Ricky Skaggs w/Kip Moore, Paul Brandt, The Whites, Easton Corbin, Bill Anderson, The McClymonts & Dustin LynchCountry
A life full of music is the story of Ricky Skaggs. By age twenty-one, he was already considered a “recognized master” of one of America’s most demanding art forms, but his career took him in other directions, catapulting him to popularity and success in the mainstream of country music. His life’s path has taken him to various musical genres, from where it all began in bluegrass music, to striking out on new musical journeys, while still leaving his musical roots intact.
The year 2012 marks the 53rd year since Ricky struck his first chords on a mandolin, and this 14-time Grammy Award winner continues to do his part to lead the recent roots revival in music. With 12 consecutive Grammy-nominated classics behind him, all from his own Skaggs Family Records label (Bluegrass Rules! in 1998, Ancient Tones in 1999, History of the Future in 2001, Soldier of the Cross, Live at the Charleston Music Hall, and Big Mon: The Songs of Bill Monroe in 2003, Brand New Strings in 2005, Instrumentals in 2007, Salt of the Earth with The Whites in 2008, Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass: Tribute to 1946 and 1947 in 2009 and Ricky Skaggs Solo: Songs My Dad Loved along with Mosaic in 2010), the diverse and masterful tones made by the gifted Skaggs come from a life dedicated to playing music that is both fed by the soul and felt by the heart.
Ricky was born on July 18, 1954 in Cordell, Kentucky, and received his first mandolin at the age of five after his father, Hobert, heard him harmonizing with his mother from across the house as he played with his toys. Two weeks after teaching him the G, C and D chords, Hobert returned from working out of town shocked to see his young son making chord changes and singing along. He soon earned a reputation among the locals in his community. When the legendary Bill Monroe came to Martha, Kentucky for a performance, the crowd wouldn’t let up until “Little Ricky Skaggs” got up to play. The father of bluegrass called six-year-old Skaggs up and placed his own mandolin around his neck, adjusting the strap to fit his small frame. No one could have imagined what a defining moment that would be in the life of the young prodigy. By age seven, Skaggs had made his Grand Ole Opry debut and performed with bluegrass legends Flatt & Scruggs on their popular syndicated television show, for which he earned his first paycheck for a musical performance.
In 1971, he entered the world of professional music full-time with his friend, the late country singer, Keith Whitley, when the two young musicians were invited to join the band of bluegrass patriarch Ralph Stanley. Ricky soon began to build a reputation for creativity and excitement through live appearances and recordings with acts such as J.D. Crowe & the New South. He performed on the band’s 1975 debut album for Rounder Records, which is widely regarded as one of the most influential bluegrass albums ever made. A stint as a bandleader with Boone Creek followed, bringing the challenges of leadership while giving him further recording and performing experience.
In the late 1970’s, Ricky turned his attention to country music. Though still in his 20’s, the wealth of experience and talent he possessed served him well, first as a member of Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band and later as an individual recording artist on his own. With the release of Waitin’ for the Sun to Shine in 1981, Skaggs reached the top of the country charts and remained there throughout most of the 1980’s, resulting in a total of 12 #1 hits. In 1982, he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry, the youngest to ever be inducted at that time. As his popularity soared, he garnered eight awards from the Country Music Association (CMA), including “Entertainer of the Year” in 1985, four Grammy Awards and dozens of other honors. These achievements also placed him front and center in the neo-traditionalist movement, bringing renewed vitality and prominence to a sound that had been somewhat subdued by the commercialization of the ’Urban Cowboy’ fad. Renowned guitarist and producer, Chet Atkins, even credited Skaggs with “single-handedly” saving country music.
In 1997, after Ricky’s then-current recording contract was coming to an end, he made the decision to establish his own record label – Skaggs Family Records. Since then, Skaggs and his band Kentucky Thunder have released an amazing 12 consecutive Grammy-nominated classics (8 of which went on to earn the revered award) while also opening the label to a variety of other musical artists, all the time keeping emphasis on bluegrass and other forms of roots music. Since then, Ricky and Skaggs Family Records have had the privilege of working with many musical talents, including the Del McCoury Band, Jerry and Tammy Sullivan, Blue Highway, The Whites, Mountain Heart, Melonie Cannon, Ryan Holladay, Keith Sewell, Cherryholmes and Cadillac Sky.
Ricky’s first release for Skaggs Family Records, Bluegrass Rules!, set a new standard for bluegrass, breaking new sales records in the genre, winning Skaggs his sixth Grammy Award and earning the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) Album of the Year Award. In 1999, his second all-bluegrass album, Ancient Tones, won a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album – his second consecutive Grammy in that same category. Just one year later, Ricky won his eighth Grammy Award in the Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album category for Soldier of the Cross, his first all-gospel project with his band Kentucky Thunder.
Ricky made further progress with the release of his fourth bluegrass album in 2000, Big Mon: The Songs of Bill Monroe, a project which featured an all-star cast of musicians ranging from Dolly Parton, Patty Loveless and Travis Tritt to Joan Osborne, John Fogerty and Bruce Hornsby, and celebrated the music and the life of Ricky’s mentor, Bill Monroe. Big Mon received much critical acclaim, including a Grammy nomination for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals. The album was re-released by Lyric Street Records in 2002 under a new name, Ricky Skaggs and Friends Sing the Songs of Bill Monroe. His fifth bluegrass album, History of the Future (2001), a timeless collection of both traditional bluegrass standards and newly conceived acoustic gems received rave reviews and industry accolades, including a Grammy nomination for Best Bluegrass Album and an IBMA nomination for Album of the Year, once again placing Skaggs among the leading innovators in the genre.
Skaggs’ first all-live album with Kentucky Thunder, Live at the Charleston Music Hall (2003) led to an IBMA Award for Instrumental Group of the Year – an award Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder has taken home 8 times in the last decade. The decision to record a live album was an obvious one for Skaggs. From a string of high-profile tour dates with the Dixie Chicks in 2000, to his position as host of the unprecedented “All*Star Bluegrass Celebration” which aired nationwide on PBS in 2002, to his participation in the wildly successful 41-city ’Down from the Mountain’ tour – Ricky has become one of bluegrass’ most dynamic and sought-after live performers.
He counts the current configuration of Kentucky Thunder among the best group of musicians he has ever worked with. “This group of guys meets my approval every night,” Ricky says. “Each and every one of the pickers in Kentucky Thunder totally amazes me in every show…and that, to me, outweighs any award we could ever win.” The all-star lineup of Kentucky Thunder includes Andy Leftwich (fiddle), Cody Kilby (lead guitar), Paul Brewster (tenor vocals, rhythm guitar), Eddie Faris (baritone vocals, rhythm guitar) Justin Moses ((banjo, background vocals) and Scott Mulvahill (bass, bass vocals). Live at the Charleston Music Hall was honored in 2004 with a Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group for the Harley Allen-penned track, “A Simple Life.”
In 2005, Ricky earned his 10th career Grammy (Best Bluegrass Album) for Brand New Strings – a beautiful collection of music featuring four Skaggs originals as well as several tunes by some of his most admired contemporaries, including Harley Allen, Guy Clark and Shawn Camp. In 2006, Skaggs was honored with a Grammy Award – this time in the Best Musical Album for Children category – for his contribution to Songs from the Neighborhood: the Music of Mister Rogers. Greater success followed with the release of Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder Instrumentals, an album of all-original, all-instrumental material in the fall of 2006. Praised by fans and critics alike as a landmark album for Skaggs, Instrumentals debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s bluegrass album chart and earned Ricky his 12th career Grammy Award (Best Bluegrass Album).
Cross pollination has been a mainstay throughout Ricky’s career, from his weekly collaborations with various artists as host of The Nashville Network’s Monday Night Concerts in the 1990’s to his recent pairings with Bruce Hornsby and The Whites. Released in March of 2007, Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby (Sony/Legacy) drew from the deep roots in mountain music – adding piano and Hornsby’s inimitable songwriting to the core bluegrass lineup of mandolin, guitar, bass, fiddle and banjo. A major ’CMT Crossroads’ special coincided with the album’s release.
His next recorded project, released in September of 2007 on Skaggs Family Records, was a literal family affair. After years of blending their voices from the living room to the stage, Ricky Skaggs and The Whites teamed up for their first collaborative gospel album, Salt of the Earth, which resulted in a 13th career Grammy Award for Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album, followed by a Gospel Music Association Dove Award for Bluegrass Recorded Album of the Year and Inspirational Country Music Awards for Musician of the Year as well as Mainstream Country Artist of the Year and Inspirational Bluegrass Artist of the Year (with The Whites).
In 2008, Skaggs paid tribute to the man he has often referred to as his “musical father”, Bill Monroe, and the original lineup of the Bluegrass Boys (Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt, Chubby Wise and Howard Watts) with the release of Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass: Tribute to 1946 and 1947, earning a 14th career Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album.
A musical father in his own right, Skaggs continued on the full circle path with the addition of a ReIssue Series of his groundbreaking country music masterworks to the Skaggs Family Records catalog in 2009. Beginning with 1982’s Highways & Heartaches, and followed by 1981’s Waitin’ for the Sun to Shine and 1983’s Don’t Cheat in Our Hometown, the ReIssue Series will include nine albums total and includes bonus retrospectives with each release, which feature Ricky, in his own words, sharing never-before-told stories about the making of each project.
Skaggs’ first-ever solo album, Ricky Skaggs Solo: Songs My Dad Loved (2009), celebrated the man that caused him to fall in love with music – his father, Hobert Skaggs. He elaborates, “If I could’ve gotten my dad into the studio, this is how I would’ve wanted him to sound.” Playing every instrument and singing every note on the album, Ricky brought raw, emotional honesty to the songs. By coming home to the music that meant so much to him as a child, Ricky tapped into a wellspring of passion that is channeled into every tune, as though he willed himself back to his family’s house in Kentucky. Solo was honored in the American roots field with a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Folk Album in 2010.
Ricky Skaggs’ album, Mosaic (2010), marked a return to a full band sound that mixed elements of Country music with Beatles-esque melody and lyrics that spoke to Skaggs’ faith, “making music that is in my head and in my heart,” as Ricky said. Grammy winning songwriter/producer Gordon Kennedy, who co-wrote Eric Clapton’s “Change the World,” was instrumental as co-producer and writer. This most special album hooks the heart, as the sounds invite you in to take notice and come closer. They have blended their talents and love of music with their love for the Lord to create this distinctive collaboration of writing and talent, unparalleled in strength of genius. The song, “Return to Sender” from Mosaic was nominated for a Grammy for Best Gospel Song, and the album was a contender for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album at the 53rd Grammy Awards, receiving major critical acclaim.
Marking Ricky’s 50th year in music was the release of Country Hits Bluegrass Style (2011), a compilation of many of Skaggs’ #1 country hits and fan favorites played in a bluegrass style. Combining his country and bluegrass roots along with Ricky’s impeccable tenor voice, his eight time IBMA Instrumental Band of the Year, Kentucky Thunder, and some of Ricky’s original award-winning country band alumni together with special friends added to the magic of this release.
Long awaited by country and bluegrass music fans alike, Music To My Ears (2012) is an exciting new offering by Ricky. Fresh, new bluegrass tunes co-written by Skaggs along with a brand new instrumental mark this CD in distinction among all others, while new takes on older bluegrass standards add to its charm. The album features a new duet with Ricky Skaggs and Barry Gibb (of Bee Gees fame) on deeply moving “Soldier’s Son,” along with new bluegrass treasure “You Can’t Hurt Ham,” inspired by a true story of Mr. Bill Monroe.
Ricky Skaggs has often said that he is “just trying to make a living” playing the music he loves. But it’s clear that his passion for it puts him in the position to bring his lively, distinctively American form of music out of isolation and into the ears and hearts of audiences across the country and around the world. Ricky Skaggs is always forging ahead with cross-cultural, genre-bending musical ideas and inspirations.
Singer-songwriter Kip Moore combines a raw and rustic voice with compelling lyrics of honesty to create a unique sound that’s simultaneously hypnotic and edgy. His voice is weathered by life’s detours and disappointments and strengthened by his dreams and determination. His music is infused with relentless intensity, both of passion and frustration.
The boy who grew up daydreaming about life outside of the small town of Tifton, Ga., became a man who has been continually inspired by Bruce Springsteen and Kris Kristofferson to paint vivid portraits with his lyrics.
“I am not drawn to the fairytale kind of love,” says Kip, who had a hand in writing every song on his debut album. “I am drawn to the real-life experiences between a woman and a man. I try to sing about the way it is, but yet at the same time, what you can hope for between a couple. I don’t intend to paint of picture of what it’s really not.”
His music powerfully captures some of the contradictions that he grapples with personally. Although he’s from a large family and enjoys musical collaborations and performing onstage, he’s an introvert who is often more comfortable being alone. “There’s a combativeness to the music too, a fight within,” he says. “With ’Faith When I Fall,’ I know how bad I need that spiritual realm, but yet I find myself on this other end a lot of times.”
Despite its edge, his music remains desperately optimistic. “I am hoping for what I have yet to become,” he says. “I feel like it’s hopeful for what I’ve yet reached, how I look forward to feeling, but I haven’t gotten there yet.
“I have truly lived my music to a sense, even the milestones I haven’t reached yet,” he says. “I have been in those moments. I’ve been at those crossroads with a girl: ’Are we going to take that next step?’ I look forward to taking that next step, but I haven’t wanted to yet. I look forward to being ready for that.”
He was born in Tifton, near the Florida line, and was one of six children, the youngest boy who had three younger sisters. “You had to make your own fun, for sure,” he says of Tifton. “I had a lot of time for daydreaming. It was a great town, but I dreamed about getting out. I do enjoy going back now.”
His father was a golf pro and his mother was a painter who used anything handy for a canvas, whether it was cake plates or baby crates. She also taught piano and played the church organ. “I can remember sleeping in the pews,” he recalls. “She would bring us blankets and give us a coloring book and we’d sit there while she played.”
Weekends were often spent driving to the beach with his father for fishing expeditions. “He would play a lot of Jackson Browne, Willie Nelson, Bob Seger, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen,” he says. “As early as I can remember, I always gravitated toward lyrics. Even when I hadn’t lived enough to understand then, they still shaped me. “
During high school, he secretly began playing his brother’s guitar because he was intimidated by the talent of his mother and older brother. “I would play when nobody was around, just figuring out stuff, watching his hands and trying to do the same thing.”
He played point guard for Wallace State’s basketball team and also played on its golf team in Hanceville, Ala., for two years and then transferred to Valdolsta State University on a golf scholarship. He wrote songs daily and joined a band that performed throughout the South, providing him with all of his income. “I was one of those kinds who didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life,” he says. “I didn’t know music was an option. Maybe it was one of those things where I didn’t quite believe in myself enough.”
Although he devoted every free moment to music during college, his parents still didn’t know about his musical activities. “They were all shocked when they found out about it because they didn’t know I could sing or play,” he says.
After graduation and a short stint as a bartender on St. Simon’s Island, he moved to Hawaii on a whim with just a backpack, a surfboard and a friend. They slept on an airport bench the first night and then lucked into a hut that was $50 a month. They would walk or hitchhike the mile to the beach daily. After six months of this tropical paradise, Kip thought he had found his permanent home until his friend encouraged him to pursue songwriting as a living.
“I didn’t know a whole lot about the world of songwriting,” he says. “I just did it for my own enjoyment. We talked about Nashville and I ended up saying, ’I’m going to give it a shot.’ I flew back home and told my folks. They thought I was crazy. Now they’ll say different, that they knew all along.”
He drove to Nashville on Jan. 1, 2004 in an old black Nissan truck that contained one bag and his guitar. He immersed himself in the songwriting community, observing songwriters’ rounds for two years and honing his craft before gaining the confidence to join in. After four years of performing locally, he caught the attention of Creative Artist Agency’s Mark Dennis, who called Universal Music Group Nashville’s Joe Fisher. Not only did Joe’s encounter lead to his record deal with MCA Nashville, but it also brought about his introduction to songwriter Brett James, who produced Kip’s debut album.
“Brett gave me the freedom to find who I was as an artist, the freedom for writing a different kind of thing, a different kind of melody and lyric,” he says. “He gave me room to grow.”
He also found important relationships with songwriters Dan Couch, Scott Steppakoff, Westin Davis and Kiefer Thompson, two of whom didn’t have publishing deals when he began writing with them. “There was definitely a special thing when we got in the room together,” Kip says. “I got offers to write with a lot of the bigger guns in town, but I enjoyed what I was doing with them. They were open to my ideas of being different.”
And different his debut project is, as evidenced by the album’s first single, “Mary Was the Marrying Kind,” the story of the one who got away. The dreamy and spell-binding song is the true story of one of Kip’s friends, who returned to his hometown after about six years and saw the once tall, lanky girl who had since come into her own and become a model.
“It’s the story of what every man in this world goes through at some point,” he says. “It’s the story of the one that got away that you should have paid attention to. Every town, every city, everybody knows one. Every girl believes they are Mary.”
The anthemic “Drive Me Crazy” is the story of two troubled teens who find a safe harbor in each other, if only for a few fleeting moments. “They are the getaway car for each other from everyday life,” he says. “When they’re together, what they live in is in the rear-view mirror and it’s just one big infatuation love story that lasts for a very short time.
With its irresistible bass line and drums, “Up All Night” is about continuing to live life to its fullest. “’Up All Night’ is the story of not wanting to give into your age and how life is supposed to be lived once you reach a certain age,” he says.
When Kip plays shows, he’s often asked for advice by aspiring songwriters. “Everybody’s experience is different, but I do believe it has to be the only thing,” he says. “I don’t think it can be a gray line. Either you want it and there’s nothing else or it’s not going to happen.”
For instance, Kip was offered a sales position with an enticing salary, but it required working six days a week, leaving no time for creating music. “You come to the crossroads: do you really want this? Are you willing to sacrifice everything, including relationships? I can’t tell you how many relationships have been doomed from the get-go because of this.
“It only took me a few minutes to decline it. It’s such a risk and it’s an alone feeling – you feel like you’re on an island by yourself – but it’s worth every single minute. Had I taken that job, I wouldn’t be sitting here today.”
Paul Brandt is the most awarded male Canadian country artist in history. Although his roots started far from stardom, today his fan base, music and philanthropic efforts reach small towns, across big cities and beyond international borders.
He was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada (July 21, 1972) and spent much of his time growing up in Airdrie, located just north of Calgary’s city limits. His childhood was filled with music - from age six he sang gospel music and a cappella at the family church. At thirteen, Paul was handed a guitar – and from that moment, he was hooked. He started using his creative outlet of poetry, putting it to music and performing for family and friends. After a gentle nudge by an uncle, he began entering music contests and talent shows, including the “Youth Talent Showdown” at the Calgary Stampede. It wasn’t long before record executives took notice of his talent.
During this time, he received his Registered Nurse designation, and started working at the Alberta Children’s Hospital with the hopes of eventually finishing his degree and applying for medical school. However, life had other plans for him – he soon signed with Warner/Reprise in Nashville, and his professional music career took off.
His first big break was in 1996 with the single “My Heart has a History”, which hit number one in Canada and made him the first Canadian male country artist to reach the Billboard Top Ten in the US since Hank Snow in 1974. A Gold (US) and Triple Platinum (Canada) selling album, “Calm Before the Storm”, followed.
The chart-topping song “I Do” was written by Paul for the wedding of a colleague. Although he’d left the task to the last moment, the lyrics flowed out of him in a matter of minutes. Soon after the release of the song, Paul said “I Do” to the love of his life, Elizabeth (Peterson) Brandt. Within a month of their marriage, Elizabeth (Liz) was on the tour bus with Paul, and has since been a huge part of his career, both as a supportive wife, and as a back-up singer in his band.
After nine years in Nashville, Paul and Liz began to feel the pull of home. Paul made the decision to leave his record label, go out on his own, and start Brand-T Records. Leaving the security of a major recording label was a terrifying leap of faith for him but the move paid off - every album he has created on the Brand-T label has won an ’Album of the Year’ award.
His dreams of eventually becoming a Doctor came true as well - For his outstanding achievements in music and humanitarianism, he received an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from the University of Lethbridge. He has also received an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Briercrest College and Seminary. Paul has nine tremendously successful albums to his credit to date, and he will launch a new album, entitled “Give It Away”, later in 2011, as well as a box set collection of his music. In July 2011, Paul had the distinct honour of being asked by the Prime Minister’s Office and Calgary Stampede to represent the Country Music industry and perform for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during their tour of Canada.
In addition to his music, Paul also has a strong passion for helping people. He has worked with a number of charities, and his humanitarian pursuits have taken him around the globe, including Ethiopia, Malawi, Uganda, Chile, Belize, South Korea, Bosnia and Cambodia.
2011 also marks the launch of Paul Brandt’s BUILD IT FORWARD, a television documentary series that follows seven families as they create a new home for themselves while building it forward for others. The series is the largest television initiative to date for CMT (Canada), and will go to air on CMT this year.
Through his foundation, The Priceless Gift of Hope Foundation, and other projects, Paul is committed to continuing to make a difference to people of all walks of life, both locally and internationally. He lives with his wife Liz and their two children, Joseph and Lily, on a ranch near Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
The Whites are an American country music vocal group consisting of Buck White and his daughters Sharon and Cheryl. In the 1980s they scored hits with songs including “Pins and Needles” and “When the New Wears Off of Our Love.” Sharon White has been married to Ricky Skaggs since 1982; the couple had their own hit song, “Love Can’t Ever Get Better Than This” (1987). As of 2006, they are regular performers on the Grand Ole Opry program in Nashville, Tennessee.
Mercury Nashville recording artist Easton Corbin is the most successful new artist in country music in the last year. The native of rural Gilchrist County, Fla., is being lauded for his traditional country sound, authentic lyrics and mastery of understatement. USA Today says Easton “is a country music throwback with an easygoing, old-school style.” He is the first country male artist in 17 years to have his first two consecutive singles reach No. 1 -- “A Little More Country Than That” and “Roll With It.” Easton won all of the Breakthrough Artist awards at the 2010 American Country Awards: Artist of the Year: Breakthrough Artist, Single of the Year: Breakthrough Artist and Music Video: Breakthrough Artist for “A Little More Country Than That.” Billboard named him as the Top New Country Artist of 2010.
Bill Anderson has been using that philosophy for almost fifty years to capture the attention of millions of country music fans around the world, en route to becoming a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and one of the most popular, most enduring entertainers of our time.
He’s known, in fact as “Whispering Bill,” a nickname hung on him years ago as a result of his breathy voice and his warm, soft approach to singing a country song. His credentials, however, shout his prominence: One of the most awarded songwriters in the history of country music, a million-selling recording artist many times over, television game show host, network soap opera star, spokesman for a nationwide restaurant chain, and a consummate onstage performer. His back-up group, The Po’ Folks Band, has long been considered one of the finest instrumental and vocal groups in the business.
Since joining forces six years ago, sisters Brooke, Sam and Mollie McClymont have taken the country music world by storm. With their exquisite three-part harmonies, soaring vocals and stunning onstage presence, it’s not surprising that The McClymonts have become the hottest recording and touring act in Australian country music and are fast becoming the talk of the industry in the U.S.
2010 was an amazing year for The McClymonts. In January, they released their sophomore album, Wrapped Up Good, in Australia, achieved Gold sales in ten weeks, and entered the ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) Top 100 Chart at #2 behind Susan Boyle, and #1 on the ARIA Country Chart. The first four singles from the album, “Kick It Up,” “Wrapped Up Good,” “Hearts on Fire,” and “A Women Is A Flame,” all went to #1 on the Country Music Charts in Australia.
In the wake of the release of Wrapped Up Good, their debut album, Chaos and Bright Lights, also went Gold. Additionally in 2010, The McClymonts became the first group to ever host the nationally televised Country Music Awards of Australia.
During 2010-11, the Wrapped Up Good tour sold out all over Australia. As a live act, the group delivers a world-class show that not only has Australian audiences completely captivated, but has also caught the attention of many American country music industry leaders and a number of star performers. The McClymonts have been touring the USA heavily for the last 3 years and have been gathering thousands of new fans every week during their extensive travels and the buzz on this group is getting red hot.
The McClymonts spent four months of 2010 touring the U.S., with the highlight of being invited as special guests of country music sensation Jason Aldean on his fall tour. In addition, they had the opportunity to work with Lady Antebellum and even share the stage with Ozzy Osbourne at the world’s biggest bike festival in Sturgis, South Dakota. The 2010 shows in the U.S. saw The McClymonts performing in front of audiences from 5,000 - 25,000 people, garnering them many new fans while also introducing their first album, “Chaos and Bright Lights”, to the U.S.
“Shhh!” The note on the Bluebird Café’s Facebook page says it all: customers who visit the Nashville songwriters club – instrumental in the development of Garth Brooks, Faith Hill and Kathy Mattea – are expected to keep quiet and listen to the words from some of Music City’s most influential composers.
Listening has an added benefit – it gives the listener a chance to learn.
That’s how singer-songwriter Dustin Lynch used the Bluebird. And he used it intensely. He rented an apartment behind the venue’s back parking lot and literally walked to the Bluebird several times a week to listen and learn about the mysterious art of creating songs from some of Nashville’s most important writers. Don Schlitz (“The Gambler”), Tony Arata (“The Dance”), Paul Overstreet (“Forever And Ever, Amen”) – all are mainstays of the Bluebird legend, and it was at their proverbial feet that he picked up key insights about the writing process.
“I was soaking it in, trying to be a sponge,” Lynch says. “I was mainly trying to hear the story behind the song, how it came about, what it’s really about. There’s something about understanding the songwriter’s realm. You get a little more grip on the way it was written and why it was written and how they got to the finished product.”
That education paid off in a big way for Lynch. He signed with Broken Bow Records – the home of Jason Aldean and sister label to Stoney Creek Records (home to Thompson Square) – and is working with producer Brett Beavers (known for his work with Dierks Bentley) and engineer Luke Wooten (Brad Paisley, Sunny Sweeney) on his debut album with a backlog of his own songs. He’s written that material with a bundle of Music City’s top writers – Dallas Davidson (“Just A Kiss”), Tim Nichols (“Live Like You Were Dying”), Casey Beathard (“Don’t Blink”), Phil O’Donnell (“Back When I Knew It All”) and Steve Bogard (“Prayin’ For Daylight”), to name a few.
But it all goes back to the Bluebird for Lynch, a native of Tullahoma, Tennessee. Influenced in his youth by such stalwart country singers as Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks and Clint Black, Lynch knew the importance of the Bluebird, and he chose his college – David Lipscomb University – in part because it was less than two miles from the club, which proved immensely important in his development.
Lynch auditioned on a Saturday morning for a chance to play its open-mic night the following day. He passed the audition and impressed host Barbara Cloyd so much that she chased him into the parking lot and offered to help him get some footing in the community.
As he began to establish himself at the Bluebird, Lynch got a call from Pete Hartung – manager for singer-songwriter Justin Moore – who had found Dustin’s MySpace page and wanted to get involved. Within weeks, Lynch had a publishing deal, and he made the most of it, writing a staggering 200+ songs in less than two years.
“I’m a workaholic,” he says. “I was getting paid to write songs, so that’s what I did. That’s just the guy I am, if I’m not doing something I get bored, so I was trying to write the best record possible and decided to just get after it as hard as I can.”
Even as a Bluebird visitor, Lynch had made an impression. After he signed his publishing deal, one of the company’s executives persuaded Phil O’Donnell and Casey Beathard to book a co-writing session with the new writer, even though they’d never even heard his name. As soon as he walked through the door, they exploded: “Holy crap, Dustin! We know you!”
But it’s not just physical recognition that Lynch has achieved with his studious approach to songwriting. He combined his fascination with words and melodies with concert skills he developed in high-school bands and playing the southeastern club circuit. That combination has made him one of country’s artists to watch, a performer who’s written his own mix of party songs and ballads with a unique perspective. It’s his own viewpoint, honed from watching the world, and watching the experts.
It’s all there, waiting for anyone else willing to…