On April 14th, Minnesota based band Maiden Dixie released their sophomore record, UNSAFE & SOUND. The record, which contains eight tracks, is a diverse, yet united one. It hits everything from rock and country to bluegrass and gospel in tracks that are both raucous and emotional. Lead vocals are shared by Channing Himes and Jesse Becker while players Drew Sherman (bass), Jonathan Krentz (guitar), Zachary Scanlan (fiddle) and Tyler Kloewer (drums) round out the sextet. Band member Tyler Kloewer took some time to talk about their roots, the record and what's ahead.
For fans who might be new to your music, can you tell us how the six of you came together to form Maiden Dixie?
Well, I am originally from a small town in Iowa with maybe 200 people. There was not a huge music scene there, so I moved to St Paul and studied at McNally Smith Music School. It was there I met Jon and Channing. We played with one another in recitals at school, but I was in a different band at the time. A couple years later, their drummer ended up moving on as did my singer; the position opened and I started playing with them. I actually didn’t know country music that well at the time, so I was a little nervous going into it--not about playing, more about the knowledge of country, but I really got to dive deeper into it.
Before I joined, the band had been playing together for about two years. Drew and Jon served in Iraq together and played in the army band. When they returned they thought about how much they liked it and wanted to start a band over here. They called in Jesse and Zach and at some point grabbed Channing to sing and here we are.
Prior to joining Maiden Dixie and focusing on country music, what were the types of music that you were performing?
I was doing a lot of different stuff. I was trying to pave my way in the jazz scene. I also played in a pop cover band and started an original reggae band. All of those bands were fun, but they had no clear direction. I wanted to make music a full time gig for myself.
All of you come from very different musical backgrounds; that certainly must have an influence on your sound.
Yeah absolutely. It’s funny because we literally don’t listen to anything when we ride together to shows. Well, maybe country because we can all agree on that! I’m actually a huge pop fan so I love Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake and Sam Smith. Drew’s taste is very avant garde, he likes guys like Frank Zappa. Zach just listens to classical music. Jesse loves country, Jon likes a lot of classic rock and Channing, she’s a rocker at heart, but she loves Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood. Our influences are all over the map which is great because everyone sort of loves it all.
Jesse Terry is an award-winning, internationally touring troubadour who has often been compared to the likes of Jackson Browne, Ryan Adams, and Paul Simon. Jesse tours relentlessly across America and throughout the world, from Europe and Greenland to the UK and New Zealand. Along the way, he has shared stages with folks like Paula Cole, Darrell Scott, and Liz Longley, among others.
He’s a winner of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, The International Songwriting Competition and the NSAI/CMT Song Contest and his songs have been featured on many network television shows, including ABC’s Forever, the CW’s Hart of Dixie and PBS’ Roadtrip Nation. Terry has released three full-length albums and is releasing a brand new EP in May 2015. Jesse was recently selected to perform at the 2015 Bonnaroo Music & Arts festival and was included on the Bonnaroo Mixtape 2015. While touing Europe, Jesse was kind enough to chat via email about touring, his new EP, playing Bonnaroo and more!
What has been going on professionally since we last spoke?
Wow, if I take a second to look back, so much has happened since we last spoke. I signed a management deal with an amazing person that has been a big boost for me. I signed an exclusive licensing deal with a wonderful company, Music Alternatives (Joshua Radin, They Might Be Giants and other greats are on their roster).
My song “Stay Here With Me” (co-written with brilliant producer/artist/engineer Neilson Hubbard) was recently featured on ABC’s new TV series Forever. “Stay Here With Me” was also included on the 2015 Bonnaroo Mixtape, available now for free on NoiseTrade.com. Also featured on the Mixtape are heroes like Brandi Carlile, Gregory Alan Isakov, Trampled By Turtles and Guster.
I just keep touring, making music and meeting people. It’s a lot of joyful work and a lot of time away from home, but I love it. I love the journey, the travelling and the adventure. My wife and my pup can come with me on most of my tours, which is really the most important thing to me. They are my home and if they are with me most of the time, I’m cool.
Playing all of this music is taking me into some bigger rooms, theatres and bigger concert series. Now I’m starting to headline or co-bill at places where I’ve only opened in the past; classic venues like Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair, NJ and Club Passim in Cambridge, MA. It feels really good because I’ve worked really hard for that. I dreamed of it and I visualized it. I can’t reflect for too long because there is much work to be done and lots of music to be made. And of course, these shows mean nothing without my wonderful audience showing up and supporting me.
PJ Ju is an aspiring songwriter who splits her time between NYC and Nashville. She has had two songs in the NSAI Top 40 as well as had her songs pitched to major labels and indie artist camps including George Strait, Luke Bryan, Craig Morgan and Kellie Pickler. She was kind enough to talk with us about her journey with songwriting and what’s ahead for her professionally.
Were music and songwriting something that you wanted to pursue from a young age?
Since I was a kid I was doing both computer programming and music. I was classically trained in piano at 5 ½ and attended Julliard. I started writing classical music, and my earlier songs I'd say were alt-indie-pop. I absolutely loved Sarah McLachlan and strived to write something as simple and poignant as "What I'd Say" (written by Robert Byrne and Will Robinson, cut by Gary Allan and Earl Thomas Conley) or "Trying to Get Over You" (Vince Gill). I started driving cross country in my late teens and listened to Country on the radio, falling in love with great songs that told a story so well they either ripped my heart out or made me wanna dance. I'm always trying to write great songs, and believe that just like Mozart can be played like Bach or vice versa, a great song can transcend genres. I've also written musical theatre and incidental music for film/TV/theatre.
When did you begin to focus more on writing country songs?
I dove into the Country songwriting and music business scene in 2013 for two reasons. One, a mentor and the first Nashville publisher I met told me "You can't go to Nashville and not become a better songwriter, no matter what genre you write.” And two, the realities of the business--there are more Country artists cutting songs other people wrote than there are in Pop, Indie, or others.
Is there a particular songwriter that you admire?
Brett James is my songwriter idol - I love his range. He can write a great Kelly Clarkson pop hit like "Mr. Know it All" and turn around with a Carrie Underwood pop/country power ballad "Jesus Take the Wheel" and the hip-hop/country near-rap that's Brantley Gilbert's "Bottoms Up."
Patoka, IL native Drew Baldridge's music reflects the small town life in which he was raised, from fun filled weekend nights to his religious influences. Over the past few years, the singer songwriter has shared the stage with artists such as Alabama, Phil Vassar, and Josh Turner among others. On April 7th, Baldridge released his newest EP, Crossing County Lines Volume 2. He kindly took the time to talk with us about his roots, the project, and the exciting things ahead.
You began playing guitar and writing music at age seventeen. Was music always something you were interested in?
I always played music growing up. I played piano for a long time, but gave it up when I started playing sports. Of course you know how it is--when you’re around seventeen years old you get your first girlfriend and it goes south ....and then you start writing about it! It all started with the emotions around that story. Then my mom surprised me on my 18th birthday with tickets to see Josh Turner in Nashville at the Wildhorse Saloon. We came down to see him and while watching him I thought “man I want to do this” and decided to give music a shot.
Is it true that you gave up the opportunity to play college basketball and baseball to pursue music?
I did. Several different colleges had scholarship for me. I went to visit, but the whole time in my mind I was thinking that this wasn’t really what God wanted for me. One day I just said to my mom that I didn’t think I was going to play sports in college; I was going to move to Nashville to do music. She looked at me and agreed it was the right thing to do. She and my Dad have believed in and supported me 100% since the day they drove me down here [to Nashville].
What specifically drew you to country music?
It was just the way I grew up. I was raised in a small town of six hundred people. My grandpa had a farm and we all helped him. It’s what I know. I’m not saying that I don’t love other kinds of music, I do. I listened to a lot of Elvis, Michael Jackson, and the Backstreet Boys; I loved all that stuff, but I gravitated to country music. No matter the production, a country song tells a story. That’s what a country song is [to me] and that’s what I love about country music.
Country and Traditional Irish Singer Bernadette has shared the stage with some of the greats including Wynonna, Billy Dean, Vince Gill, Jim Ed Brown, and countless others. Upon the sudden death of her beloved fiancée, Bernadette followed her path toward new strength and a new beginning. In 2014 with the help of producer friend John Mock, Bernadette released a new record, not the same me. Bernadette credits the album, which contains original country music as well as traditional Irish songs, with helping her cope with the grieving. Bernadette graciously took the time to talk about the record including how grief played a role in choosing the songs, how loss changed her and more.
Originally, you are from Ireland. What drew you to country music?
It has always been country music for me. Growing up, my mother always listened to Charley Pride, other country singers from America and Irish country singers like, Big Tom. When I became a teenager, I started listening to Patsy Cline and Dolly [Parton]. People always told me I was good at singing country music and that's what I did.
You have been in the US for quite a while now. Did you specifically move to the states to pursue a music career?
I left Ireland to see what was beyond it, really. I started a band, called Big Distance, in England when I was nineteen. We played traditional Irish music as well as country music from Ireland and the US. I didn’t set out to have a music career in Nashville, but along the way that’s how things kind of developed. Nashville is full of great singers who haven't had opportunities, and that can be very alarming and disheartening, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. At the end of the day someone who does this has to have a great love for the music because you wouldn’t get up and work at it every day if you didn’t.
It feels like I have been doing this for a hundred years (laughing). I stay in Nashville because I work as a nursing tech. I look after the elderly and people in hospice, which I love. I do what I can [performing] here and try to reach as big an audience as I can playing, for example, The Midnight Jamboree, without getting on a bus and traveling all over. I would like to travel but I don’t want to leave my nursing. The elderly people can just get into your heart….and they love to hear me sing, so I can blend my jobs together. It can be difficult to transition from working where one minute someone can pass on and hours later you are on stage trying to do a show, but it has made me the artist and woman I am today.
Asheville, NC based roots band The Honeycutters are set to debut their third album, Me Oh My, on April 21st via Organic Records. The album contains fourteen songs dealing with the themes of life, love, and growth. The songs are honestly told and fueled by pedal steel, dobro, mandolin and Amanda Anne Platt's timeless vocals. Ahead of the release, front woman Platt took some time to talk about the album, the writing process, and more
Being that some people might be new to your music, can you tell us when The Honeycutters formed and whether you are all original members?
At this point there are very few original members. I moved to Asheville in 2007 and founded the band with Peter James, who played guitar and is no longer with us, and Tal Taylor, who plays mandolin. Currently with us are Matt Smith, who played guitar and dobro on the first two albums, but wasn’t a touring member until later, and Rick Cooper [bass] and Josh Milligan [drums], who hopped on board in 2012. It’s been a rotating cast of characters, but we have had the current lineup for about two years now.
Originally you are from New York, so when you decided to pursue music why did you gravitate to Asheville instead of say, Austin or Nashville?
Well that’s an excellent question. I was in Austin last week and then Nashville and now I am on the way back to North Carolina. I love both of those cities and I did think about moving to them, but I felt like I was going to be overwhelmed in either one. I have family in Austin, so that felt nice and safe, but it was already becoming a big city, and Nashville has a lot of competition. Another reason that brought me to Asheville was that I wanted to study guitar building, I wanted to be a luthier. There was a big school in Austin with a good program, but I didn’t feel it would be as personal, so I found a guy in Asheville to apprentice with and that was kind of the final sign for me, like okay, I’ll go there to study.
Asheville, like Austin and Nashville, seems to have a vibrant music scene.
Definitely…. and it’s growing fast. I’m glad that I got in when I did because it’s getting easier to get lost in it. When I moved there it was a very organic scene, and it still is; everyone is supportive, likes one another and hangs out, but it is growing fast.
Congratulations on the new record, Me Oh My, which releases on April 21st. The album has a lovely balance of tempos and a real variety. Is that something you knew you wanted to do going into it?
Yeah, you know, I think I have an advantage in that I write a lot. I am a very prolific songwriter; in fact the pace at which we have made albums has been very slow for my taste! So by the time we got around to this record, which is our third, I had like, five to six albums worth of material. It wasn’t like “ok I have to write for this album” and needed to get into a headspace. It was more like “ok well, what songs that I’ve written over the past four to five years do I wanna put here, what do I wanna say and how can I give it some variety.” I could have made this a break up album because I had a pretty big breakup before it was recorded, but as it was I kinda reached back to some older stuff to make it more of a mix.
An award winning and respected artist, Stoney LaRue has been leaving his mark on the Texas music scene for over a decade. He released his fourth album, Aviator, last October and has seen the title track ascend the Texas Music Charts where it currently sits at #4. A modern day poet, he crafts songs that truly have something to say while his live show captures and engages the audience. Currently on the road in the Northeast with Randy Rogers, LaRue graciously took some time to talk about Aviator, songwriting and more.
Aviator, your 4th album, was released this past October. You worked with Frank Liddell and Mike McCarthy both of whom you worked with on Velvet, but it was your first record for eOne in Nashville. Having been independent, how was the whole process of making a record with a label?
It was wonderful, and a catalyst for sure. They’ve done more for my career in the past six months than we were able to do in the past sixteen years on the road. We have gotten to speak with more people, as well as play the Opry and have our videos on CMT. It’s just been wonderful; it’s everything I’ve been praying for all these years. Knowing Frank and working with him was a blessing; for him to take the time and want to collaborate with me on something floored me. What a great experience all the way around.
The record seems to be one that is very mature with an almost peaceful, reflective energy that melodically seems to flow together. Was that something you planned?
I think that it was Frank’s purpose and direction to make sure that the record was a complete thought, a work of art, and that it came across that way to the listener. I collaborated with Mando [Saenz] and we had written a lot of the songs in a timely manner. In fact, Aviator is [tracked] almost in the order we’d written the songs.
To me, your songs are very poetic. They have to be really listened to, digested and thought about. Do you like to write that way instead of say, a straight up story song?
I like to write all ways, but at this particular time and point in my life I really like the impressionistic approach to writing, to really get people to think about what they’re listening to as opposed to just being spoon fed something. Sometimes I think you should think about what needs to be thought about; that’s my purpose.
The songs are relatable, but still maintain a personal quality.
Oh yeah, absolutely. I know they’re personal to me and Mando as well. I would assume other artists would feel the same, but I can’t confirm or deny that; I can just tell my songs from my point of view. For me it always has to be portrayed that way. The fans aren’t stupid, they can tell when you’re faking it.
For almost fifteen years, the Randy Rogers Band has been a mainstay on the Texas scene and beyond with their music that focuses on songs both heartfelt and dance hall ready. They continue to tour over half the year and have released a total of nine albums, including their latest, 2014's Homemade Tamales: Live at Floore's. On April 20th, Randy Rogers will release an new album, Hold My Beer: Vol. 1, with longtime friend Wade Bowen. Randy graciously took the time to talk about Hold My Beer, new RRB music, and much more, including his bucket list item.
Hold My Beer Vol. 1, your record with Wade Bowen, releases on April 20th. Sometimes people say not to mix friendship and business, but in your case it seems to work well. How was it working with one of your closest friends making an entire record as opposed to say, just guesting on one?
Well you know, we’re really close friends; everybody in the press calls it a "bromance" (laughing). We’ve been on the road touring together for over twelve years, so making the record was more fun than it was anything. I think Wade’s a funny dude, and we had a blast!
The album cover is awfully fun. How did you decide whose name went first?
Well, we farkled for it, rock paper scissors, you know. That’s pretty much how we solve all life’s problems (laughing).
You have been doing the acoustic shows with Wade for eight years, so what finally spurred putting this album out now?
Truthfully, we both got dropped from our record labels. Wade was on Sony, and I was on Mercury and MCA for the last ten years. I made four records for them, and my contract was up. It was the right time for us because we were able to make a record without any red tape, without labels telling us who we could record with or when it could come out.
The record is being released on Lilbuddy Toons. Is that a joint venture with Wade?
“Joint venture,” (laughing) I like that; the record comes out 4/20 you know. Lilbuddy is something Wade and I started. It’s what I call him, my lil buddy.
And being that it’s titled Vol. 1, can we expect a Vol. 2 in the future?
You know, we named it Vol. 1 as a little foreshadowing. It forces us to be hard workers!
The record has both original songs and a few covers. Did you write the originals with Wade, or did you bring in other people as well?
There are a couple that he and I wrote together and four or five that we wrote with other folks. It’s hard writing songs for two dudes to sing; it’s kinda weird. Usually I write love songs or songs about getting your heart broken, so it was interesting to try and figure something out that’s clever without being too cheeseball.
The album also includes two Merle Haggard covers and one from Joe Ely. Being that those guys have nice size catalogs, why chose those three? Are they personal favorites?
The Merle and Willie duet from the 80’s [“Reasons to Quit”] sums up my life on the road and Wade’s as well. We’re not getting any younger. We’re both raising families; at the same time we’re out here playing 165 shows a year, so you start to weigh the pros and cons of being on the road. “It’s Been A Great Afternoon” is a Merle standard that I’ve always loved. It’s all about the hair of the dog, getting back on the horse after you have partied all night. Being from Texas, Joe Ely’s music is a staple in my catalog. We wanted to give him a nod because he kinda blazed the trails and paved the road we’re on now. We chose it [“I Had My Hopes Up High”] not only because it’s a great song, but out of respect too.
Bethany Becker is a seventeen year old recording artist from Austin, TX. She released her debut EP Maybe More in 2014, with the video for the title track recently passing 100,000 You Tube views. Becker was nominated for an HMMA award (Hollywood Music in Media) and was dubbed a new emerging artist by the music biz site Kings of A&R. She took some time to talk about the EP, co-writing with Nashville heavy weights and what's ahead.
Being that you are seventeen, did you know very early that music was what you wanted pursue?
I did! It was about when I was seven and realized that I couldn’t be a Disney princess that I decided I wanted to pursue music. I always sang around the house and when I found the Disney channel and saw that everyone on there could sing, I knew I wanted to be a singer. I sang a solo in second grade and then anytime I could sing, I would. Be it in musicals or at church I just wanted to get in front of people and sing as much as I could. I didn’t really start to become serious about it and pursue it professionally though until I was about twelve or thirteen.
How do you balance school and a music career?
I am home schooled. It was very challenging to go to school, be on the dance team, in the choir and perform in musicals. Trying to do everything was not working in my favor, so I switched to home schooling, which has made it a lot easier. I also have a super supportive family. I have four brothers and two awesome parents who have stuck by my side through everything!
When did you start writing?
Writing has always appealed to me. When I was little my friends and I tried making up songs with really cute melodies and lyrics. I guess I’ve been trying to write my entire life, but I became serious about it around three years ago.
A true singer songwriter, Zane Williams is an artist who infuses his music with honesty and passion. Williams is set to release his newest album, Texas Like That, on April 14th. The album's ten songs, all self-penned, range from heartfelt ballads to honky tonk ready tracks. Williams was gracious enough to take the time to talk about the album, including his writing process and the story behind "Jayton and Jill."
Texas Like That is your fifth album. What, if anything, did you do differently with this one than the previous?
Well, it is a lot of the same. I wrote all of the songs and used the same producer as the last record, Overnight Success. We did record this one all in Texas, which was the first time I did that. Other than that I think the songs are a little different--there’s more of an emphasis on the music. I have been playing with a full band for a couple years now and when I was writing I was hearing “band stuff” in my head, which helped make this record a bit more musically intense than the last record.
When we last spoke you said that “everything comes from the brain of Zane Williams.” So is your brain constantly working on songs or do you carve out days to write?
I write little by little. I can’t turn it off and compartmentalize it. I have never been good at writing a song at like 10am on a Tuesday morning. More often than not, I get inspired on long drives or when I am mowing the yard or doing dishes; some task like that where your hands are busy and your mind can wander. I’m pretty much always working on new material.
Texas Like That has great stories and melodies, but also a few surprises, especially in songs like “Throwback” and “Just Getting Started” which have a real contemporary feel.
They’ve definitely got that kind of rhythm of the words, almost rap-ish sound. I don’t necessarily try to write in that style, but I don’t not try to write that style. I just write whatever pops into my head. I have learned that my voice is inherently country sounding and that if I have mandolin, fiddle and dobro, all of which I love, with my voice, it always sounds pretty country.