A native of Florida, Jeremy Steding was raised on the sounds of Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly, Dylan, and Prine. While attending the University of Florida, Steding was turned onto Cory Morrow and Robert Earl Keen and eventually moved to Texas spending a decade there, becoming a staple in the Texas/Red Dirt scene. In June '16, Steding relocated to Nashville where he has created his latest album, Odessa (which includes the Top 20 single, “Late Night Love Song”). Prior to heading out on tour, Steding kindly checked in to talk about the release, the stories behind the songs, and more.
With Odessa being your fifth record, did you find yourself doing anything differently this time around?
A little bit. I worked with the same producers, Chris Gill and Gavin Shea [Handmade Productions], but since we moved to Nashville in mid-2016, we recorded the record here - and because of that I was able to get into the studio and have more of a hands-on role with things like mixing and everything else which was really cool.
Were the songs for the album all written after you moved to Nashville or were some ones you had in your pocket?
It’s been three years since my last record and in the interim, I probably wrote sixty songs. Eight of the songs on the record are brand new and the others are ones that stuck with me and resonated with people when they heard them live. Those two songs “Get The Hell Off This Rig” and “Odessa” which were songs I had written for the Acoustic Saloon, were written before the move, three more were written soon after, and the final three were written for the album after the Indiegogo was done. I wrote them all myself except for "If It Takes A Lifetime" which I wrote with my good friend, Mike Ethan Messick.
Even though you moved to Nashville, there is a lot of Texas in this record. You mentioned the title track and the closer. Why did you choose to bookend the album with those songs?
For sure. I definitely consider it a Texas Country record as opposed to any type of mainstream country record and by having those songs as bookends, the album begins and ends with a West Texas theme. There’s really no place anywhere else like West Texas – it’s inspiring and/or depressing - and I took a lot of what I’ve seen from that culture and put it in the album.
I chose "Odessa" as the starter because I always like to just jump into an album with something up-tempo so the album comes out swinging and then falls into a groove from there. And I closed with “Get Me The Hell Off My Rig” because I wanted to leave it on an almost eerie note.
From a very young age, music was present in Mark Melloan’s life. The Kentucky native’s parents were both musicians and singers who passed their love of music to their son. By his teen years, Melloan was writing and playing guitar and eventually released his first album The Shadowlands in 2002. After an extended break, Melloan debuted his latest full-length, Hallelujah Love, which mixes Country, Bluegrass, Rock and Pop, in 2016. Recently, Melloan graciously took the time to speak about his roots, the album, and the busy year ahead.
Even though you may be a new artist to some, you have been pursuing music for quite some time.
I grew up in Kentucky with my Mom and Dad who toured in a gospel band [The Gospel Voices] and I guess when I was about eleven or twelve I got the notion to get involved with music. I took piano lessons, began writing and singing, and realized music was what I wanted to do with my life. It’s been a dream for as long as I can remember.
At Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Melloan made a name for himself as one of Kentucky's finest singer-songwriters. He collaborated with a number of great musicians like Curtis Burch and Bela Fleck of Newgrass Revival, Kentucky Headhunter Greg Martin, and jazz pianist Beegie Adair. Additionally, his songs have been used commercially by the NCAA athletics department of his alma mater as well as the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
Your latest album, Hallelujah Love, has a real Americana feel. How has your musical style evolved over the years?
When I was younger, I listened to a lot of Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, and CCR. In college, I became interested in Bluegrass, Alison Krauss, and the music that is unique to our region. I’ve always enjoyed unconventional blends of music, so when I heard New Grass Revival it was a big deal to me because I saw that you could fuse musical influences and create something unique.
In college, I made a lifelong friend in Curtis Burch [founding member of New Grass Revival]. He took me under his wing and helped me produce The Shadowlands. He was always encouraging and supportive and a lot of the success I had with that record was because of him. It was very affirming to have a person of that caliber think so much of my material, want to work with me, and then connect me with musical legends, like Bela Fleck. It’s still hard to believe even now.
Voted Kentucky’s Favorite Musical Group in 2016, Jericho Woods are poised to bring that winning sound to the other forty-nine with their new single, “Better Now.” Blending their love of varied genres, Jericho Woods merge Country, Rock, Roots, Bluegrass, and more into a sound that is both familiar and unique on memorable tunes that are as catchy as they are relatable. Josh Mitcham (guitar & vocals) and Paul Priest (bass & vocals) graciously took the time for a chat about their roots, “Better Now,” and more.
The two of you are cousins, but can you elaborate on how Jericho Woods came together?
Josh: Jericho Woods has been together for a little over three years now. I had been in a band for fifteen years and Paul was playing Bluegrass. We always wanted to play together, but we were kind of like ships in the night and it never worked out. I did a solo record and was teaching high school while Paul retired from Bluegrass. We then started playing together and it just felt good, so we asked other guys to join us - and it kind of ruined our lives (laughing), but in the best way possible. I was living what seemed like parallel lives: I was this married guy with kids, teaching high school who was playing living this rock and roll lifestyle on the weekends, but all while I knew I wanted to do music and finally this opportunity came along and we realized we had the possibility of this being something great.
Paul: Coming from a Bluegrass background, I never had the opportunity to play electric music, I always listened to it and thought about being an electric bass player in a big loud country rock band because I love John Mellencamp as much as I do Bill Monroe and Flatt and Scruggs, but I never thought I was capable of playing that kind of music. I thought I would be playing Bluegrass the rest of my life, but what we’re doing now feels really natural and I’m really happy – who knew that later in life I would learn that I am a rocker! (laughing)
Sixteen-year-old Zelena Hull began singing when she was ten years old. She quickly moved onto guitar and writing songs, tallying well over 300 so far. Mixing country and classic rock, Hull says, “I listen to all genres and my influences include artists from the Rolling Stones to Kansas.”
In December, Hull released her EP, 6 Feet Under which contains six songs all of which she wrote herself. Of the title track she says, “That song is about my struggle to stay happy and positive while getting through the rough spots.”
Other songs on the album include “Time” which Hull says was written about “People not knowing when to make their move whether realizing it is time to give up or move forward to something” and single “I Believe” which Hull wrote after her Dad told her a story about World War I. Hull explains, “When the Allies heard the Germans singing “Silent Night” they joined in and had a competition to see who could sing the loudest. They had kind of a truce where they also shared stories, buried one another’s dead, and played soccer. It was beautiful but, eventually the war continued.” Listen to the track HERE.
Hull is currently working on two brand new singles. For more information, visit her official website.
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Founded in 1988 in memory of Eddy Merle Watson as a fundraiser for Wilkes Community College and to celebrate ‘traditional plus’ music, MerleFest brings MUSIC, MOMENTS and MEMORIES to its 30th year in 2017. Held on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina from April 27-30th, MerleFest, long regarded as one of the country's premier music festivals, brings together varied and well-regarded artists including Chris Jones, who along with his band The Night Drivers, will be playing MerleFest this April. In advance of the festival, Jones kindly talked about what MerleFest means to him, his new album and more.
MerleFest is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. How many years have you been playing the festival?
This will be my second time. I enjoy MerleFest for its ability to bring high-quality and diverse artists to the stage, its focus on original music, songwriting contests, and heritage. As a Bluegrass band who plays original music, it’s really nice to be associated with this festival and as a Doc and Merle Watson fan, it means a lot to me personally to be involved.
Will you have the opportunity to take in other artists while you are there?
Definitely, especially with the quality of artists represented. There are artists there we don’t get to see very often and some I have never seen. I’m really hoping to catch Donna the Buffalo and the Kruger Brothers, both of whom are MerleFest regulars. I also have a fondness for fiddle music and am looking forward to seeing Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy. I’m also a big fan of Celtic music in general, so I hope to catch John Doyle, an Irish guitar I like very much. There’s just a really impressive lineup.
Southern rock & rollers The Pinx released their latest album, Freedom, in 2016. A culmination of attitude and creativity, the autobiographical album puts forth stories pulled from front man Adam McIntyre’s personal life and years spent as a touring musician. With Freedom having recently been released on red, white, and blue vinyl, McIntyre kindly checked in to talk about in depth about the album and much more.
Over the years, you have been involved with various bands, but now it seems the focus is firmly on The Pinx. When did the band get it start?
I have been with The Pinx for ten years now, but the current lineup got together only last year. So in a way, we’re a brand-new band with a new focus and a new way of doing things. Over the past few years, when I was a sideman for other bands like Stonerider, I figured some things out including the fact that I was really fucking around. I was writing ok songs and performing ok, but I was really limiting myself. The record is titled Freedom partly because it’s been my journey of late to figure out what I’ve been doing to hold myself back.
And what have you learned?
All I’ve been doing for the past eight or nine years now is trying to grow up and figure myself out and own my issues - and instead of that making the music boring I think it’s made it better. The old me would have written about characters in the 70’s and 80’s, but I remembered that one of the first things I learned in college and songwriting was to write what you know because people can tell when you’re bullshitting. When I was starting this album, I realized that over the past thirty years making music I acquired stories that were hilarious, sad, and interesting – and I wasn’t putting them in songs, I was telling them after shows while we were hanging. Ultimately, I wondered why I wasn’t writing about those experiences and making them into a record, so two years ago, I asked Stonerider for one day a week off to work on my own music. In that time, I was pulling from stories that took place over the last fifteen years. All of the songs on Freedom, except for the last one which is an MC5 cover, are all autobiographical, like “Boss Man” which is the embarrassing and gut-wrenching story of my first wedding night.
Released on February 3rd, award-winning British singer-songwriter Jo Harman's second studio album, People We Become , is a personal story brought to life by the warm sound of upright piano, electric guitar, and Harman's soulful voice. The album, recorded in Nashville at Sound Emporium Studio with producer Fred Mollin, contains ten tracks including first single, "When We Were Young" which features rock legend Michael McDonald. While on tour, Harman graciously took the time to talk about her roots, the album, and more by answering a few questions via email.
Since you are new to many American listeners, can you give a brief background as to how you came to pursue music professionally?
Even though I don't come from a particularly musical family I had a very musical childhood including playing violin, piano and bassoon (the latter to very good standard) as well as singing in school bands etc. To cut a very long story, very short, it took the death of my father (I was 22 at the time) to make me re-evaluate my ambitions and dreams and by the time I was 25 singing became a full time profession, and a couple of years later I realised the only thing that would make me truly happy was to be an originals artist, operating entirely on my own terms, which I have been ever since.
You have a very soulful voice, did you begin singing in that style or did you have to, as many artists have told me, find your voice?
I guess I always had (relative) power and bluesy tones by dint of my natural physiology but phrasing and how to use my voice, in different ways, has developed year on year and I guess will forever be in development. I'm certainly very influenced by classic soul and gospel stylings, and black American music generally, in terms of the armoury I have at my disposal but I try not to simply be a copyist and, for one thing, I try to keep my natural English accent in sight too.
Are there any particular artists you draw inspiration or influence from?
Many but Ella, Aretha, Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill, Mavis Staples, Joplin etc are all in there somewhere as I listened to a lot of that kind of music growing up. On the composition front I'm probably more influenced by my late Father's vinyl collection of classic English rock and singer-songwriters. In many ways the combination of the two elements (US black music and classic English rock from the 'golden age of music') have helped define my singular style and approach, perhaps. I'm told I make 'Jo Harman' records and I quite like the fact that they are thought of as signature records, with a signature voice, although everything I do just comes naturally and intuitively; nothing is over thought or engineered.
Hailing from Houston, Charlie and The Regrets bring a unique Gulf Coast flavor to their music, blending Country, Blues, and even infusing a some Cajun flair on their full-length debut Rivers in the Streets. The nine tracks feature songs about real life and real issues dealing with situations with heart, humor, and sincerity. Front man Charlie Harrison graciously too the time to speak about his roots, the album, his beloved Houston and more.
Before we dive into the record, how did you come to form Charlie and The Regrets? Was music something you have been pursuing for a long time?
I’ve been playing music a long time. My first gig was in high school, and later, I played in bar bands when I went to UT Austin. After graduation, I worked as a stock broker – and was just terrible at it (laughing). So I quit, went back to school, worked a corporate gig, and eventually moved to the DC area with my wife. I put the music down for a while, but it was such a part of me I realized I couldn’t keep it down. So, in DC, I started to play out with a buddy in our band, Charlie and the Contraband. We were doing really well and gaining a following, but my wife and I decided to move back to Houston in late 2013/early 2014.
When I moved back, my brother hooked me up with Willy, our lap steel player, and little by little we pieced together the band. It can be a difficult thing to find a group of guys who think the same musically and get along and I know that I’m really lucky to go out every night and play with these guys who are top notch musicians [Mark Riddell, bass; Matt Stinson and Isaias Gil drums; John Shelton guitar]. I tell everyone it’s great to be the least talented guy in the band - and it’s true. Playing with them is not only fun, but it makes you want to be a better songwriter and musician.
On February 24th, the band released their first full-length, Rivers in the Streets. The songs on the record tell stories of real life that are both humorous and dark. As a co-writer on all of the tracks, where do you draw from?
Every song has a kernel of me in it, but I also pull from other places and write from a perspective that often times many people don’t think about. “The Gavel” is pulled from two news stories, one in Waco where the DA was trying to make an example out of a kid caught selling pot brownies and the other was the death of Ken Lay and how his record was expunged when he died because they said if he had lived, he could have had successful appeals. I thought it was funny how we pick and choose who we throw the book at and so here I was trying to write this social justice song and it came out more as a funny song about pot (laughing).