Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter Eddy Mann released his new album, The Consequence, on November 8th. The album touches on Mann’s vision of a peaceful and understanding world through the eyes of a loving heart, and mind that considers the consequences of one's actions and words. A few weeks after its release, Mann kindly called to speak about the album, the significance of its title and more.
You have been pursuing music for two decades, while also teaching and being a worship leader. How did everything fit together for you?
I started playing early on in high school; I was the shy kid, but when you put a guitar in front of me all of a sudden I had all of the confidence in the world. I always pursued music full-time and played professionally, but when I had young kids and a family, I cut back because I was teaching, but as soon as my kids became independent I delved right back into it. On the back end of that, I was asked to be a worship leader, which I did up until a year and a half ago. All of the pieces flow together, but I don’t think I necessarily set out to do them at a specific time, they just kind of happened.
I’ve been very fortunate as an independent artist to be able to make records and have each project make money and provide for the next one. You hear horror stories about bands signing with labels, spending money and then spending the rest of their time touring to pay off their debt and I never had to do that, which is kind of cool. It's worked out well for me.
Madelyn Victoria grew up in south Texas performing in public for the first time at age five. She continued performing and singing throughout her youth earning awards and recognition as one of the area’s top young performers. In 2007, Madelyn competed in the Modeling Association of America International Competition and Convention in New York, where she won the vocal competition, singing Sara Evans’ “Real Fine Place to Start.” That same year, she auditioned to perform with the Radio Disney Superstars of Dallas, was selected, and opened for boy band sensation, The Jonas Brothers. In 2014 she released her self-titled EP which saw its single “He Only Loves Me on the Dancefloor” reach #1 on the National Country AM/FM and New Music Weekly charts and win an April 2016 Akademia Award for Best Country Song. In advance of releasing new music in January, Ms. Victoria kindly called to chat about her roots, the single and more.
You began singing at age five and never looked back it seems. Was music something you always wanted to pursue?
The first time I was on stage was when I was five years old. My cousin asked me if I was willing to get on stage and sing in a high school Christmas play and I said yes. After that, my mom taught me the National Anthem and I started singing it at local events, rodeos, and ceremonies and I knew I would never be doing anything else - and I love it still just the way as I did it then.
The Linemen’s Kevin Johnson and Jonathan Gregg first met in the early ’90s when the bands they were fronting, The Linemen and The Lonesome Debonaires respectively, started playing shows together. Around 2000, both bandleaders took a break, but ultimately reunited over a decade later to form a band playing a unique brand of rootsy, jangle-pop that would become the new Linemen. Their first album together, Close the Place Down, which was released in October, was captured at Brooklyn Recording by Andy Taub and mixed by producer/engineer John Alagia and contains ten tracks that range from beautiful ballads to energetic rockers. Both Gregg and Johnson kindly took the time to speak about their musical journeys, the new album and more.
Each of you has a long history in the business, but you both decided to take a break around 2000. Was there anything in particular that spurred those decisions?
Jonathan Gregg (JG): I had been doing it for a good long while. We released three albums that got some really nice press, but I wasn’t breaking much new ground and was pretty burnt out, so when our bass player was offered a chance to play in the pit for the musical The Full Monty, I thought maybe it was a good time to take a break from being a bandleader.
Kevin Johnson (KJ): I had the opportunity to start a rare book business called Royal Books which was going to be a full-time venture and so it seemed like a good time to take a break from music.
During the break, did you continue to do music in some capacity?
KJ: During that time, I kept up with my musician friends and did some writing and demos, but I was mainly focused on developing the business. Now, the business is successful and I have a staff which allows me more freedom; so in 2012, I decided it was time to get back to it. Jonathan and I have always been close friends and I’ve always loved his guitar playing. During his break, he had this incredible determination to learn the steel guitar and the fact that he could play, write and sing made me think it would be cool if we put together a band where wrote together and sang sort of in the dBs’ mold.
JG: My business interest has always been music, and during the time I took a break that did not wane in the least. I had played pedal steel in college a little bit and was really interested in learning more, so I started playing it again primarily for fun and self-improvement. I had the opportunity to put in the time, and the more I played, the better I liked it, and eventually found my niche doing sessions, playing with bands and giving lessons. Adding another instrument to my repertoire was a wonderful thing; it gave me the opportunity to branch out into other spheres, and when I came back to the guitar I found it much fresher because I wasn’t solely invested in that as my exclusive means of expression.
When Kevin, who is one of my favorite singers and songwriters, called about four years ago saying he was keen to get back into it and do music together, that was exactly what I’d been wanting to hear, because I wanted to play my music again but not do the same thing as before.
Hailing from Pennsylvania and Kentucky respectively, Nashville- based duo TOWNE - Steevie Steeves and Jon Decious - crossed paths far away from home at Skip Ewing’s Horse and Writer Seminar in Wyoming where they immediately had a musical connection. After returning to Nashville, where they discovered they lived in close proximity to one another, Steevie and Jon began writing and performing together ultimately forming TOWNE - blending pop and country into music that is emotional, real and relatable. Taking some time from their busy schedule, Steeves and Decious kindly took the time to chat about their latest EP, Games We Play, what’s ahead and more.
It seems like the two of you meeting at the writer’s seminar in Wyoming was fate.
Jon Decious (JD): We were two of eight people from places like Alaska, Canada, and California who had gotten a scholarship to attend that seminar and one day we were riding horses and chatting and realized we lived across the street from one another in Nashville.
Steevie Steeves (SS): We just hit it off, and after we came back, we started writing songs, doing writer’s nights and playing out together so much that people were asking what our band name was and whether they could get a cd. After a few months of that, we looked at each other and said, ‘Maybe we should pursue this’ and it grew from there.
I read that if Fleetwood Mac, Adele, and One Republic were to somehow make a musical baby, the result would be TOWNE. Are those your main musical influences?
SS: We do relate to that type of music and meet somewhere in the middle between One Republic and Fleetwood Mac. When we first met, John had a plethora of different records that I maybe wasn’t into and the same with my collection, but I remember going through them and seeing that we both loved Fleetwood Mac, which was a nice common ground to have. We draw from the male and female parts in their songs and their sound which can be country as well as pop and rock.
Parmalee’s 2013 release Feels Like Carolina featured three Top 10 singles “Close Your Eyes,” “Already Callin’ You Mine,” and “Carolina,” which became their first #1, that catapulted them onto the airwaves gaining them new fans from coast to coast. The band’s current single, “Roots” is a nostalgic, universally relatable song that honors where one comes from. Frontman Matt Thomas kindly called to talk about the single, what's ahead, and more.
Your current single, “Roots,” is such a heartfelt, relatable tune. What drew you to record the song?
One of our good friends is a co-writer on it and when I heard it, I fell in love with it. It hit me and all the guys in the band pretty hard and when you come across a song that does that to you, you have to get it.
Originally released in May, the song is still on the charts, this week inside the Top 50. Your songs seem to favor that slow and steady climb before they ultimately reach the Top #10 and #1.
It’s at #41 this week, hanging in there like a loose tooth (laughing). It’s frustrating because you want things to move faster as that offers opportunities for touring, tv, and nominations, but we’ll take slow and steady over no and steady any day. We all believe in the song and at the end of the day you have to do that if nothing else. We just want people to have the chance to hear it because we know people will connect with it the way we did.
Filmed live at Bethel University in McKenzie, Tennessee Rhonda Vincent and The Rage’s All The Rage was released on November 11th. The fourteen-song DVD and CD features Vincent on mandolin alongside her band of talented musicians - Hunter Berry (fiddle), Brent Burke (resophonic guitar), Mickey Harris (bass), Aaron McDaris (banjo), and Josh Williams (guitar) - each of whom brings their unmatched skills and unique individuality to the sextet while also being featured in solo performances. Recently, Ms. Vincent graciously took the time to talk about the project, her admiration for her musicians and more.
‘All the Rage' released on November 11th. Was this the first time you did a live DVD project?
I had a previous DVD in 2005, Ragin' Live, which was released on Rounder, but this is the first one I have done on my own and am releasing on my own label.
Often times, people come to our shows and say, “I want exactly what I saw at this show,” and I didn’t have anything that captured the excitement and passion of what we do, so that’s what this DVD is. We are calling it All The Rage because each band member, many of whom have written songs on the project, is featured. These amazing, world class musicians are at the top of their game and I felt like this was a very important time to document their skill level.
I’ve gotten the chance to speak with many artists, but few speak with such passion about their musicians. You have a great admiration for them and what they do.
Oh, absolutely. I love this music and what we do. It’s such a great honor to display my musicians so people can see how incredible they are. Brent is in his 20’s, so he’s a relatively new musician, but he’s already a world-class dobro player and when people see him they are going to feel like they’re discovering him - and it’s going to be fun to watch that. I think they all are musicians who you are going to hear from for years to come.
Was there a different approach in choosing songs for the set list being that this was recorded for a DVD rather than it being a traditional live show?
Yes. Knowing the most requested songs people ask for, there were specific songs I wanted to include like “Kentucky Borderline,” which was Song of the Year, and “Is The Grass Any Bluer (On The Other Side).” Every song was picked to capture the musician and their talent, like “Freeborn Man." For Josh Williams, that song captures the timber of his voice and the skill of the instrumentation and the camera gets right on him so that young musicians who watch and wonder how he did something can see exactly how he did it. It’s the ultimate song for him and people are going to go crazy when they watch it.
It seems that the DVD has a bit of a dual purpose, being for those who watch for the love of the music as well as those interested in the technical aspects of playing.
I didn’t think about it until we got into editing and saw that some of the shots were from far away and focused on the group rather than the individual person and the instrument being played. I wanted to show people the person who is playing, so that when they sit and watch they can see that person and how they did it. So I asked them to get closer shots and once they had that direction, they used it as a template throughout. As we were editing, the DVD evolved into something that is not only for enjoyment, but is something that can be used as a learning tool as well.
Singer-songwriter Wade Bowen is one of the most respected and beloved artists on the Texas music scene and beyond. With six solo studio albums and numerous hits on the Texas charts, Bowen headed to the UK for the first time to begin a nine-date run on November 10th. Taking some time to chat after the first night of the tour, Bowen spoke about his experience so far, what's ahead and more.
You’re over in the UK playing a run of shows for the very first time. Was heading over there something you had been thinking about for a while?
I’ve always wanted to do it. Many of my artist friends who have played the UK have gone on and on about playing there, how much fun it is, and how amazing the crowds are, so I wanted to experience it for myself. Plus, I’ve been in this mode lately - from the albums I've released to touring and everything else – where I’m trying to do things I haven’t done before and just have fun with my career. It’s been a blast so far and I’m excited to be over here.
Your friend Willy Braun [Reckless Kelly] is along for the tour. Did the two of you plan it together and how have you been structuring the show?
I had this whole thing booked, just me, but after thinking about it I realized that I really didn’t want to go over myself, so I asked Willy…and I’m so glad that he was able to come and be a part of it.
The way we’re doing the show is an acoustic song swap, which is huge in Texas, but not very common in the UK. It’s hard to explain to people what we’re doing and we wondered if we were going to be able to pull it off, but we had our first show last night and I think they had a blast with it, especially the back and forth banter.
Athens, Alabama native Bradley Walker never let anything deter him from his desire to pursue music. The vocalist, who was born with Muscular Dystrophy and has spent his life in a wheelchair, earned the IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year award for his first album, Highway of Dreams, in 2008. It was that same album that caught the attention of Joey and Rory Feek who Walker met over MySpace, forming an immediate and lasting friendship. On September 23rd, Walker released his new album co-produced by Feek, Call Me Old Fashioned, a collection of faith-based country songs that inspire and uplift. During a break from his busy schedule, Walker called to talk about the album, his friendship with the Feeks and more.
When you were ten years old you had the opportunity to sing with Oak Ridge Boys on “Nashville Now;” was music something you have been pursuing your entire life?
I have been singing from the time I was very young and continued all through high school and after. About ten years ago I recorded my first solo project [Highway of Dreams], which was a Bluegrass album, but whether it was Bluegrass or acoustic, my style always had a country flavor.
The new record, Call Me Old Fashioned, has that country flavor blended with hymns, classic songs, and new material. How did you decide which songs to choose for the project?
When we knew we were going to have the chance to make this album, we reached out to a lot of our songwriter friends in Nashville. Rory and I listened to a lot of material and when we heard what we liked, we saw that the record was starting to take a direction. Being it is a project with the Gaithers, I wanted to include a couple of hymns as well as songs that were familiar to people, but we also heard so much incredible new material that we knew we wanted to include as much of that as we could too.
Texas chart-topper Zane Williams released his sixth studio album, Bringin’ Country Back on October 21st via his newly created Texas Like That Records. Drawing on influences from the 70's, 80's and 90's, the album pays homage to traditional country music via sincere songwriting and melodies featuring fabulous fiddle and steel, and lots of twang. Currently on tour throughout Texas, Williams kindly took the time to talk about the album, finding happiness in Texas and more.
This is your sixth release, but the first one you self-produced. What spurred you to take on that role and did you enjoy the process?
There was a combination of things that led me to produce it myself including the nature of the material and my vision for this record. I wanted this down-home laid- back country sound and…I just felt like I could do it. I was responsible for every little detail which forced me to bear down and ask myself what exactly it is that I wanted. One of the things I wanted was to use my band on the record and the fact that I was able to do that enabled us to do some rehearsing before we went in. I liked that because I’ve always felt kind of rushed in the studio and this gave us time to practice, record, tweak or change things so that by the time we actually went into the studio, I felt like we were almost 80% of the way there.
Overall, it was a good experience and I plan on doing it again for the next record because now I have the ideas and the confidence. It’s more work, responsibility, hours, and lots of decisions, but now I’m spoiled making a record the way I want to make it.
The album is titled Bringin' Country Back and it really does convey that traditional country sound. Recently, someone commented to me that true country music can be found in Texas. Do you agree with that?
Honestly, I do. I feel like there’s an authenticity to the Texas stuff. To me, even some of the more traditional country in Nashville is kind of a little generic, cookie cutter. It’s like “Okay, here’s a good-looking guy with a good voice, we’ll get him a great band and have him sound like Johnny Cash.” Cash was an artist who had a fire, like Merle and Garth. They had heart, soul, and passion and I feel like the best place to find that heart, soul, and passion within the context of a more traditional country sound is in Texas. That’s not to say there aren’t individuals in Nashville and everywhere else that are doing it, but the largest concentration seems to be in Texas where we’re writing our own songs from our hearts and souls, seeing our vision our way and having ownership of our music.
I feel like when you sign a deal in Nashville you give away ownership. Of course, there are people who manage to go through the Nashville machine and still have tons of heart and soul and put an artistic statement in the music, like the Dixie Chicks, Alan Jackson, Eric Church, Brandy Clark, and Miranda Lambert. They write their own material, sound unique and are interesting, but they’re more the exceptions than the rule.
Twenty-five years ago, veteran songwriter Nathan Bell was deemed “the next Steve Earle,” however, due to changing tides in the industry and an uncompromising attitude, Bell left Nashville - and music - behind for a successful career at Bellsouth/AT& T and a loving, stable home life. Then in 2008, at 51, Bell was laid off by the company, leading to a creative revival that sparked the release of three albums: 2011’s Black Crow Blue, 2014’s Blood Like a River, and his latest, I Don’t Do This for Love, I Do This for Love. From his home state of Tennessee, Bell graciously called to discuss his journey, the album and more.
Around two decades ago you went to Nashville to pursue a music career. Why after only two to three years did you trade it all in for a job with AT&T?
I came to Nashville from a career in acoustic music. We had recorded some albums that had done pretty well, but when I got to Nashville I realized early on that most things that were expected of a writer there weren’t things I was good at or comfortable with. Many writers will tell you that when they get to Nashville they’re excited to write, but then they also realize money changes things because the goal in Nashville is to get as many people on a record and make as much money as you can. And that’s not a problem, that’s the business. But when I got there I realized I was going to make a lot of enemies because what caught the ear of the person who brought you to Nashville had to change.
I was writing story songs in line with Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark – in the Americana vein, which didn’t exist yet. There were no alternative labels like Thirty Tigers, Yep Roc or Last Chance, so there was nowhere to go. My choices were to try and fit in with co-writes, which I didn’t enjoy, or to get a real job...and to be honest with you, it was an easy choice. I’m not joking when I tell you that I was happy working for AT&T and if that job stayed the same I would have stayed there and would have never made these records. I enjoyed my family and I was happy to be home for dinner 90% of the time. If someone offered me a Nashville career or those 15 years, I would have chosen those years because they are the best years of my life until the day I die.