Founded by brothers Chris and Adam Rupp during their college years in the early 2000s, Home Free is an American country vocal acapella group that have been performing for crowds in countless venues across the country for years. They made national attention by competing in and winning Season 4 of the television show The Sing Off. Their victory was the culmination of hard work and commitment to a vocal craft that is growing in popularity. Since winning the competition, Home Free has released an album and started a 32 city tour. Home Free consists of five member: Chris Rupp, Adam Rupp, Tim Faust, Rob Lundquist and Austin Brown. Austin graciously took some time from their busy schedule to call in and chat with us.
Can you tell us a little bit about how Home Free came together?
Chris and Adam are brothers who have a passion for acapella music. They started the group in 2000. About six years ago, they were playing enough shows to make Home Free a full time commitment. About a year and a half ago, I met them on a cruise ship where I was a featured entertainer. Lucky for me a spot opened up in the group. It has been wonderful that I am able to do this full time and I couldn’t be happier.
All five of you have been involved in music your whole lives in varied forms. Why did you decide to sing acapella?
That’s a great question. Chris and Adam really loved the House Jacks and I started getting into acapella music through Napster and things like that. Growing up, I was always around vocal music, so something like this is second nature to me.
Did the group always sing country? What made you gravitate to this genre?
I myself grew up on a farm and was exposed to a lot of gospel music. We were performing several country songs in our shows, but really started including more when Tim became a member of the group. He has had his own country album and has written a lot of songs. We started doing more country, putting our own style to it and now there’s really nothing like this out there. Traditional acapella is loud and fast with crushing vocals. We are relaxed, funny guys who like to break down that fourth wall when performing and really interact and connect with our audience. People have been so receptive, it’s wonderful. It’s humbling and exciting to create something new like this.
Bart Crow has been making an impressive mark on the Texas music scene for quite some time now. He has released five albums, including a live recording, Brewster Street Live, and has had multiple number ones and numerous top ten hits on the Texas charts. His songs are honest, relatable and written from the heart. Bart will be coming to NYC to play Hill Country Live on March 8th. He graciously took some time to call and talk with us about having his dream life, his plans for the year and playing New York City.
You and your music are known all over Texas and the Midwest. Can you tell us just a little bit about yourself and how you chose music as a career?
Well, I was raised in a small farm community in central Texas. I graduated from high school and went into the army from '95-'98. I came back, went to college and the music progressed from there. I actually graduated college with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and a minor in marketing. When I graduated, I just wanted to make something of myself. I decided that I would get a real job and play shows when I could. My approach was to do that and whichever one outweighed the other would be the path I would take. I had a really good job with the oil and gas company, but when they had mandatory layoffs I asked not to be put on the rehire list. My now wife and I decided to move to Austin and focus on what we were supposed to be doing on this planet. We wanted to see if there was something we could do with the music and make it work. We put our nose to the grindstone and as I tell people, I was too stubborn to quit and too lazy to do anything else. From there, it morphed into what it is today; making music and being blessed to play all over the world.
The way I look at it, I've got my dream life. I have a wife and three kids. We have a house, health insurance and we are not starving.
You listened to such a variety of music growing up from Skynyrd to Haggard to Metallica, what made you gravitate towards the country genre?
It's who I am and what I know. I'm from the sticks. I grew up in a rodeo family, my Dad still has a rodeo arena in his front yard, and I did that for a little while myself. I like stories and being real. As an artist, I try to be as honest as I can. My music depicts who I really am. I think my songs can be read as stories that are really relatable. I can tell you the back story of every song I have written and recorded. Somewhere within every song, whether it is a portion or a concept, there is truth, whether it is about me, someone close to me, or someone I met. I use a lot of my influences in my music from rock n' roll to keep it upbeat to Dean Martin to Merle Haggard to Lynryd Skynyrd.
When someone listens to your albums or reads the liner notes, that honesty really comes through. To me, all of your albums are ones that can be listened to from start to finish.
One of the things I really appreciate hearing is when someone says that they can play my albums from start to finish. That's what I strive for. Each one of my albums is a portion of my life. They are songs and stories, but also all of my creativity up to that point. When we are in the studio, we are working hard for hours and hours, putting a lot into it. To hear that someone likes a record as a whole, well, mission accomplished.
You have had much success on the Texas charts with multiple number ones and top ten hits. Are you content with that?
I am always thrilled and excited each time we have success. It's very meaningful, but as for my personal goals of where I want to take my art, my music and my business; I am not content with that at all. Having the success that I have had was a mountain to climb and I am not discrediting that at all. It is flattering and awesome and it means we are doing the right thing and somebody’s listening, but to me the time has come to be a part of something larger. I have never been content. I am happy and appreciative, but I have much higher mountains to climb now. I cannot do that staying in one particular region regardless of where that is. I want to keep working that, but I want to take what we are doing down here and spread it further.
You are coming to NYC and playing Hill Country Live on March 8th. Have you played NYC before?
I have been to New York City a half a dozen times, but haven’t really played a real show there. My wife and I came to NYC on vacation, we were eating at a brewery and I told the waitress what I did. She gave our number to her boyfriend who ran an open mike night. The next night we went over to the place and I ended up playing a couple songs. I was asked to play a couple more and then got invited to another open mike night. I ended up playing four different places when we were there. I didn’t even have my guitar, but people were so nice to me and really digging the music.
Now I get to come to New York City and have my own show. I am so thrilled to come and play my songs, it's unreal. It is just like when I went to Europe. It is amazing that music has taken me to so many incredible places. You know, I have played places for free and scribbled down places that I wanted to play and now I am playing those places. That's so incredible I cannot wrap my head around it. That said, I want to come play your beautiful city next time, knowing that a station has been playing me up there.
Your last album, Dandelion, was released in 2012. It had three singles, two number ones, “Little Bit of Luck” and “Dandelion,” and “Loving You’s A Crime.” Will there be any more singles?
There is probably going to be one more single within the next month, but I am already started recording a new record. We have four tracks done. I want to record another ten to fifteen songs and then whittle it down to the songs that can make the best album. I hope to have a new record out in September or October of this year with a single from the album released a month or so prior to the release of the album.
You have three young children at home. How do you balance touring and family?
I don’t think about it too much because touring really is our bread and butter. It would just eat me alive at times when we had our first child. My wife was always very encouraging telling me to remember that it is quality over quantity. We can’t get mad at the blessings God gave us to be here on earth and play music. It is just the way our lives are and we are blessed with what we have at the Crow house. I have to work really hard and get all my ducks in a row now though so I can fly home when they get older and are playing sports. I don’t plan on missing much.
What are you listening to now?
I like the Gaslight Anthem album a lot. Also, Jason Isbell's Southeastern; talk about a grand slam. The Lone Bellow record, man I can’t enough of that one. It’s really, really good. And then of course, I play Steve Earle until the records turn to ashes.
Bart will be playing Hill Country Live in NYC on March 8th. For tickets and information visit here. Don't miss it!!
For more information visit www.bartcrowmusic.com
Find Bart of Facebook
Follow Bart on Twitter @BartCrow
Carissa Leigh is a rising country star that you definitely want to get to know. While she cites Shania Twain and Dolly Parton as some of her influences, Carissa has a rockin' sound and an impressive vocal range that gives her music an edge. Carissa’s debut U.S. single “Bad Boy” will be released in the coming months. Carissa kindly took the time to chat with us about her entry into music, "Bad Boy" and a cause close to her heart.
Can you give us a little background on yourself and why you wanted to pursue music as a career?
Well, I grew up in Calgary. I learned to play piano at the age of three. I was always involved in music and performing and loved it! In high school I started writing because I realized that writing was a great emotional outlet for me. I went to college and I actually got turned down for a lot of the music things I tried for, which was discouraging. Then I got divorced and started writing again, trying to process my feelings through music. I started getting recognized for my writing, which felt really good because it meant that people did want to hear what I had to say. It encouraged me to make the decision that music was really a viable option as a career.
Why did you decide to pursue country music?
Well, I grew up on mostly country and rock music, but was drawn to the story telling element that country music had. I don't want to sing about anything that wouldn't ring true for me and country music allows me to relate experiences or feelings that I have been having.
Burleson, Texas native Casey Donahew has worked hard to earn himself a position as one of Texas's premier country artists. Over the past decade he has made an impression on the Texas music scene gaining fans with his high energy live shows and songs that can be touching, heartfelt and humorous. He has independently released six critically acclaimed albums, including a live album, and topped the Texas charts on multiple occasions. On February 28th, he will be in NYC to headline the Texas Tailgate along with Reckless Kelly and Kevin Fowler. Casey graciously took the time to talk with us about longevity in the music business, touring and his renowned live shows.
You have been in the industry for over ten years now. Does the success that you have mean more being that you did it all independently?
I think there is definitely more of a feeling of accomplishment. I think that when you make it taking the long way, you get to stay around longer. I think there is some longevity included in the route that we have taken.
You have a very loyal and ever growing fan base which speaks to how the music and live shows must connect with the fans.
I have always been a big believer in the live show. When we started out, we had to go the underground route and focus on the live show because we had no support from radio or media. We wanted people to come to a show and be blown away by it so that they would tell their friends and come back again.
In some parts of the country, the Casey Donahew Band is a household name. Are you content with that or do you aim for mainstream radio airplay?
You know, we just want to keep growing our brand however possible. I don’t want anyone to take over or change the way we run our business. There are artists on independent labels, like the Zac Brown Band, who have somehow broken through the cracks of the chain of radio command and have had hits. They showed doing that isn't impossible, but it is still really tough for an independent artist to gather any momentum in mainstream radio. We would love to have one of our songs, that we wrote and produced the way we wanted it, on national radio. You just can't beat the exposure that mainstream radio gives, but we want to do it our way. If the time comes we'd open arm it, but we're not gonna chase it. We won't change the way we do things trying to make that happen.
You seem to be touring constantly. Have you adjusted the amount of time you spend on the road since you started out?
For the last six or seven years, we have really focused on travelling outside the state of Texas and expanding our markets. So the more the band grows out of Texas, it seems we are traveling more than we used to be. I have two little boys, which makes it difficult to leave. We are trying to find that happy medium of being home enough to justify being gone.
So then how do you like to spend your downtime?
I spend time with my family. My boys are three months old and five years old. I take my older son out hunting and we spend a lot of time playing outdoors. I am a big hunter, gun advocate and outdoorsman. I really just try to take it easy when we are not touring.
Your last album, Standoff, was released last April and it debuted at #7 on the Billboard Country Charts. Talk a little bit about the title and the cover art for the album.
The title is really a two part description. The first part is a description of our journey through the music business. It's crazy to think it has been eleven years. My wife has been my business manager from day one. She has done all of the hard work and we reap all of the benefits. As an independent artist, we made a business model and stuck to it even with everyone telling us what we should or shouldn't be doing. We did it our way and were able to be successful, but we still fight the daily battle for the Casey Donahew Band.
The second part is more of a political statement on the state of gun control in this country. As I said I am a big hunter and outdoorsman. We just wanted to make a statement that it's okay to stand up for the second amendment and support gun rights.
You have had two successful singles from the album, "Whiskey Baby" and "Small Town Love," which is currently doing very well on the Texas charts.
Yes, "Small Town Love" is #2 this week. We'd love for it to push up there and be another number one. We hope to have a third single, but we haven't really decided yet. We are grinding away writing songs and thinking about a new project. We have considered releasing a live album that we recorded at Red Rocks and maybe adding a couple new songs to go with that, but there are no final decisions on that yet.
Many of your songs have an element of humor. Is that important to you in your songwriting?
Definitely. Sometimes when you do stuff like that you'll catch a lot of flack from people who think every song has to change the state of the world or have some valiant, artistic meaning to it. I completely disagree. I like those songs too, and I think we have written songs like that; songs that really mean a lot to me and are powerful, but that’s not all we do. People want to come to a show to forget about their problems for awhile and have a good time. They don’t necessarily want to spend their time listening to yours. You know, we want people to have a good time.
You will be coming to NYC on February 28th to play the Texas Tailgate.
This will be our third trip to New York City. We have done the show twice with Pat Green, but this will be our first time headlining, so we are really excited about that for sure. It seems like there's a great Texas music fan base in New York City. It will be a great show, especially with Reckless Kelly and Kevin Fowler supporting us.
What can we expect from the show?
We made a name for ourselves from our live shows, that's how we survived this long. We bring an energy to the stage so that the show is exciting, keeps people entertained and gets people involved. We like that rowdy crowd.
What are you currently listening to?
I listen to a lot of different stuff, but lately I am listening to my buddy Cody Johnson. He is a young up and coming artist here in Texas. He's got a new record out called Cowboy Like Me and I've been listening to that.
The Texas Tailgate will be at Terminal 5 in NYC. Doors at 7pm, Show begins at 8pm. For more information and tickets visit here.
For more information on the Casey Donahew Band visit their website www.caseydonahewband.com
Follow them on Twitter @caseydband
Find them on Facebook
Alabama native David Fanning is an accomplished songwriter and producer for artists such as Parmalee and Thompson Square. Now the time has arrived for him to add another title: artist. David has released a country version of Justin Timberlake's "Drink You Away" that is gaining momentum on Sirius XM 's The Highway. David graciously took some time to chat with us about the single, the many hats he wears and what's ahead for 2014.
You grew up on a farm in Alabama. Tell us a little bit about yourself including how you got from Alabama to Nashville.
Well, I officially moved to Nashville about seven years ago. I was doing music in Ardmore, but like everyone who wants to take it to the next level, I knew Nashville was the place to be to make that happen. I took a little bit of a detour to LA, and really liked it there, but it didn't feel like home. I knew I would rather be back in the south.
Was music something you wanted to do from a young age?
Yes. I have been performing pretty much my whole life. When I was growing up, my family would do a capella 1950's and 1960's musical shows on the weekends. So every weekend I got to be a part of a little band, with my gig being their Elvis impersonator. I did this until I was about fourteen years old.
Why did you gravitate to the country genre?
Well, you can't grow up where I did and not be a fan of country music. We lived in the boondocks; the nearest Wal-Mart was forty five minutes away. Growing up, my sister was a massive, massive country fan. She made me join the Bryan White fan club with her (laughing). I listened to many different things from 90's rock to the stuff I did with my parents, but I always liked country.
Do you have anyone who is a specific influence on your songwriting?
I have a bunch of writer buddies, but I really think the person who has had the most influence on me as far as being a writer goes, is David Lee Murphy. I'm not even sure if he knows that. He's one of the best there is and can really write just about anything. He has written hits for himself, like "Dust On The Bottle," and songs for so many different artists. He is just one of the most talented and coolest dudes ever.
Growing up and listening to a variety of music, I really liked the GooGoo Dolls and Train. Not too long ago, I was listening to them. If you think about it, those bands wouldn't be considered rock anymore today, especially if you added a steel or banjo, which is the kind of stuff we did with Thompson Square and Parmalee.
Speaking of Parmalee and Thompson Square, you have written songs for them, as well as other artists, and are a part of the New Voice Production team. Were writing and producing the goals when you came to Nashville or was being an artist always something you wanted to do?
Being an artist was always the goal. What happened was I met Rich Redmond, Kurt Allison and Tully Kennedy. When I moved here Aldean wasn't where he was at now, he was still on the climb. They cut a few sides on me and we just hit it off as friends and found out that we work really well together. We started working on my project, but then we got asked to work with Thompson Square on a showcase for Stoney Creek. We cut "Let's Fight," "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not" and another song no one has ever heard called "The Joneses." That was what opened the door for the producing. Once "Kiss Me" became so big, I felt I had to change my focus a tiny bit because it would have been crazy not to take advantage of being able to do that.
While I was working on other artist's projects in the studio, I was learning so much. I'm glad it all happened that way because it was working with other people that helped me grow as an artist, even without being on the road as much.
During your time producing and writing for others were you writing for yourself as well?
I was always writing a ton and have done it all different ways: writing for myself, writing for others and just writing to write. Sometimes we just wrote for Keifer and Shauna or Parmalee. When I found those guys we wrote "Musta' Had A Good Time" in a RV in the Tin Roof parking lot in Nashville when the floods were happening. That was where it all began with them and look at them now.
In this past year I have been writing for myself and that's been cool. It's really fun to write for others, but now I get to say what I want to say for myself.
You covered Justin Timberlake's "Drink You Away" which is being played on Sirius XM's The Highway. Can you tell us the story behind you recording that song?
The whole thing went down pretty quickly. It was like 8am on a Tuesday when I got a call from Storme, I was still asleep, but I thought 'Storme's calling, maybe it's something, and I need to get this.' He's like 'hey dude, I got this artist coming in on Friday, and I want to see if maybe you want to take this song and make it into it a country song.' I was like 'okay, what song?' and he tells me it's "Drink You Away." I was like 'who's your guest on Friday?' and he said 'Justin Timberlake is coming in.' I was really busy, so I told him I would try, but I couldn't promise anything. Luckily, I was able to put a session together and cut it Tuesday night. I went out of town and then Thursday night came back, sang lead and harmonies on it, and mixed it all night with my buddy Jim. On Friday at 6 or 7am I had it to Storme. Justin heard it not too long after that. It happened so fast, but it was a blessing that it happened that way because I had no time to over think anything. The hardest thing for me was taking it from a five and a half minute song to a three minute song that country radio would play....and not make Justin unhappy.
Well, Justin definitely isn't unhappy. He has had only good things to say about your version. In addition, the song has gotten quite a positive reaction from listeners. How does that reception make you feel?
It feels awesome. I was so crazy nervous when I did it. Then I found out Justin would be on air and listening when The Highway debuted the song. I couldn't even listen, I didn't even tune in. I kept texting Storme asking how it was going, asking him to please tell me if it was good. I finally went back and listened to the interview with Justin an hour later when I knew I didn't get dissed on air (laughing). People liked the song and The Highway wanted to go with it, so we decided to run with it.
You don't have to ask for permission to do covers, but my camp reached out to Justin's camp and one of the coolest things is that he gave me not only permission, but his blessing. He could have had anyone in the world cover that song and it is so cool that he supports me and is behind me.
What are your plans for 2014?
I hope that "Drink You Away" continues to do well. I think everybody who has heard it likes it and I think it's a cool introduction of my music to the world. I am getting more music ready too. We started working on a record in the studio two weeks ago. I know nothing in this world is ever a guarantee, but I'm ready to work.
You wear so many hats, how are you planning on balancing writing, producing and being an artist?
Everybody asks me how I am going to do it all. I guess the answer is just never sleep (laughing). I don't want to give up producing because it's a passion of mine, you know. I will find a way to juggle it all and figure out how to make it work. I would definitely prefer to be busy than not.
What are you currently listening to?
I switch on XM and listen to everything in the world. On the pop side, I really like "Say Something" by Great Big World with Christina Aguilera. It's such a great chill out song for me. Then on the country side I really like Cassadee Pope and also the new Miranda song. Honestly, I listen to so many different things and am a fan of almost everything out there. I have to make sure I'm not behind the times, so I never stop listening.
For more information visit http://redbowrecords.com/artists/david-fanning/
Follow David on Twitter @DavidFanningMuZ
Find him on Facebook
Listen to "Drink You Away" below.
Although many people have gotten to know Will Hoge as one of the writers of Eli Young Band's #1 hit "Even if It Breaks Your Heart," he has been making music for well over a decade. His current single, "Strong," which can be heard in the Chevy ad campaign, is an ode to the hard working man. His honest songs tell stories that can touch the heart and energize the soul. Will graciously took time to speak with us about music, genres and what's ahead for 2014.
Many people are new to you and your music. Can you tell us how you came to pursue music professionally?
I had fully intended to be a history teacher and coach high school basketball until I found out you had to maintain a grade point average to stay in college, which wasn't working out so well. To be a singer songwriter didn't require a college degree or a GPA, so that made the decision a whole lot simpler.
When did you start playing guitar and writing songs?
I didn't play guitar until I was a senior in high school. A guy in my classes wrote out three to four simple chords on a piece pf paper for me. I learned those and started writing songs after that.
You have been making music for about fifteen years, what keeps you going in this business?
I really don't like doing anything else, which sounds like a weird thing to say, but that's a big part of it. At the end of day I love writing songs, making records, creating in the studio, and playing songs for people. There is heartbreak and stress that comes along with the work, but at the end of the day I get excited about the music and that's probably the biggest thing.
Your music combines a lot of genres and cannot really be pigeonholed, so if I had to describe your music to a new listener what would I tell them?
I don't know and I'm probably a terrible person to ask. I play a mix of everything I listened to growing up which was country, rock, soul, blues and R&B all rolled into one. My father had a great record collection when I was a kid, so I missed a lot of what my peers were listening to like the hair bands, spandex rock and all of that stuff. Instead, I was listening to the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, James Brown, Hank, Buck, and Merle. All of those people were influences on me growing up.
The country world has opened up to us more, which is a positive thing. We have more of a rock n' roll show than a country show. To me, a straight up country show is someone like George Strait or Dale Watson, someone like that. That isn't completely what we do, although it is a part of what we do. To me though, we are so much more countrier that a lot of what is considered quote unquote country right now and is being played on the radio.
You previously described your sound as "rock n' roll with country soul." Does that still apply?
Yeah, I mean I think so. I think the more records we make it only proves itself more and more true.
Do you think genres are important?
I think any genres are important, but that's sort of a two sided question I guess. As a businessman, yes, but as an artist and even a fan, I don't think anybody really cares. The record labels make it so confusing for people because they keep trying to pigeonhole everything. There was a point when record stores where everywhere and you needed genres because that's how things were organized. If a person came in and wanted an R&B record or an alternative record you pointed them to that section so they could pick out what they wanted. With the ipod and computers and the way we consume music now by downloading it, labels don't make bit of difference to the consumer anymore. I think if you go to anyone's ipod and scroll through it you will find a rap song or two or a country song or two. You can have a hodge podge of whatever your mood is at the click of a button.
For me, I personally don't like country and rap mixed together. I like rap and I like country and enjoy them separately. I'm not saying it is right or wrong, it's just a difference of opinion. I don't have to listen to those songs and that's the wonderful thing about our ability to buy music at this point,
2013 seems to have been a pretty great year. I know you joke about wining the "Triple Frown" ["Even If It Breaks Your Heart" was nominated for the CMA, ACM and Grammy for Song of the Year and lost], but the success that the song brought must have meant a lot. Was success like that something you strived for or was it more like icing on the cake?
More like icing on the cake. Greater success I wouldn't mind, but is not what I always wanted. I want to be a better singer, songwriter and performer. People ask me what I prefer, to write or perform, but I've never seen a difference. I've always wanted to try and make great records, write great songs and have great shows. Other people recording my songs is a huge, huge form of flattery. I hope it's something that happens a lot more as I'm fortunate to have a lot of songs. One really works to fuel the other. As an artist, the more I get to share stages with other artists, the more they become aware of me and my music and maybe they'll take a look at my songs. And vice versa, if others record my music, radio gets exposed to me as a writer which makes it easier for me to walk into a room, introduce myself and play a couple of songs. People start to recognize me and that makes my job a whole lot easier.
Lady Antebellum has one of your older songs "Better Off Now" [from Blackbird On A Lonely Wire] on their record Golden and you have two tracks on the upcoming Eli Young Band album Dust. Do you approach writing for others differently than writing for yourself?
I have very rarely truly written for someone else. I just try to write a great song and am satisfied if I can write a good song. And from there it just depends where I am in the cycle of making a record. Some songs I will just keep in my headpocket and say this one is totally mine; that of course would change if Kenny Chesney called and said he wanted it (laughing). There are certain songs I write that nobody else will ever record, because they are just not going to get played. I am always writing and building albums. I may have three or four songs here and there with a certain theme that would fit together and then I add to it and all of a sudden I have five or six and am ready to make a record. I then try to round it out. It's kind of a constant process, which is fun.
Your current single is "Strong" is a bonus track on your latest album Never Give In, which was released to critical acclaim last October. Was it a last minute decision to put that track on the album?
The whole thing was a last minute decision. I got a call from my cousin, Zach Crowell. He and Ashley Gorley needed help with a song they were working on. They wanted to bring a certain voice to the song. I agreed to help them, having never worked on anything with them previously. We finished it and it came out really good. My record was finished at time, so I thought this was one I'll keep in the pocket for the next record. On Wednesday, their publisher had a meeting with the guys looking for songs for Chevrolet. They heard an acoustic vocal work tape, loved it and wanted to use it in an ad campaign. So by the next Wednesday we finished the song and video. One of the really great things about being the owner of record label is that I can easily make a call and get it added as a bonus track on record which I did. It really rounded out album in a nice way. It was a really cool thing to be a part of.
Is there any particular song on record that you are partial to or is it like having children where you love them all equally?
I think it's closer to that. There are things you love about all of them so it's tough. There tends to be really personal things involved in each one. I'd be hard pressed to pick any one out in particular. They all feel special to me.
In 2013, you had your first #1 on the Texas charts with "Another Song Nobody Will Hear" with Wade Bowen.Talk about that and the Texas music scene.
There's a great station in Texas, KNBT, with a great DJ and program director, Mattson Rainer. He started playing stuff off of Draw The Curtains years ago that had us starting to build a fan base around Dallas and Austin. We got embraced real early down there along with Wade, Randy Rogers and Jack Ingram. My manager is from Texas and starting with Number Seven, we had a meeting where I said I wanted to approach Texas like it was another country, like England or Spain. They had enough places to play as well as their own radio scene and I really wanted to see what we could do there. They have welcomed us with open arms and been really kind to us. There's still a lot of work to be done there, but it's such a cool thing to be a part of. Texas is a really important place for us.
Texas has the red dirt music scene and those guys can really make a handsome living playing beer joints and dance halls in Texas. It's a really unique thing that used to be more nationwide where you could go and spend $10 just to drink beer and hear a band and discover something new. Some of that's been lost nationwide; the younger generation isn't as hip to that as they were ten years ago. But in some ways I don't think Texas has ever lost that.
You have toured with artists from ZZ Top to Dierks Bentley to Shinedown in venues of various sizes. Do you have any favorite tours and do you prefer large or small venues?
As an opener, size of the venue really doesn't matter. It's our dream to be able to play 3000-5000 seat theaters. I think that's where we are really at our best. We can be as loud as we want to and as rockin' as we want to. That's where I would want to end up.
We have been incredibly lucky with touring, from the people you mentioned to everyone else we have been out with. We learn so much from being out on the road. The tour with Shinedown was an acoustic one and those guys are fantastic. They treat everyone with such respect, from the fans, to the people who work the venue, to their tour guys. They were a real inspiration every single night. And then Dierks, on a larger level too. He was just so good to his people and to us.
Last year you headlined the Never Give In Tour. What are your touring plans for 2014?
We will headline quite a bit for the first part of the year. Then in the summer, there are the fairs and festivals, which I get excited about because we get to see other bands that we are fans of and friends with. Then in the fall, we are hoping to pair up with someone. We have some things kicking around that I can't divulge yet.
Is there one thing you want to accomplish professionally in 2014?
I'm really excited about the continued trajectory we have been on. The last two to three years especially have been really incredible. Every year I say to myself 'wow this is incredible, I can't imagine what next year could bring' and then it seems like it just continues to go forward a little bit. So I hope that continues. I hope the songs keep coming, people keep coming to see shows and I hope to keep doing this for a living.
What are you listening to now?
I really love the two Jake Bugg records. It's good to see someone young that's really, I feel, tipping his cap to the traditional ideal of the singer songwriter, but also has a completely unique, fresh twist on it. He makes me wanna be nineteen and way cooler than I am.
Watch "Strong" below and make sure to visit www.willhoge.com for more information
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Codie Prevost, who hails from Canada, is a country music singer songwriter who is releasing his fourth album All Kinds of Crazy on March 1st. Codie, who got married last June, recently returned from a belated honeymoon rested and excited about the release of his new album. He graciously called in to chat with us to discuss the album, writing and his 'Imagine No Bullying Tour.'
You have had much success in Canada, but many people here in the States might not know you. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Sure! I grew up in a small town in Saskatchewan that had about three hundred people. My Dad was a farmer; still has the farm today, and my mom owned a small bar. My mom and uncle would get together, pull out a guitar and play old country songs. I saw what joy and happiness just a voice and a guitar could bring. I thought that was really cool and thought maybe I would want to do that some day.
My mom always had music on in the house when she was baking or working, from Johnny Cash to Creedence Clearwater Revival. Listening to those records really influenced me.
When I was about fourteen, I took my mom's guitar to my bedroom and every day after school I taught myself to play. In junior high school, I bought an electric guitar. Then I started a punk rock band with a couple of friends and we would play every free chance we had. I was planning on buying a new electric guitar, but then an uncle, who lived in Calgary and who I was close with, died. He just loved country music. After his funeral I went into a music shop and something told me to buy an acoustic guitar instead of a new electric. I did and the first song I learned was "Folsom Prison Blues." It seems like yesterday that all started, and here we are now. It has been a whirlwind.
When then did you make the decision to have music be your profession?
I knew I loved playing music. I started writing songs when I was sixteen. It's not every day that someone from where I am wants to have a career in music. The challenging part was wrapping my head around actually doing it. I went to college for one year and entered different talent contests. I ended up meeting Al LeBlanc and we wrote and performed together. Then I asked him if he would manage me and help me book shows and he agreed. We are still working together to this day. We started out booking shows for $100 a night at small town bars. It was just me and a guitar for the first two years. From there it just snowballed. After a couple years of touring, I ended up going to Nashville to record my first record, which you know costs a bit of money to make. So I put together a business plan and went to a group of people in a town near mine, played them a few songs and got a small business loan. We recorded my first record in 2005, The Road Ahead. Ever since then, I have been traveling back and forth to Nashville. We recorded our second record, Get Loud, there in 2008.
Is it important to come to Nashville when working on a record?
Yes, it really is. There are great songwriters in Nashville. I felt that going there and being around songwriters helped me get that much better quicker. I got a chance to work with people who write every day. It was an eye opening experience. When I went into the studio and saw musicians play I was amazed. Still to this day, it is incredible to me how they can hear a song once and then go into a room, lay down the music and make it their own.
Do you like to co-write or write by yourself?
I do a lot of co-writing and really enjoy the process. When you have two times as many ideas flying around, the potential for a song really goes up. It's also good when you have writer's block because with a co-writer you can work past those blocks and get more done. I usually write ten to twenty songs a session depending who I am with when I am in Nashville. I come home with about ten songs. It really amazes me how songs can come together.
The new album All Kinds of Crazy has quite a few outside songs on it. I wrote my current single, "Someday," with a really good friend of mine, Adam Wheeler. I met him through a producer and I write with him every time I go to Nashville. The song has such a strong message of hope about getting through a really tough time in life. I was really happy with how it came together.
Talk a bit about the new album All Kinds of Crazy.
I recorded it in Vancouver with my producer Tim McKillip. It really does feel like my strongest record yet. This is the second time we are working together and it just feels like we are at a different level. We work well together and I was more comfortable with saying what I wanted and the vision I had for the album. One of the coolest things we did for this album was the cover. We went through many titles for the album before we decided on All Kinds of Crazy and we wanted to do something really unique for the cover. The designer for the album called me at night and said 'hey are you ready to do a photo shoot tomorrow?' I was a bit stressed out because I wasn't really prepared. We had talked about the craziest thing we could think of for this cover which was booking a circus. We really lucked out because there was one in town and they lent us their space. It was really just amazing. I have never done anything like that in my life. It was a little unnerving to have those elephants, who were a 100% real, next to me. The trainers were there telling me 'just stay calm' while I had trunks around my legs, but it went really well.
Do you have a favorite song from the album?
"Down The Line." I didn't write it, but I remember hearing it for the first time and just loving it. There are a couple of things I did differently vocally on that song. I used a lower register which I have never done before. It is one of my favorites and I hope everyone who hears it likes it.
You have been nominated three times for CMMAs and won the fan voted Saskatchewan Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year award five times. Is it important to bring your music to the US?
Oh yes. Bringing my music to the states has been a goal ever since I started singing. This year we have one US date booked and are working on a bunch more. From social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, I know there is a fan base there. They have been so supportive and I would like to acknowledge that by coming to play for them. I am definitely looking forward to that.
Talk a little bit about your Imagine No Bullying Tour.
Every time you turn on the television in the last few years, there is another tragedy with a youth taking their life as a result of bullying. To me, that is just heart wrenching. I was a victim of bullying when I was younger, but after the school day was done, I was kind of away from it. These days with the internet and texting, kids cannot escape it. We wanted to create awareness and let people know that it exists in their communities. One day I will have kids in school and we just want to do our part to make the world a better place, especially for the youth. We plan to continue this tour for the next three to five years.
What are your plans for 2014?
In February we will do a radio tour across Canada to promote my current single "Someday." Then in March we will release the new album with some interesting things planned in support of that. In April and May we will do the Imagine No Bullying Tour and then start a summer tour. We are very busy, but busy is good.
Is there one country artist male or female you would like to work with?
I got the chance to open for Florida Georgia Line last year when they came to Canada. It was just incredible to watch them do their show, how they interact with the crowd and bring everyone to life. I learned a lot just from that. And other than them, I would love to work with Keith Urban.
What album are you currently listening to?
I listen to a lot of different music, but I really like Keith Urban's new record. I have every other one of his albums. I wasn't quite sure what to expect with this one. It is quite a bit different, with lots of variety, but I definitely recommend it.
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You can listen to "Someday" below: