The Del McCoury Band w/Exile, Thomas Rhett, Jim Ed Brown, Striking Matches, The Grascals, Andy Griggs & Connie SmithCountry
The Del McCoury BandCountry
Exile can most notably be remembered among rock fans for their one-hit wonder of 1978 "Kiss You All Over." It was in the early 80's when the Kentucky native band took a different path and started to focus on country music. In the year of 1977 a deal was made with Atco and Exile was able to land their first chart entry with the hit "Try It On."
In 1980, after having returned to Kentucky, Exile picked up a new lead singer. With a fresh vocalist Exile revamped their music style to become more of a country band. By this time, Exile had signed with Epic and had produced the first Top 40 hit on the country charts with "High Cost of Leaving."
Through the years Exile landed more top charting hits including "Woke Me Up in Love," "Give Me One More Chance," Crazy for Your Love," and "I Can't Get Close Enough." By 1990, Exile had their final Top Ten hits with "Nobody's Talking" and "Yet," and in 1993 the group split. In 1996, former members J.P. Penning and Les Taylor joined together to tour with a new Exile lineup.
It’s futile to fight destiny. Plenty of people do, of course, battle against their future, but if something is truly inevitable, fighting just delays the outcome. Funny thing about destiny. If something is truly designed to occur – particularly a career choice – the path is often extraordinarily easy once the resistance is dropped.
Just ask Thomas Rhett. The singer-songwriter spent most of his teens figuring out what, other than music, he could do for a career. Kinesiology, business, anatomy, media – anything but music. None of those rather ordinary pursuits seemed to work out. But a songwriting deal? Heck, Thomas Rhett stumbled into that. And nine months later, he had a song on Jason Aldean’s My Kinda Party, a double-platinum project that became the best-selling country album of 2011. A recording contract? Thomas Rhett auditioned for at least seven record companies, and every one of them wanted to sign him. Valory – the home of Reba McEntire, Brantley Gilbert, Jewel and Justin Moore – won out, and now it’s seemingly just a matter of time before the general public discovers the quirky word jumbles and infectious grooves that had Music Row salivating over Thomas Rhett’s. The one that, in retrospect, seems as if it were always supposed to happen. Even Thomas Rhett doesn’t completely understand it.
“I don’t have a clue where it’s going to go or where it’ll end up, but the journey is cool enough for me,” he muses. “I’m here for the ride and to entertain people.”
And entertain he does. His first single, “Something To Do With My Hands,” reveals Thomas Rhett as a solid country guy with a distinct urban streak. Other tracks from his debut show someone who’s clever enough to rhyme “Ryman” with “diamond,” who mulls chatting with Jesus over beer, who throws AC/DC hard-rock chants and Coolio hip-hop phrasing into songs that are otherwise country. It’s as if Roger Miller had been reincarnated and gone on a songwriting retreat in the ’hood.
“Country, rock and hip-hop were what I was raised on,” Thomas Rhett says. “It’s a strange combination, but it all leaks into what I write.” Thus, Thomas Rhett mixes burning slide guitar, Southern drawl and Little Feat-ish rhythms in “Whatcha Got In That Cup”; redneck lyrics, crunchy chords and a reference to hard-core rapper DMX in “All-American Middle Class White Boy”; and a magnetic brew of Robert Johnson blues, Appalachian harmonica and Common hip-hop phrasing in “Front Porch Junkie.”
Odd as that blend might seem, Thomas Rhett’s twisted sonic concoction is part of a natural progression, one that saw him exposed to tons of music by a famous father whose own rocky experiences with the music business made Thomas Rhett wary of investing his talents in such an emotionally difficult vocation.
Thomas’ full name – Thomas Rhett Akins Jr. – forever connects him with his dad, Rhett Akins, who earned a trio of Top 20 hits in the mid-1990s. Those songs – including the Top 5 “That Ain’t My Truck” and the No. 1 single “Don’t Get Me Started” – made an indelible impression, inspiring several other southern Georgians, such as Luke Bryan and ace songwriter Dallas Davidson, to pursue their own country ambitions.
Concert tours took Rhett Akins away from home often, beginning just a year or two before Thomas Rhett enrolled in school. But there was no father-son rebellion in the Akins household. Despite his tour schedule, Dad made it a point to be there for his son’s football games. And Thomas Rhett loved his father’s music – “I was five, jamming out to his records, going to kindergarten,” he recalls.
Thomas Rhett went on the road with the elder Akins, too. Sometimes his dad would bring the kid out to play drums during the encore at his shows. And there was a period when Thomas Rhett was eight or nine that he popped on stage to cover Will Smith.
“I came out in a Green Bay Packers toboggan, a big shirt and baggy pants, and rapped ’Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,’” he remembers.
There were other perks. Thomas Rhett went to Reba McEntire’s Halloween parties. And he once got help on his English homework from some guy named Blake Shelton. Seems glamorous from the outside, but the entertainment business can be ruthless. And the good times soon soured for his dad. Rhett Akins eventually rebounded, but in the meantime, that period in his dad’s career soured Thomas Rhett on that pursuit.
“My whole life,” he insists, “I swore I was never going to do music.” But that destiny thing kept guiding him in that direction. For starters, Thomas Rhett took up drums during junior high in a band called the High Heeled Flip Flops.
“We were a punk-rock band, there were four of us and we were terrible,” he laughs. “Our lead singer sang in a British punk accent, and we all dyed our hair black. My Uncle Eli, who does work for Zac Brown now, came into Nashville and we recorded our first record in my dad’s living room.”
Thomas Rhett’s focus, though, remained on a more conventional future. He played sports in high school, and ripped up his knee in one major accident. That set his thoughts on kinesiology – the study of human movement – when he enrolled at David Lipscomb University in Nashville. He soon changed his mind about kinesiology and shifted direction – in fact, he ran through four different majors at David Lipscomb, none of which quite fit. Meanwhile, a friend had roped him into playing a frat party at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, which led to more frat parties – at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and the University of Georgia in Athens. In the process, he was able to mesh those seemingly disparate parts of his musical influences: country, hip-hop, classic rock and modern rock.
“Frat parties can be awesome or tragic,” he says. “Those dudes just get so drunk, and they get on stage with you and take the mic from you. All of a sudden, you’re at the back of the stage and just playing so they can have a good time.”
Helping them have a good time is, of course, what the gig is about. And Thomas Rhett picked up that ability in short order. He also discovered there was a whole culture of kids who’d been raised on the same improbable mix of musical cultures – kids who had been looking for someone like Thomas Rhett, or Brantley Gilbert, or Jason Aldean, who could put all those influences together.
“Those are the kids that are the trend setters,” Thomas Rhett says. “Those kids are the ones downloading music on their iPod, jamming it in their car and playing it with their friends. Those people become loyal, and they want to be the people that said they found you first.” Nevertheless, Thomas Rhett didn’t take any of that music thing seriously until his dad talked him into doing a one-time show. Rhett Akins had reinvented himself quite successfully as a songwriter – in fact, he would become BMI’s Country Songwriter of the Year in 2011. And Rhett enlisted Thomas Rhett to open at a music-industry showcase for singer-songwriter Frankie Ballard. There was no pay for the gig – and Thomas Rhett got a parking ticket while loading his equipment into the venue. But it did pay off in other ways. EMI Music’s Ben Vaughn liked what he heard and asked Thomas Rhett after the show if he’d be interested in a publishing deal.
“Really!? I don’t know what that is,” Thomas Rhett says. “Well, if it pays more than me laying hardwood floor, then I’m in.”
In February 2010, Thomas Rhett signed with EMI and soon had his first co-writing session with his dad and Bobby Pinson, who’s written songs for Toby Keith and Sugarland. In short order, he was writing with the likes of Craig Wiseman (“Live Like You Were Dying”), Luke Laird (“Undo It”), Lee Thomas Miller (“You’re Gonna Miss This”) and Chris Stapleton (“Love’s Gonna Make It Alright”).
Things happened quickly. Aldean cut Thomas Rhett’s “I Ain’t Ready To Quit” for My Kinda Party, which was released in November 2010 – just eight months after Thomas Rhett signed his publishing deal. Even then, Vaughn was already taking Thomas Rhett around Music Row to play acoustic auditions as an artist in record-company conference rooms. And they always got some interest.
When he played for the Big Machine Label Group, which includes The Valory Music Co., it took only three songs before President and CEO Scott Borchetta announced he wanted Thomas Rhett on the roster.
“Scott doesn’t mess around,” Thomas Rhett says. “The next day, my lawyer called and said Big Machine had made an offer.”
That also gave Thomas Rhett the reins to make an album. They teamed him with producer Jay Joyce, who’s worked as a producer and/or guitarist with Eric Church, Cage The Elephant and Miranda Lambert. The results on Thomas Rhett’s debut are a rhythmic, grooving, infectious amalgam of styles that appreciates country’s roots and challenges its perceived limitations at the same time.
The music was captured at Joyce’s home studio, which provided a loose, informal ambiance that found its way into the tracks.
“It’s recorded in his basement,” Thomas Rhett says. “It’s dark, a couple lamps on and candles burning and incense everywhere. We had some of the best players, and it was pretty much a big jam session until we found something that worked.”
The album veers from the clever wordplay of “Would Ya” to the high energy of “Something To Do With My Hands” to the playful grooves of “Front Porch Junkie” and “All-American Middle Class White Boy.” But as much as he’s about having a good time, “Beer With Jesus” – a rough-edged ballad that seeks elusive spiritual clarity – demonstrates the enormous depth that lies under all the fun stuff.
That’s appropriate for Thomas Rhett, who’s discovered that music – despite his insistence on avoiding it – is a central part of his destiny. “I think I’ve been directed here for a reason,” he surmises. “I still don’t know why. I don’t know if it’s to be some big star or if it’s to make a difference in somebody’s life along the way or to make somebody’s Friday night entertaining. It doesn’t really matter. It’s a journey, and I’m learning something new every step along the way.”
Jim Ed BrownCountry
If there is one word best suited to describe Jim Ed Brown, it is veratile. As a dynamic component in duets and a trio, as a solo recording artist, and as a popular television host, in the course of his professional lifetime, he has filled role after role with shining success. The last career of this balladeer from Arkansas can easily be likened to a well-cut gem, with its facets reflecting light on many different planes, yet collectively achieving the warm, enduring brilliance of an unforgettable star, a TRUE LEGEND...
Simply stated, Striking Matches, made up of Sarah Zimmermann and Justin Davis, came to Nashville to play music. Sarah, a Philadelphia native and Justin from Atlanta met when a professor at Belmont University paired them at random to play for a classroom full of guitar majors. Consequently, their first performance was the first time they had ever played together. The pair has been writing and performing ever since. Their influences range from Jerry Reed to the Beatles, John Mayer to Patsy Cline, and back again. It becomes more obvious every day that they were born to play music together.
Sarah and Justin put out their first self-titled EP in October 2012, and their song "When the Right One Comes Along" (co-written with Georgia Middleman) was featured on ABC's new drama "Nashville". Since then, the duo has performed across the country opening for acts like Kip Moore and John Hiatt, as well as Nashville's New Year's Even Bash On Broadway with the Fray, and the Grand Ole Opry.
Great musicians will always find a way to make good music, but for great musicians to make great music, they must form a bond – one that, more often than not, goes beyond the purely musical to the personal. For The Grascals, that bond has been forged at the intersection of personal friendships, shared professional resumes and an appreciation for the innovative mingling of bluegrass and country music that has been a hallmark of the Nashville scene for more than forty years. As their records prove, The Grascals’ rare musical empathy gives them an unerring ear for just the right touch to illuminate each offering’s deepest spirit - whether they’re digging into one of their original songs or reworking a bluegrass classic or a pop standard.
Andy Griggs …is ’Runnin’& Gunnin’and now Revin’ it up with NASCAR. Andy Griggs maximizes his life to the fullest. He embraces everything he does with passion that all can bear witness too. Whether he’s performing, hunting, fishing, cooking, playing poker or writing a song about NASCAR, “Drink Champagne”; you are his prey and he’s coming after you with fervor, commitment, and compassion. He is talented, witty and knocks ’em dead. His upcoming touring can be considered a triple threat. You may find him doing cooking demonstrations from his new cookbook “Cooking Up Dead Stuff” * or playing poker with the pros, or in a regularly scheduled poker tournament after showing in the top 12% of the 2008 World Series of Poker. But you will always find him entertaining while performing his greatest hits as a number one recording artist including ’Forever Gold’ and number one hit from his debut album “You Won’t Ever Be Lonely,” one of his other ten top 10 hits, or singing a tribute to one of his heroes, Waylon, Johnny or Hank Williams.
Since that first album, Griggs has seen many changes in the music industry and in himself. “There’s a big variety of music inside of me,” Andy says. “I think people have heard it when I sing and play live. But I felt like it was missing on my records and my fans were missing a part of me. It’s nothing for me to listen to KISS and then put on a Bill Monroe record. While, there’s a lot of room in between those two, there’s an even greater range of interest in how I live my life. I’ve had the opportunity to walk with the giants at Sony/BMG while recording on RCA and I’ve had the privilege of being part of a start up independent label, both offering different advantages and opportunities. I’ve also had the privilege to parlay my success in other areas I love, like hunting with the big guns and playing poker with legends.”
He’s about to have it all. And why not? While the music business and its infinite changes continue to swirl around him, one thing never changed: his belief in the power of a phenomenal song and his belief in himself. There is no greater recipe than those you create yourself and Griggs is creating his own…for life.
It is a Nashville legend that Connie's first record, the aching and unforgettable "Once a Day," written by Bill Anderson and recorded on July 16, 1964 when she was just 23, became one of the most celebrated singles in country music history—the first debut single by a female country singer to go to Number One, a position it held for eight weeks. Forty-seven years later it is still the only first single ever to have done that. When Connie sang "Once A Day" in the all-star B-movie musical Second Fiddle to a Steel Guitar the following year, she was introduced on-screen as "The Cinderella of Country Music." "Once A Day," and her stunning rendition of "How Great Thou Art" remain the two most requested songs by her fans to this day. Connie's memorable string of hits would include "You and Your Sweet Love" "If It Ain't Love" "Where Is My Castle?" "Run Away Little Tears" "Just One Time" and "I Never Once Stopped Loving You." The passion for singing and for the songs, and the singular vocal precision in delivering them that marked those standards-to-be are fully on display in this return to recording. "If you add up all the songs on this album," Ms. Smith says, "it would add up to my personality. It's me talking again, after so many years, with a message no different than I've always had. It's just that I love you, and I want that love to come back." It's bound to.