Tag Archives: What We Ain’t Got

MEADOWS, TRAVIS SOLITUDE

A CONVERSATION WITH SONGWRITER, TRAVIS MEADOWS

   ONE MAN. ONE GUITAR. AND THE TRUTH.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MEADOWS, TRAVIS WITH JAKE OWEN BLOCK PARTY

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

From WAY North of Nashville……..Bev Miskus

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

Songwriters: Travis Meadows, Travis Jerome Goff

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

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

MEADOWS, TRAVIS MY LIFE 101

Download My Life 101 on iTunes: HERE

MEADOWS, TRAVIS KILLIN UNCLE BUZZY

Download Killin’ Uncle Buzzy on iTunes: HERE

MEADOWS, TRAVIS OLD GHOSTS & UNFINISHED BUSINESS

Download Old Ghosts & Unfinished Business on iTunes: HERE

MEADOWS, TRAVIS SOLITUDE

Photographs courtesy of Bill McClintic at 90 East Photography.

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

The essential Travis Meadows playlist!

Learning How To Live Alone” – Killin’ Uncle Buzzy

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

Davidson County Police” – Killin’ Uncle Buzzy

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

Lucky One” – My Life 101

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

My Life 101” – My Life 101

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

Old Ghosts” – Old Ghosts & Unfinished Business

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

Black” – My Life 101

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

Minefield” – Killin’ Uncle Buzzy

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

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

Songwriters: Travis Meadows, Travis Jerome Goff

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

Dark Side” – Eric Church – The Outsiders

Songwriters: Eric Church, Travis Meadows, Jeremy Spillman

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

Riser” – Dierks Bentley – Riser

Songwriters: Travis Meadows, Steve Moakler

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

©2015Bev Miskus

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ON TOUR LOGISTICS DELIVERS JAKE OWEN’S 2014 BEACH PARTY

FROM LOAD IN TO THE LOAD OUT, JAKE OWEN’S BEACH PARTY MAKES PEOPLE  WANT TO STAY.…JUST A LITTLE BIT LONGER

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     *Since the writing of this article, Jake Owen’s Days Of Gold Tour has come to an end. The guys from Averitt have been on the road for eight months, delivering the sights and sounds of this tour to Canada twice and 68 cities in 44 states. They’ve logged 37,958 miles in their North American travels and given new meaning to the term ‘road trip!’ A big thanks to Tim, Mike, Jeff, and Todd for their expert delivery of these tour goods and making our concert experiences possible!

JACKSON BROWNE – THE LOAD OUT – RUNNING ON EMPTY

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

JACKSON BROWNE – STAY – RUNNING ON EMPTY

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

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Now the seats are all empty

Let the roadies take the stage

Pack it up and tear it down

They’re the first to come and last to leave

Working for that minimum wage

They’ll set it up in another town

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     Today’s live performances are often a spectacle of lights and sound. Our favorite headliners take the stage amid elaborate stage setups that often dwarf them in size and technology. Giant video screens broadcast the performance for fans whose seat1606912_807488285929038_3638528685578128546_n[1]s aren’t near enough for an intimate viewing or the coveted selfie with the artist. But no matter where your assigned seats are, the focus of the event will be the artist at center stage. Like the view through a kaleidoscope, in your peripheral vision you will see thousands of images in various shapes and colors all vying for your attention. As the lights go down and your focus is diminished to just a small circle of light in the middle of the viewing area, what you came to see is revealed. Simply. Sharply. The euphoric party atmosphere ebbs momentarily as we look back to sunrise on this August day in Nashville to see what went into the making of this JAKE OWEN BEACH PARTY event as his signature trucks arrive for load in.

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Tonight the people were so fine

They waited there in line

And when they got up on their feet

They made the show

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     Concert events come in all shapes and sizes. What’s needed for the production of these shows may take up just a single truck, or…it might take 27 of them! Delivery of the equipment necessary for this beach party event actually started in verbal form before it became a physical embodiment in need of transport. Jake Owen made a promise. When that happens, things are set in 10172757_806043132740220_6128097566386403623_n[1]motion and some sort of delivery method will be required. Like Ticketmaster, he has options for delivery, but electronic is out of the question. Delivering on this promise will require several trucks and a skilled set of workers who know exactly what to do when those trucks arrive for load in. We’ve all seen the colorful trucks bearing the artist’s tour banner either on a highway or parked near the venue. We know they aren’t empty and whatever is in those trucks will be part of our concert experience. What happens between their arrival at one venue and their departure for the next is not commonly known. This being a Jake Owen event, he would know the procedures and many of the people who perform them. These guys are part of Jake’s tour team and integral to the show he puts on for his fans.

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And that was sweet

But I can hear the sound

Of slamming doors and folding chairs

And that’s a sound they’ll never know

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     The BEACH PARTY was held in the BMI parking lot behind their headquarters on Music Row in Nashville. That would be the load in spot for TIM BURNHAMJake’s three drivers to deliver their concert cargo to. Tim Burnham is one of the drivers in this convoy and was kind enough to talk to me about what happens on show days. His rig is always the first to unload and the last one out after the show. There is a method to this madness! His two fellow drivers are Mike Wambles and Jeff Richardson. When a fourth truck is needed, Todd Pass drives that one. If you’re wondering how one gets this plumb assignment, being on tour with Jake Owen, it was earned. Averitt Express is the parent company that owns On Tour Logistics. They provide the drivers and the trucks for Jake’s operation. All of the drivers that applied for this assignment were vetted, their records 1970811_793936747284192_556907153_n[1]thoroughly checked. They were brought to Nashville for interviewing and selected from a large pool of hopeful applicants. As you can imagine, being a tour driver is much more appealing than hauling freight so these assignments are much coveted. These drivers take pride in what they do and the company they represent. Job security may be directly related to how well you perform your duties and impress the headliner. It should be no surprise that not all artists are a dream to work for. As was stated to me more than once during this interview, Jake Owen is.

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Now roll them cases out and lift them amps

Haul them trusses down and get ‘em up them ramps

‘Cause when it comes to moving me

You know, you guys are the champs

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     When the trucks arrived at the BMI parking lot on the morning of August 18, it was approximately 7am. Their typical load in time runs between 5 and 7am the day of the show, depending on their drive time and start time of the event. This would have been a short haul for the drivers because two of the trucks are 10550974_868610583150141_3149372031472515804_n[1]parked in Nashville between tour dates and the other two in Montgomery, Alabama. Storage location of the trucks is dependent on what repairs may need to be done to the rigs themselves or the equipment they’re hauling. Three trucks were used for the beach party (they use four for full production) and their arrival is a coordinated effort. Once parked at the venue location, they are met by a team of  loaders and pushers whose job it is to build something out of the rigging, lighting, and audio components that have just been delivered. They travel with 15 “true guys” who will coordinate this set building venture, but 90% of the workers used for load in and load out will be union local labor hired by 10462987_844332952244571_2592417475956752511_n[1]the venue. This isn’t a motley crue assortment of guys they enlisted off the street. Over the next four to five hours, these trained professionals will be handling expensive equipment that has to be moved and assembled in a precise way. Damaging any piece of the production puzzle they’re building could cause a delay in the day’s tightly arranged schedule. When things go akilter, as they sometimes do, rental equipment must be arranged to replace what needs repair or didn’t arrive on time. In full production, Jake’s set design includes palm trees and a tiki bar. Should any of these pieces be damaged in transport or get held up by unforeseen circumstances, welcome to the nightmare of adjusting on the fly! Good luck trying to rent a palm tree or a tiki bar in Canada. But, the show MUST go on!

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But when that last guitar’s been packed away

You know that I still want to play

So just make sure you got it all set to go

Before you come for my piano

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     On a normal tour day, after the load in, the trucks would stay parked at the venue in close proximity to the staging area. Due to the unusual location of the BEACH PARTY event in the compact area of Music Row in Nashville, the 10346519_515938741886143_6985160470606381224_n[1]trucks would have to park several miles away. In contrast, we’ve all seen the trucks parked near or immediately adjacent to the stage. What we haven’t seen are the drivers of those rigs who’ve been up all night dodging the hazards of the open road. The miles they’ve logged on their night’s journey can range anywhere from a couple hundred to as many as 600+ on a particularly long trek. So while we’re asleep, dreaming of that incredible concert we’re about to see, these guys are battling the elements to make sure you’re not disappointed. Tim said 10441142_848639355147264_7573255839005558525_n[1]they’ve been lucky on this tour so far as weather hasn’t played a big factor in slowing them down. Their toughest weather-related challenge has been dealing with high winds and having to control that heavy rig at the mercy of Mother Nature. Once they’ve safely arrived at their destination and the trucks are parked and unloaded, they’ll have to stay in or near them in case something comes up and they need to be moved. When zzzs are needed, these weary drivers don’t get to climb into a comfy hotel bed. They’ll attempt to catch a nap inside the truck. If it’s a larger venue and the trucks are parked some distance from set up, sound check, and surrounding activity, they might succeed in getting some much needed rest. If they’re parked at a fair, directly adjacent to the constant clatter of the event, not so much. I was told as fact that no one sleeps while on tour; you just nap. Throughout the day, the drivers will rest every chance they get. When you run a full tour season, tired is the new normal.

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But the band’s on the bus

And they’re waiting to go

We’ve got to drive all night

And do a show in Chicago…. or Detroit, I don’t know

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     Doing a show in Nashville gives the headliner and the guys in the band a much appreciated home field advantage. For the BEACH PARTY event, they had a short commute to work. With any luck, they had a good night’s sleep beforehand. Such is not the case on tour. Fatigue isn’t only a problem for the photo-5-1[1]truck drivers. Jake travels with three buses to his concert locations. One is his personal bus; one’s for the band members; and one is for the crew (light, sound, and production guys). Obviously, these buses do not drive themselves, so there is also a professional bus driver for each. He, too, will be up all night, tasked with the job of delivering his precious cargo to a stage near you! If you’ve ever tried to sleep in a moving vehicle (past the time you fit in a car seat), you know this isn’t ideal for REM sleep. It’s fitful, at best (unless you’re passed out and that comes with its own set of problems). Once the buses have arrived at their destination, the bus drivers will have hotel rooms to sleep in. Throughout the day, those buses may encounter more traffic in and out the door than they did on the highway. A driver trying to sleep through the congestion would not be a safe chauffeur Photo_Video_41746134926806127680098_big[1]come midnight. Hotel rooms may also become a restful haven for the band and crew members if time allows the indulgence. Often, the tight schedule they keep and extracurricular demands on their time may only allow for napping on the bus, or some attempt at that. Parking these precious buses and the contents therein comes with its own set of hazards and impending problems. When Jake played in NYC earlier this year, both the band and crew buses were hit by cars. The drivers had the unenviable job of navigating NYC traffic to drop the guys off and then had to park at an off-site location – a WAY off-site location! The truck drivers for this tour stop got to tangle with rush hour traffic in NYC at 8am with a vehicle not exactly made for tight spots and city drivers not pleased with their arrival.

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We do so many shows in a row

And these towns all look the same

We just pass the time in the hotel rooms

And wander ’round backstage

Till those lights come up and we hear that crowd

And we remember why we came

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     Forgoing some of the problems unavoidable on tour, Jake Owen, his band, and the production team got to entertain a homecoming like crowd in the BMI parking lot. This was the second free party event, and with Jake’s popularity BILL AND PATTIexploding as the result of his first headlining tour, THIS was a jam (and fan) packed show! I was fortunate to have two outstanding resources for this on-site accounting of what it was like to be in that crowd of reportedly 40,000+ fans. Patti and Bill McClintic are loyal Jake Owen supporters who traveled 700 miles from Buffalo, NY, to attend the event. Having made the trip for last year’s show as well, they got to witness firsthand the swelling of fans that made this year’s concert a tightly packed affair. They were not up front for this one, as they were last year, so their vantage point was much different this time. Bill, an acclaimed concert photographer, shot the show last year and was attempting to repeat his BILL MCCLINTIC PHOTOGRAPHERsuccess. The challenges he faced didn’t come from the performers on stage. He got to experience, up close and personal, the true meaning of action photography. As Bill wrestled with the demands of shooting around moving, space invading, camera blocking obstacles, to get the 800 shots he captured that night, Patti took in the sights and sounds of this unique concert. It’s no secret that Jake Owen is an extremely generous performer. Not only is he generous with his friends, his family, and his fans, he is also a selfless supporter of other artists, songwriters, and musicians, regardless of genre. The advent of his now famous FREE BEACH PARTY is the result of just such generosity and selfless behavior. In some ways, this event was a living documentary of Jake Owen’s life, manifested in his music career.

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Now we got Country and Western on the bus

R & B, we got Disco in eight tracks and cassettes in stereo

We’ve got Rural Scenes and Magazines

We’ve got Truckers on the CB

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     Jake Owen may come off as lighthearted and easy going, but don’t misinterpret that for a casual attitude when it comes to his music or his fans. The loyalty he gets from his fan base he gives back tenfold. And when Jake Owen makes a promise, you can tattoo it on your arm in indelible ink. The JAKE OWEN BEACH PARTY INVITATIONBEACH PARTY isn’t just a party. It’s the sound check on that promise, and it’s free because he wants ALL of his fans, regardless of their VIP status in life, to be able to hear that promise coming through the speakers loud and clear.  Last August, prior to the release of his latest album, Days of Gold, he wanted to do something for his fans and celebrate all that the song “Days of Gold” speaks of. He set a date for the event and invited his fans to show up in Nashville. For those of you who may be new to Nashville, you’ve probably heard a great deal about this first block party. It was attended by roughly 20,000+ fans. Jake put on an JAKE OWEN SUMMER BLOCK PARTYamazing show that wowed his fans in the manner they’ve become accustomed to. What you may not remember is that Jake had a portion of one of his fingers amputated that morning, prior to show time. A serious infection that developed in the finger, due to a prior accident that summer, forced this emergency procedure at a less than ideal time. Many artists would have sent a replacement, and Jake certainly could have found one, but not wanting to disappoint his fans or break a promise he’d make to them, HE showed up as scheduled. He gave everyone in that parking lot the party they came for, with no regard whatsoever for his personal discomfort. That’s what serious artists do.

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And we’ve got Richard Pryor on the video

We got time to think of the ones we love

While the miles roll away

But the only time that seems too short

Is the time that we get to play

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     Last year, Jake’s Summer Block Party was more of an impromptu event. This year, it was a highly anticipated gathering. Jake is several months into his first headlining tour and it’s been an unarguable success. Given that, it was expected that the beach party may well take up more than a block this time PATTI MCCLINTICaround. In the same space designated for the event last year, they packed in double the amount of attendees. Patti described the scene on the ground as a violation of the fire code, had there been one. Jake’s meteoric rise in popularity, both hit music and reputation driven, brought his fans out in record numbers, and they were willing to withstand heat and sardine-like conditions to see what Jake had  in store for them. He doesn’t come alone to this party. He brings friends. Lots of them. And in true Jake fashion, you never know who might show up, unannounced. If you’ve seen Jake on the Days of Gold Tour, you know that his show is beach party themed. This would be no exception. Beach balls were flying through the air and the festive atmosphere was palpable. Old Dominion got things started off with a lively set intended to get this 15003460806_b4019ff2a5_zparty started off right. Their songs play right into the mood Jake brings to every event he hosts. His invited guests for the evening are perfectly suited to the type of party he wants this to be. Their music is intended to mingle with the tastes of his BEACH PARTY fans and not create a hyper-charged, star-studded show and sing. Jake is very supportive of new artists and sensitive to the struggles of 15026075502_6f75fa52a4_zeveryone trying to make it in the music business, regardless of their contribution. Bobby Bones’ band, The Raging Idiots, made an appearance with up and coming artist, Lindsay Ell. She is relatively new on the Nashville scene, but she is no stranger to that guitar in her hands. Giving her this guest spot not only puts her in front of 40,000 potentially new fans, but lets them know the girl can PLAY!

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People you’ve got the power over what we do

You can sit there and wait

Or you can pull us through

Come along, sing the song

You know that you can’t go wrong

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     The rest of the evening would be a musical testament to who Jake Owen is in the most unassuming ways possible. The Brothers Osborne have been 14840411188_f4d91f7681_zmaking a huge splash among country music fans with their infectious single, “RUM!” Jake topped this day off with a sinking summer sun, so why not mix it with RUM? Mmm. Mmm. He joined one of the Brothers Osborne on stage to duet this effort, no doubt with the enthusiastic approval of the fans. They’re another new act around town and this exposure of their hit single, in 14840393529_e5c81600e6_zadvance of a new EP, was Jake’s way of entertaining while endorsing – wholeheartedly. Singer-songwriter, Sonia Leigh, made an appearance at this party. She’s not new to the country music scene but some of her contributions have probably flown under the media radar outside of Music City. There are always songwriters behind those big hits, but rarely do fans know who they are. Sonia was a co-writer on two Zac Brown Band hits, “Goodbye in Her Eyes” and “Sweet Annie.” She’s an accomplished solo artist in her own right, and giving her the spotlight on this big stage gave her the opportunity to showcase her singing talent in front of fans15024125011_bff0540912_z who likely weren’t familiar with her. Knowing Jake’s deep appreciation for songwriters, highlighting her efforts here would also be a reason she was an honored guest. Hot country duo, Dan + Shay, crashed onto the country charts with their debut single, 19 You + Me. It didn’t take long for their music to catch on and put them on the fast track to being an in demand opening act. 15028086721_3a5c8a0140_zTheir sound suits a beach party, even if it is in a parking lot. Fans of Jake Owen would welcome their summer feel music and give a big nod of approval to their performance. Earlier this summer, Jake collaborated with pop artist, Mike Posner, on a remix of his #1 single, “Beachin’.” He surprised the crowd with Mike’s guest spot, which got the ENTIRE audience jumping as a solid mass to his mega hit single, “Cooler Than Me.” Definitely a cool moment in the show!

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‘Cause when that morning sun comes beating down

You’re going to wake up in your town

But we’ll be scheduled to appear

A thousand miles away from here

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     The Cadillac Three have been on the road with Jake since the beginning of the Days of Gold Tour in March. They open for him at every stop on the tour. They took part in the first Summer Block Party and were invited back for this 15025992342_9ca1608b10_zone. Their friendship with Jake is no secret. What may have surprised some fans this time was the shout out Jake gave to one of the members of TC3, Jaren Johnston. Jaren is a well known songwriter in Nashville and a co-writer on five of the tracks on Days of Gold. Jake took a few moments during the show to offer a toast of sorts to Jaren for writing the songs that he says changed his life. “Beachin’” and “Days of Gold” were both co-writes for Jaren. To some, it might seem odd that Jake would pick this time to thank a songwriter. What better time to give a songwriter his due than in front of 40,000 of your fans who clearly LOVE those songs? They were already standing, Jake just gave them a reason to offer the ovation to a 15003937006_c9981b69a2_zdeserving friend and songwriter. Exceptionally classy move. Lee Brice‘s appearance had everything to do with a song. “Parking Lot Party” was a huge hit for Lee. He was a co-writer on that tailgate anthem and it was a song practically written for this occasion. Neither of these attributes was lost on Jake that night. Lee’s career is taking off under the power of his great voice and award winning song choices. His new album, I Don’t Dance (already a #1 single), is due out this week. The two had a ball with the song on stage and shared a beer to illustrate the fine art of tailgating before a show…or in this case…during the show.

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People stay

Just a little bit longer

We want to play

Just a little bit longer

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     Taking in the sights and sounds of JAKE OWEN’S BEACH PARTY, Patti described to me in great detail the mood of the crowd, some of the more 14844468669_29932a84d8_zcolorful incidents that happened throughout the evening, and the audience’s reaction to the performances. She was in the thick of that tightly packed mass of fans and felt as if she were being squeezed into the mosaic of shattered, colorful pieces that made up the periphery of the kaleidoscopic image that twisted and turned with each new musical guest’s appearance. Their focus would be in and out of the events on the stage with the intensity the moment dictated. Amidst the party atmosphere that permeated 15030818182_e9b586a123_zthe event and the engaging way Jake Owen puts on a show, his connection to a song and a songwriter would turn out to be a defining moment for everyone. Following the success of his summer smash hit, “Beachin’,” Jake recently released a ballad off Days of Gold as the next single. What We Ain’t Got” was co-written by Travis Meadows. It’s a time stopping song that forces you to step outside your noisy, chaotic life and take stock of the things you do have and the value we sometimes overlook in them. Travis is a brilliant songwriter with many hits to his credit. The struggles he’s faced likely weren’t known to the crowd, but no doubt Jake knew about them. He brought Travis out on stage with him to 14844511500_5509ae1aeb_zpersonally say thank you for a song that Jake says “may be the one I hang my hat on.” He’s full of pride when he talks about recording this song and releasing it as a single. For him, it was an honor to have Travis there to sing the song. The setting exemplified the meaning of the lyrics. Jake could have chosen to make the performance of this song all about him. The event itself could have been a celebration of all that he’s accomplished in his career thus far. Instead, he chose to put the spotlight on a raw moment of heartfelt emotion, poured out in a 14844651947_e74cd1f82e_zsimple arrangement, accompanied by a piano. Travis and Jake sang together and Joe Arick played the piano. Jake knows that you can get caught up in all that life has to offer, especially when you’re in a position to grab a bigger piece of the pie. This was his way of counting his blessings instead of his money, and giving his fans the impetus to do the same. Only someone who doesn’t know Jake Owen would see this as out of character for him. He isn’t the life of the party with an occasional aha moment. He’s serious about connecting with people through his music and building a camaraderie that can celebrate life’s good times and lift you up during the lows. It’s exactly why his legion of loyal fans always wants him to stay and sing just one more song.

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Now the promoter don’t mind

And the union don’t mind

If we take a little time

And we leave it all behind, and sing

One more song

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     All of the Jake Owen fans I’ve spoken to lament that time at the end of the show when they have to say good-bye to their favorite headliner until next time. They’d stay all night if he’d just keep singing. I asked Tim, the driver of one of his trucks, if he gets to watch all the shows. He said he could if he wanted to, and running on empty jackson browne[1]he did for much of the first few months of the tour. Unfortunately, show time is when he can try and get some rest before the all nighter he’s about to pull. As soon as the show ends, the work will begin again for the drivers and the crew who have waited patiently all day to tear down and pack up what you hoped would never leave. Tim told me that it takes a couple of hours to complete the process known as load out, generally putting them back on the road about 2-2:30am. JACKSON BROWNE immortalized “The Load Out” in a song by that name as a tribute to his roadies and his fans. It’s a song Jake Owen would appreciate for the 220px-The_Load_Out-Stay_12-inch_45_Promo_Label_Jackson_Browne[1]sentiments expressed and one his driver, Tim Burnham, proudly made me aware of. It’s a song I grew up singing, without ever really paying attention to what the lyrics were talking about. We all go to concerts, love the shows we see, and go home, never giving a second thought to what happens after we leave. As they wait for the load out to be complete, Tim tells me that their longest stretch on the road without getting home was eight and half weeks. It’s becoming a more common occurrence among drivers on tour, due to the increasing demand on the artists to stay out on the road longer in order to make ends meet financially. Jake didn’t schedule stops in Canada during the rough winter season but there are plenty of other acts who did. If that trend continues, we may soon see the ice road truckers sign on to safely deliver the goods to igloo amphitheaters up north. Welcome to 21st century On Tour Logistics!

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Oh, won’t you stay

Just a little bit longer?

Please, please, please

Say you will, say you will

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     Once the trucks are loaded and the checklist is complete, there’s no time for delay. Tim and the other drivers have a specific routine they follow when pulling out of a venue in search of the next. Tim’s truck will be the last to close it’s 1780899_795579157119951_1677395834_n[1]door after the final cargo is loaded, but the first to signify departure. The procedure they follow exiting the parking area has become one of superstition among them. Disregard it, and your safety could be in peril. Their official tour song is one recorded in 1984 by Ronnie Milsap called “Prisoner of the Highway.” Tim started playing it over the truck CB when they rolled out early in the tour season and it stuck. It talks about the freedom of the open road and the need to pacify a restless soul. The lyrics are something that resonates with the drivers and makes them appreciate the job they have. Tim said Jake’s crew members and mpGK3y3xxL2LGz6s9lvg2oA[1]tour drivers are a great bunch of guys. They all like the work and despite the fact that it is work, they have a great time doing it. Sounds like a philosophy Jake adheres to. The alternative to tour driving for many of the guys would be hauling freight. It’s an option they’re ok with, but one they’d rather avoid if a touring slot is available. These assignments are strictly based on a single tour schedule. There is no long term contract that guarantees you’ll be back with a particular artist when the next tour begins. True to Jake’s loyal character, he’s already said he wants the same guys back with him next year and though they know that anything can happen, they’re thrilled by the prospect of getting to stay on with Jake. He seems to have that affect on people. Anyone who’s spent any time around him just wants to stay a little longer. Leaving the BMI parking lot in the wee morning hours after JAKE’S BEACH PARTY, just after “Prisoner of the Highway” ends,  driver Jeff Richardson will come on the radio with a weather report for their intended destination. Stay as they might like, this is the green light that it’s time to move on.

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Oh, won’t you stay

Just a little bit longer?

Oh please, please stay

Just a little bit more

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     For everything we know about our favorite artists, there’s an equal amount we don’t know. The same could be said about the shows they put on and what 10429832_836186326392567_529760426835927398_n[1]went into the production of that concert we’re dying to see. We pass the trucks, see them parked at the venue, marvel at the stage setup and technology used at the show, without ever thinking about the crew and the skills involved in making all that concert magic happen. Just the logistics involved in getting everyone and everything delivered safely to each tour stop location is a minefield that must be traversed daily. The production materials have to arrive AND work to 14844683937_0cc14914a9_zmake that band look and sound as good as they can. Just as important is the safe delivery of the artists/musicians. Without them, you’ll be getting a refund (and probably be unhappy). The demands of touring, with the expectation of perfection in every performance, will take a toll after a long season that just keeps getting longer. As the headliner, all of this expectation from the fans, those counting on you for a job, and the label you’re signed to, will fall squarely on your shoulders 24/7. Add family responsibilities and a personal life to that, and anyone who can reasonably pull this off should be named entertainer of the year!

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Now the promoter don’t mind

And the roadies don’t mind

If we take a little time

And we leave it all behind, and sing

One more song

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     Artists live for the concert experience. The pinnacle of that is being a headliner. By the time they’ve reached that lofty place, a lot has gone into the making of the music that will be played and the relationship the artist has built 14840731778_e187509a2a_z with the fans. Fans love a great concert, and when it’s their favorite artist, they always want them to stay and sing just one more song. That’s what encores were made for. If you stumbled upon JAKE OWEN’S BEACH PARTY and didn’t know who he was, you might make certain assumptions. As you were walking past, you’d see what he looked like, hear a sound byte of his music, and hastily pass judgment. Depending on what part of the concert you saw, your opinion of Jake Owen would be different. If you were there for the entire event, 14844571838_97e91a1bcb_zyou would have a better understanding of Jake, his music, and his character. Bill McClintic‘s pictures from that night captured more than just Kodak moments from the show. When you photograph Jake, you get as much of his personality in those shots as his physical features. His character is present in every picture. Jake doesn’t take the stage at an event like this with 40,000+ fans screaming at him and think ‘Wow! Aren’t I cool?’ He 15026676582_819dc0044a_zthinks there’s nobody cooler than his fans…each and every one of them. Jake relates to people on a personal level, and his music is the expression of that connection. When Jake commits to a tour stop or an event, you don’t get an ‘I’m just passing through’ representation of him. You get ALL of him. He doesn’t hide away in his bus until show time. He immerses himself in the opportunities to leave something behind besides just empty beer cans and a half-hearted “thanks for coming.” He’ll invite some fans to lunch and pay the bill. Being the health 14844573907_c7614a37ec_znut he is, he likes to see kids eat, especially on his dime. If he has beer, he’ll find someone to share it with. If he’s got a night off on tour, he’ll ask at the local bar if he can play a free show for whoever shows up that night. Find a group of middle-aged women celebrating their birthdays, and he’ll leave tickets for the show and invite them on stage. Jake can be silly, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t be equally serious. He makes music that takes you where he’s been and shows you where his heart is. Music is a gift in his life and it’s one he RIVERSIDE CAFE JAKEcontinuously pays forward. The trucks bearing the Days of Gold banner will continue across America like a rolling stone. They’ll make stops in cities and the country alike before ending the tour in Jake’s home town of Vero Beach, Florida. He may look a little worse for wear when he gets there, but they won’t judge him for that. He’ll make the rounds, say hello to everyone, and probably play a free show back where he started at the RIVERSIDE Cafe. The visit will end too soon. They’ll wish he could stay, and he will too….just a little bit longer.

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From WAYNorthofNashvilleBev Miskus

Bringing the stories of country music to life!

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P.S. The live version of Jackson Browne’s song, “The Load Out,” was recorded at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD, on August 27, 1977. Jake will be playing at Merriweather Post on October 4-5. I bought those tickets long before I decided to write this article or had any idea that his drivers had a connection to the song. All in favor of Jake playing that song there…it’s overwhelmingly YES JAKE!!!

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All of the photographs from Jake Owen’s 2014 Beach Party in Nashville, TN, appear courtesy of Bill McClintic of 90 East Photography. For professional inquiries, please refer to the contact information on his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/90eastphotography/346105888881079

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All of the photographs of Jake’s tour trucks and drivers appear courtesy of Tim Burnham (On Tour Logistics).

Special thanks to Tim Burnham and Bill and Patti McClintic for their ENORMOUS contributions to this article! Without them, the facts and event photographs would not exist!

Jake’s band members provided not only the AWESOME music for this concert but the rock star poses for the pictures!! They are: Dave Wallace (guitar), Derek Williams (guitar and whatever else needs playing), Rob Emerson (bass), Joe Arick (keys, guitar, harmonica), and Myron Howell (drums).

JAKE OWEN – WHAT WE AIN’T GOT – DAYS OF GOLD

Download Jake’s new single! Only .69 NOW on iTunes! HERE

Better yet – download the whole album! HERE

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Jake’s set design for the Days of Gold Tour was inspired by the Riverside Cafe in his home town of Vero Beach, Florida. Jake got his start in the music business here and will always call it home. To see what went into the making of Jake’s set and his music career, read my article about the FABULOUS RIVERSIDE CAFE: http://waynorthofnashville.com/riverside-cafe-vero-beach-fl-sets-the-stage-for-jake-owens-days-of-gold-tour/

There’s nothing better than LIVE music and nothing worse than a loved one not returning home from that great concert. Drink responsibly. Enjoy the show. Drive safe. Thanks for the reminder Budweiser!!

©2014Bev Miskus