in earning that degree, was an eye opening experience. It may not be rocket science, but it is rocket science multitasking. Students looking for an easy path to a college degree need not apply! Earning this degree doesn’t guarantee success, but it does provide an unparalleled foundation for those who dream of one day becoming a professional rockstar.

     Contrary to popular belief, musicians who get paid to play are professionals. They have a passion for music and take their job very seriously, at least the good ones do. They’ve often spent years honing their craft, working odd jobs to support that passion, until they find an opportunity to play that earns them a decent living. There isn’t a reality show to win this opportunity, nor a lottery with a golden ticket to a rockstar lifestyle. Working hard and being prepared is the only yellow brick road to Music City. Most people probably wouldn’t make their way to Nashville if they were scouting rockstars, but you’d be surprised how many reside there. Country music has some of the best musicians in the industry. They may not rock and roll all night and party every day (#KISS), but they’re bringing a new sound to country music, a little less twang and a lot more bang! Some of these guys are headliners and guitar heroes, like Keith Urban and Brad Paisley, but many of them tour with the big names we know and love and have rockstar qualities of their own.

JASON ALDEAN'S BAND

     After Garth Brooks and Shania Twain brought a new sound to country music and then stepped away for awhile, I lost interest in the genre. What brought me back was a drummer, a voice, and a band unlike anything I’d heard before on country radio. Rich Redmond was the drummer; Jason Aldean was the voice; and the band was rockin’ a song called “Hicktown.” I didn’t have a clue who Jason Aldean was, much less have any idea who the rockstar at the end of those sticks was. Rich Redmond is NOT a casual drummer. Having seen him play live a few times now, he is often the most enthusiastic guy on the stage next to the headliner. There is a quality to his drumming and a polish to his style that perfectly punctuates every song he plays on. Never too much or too little, always just right, and the delivery is controlled dynamite. He is a professional musician, a rockstar, with a reputation for excellence he earned. After reading his story, I was surprised to learn that he has a masters degree in music education. Awed by that, actually. So much for that stereotype of rockstars. Rich is a guy who has immersed himself completely in what he loves and shares his talents all over the country. He is a teacher, speaker, author, producer, and songwriter, when he’s not being a rockstar drummer with Jason Aldean’s band. I have no idea when he sleeps. He also has a great program called CRASH Course for Success, through which he shares his knowledge of what it takes to be successful, not only in the music business, but in life. Rich Redmond is a self-made man and an incredibly talented musician. If you or your child wants to make a career of music, there is no better role model than Rich. If drumming is your passion, he’s the guy to follow and/or take lessons from. To read his inspirational story, click this link: http://www.thatsmygig.com/artist-interview-no-overnight-success-with-jason-aldean-drummer-rich-redmond-part-1/ You can follow him on twitter @RichRedmond. Visit him on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/richredmond Connect with him via his website at: http://richredmond.com/ To learn more about his CRASH Course for Success, get the details here: http://crashcourseforsuccess.com/

DEREK WILLIAMS 2

     Following Rich Redmond’s career led me to the story I referenced above and a blog called That’s My Gig. I was so impressed by what I saw and read on that website that I wanted to know who was behind it. That curiosity led me to Derek Williams. Derek did the interview with Rich Redmond and after I read Derek’s bio, I discovered how similar their life and work philosophies are. Derek was a self-proclaimed rockstar wannabe from an early age. He was born in Nashville, but by no means did that guarantee him a music career. The lesson in Derek’s success story is that it takes more than a zip code to put you in the right place to realize your dreams. Poverty and drug abuse were two of the obstacles Derek had to overcome in his pursuit of a music career. His passion for music drove him to seize every opportunity, large or small, and to chase his rockstar dream through education, hard work, and perseverance. Today, Derek is on tour with Jake Owen. He is a guitarist, teacher, and career counselor. If you or your child has aspirations of being a guitar hero, this is your guy. Not only will you get guitar lessons from a skilled professional, you’ll get the added bonus of a mentor who’s living the dream. Visit Derek’s website to read his amazing bio and get information on the guitar lessons he offers: http://www.derekwilliamsguitar.com/ If you want to know what it’s really like being on tour, follow his tour journal via the website. His rockstar cool blog is called That’s My Gig. For anyone thinking about being a professional musician, this is your bible. The articles and information you’ll find here make up the rockstar book of revelations. You can subscribe to and read this AWESOME blog here: http://www.thatsmygig.com/

     Some of the biggest rockstars in history are also some of the greatest musicians. Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page aren’t rockstars who played guitar. They’re masters of the guitar whose playing made them rockstars. That mastery didn’t come from having a casual relationship with the guitar. That level of musicianship can only come from passion to the point of obsession. Practice makes perfect, and it takes a lot of practice to reach that level of perfection. Music education is often the catalyst for such fiery passion. Whether it’s a music lesson outside of school or part of a standard curriculum, the benefits from a strong music education program cannot be overstated. Through music, children learn to solve problems and make good judgments. Different types of music offer a kaleidoscope of perspectives and enrich the learning environment. For some, it’s the spark that keeps kids coming to school. Increasingly, music education programs are being cut in favor of more time spent on core subjects. For kids like Derek Williams who grew up impoverished, school music programs may be their only shot at finding and developing their musical talent. Guys like Derek and Rich are glowing examples of how to turn music lessons into life lessons. Education, practice, and hard work led them to a successful career in music. Being able to play alongside some of the biggest names in music knowing they earned it, made them rockstars. Perhaps it’s time to tweak that definition of rockstar to read something like this: a well educated, hard working music professional, who plays well with others and looks totally badass while doing it! For the path to get there, emulate Rich Redmond and Derek Williams. Think Rich Redmond’s CRASH Course for Success, not the crash course Motely Crue teaches. Hey, hey….I wanna be a rockstar!!

From WAY North of Nashville….Bev Miskus

http://crashcourseforsuccess.com/ WITH RICH REDMOND!

CATCH RICH REDMOND ON TOUR WITH JASON ALDEAN! TICKET INFO HERE: http://www.jasonaldean.com/upcoming

 

THAT'S MY GIG LOGO

DEREK WILLIAMS

DEREK WILLIAMS

 

CATCH DEREK WILLIAMS ON TOUR WITH JAKE OWEN! TICKET INFO HERE: http://www.jakeowen.net/events

 
©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