Nashville by way of Kansas singer-songwriter Matt Gary has been in Music City for almost a decade dedicating himself to mastering his craft and now is seeing his career reach new heights with his latest single, “Back." Fusing contemporary country sounds with emotional storytelling, "Back" tells of a man's desire to win back an old flame whom he still longs for. In the midst of a radio tour, Gary took the time to speak about his roots, the single and its accompanying lyric video, and more.
You grew up playing soccer, but turned to music when an elementary teacher saw something special in you.
I grew up in Kansas, playing competitive soccer and traveling all over, including Europe, which was awesome. In elementary school, I had a teacher who asked my parents who in the family was musical and my mom was like ‘What are you talking about?’ The teacher said I had a good voice and that’s how it all started. I sang in school and at church, then I started writing songs, playing guitar and piano, and taking voice lessons.....and next thing I know, I wanted to be a country artist.
Why did you gravitate to country music? Was it something you were exposed to early on?
Yeah, it was. I love country music – there’s something about the authenticity of the stories. My mom loves Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, and Martina McBride and whenever I was driving around with her, she had them playing in the car. As I got older I started finding the music I was personally interested in. I remember the first album that really sucked me in was Tracy Lawrence’s Time Marches On, which I listened to on repeat.
The Blackfoot Gypsies ascend to new heights on their latest full-length, To The Top, which was released April 14th via Plowboy Records. The Nashville-based foursome – Matthew Paige (vocals/guitar/mandolin/violin/banjo), Dylan Whitlow (bass/piano/vocals), Ollie Dogg (harmonica/bird whistle/vocals) and Zack Murphy (drums/worldly percussion/vocals) bring grooves and grit a plenty on the passionate fifteen-track outing that blends Blues, Country, and good old Rock and Roll. Ahead of a busy touring schedule, Zack Murphy kindly took some time to speak about the record.
To The Top is your third album and second as a foursome. How did you and Matthew initially connect and then later bring in Ollie and Zack?
I met Matthew back in 2012 after he moved to Nashville. We really hit it off from our first jam and ended up touring and putting out an album together. We basically had everything written for the second album [Handle It], but before we went into the studio to record it, we hooked up with Ollie and Dylan who were just a natural fit with what we were doing. We toured for two years behind that record and then wrote this new one, To The Top, which is really the first album the four of us had worked on together from its beginning.
To The Top shows varied influences from Country and Southern Rock to the Blues and more. As a drummer, what’s your background?
I always wanted to play the guitar, but my parents wanted me to do something a little less rock and roll, so I started playing music -the violin- when I was three. At twelve I inherited a drum set from my grandfather, so I put the violin down and focused on drums. I was constantly playing in various bands before I moved to Knoxville for school, but when school was done I knew that I wanted to be serious about pursuing music and moved back to Nashville. I wanted to start a rock and roll band and ended up playing around town, but no one had the same desire to do it until I met Matthew, so us getting together was a no-brainer.
A respected and beloved musical voice in Texas and beyond, Bruce Robison returns on April 28th with his first solo album in almost a decade, Bruce Robison and The Back Porch Band. The all-analog project blends originals, covers, and co-writes into a solid collection that captures country music at its finest. Robison, whose love for all things music extends well beyond songwriting and recording has also poured his passion into his newest project, The Next Waltz, a new web series and “musical saloon” where artists and friends gather to re-imagine songs, reinvigorate covers, tell stories and craft new works. Taking some time from a busy schedule, Robison graciously called to speak about his new project, The Next Waltz, and, more.
Over the past few years, you’ve been incredibly busy making records with your wife Kelly Willis and working on your series The Next Waltz, but it has been quite some time since you released a solo record. What made now the right time?
I definitely had a great time making those records with Kelly, it was a great way to reenergize, reinvigorate, refocus, and be part of a band for a little while, but we both knew that we weren’t going to do that forever. I love collaborations, no matter who they may be with, but the plan was always to figure what solo project I wanted to do.
The new album, Bruce Robison and The Back Porch Band, releases on April 28th. I read that you wanted to keep things simple with this record; what does simple mean to you in terms of making an album?
Well, there are a few different versions of what simple can be, all of which add to how a recording ends up sounding. I try and write songs that are my idea of the way a country song should sound like, like “Help Me Make It Through The Night” or Blue Eyes Crying in The Rain” which are songs where you don’t need a whole lot of words to paint the picture that you’re trying to tell. So, in that way, songs can be simple and then, on the other hand, there’s the simplicity of making a record. In modern day, you can make 150 tracks of digital recording and then try and piece it all back together at the end to make it sound like a performance – and that, to me, is not keeping it simple. Keeping it close to the sound of a real, live performance and have that be what the listener hears is what I’m looking for.
I have been working in music for many years, but this record was made in a completely different way than I have ever recorded. It was recorded in a space I call the Bunker, which is a big time capsule of a recording studio where we’re all in the same room, playing music together, and letting the songs show the way. In the process of recording, I did twenty-five or thirty songs to come up with the nine that feel like they are a part of the same vibe and hold the album together in the right way.
For UK-based country singer-songwriter Carolynne, music has always been a priority. Her story starts at the age of fourteen, when her family inspired her to hit the road joining five-piece country band Sundown. After several years of touring, she starting work as a published songwriter all the while continuing to tour and perform. Eventually, she appeared on the X Factor UK, being the first UK contestant to bring Country music to the X Factor stage . Carolynne's debut EP, Coming Back To Me was released April 7th and the singer-songwriter kindly took the time via email to speak about her roots, the EP, and more.
Your story starts at the age of fourteen, but for anyone who may be new to you and your music can you give a brief background as to when you began singing/songwriting and when you knew you wanted to pursue music professionally?
I was first introduced to country music by my Nan and my aunt. My dad loved it too but he would often listen to other genres also, my aunt and Nan were the big time country fans & you'd often see them shopping in their cowboy boots. We call them in our family "the country nutters".
Our family would often go to the country club at the local social club on a Tuesday evening to watch the bands and that's where it all started for me. My aunt took me to see one of the bands on the scene, a father and son duo called Sundown. She told them I could sing and would he listen and give me some advice. I sang for him in his living room but didn't want him to look at me so everyone in the room had to face the wall. I was only 14 at the time and pretty shy around new people. He asked there and then if I'd like to join his band and tour so that's what I did. I spent the next few months on the road with them singing backing vocals and some solo songs while learning about equipment and how to be on the road. I only stopped as it was a little much leading up to my school exams but as soon as school was done I headed to London to pursue a career as a singer. I signed as a songwriter with BMG and spent the next few years writing in Sweden and London with different artists.
It seems that your family, who themselves loved country music, were very supportive of you early on?
I'm blessed with a truly amazing family who have always supported my love of music and desire to try and get my voice heard. My parents helped me move to London when I was 18 and have always been there for me through some very sticky times. To say it isn't easy pursuing a career as a country artist in the UK is an understatement. That's why I made the decision to try my luck on X Factor as I knew that would be the one thing in the UK that would grab the public attention and hopefully divert them to my music.
I Draw Slow Prepare to Release 'Turn Your Face to the Sun' and Ready TWO Shows at Rockwood Music Hall
Already a favorite in their home country of Ireland, I Draw Slow is preparing to release their new album Turn Your Face to the Sun on April 21st. I Draw Slow - siblings Dave (acoustic guitar, vocals) and Louise Holden (vocals), Adrian Hart (violin), Colin Derham (clawhammer banjo), and Konrad Liddy (double bass) - merges American folk and Irish storytelling with close-harmony vocals, intriguing instrumentation, and compelling subject matter that results in a captivating sound that is sure to win over audiences worldwide. Ahead of their shows at Rockwood Music Hall on album release day, April 21st, Dave Holden took some time to answer a few questions via email about the band's roots, their new album, and more.
You have been together for a decade, but for someone who is new to you, can you give a brief background as to how y’all came together?
Well, my sister and I obviously go way back! Pretty much all 5 of us have played in bands together over the years in various different formations. Ireland, although it punches above its weight musically, is a pretty small place - everyone knows or is aware of everyone else.
Being from Ireland, how did you come to focus on playing American folk music?
About 20 years ago I was busking in Australia when I came across a banjo player playing bluegrass late at night in the red light district of Sydney (I was living there, not visiting!). I wasn’t really aware of that style of music, and he took me under his wing and we started playing together. I came home after traveling and brought my holiday romance with me!
Are there any particular artists you site as inspiration or influences?
We all love the old Appalachian style of American folk music, it just seems to have a resonance with us; it’s very Irish sounding which obviously makes sense given the background to it. We’re also big fans of Country and folk music, Townes van Zandt, Neil Young, Gillian Welch etc, but we also love the storytelling element in the Irish tradition.
Texas by way of Mississippi singer-songwriter-guitarist Jason Eady merges well-crafted stories with stripped-down melodies on his latest full-length, allowing the listener to be pulled in by songs that are both personal, yet universal. The self-titled album, which features guests including The SteelDrivers Tammy Rogers, and Eady’s wife singer-songwriter Courtney Patton, as well as Vince Gill, is due April 21st and in advance of its release, Eady generously took some time to speak in depth about the project, his approach to songwriting, and more.
Releasing April 21st, your latest self-titled record will be your sixth. Did you do anything differently with this one?
Yes, we did. I play a lot with my band, but after shows, we often sit around hotel rooms, back porches, and other different places playing acoustic - and I realized I had never done that with a record before; so the point of this record was to strip everything down. I decided it was time to put my songs, many of which are very personal, together with acoustic arrangements that will support the songs and highlight the lyrics. So, we went into the recording of this album with a full band all unplugged – with the exception of steel guitar because I love it and cannot imagine one of my albums without it - with the idea being that if the power ever went out, we could still play the album.
Once again you worked with producer Kevin Welch and recorded it in Nashville.
This is my fourth time out with Kevin. We made the first two albums in Austin and the last two in Nashville. There are a lot of reasons behind going to Nashville to record the album, but we went there largely because of Kevin’s history. He spent twenty years there as a songwriter, so he’s plugged into that community. And, we got to record it at the studio [Blueroom Studios] where he made his acoustic-based records, so I felt comfortable going into it knowing we were using the same team he used.
Some of these songs I recall hearing over the past few years when I have seen you live. Were they all written since Daylight/Dark or were some you had from years before?
Most were written after, but “Waiting To Shine” I wrote back in 2006. It was on my second album, but this time around we changed the arrangement a lot so that it feels like a brand new song.
Usually, as soon as I get done with one album, I hit a stride as far as writing for the next. I’ve unloaded all I needed to and the pressure is off, which then leads into a pretty productive time for me. I always say though, that when I think a song is done, it’s probably only about 70% done; the last 30% is something I cannot control, it’s something that happens when you get in front of people - it's there that you feel what works and what doesn’t. We [Jason and his wife, Courtney Patton] have a couple of monthly residencies and it’s in these settings where the editing process tends to flush itself out naturally. In fact, there are songs I’ve been playing for ten years that I’m constantly changing the words to when I play them live; they're a work in progress.
Born in West Texas and now calling Nashville home, K Phillips began writing songs at the tender age of six. His first full-length, 2012’s American Girls, garnered accolades and on March 10th the singer-songwriter released his latest, Dirty Wonder, a dynamically eclectic, wildly literate, and sophisticated ten song set. A breakup record that’s part autobiographical, part imagined, and part observational, Dirty Wonder is an album filled with clever allusions, sexual tension, and richly detailed stories. Shortly after his performances at SXSW, Phillips graciously took the time to speak in depth about the album, songwriting, and more.
Gordy Quist from the Band of Heathens produced the new record. Why did you want to work with him and what did he bring to the project?
I love the Heathens, they’re an artist’s artist. They may not be a household name, but they’re wildly successful in the sense that they’ve been able to maintain control over their career and make the music they want without compromising - and that gave me the inspiration to do my thing.
Gordy is a friend and mentor to me, and was one of the first people who heard the first songs I ever recorded. He’s that rare kind of genius, a Renaissance man really, who is successful at anything he sets his mind to, so when I found out he was producing I knew he would be great at that too and would contribute something terrific to the album, which he did.
Between the first record and this one you left Texas and moved to Nashville, yet the album was recorded in Texas. Did you return to Texas or was it completed before you made the move?
It’s kind of been a blur (laughing). So, the initial tracking was all done live at 12th Street Sound with myself, Rich Richards on drums, Ricky Ray Jackson on guitar, and Gordy behind the glass, but before we could finish, I had to leave to play some shows. So, in order to finish the vocals, which had to be overdubbed because the piano and organ I play tend to drown them out, I bought a mobile rig and completed them on the road. Some of the vocals were done in California, some in Phoenix, and still others in Connecticut and New York at Adam’s apartment [Duritz, who guests on “Hadrian”]. Then, the record was mixed at both Modern Electric in Dallas by Beau Bedford and in Chicago by Brian Deck. Both have areas they’re really good at - Brian did some Modest Mouse and Counting Crow’s records and Beau’s worked with Jonathan Tyler and Leon Bridges - and by working with both of them I knew we could capture what we wanted on the different tracks.
Hailing from California, singer-songwriter Jade Jackson will undoubtedly be making her mark on the Americana scene when her new emotionally stirring album, Gilded, releases May 19th. Wrought with stories dealing with regret, freedom, and love, Jackson’s songs are honest, intimate, raw, and intense. While on tour, she kindly took some time to answer a few questions via email about her roots, the album, and more.
Both of your parents were avid music fans who constantly had records playing. What were you exposed to growing up as the songs on Gilded seem to draw from roots rock, country, and even a bit of punk and pop as well?
My dad mainly collected early country, punk, and rock and roll records. I was raised on Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Echo and the Bunnymen, Tex & the Horseheads, Cowboy Junkies, etc. When I was six or seven I got my first Walkman and I listened to albums like No Need to Argue by The Cranberries and She Hangs Brightly by Mazzy Star over and over again. I also listened to a lot of The Pogues and Mark Lanegan at that time in my life as well.
By the time you were thirteen you were writing songs and then at fourteen, you were performing. Since you’ve been writing for a decade, how far back do the songs on the album go? Are they recent, from awhile back or a combination?
The demo that prompted Mike Ness to work with me had my song “Finish Line” on it which I wrote in the summer of 2014. “Troubled End” was an older song that I wrote when I was in a rockabilly band called The Royal Wreckers at age fifteen. The name was originally “Troubles End”, but when Mike heard it he suggested reworking/rewriting it. Together we co-wrote the new version which is what's on the album coming out on May 19th. “Back When” was a song I wrote when I moved home from college with the help from my bassist and old friend Jake Vukovich, I wrote “Better Off” with my drummer Tyler Miller later that year. The rest of the songs on the album are all under three years old. I never wrote with the intent of creating a specific album. Mike and I chose from the songs I had written to create the album we wanted.
Multi-Grammy winner Rodney Crowell’s latest full-length Close Ties, stretches back to the revered songwriter’s roots, mining memory and life experiences in a way that is not only deeply personal, but also incredibly honest and emotionally intimate. From the blues fueled opening track, “East Houston Blues” about Crowell’s childhood to “Nashville 1972” and beyond, Crowell’s narratives focus on a life lived thus far and all that encompasses: love, regret, lessons learned, wisdom gained, and hope. A few days before the album’s release Crowell graciously spoke about his vocation as a songwriter, Close Ties, and what’s ahead.
Over the course of your career, you’ve released well over a dozen albums, so was there anything you did differently with your latest, Close Ties?
Well, it was the first time that I worked with a female producer, Kim Buie. Before we even began the record, she and I had really in depth conversations about what we wanted to accomplish. Kim brought a unique perspective and was very helpful with figuring out what the tone and narrative of the record was going to be. We had such long conversations that by the time we went to record the album, we were of one mind.
The songs on Close Ties are very representative of your life; were they all written for the album or were some ones you had written awhile back?
I started the melody and my verse of “I’m Tied To You” way back in 1997 when I was in Ireland on a cultural exchange experiment with other songwriters and although I had tried for many years, I was never was able to unlock the female narrative. So when we hatched a plan to collaborate with Sheryl Crow on the song, I had to step up my game and get the female narrative of the song together because I wanted Sheryl to be proud of what she was singing. That song was twenty years in the making, but then others like “It Ain’t Over Yet” I wrote coming right up to the recording sessions and another, “Life Without Susanna,” I wrote maybe a year and a half before.
Randy Rogers Band and Robert Earl Keen are set to kick off the beloved honky-tonk's 75th Anniversary year with two shows April 14th and 15th
Opened in 1942 by Mr. John T. Floore himself, John T. Floore Country Store was not a store at all, but a unique Texas Dance Hall and Cafe. For over 70 years, this quintessential honky-tonk has hosted Texas and American music legends such as Bob Wills, Ernest Tubb, Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Merle Haggard, Ray Price, George Jones, and many, many more. Now, the quintessential honky-tonk is celebrating its 75th Anniversary with two sure to be spectacular shows on April 14th and 15th featuring Texas favorites Robert Earl Keen and Randy Rogers Band. During a break from a Northeast tour, Rogers filled us in on his history with the venue, playing with his hero, and more.
Robert Earl Keen and yourself are kicking off Floore’s 75th Anniversary in a big way with not one but two shows on April 14th and 15th. How did you come to be a part of something so very special?
The owner of Floore’s, Mark McKinney, reached out to me. He knows how much of a man crush I have on Robert and how much of an influence he has been on me and the band, so the decision was a no-brainer; I said yes right away. I know that it will be a weekend that will go down in history for me as one of the highlights of my career. I can sing pretty much every Robert Earl Keen song if I wanted to and I’ll be singing my lungs out each night that’s for sure.
Although it’s a few weeks away, have the two of you talked about anything special that you will do those nights?
We did a photo shoot for the event together and threw some ideas back and forth, but you know, I get nervous around Robert. I think heroes are important in this world, and Robert is one of my heroes. To me, he walks the line, and in a way, created the highway we’re all rolling down. I know there were people before him that he would nod his head to, but I look up to him as a person, songwriter, and family man - the whole bit.