Originally from Kentucky, but calling Nashville home for the better part of fifteen years, Wheeler Walker Jr is a legend, but at the same time known to few. That, however, has been changing rapidly since the release of his profanity laced three song EP at the end of October. Walker Jr, long known as someone who refuses to get along with “the man,” simply tells it like it is; albeit with plenty of blunt language. In anticipation of Redneck Shit, his first full length album (called “the filthiest country album in history”) due in February, Walker Jr kindly took the time to talk about everything from the record, to writing, to what’s in store.
So, apparently you have been around Nashville 15+ years. Where have you been and why haven’t the majority of people heard of you until now?
It was a mix of bad luck and having a couple of major label deals fall through. I don’t play by the rules and if you have heard any of my music, you know that I don’t censor myself. A couple of labels wouldn’t put my albums out and wouldn’t let me get to the videos locked in vault.
There certainly wasn't a video or a song to be found on the internet.You didn’t even have any social media accounts until very recently.
I don’t understand computers that well, so I just signed up for the social media stuff. Apparently that was something I was supposed to be doing all along, but my manager is kind of a dumb ass and didn’t tell me. My thing though was that my music is just so powerful that I thought I would get it done without all this shit, but apparently that was not the case.
Being that you had multiple deals with various labels that all fell through, why is now the right time to put all your money into this EP and forthcoming album?
I’ve been through the ringer and that’s what kind of lead to this record. I just decided that I was going to make an album, uncensored. No one has done what I’m doing. I don’t want to call myself a revolutionary, but I just did, you know? People are dying for this, like they were with Sturgill. He didn’t say bitch and tits, but fuck it, this is what I’m singing. Once people find it, hopefully they will get it. I think it has a lot to do with….I’ll say intelligence. The album’s not for everybody and I have no problem admitting that, but I think if you’re smart and like good music - I think you’ll get it. Maybe people won’t, but if they don’t, who cares because I’m telling you now, it’s the best country record of the year. I’m calling it.
Born and raised in Texas, Jake Worthington was injured playing football and while recovering from the injury, discovered a love for music. Worthington took part in The Voice in 2014, ended up on Blake Shelton's team, and placed second in the show's finale. Earlier this month, Worthington released his self- titled EP which showcases a voice with a sweet drawl that is made for traditional country. Worthington kindly took the time to talk about his roots, the EP and more.
You were very sports oriented, but when you broke your back, a love for music came front and center. Was that something that was always there or something new?
There was always a love for music. I broke my back, but that isn’t why I play music at all. I started to pick up guitar and play with friends when I was in 7th or 8th grade. We started playing shows and stuff back then, and I always had the feeling that I wanted to do something like that. Once I got through high school and went on The Voice, I decided that music is where I wanted to go.
Did your experience on the Voice exceed all expectations?
It went way beyond. I knew I wanted to do The Voice, but I didn’t expect any of that to happen. It was kind of a roller coaster ride that I wasn’t necessarily ready for, but I was so glad that I decided to do it because it threw me into this crazy dream. It was tough in a lot of ways for some folks, many of us were far from home and out of our normal comfort zone, but the only tough thing for me was wearing all of that make-up (laughing).
Hailing from Knoxville, Tennessee, singer-songwriter Nick Hickman moved to Nashville to pursue his dream of becoming a country artist. Since arriving in Music City, he has released his single "Summertime Southern Style" and has been hard at work preparing for the release of his debut EP next year. Hickman kindly took the time to speak about his varied musical roots, the EP and more.
Originally from Knoxville, you moved to Nashville a year ago to pursue music. What spurred that decision?
I was doing music in Knoxville, but was also making the drive back and forth to Nashville for about a year. It was hard making that three hour commute once or twice a week in order to do the things I needed to do to further my career. So, I just thought it was time to make the leap and dive into it full steam.
Had you been pursuing music in Knoxville for a while?
Yes, I’ve taken quite the journey trying to find who I am as an artist and what I am capable of doing. I was in a Christian band for a while, then tried pop and finally settled into country. Over the years, I had been told that I should probably sing country, but I just kept fighting it. However, the more I wrote songs and developed myself, the more I realized country is what I should be doing.
Hailing from New Jersey, Kayla Calabrese always loved to sing. After attending a Broadway musical with her mom, Calabrese knew she wanted to pursue music professionally. After taking voice and moving to Nashville, she released her first EP in 2013 and is currently preparing for the release of her second album sometime next year. Kayla graciously took the time to speak about her roots, her single “Give” and more.
When you were younger, you were a “hairbrush singer,” but then at sixteen you decided you wanted to pursue music professionally. Was there a lightbulb moment for you that spurred that decision?
I always wanted to sing, but I was too afraid to tell anyone! Then I saw Wicked on Broadway and the whole time I was watching the musical, I was like, I want to do that, that’s what I have to do. So when the show was over, I looked at my mom and asked her for voice lessons, which I started when I was seventeen. And the rest is history.
Was your first love musical theatre?
Broadway will always be my love, but once I started singing, playing guitar and writing, I gravitated towards country music because I loved telling stories.
When I was a kid, I listened to N'SYNC and Hanson, but my dad always listened to country and once I started really listening to it and understanding it, I knew that was where my heart was.
Who then are your inspirations or influences on your singing, writing or playing?
Ever since I saw her in Wicked, Idina Menzel. In terms of country I love Sara Evans, Martina McBride and 90’s country, when it was all about the song. I think we have gotten away from that lately and I want to bring that back in my songs by telling stories and connecting with people.