It has been two years since The Statesboro Revue's last record, Ramble On Privilege Creek, and the band is currently readying for the imminent release of their third album--the lively, groove fueled, and soulful Jukehouse Revival--on August 7th. Having returned from a successful run in Europe, front man and principal songwriter Stewart Mann graciously took the time to talk about the album, including its specific influences, the story behind the title and much more.
A few weeks ago you guys returned from your second incredibly successful run in Europe where you have an ever expanding fan base. How was the tour, and what makes going there so special?
It was our second tour over there, and we did pretty well. We played in some different towns and had some of our best shows in Sweden and Denmark, which was great considering we had never been there before. We were there for about two months, and we played almost every single day--close to forty shows in fifty days, which is crazy.
The people there appreciate music, and from what we gather, don’t get it very often. They were really appreciative of us being there and supported whatever we decided to do, even within one show, not just record to record. Some of the shows we played were on a Monday or Tuesday night, when you would expect there would be no one there, but they were almost sold out, which is pretty impressive. For some reason, they’ve really latched onto our music. We definitely love the folks over there.
Sounds like a great tour.
Onto the new record, Jukehouse Revival, which releases August 7th. A lot of artists say “this is our best album yet,” and listening to yours, I think that statement really rings true here.
I really appreciate that. We’ve yet to achieve a massive amount of success to the extent that none of us have to do any side work. We are playing our butts off trying to make a living, and to this day, I’m always nervous about what we do and the songs we write. You go into it trying to write the best songs you can and make the best record you can and just hope that people appreciate this record the same as, or even more than, the last.
We do feel like it’s our best work. Having done this for many years and having the time in between records, we always try to get better as songwriters, performers and musicians. You go into the studio, roll the dice and pick your ten, twelve or however many songs you put on the record; shoot for the stars and hope that you don’t disappoint anybody. Obviously, as an artist, you love the songs you put on a record and that’s why you put them on there; you think they belong there, but you never know until the record is out.
East Rutherford native Scott DeCarlo is known across the tri-state area for his highly energetic, engaging live performances; headlining his own shows as well as supporting national artists and taking part in NYC's inagural FarmBorough Festival--all the while continuing to work as a police sergeant. Recently, DeCarlo kindly took the time to talk about his love of performing, what's ahead and more.
You have been pursuing music for quite some time, do you also still continue to do police work?
I have always been into music, but there came a point where I needed to make a change or make it a hobby. After living in Nashville, I returned to New Jersey and believe it or not, I still work as a police sergeant. I have been back and forth for years [between both music and police work], but I realized that if I didn’t stick around long enough to get piece of a pension it wouldn’t be the smart move.
I love being a police officer and the honor in being a cop. Cops get a bad name today, but there’s not one cop out there that will tell you that they took this job so they could go out and manipulate people. They’re going to tell you they took the job because they seriously thought they could make a difference. The job affords me the ability to go out and play shows, travel and pay the bills.
Speaking of playing shows, you support many national country artists when they are in the tristate area and were a part of FarmBorough this year. Are there plans for new music?
This year I haven’t done many shows and to be honest, I’m not really upset about it. I have performed in Times Square with Lee Brice, who is a sweetheart of a guy, and Chris Young, but I don’t have management or an agent. The people that book me are the people that have heard of me by word of mouth and have heard about the show I put on. I say yes because I love to play. I am getting shows and traveling all over the country by word of mouth as opposed to having an agent say, “I’ll put you on this or that tour.”
I have a lot of music I have written over the past few years, three to four dozen songs, but haven’t had the money to record. I am working towards selecting what I want to put out next, but the business is very fickle. Everyone has their thumb on what they currently call pop country and I’m not really excited about it. I don’t want people telling me I have to sound like this or that, I just want to be me.
Singer songwriter Scott Brantley is well known throughout his native Georgia. He was named the 2014 Traditional Artist of the Year by the Georgia Country Awards, the 2013 Male Artist of the Year by the Georgia Country Awards, and was the Georgia State Winner at the 2012 Texaco Country Showdown. In addition he was nominated for the 2015 Top Country Male for the Georgia Music Awards. Scott and his band The Big Cooler Crew have been the opening act for Miranda Lambert, Craig Morgan, and Jamey Johnson, among others. This past year, he was added to the artist roster at Studio Gold Nashville and is set to head into the studio to record new music. Brantley kindly took the time to talk about his musical journey, his sound and what's ahead.
Congratulations on recently signing with Studio Gold Nashville. Has music always been something that you wanted to pursue?
Music has always been in my life. My Dad comes from a family of fifteen and they all played and sang. My momma and her brother both played and sang as well and so did both grandparents on my dad’s side and my grandma on my mom’s. Family reunions were a lot of fun; there was a lot of pickin’ and grinnin’.
I got my very first drum set, a plastic one that I tore to pieces, at Christmas when I was three years old. Then at four years old, I graduated to a more realistic set and later moved onto the guitar. As a teenager my brother and I formed a gospel quartet where I played bass and he played guitar. We went around to churches for about four or five years, but I always listened to country music. I got my first electric guitar as my high school graduation present, but didn’t play it for a while. Then one day I got serious about it, started digging in, learning to play, listening to a lot of music, and writing songs. It was about ten years ago when I finally thought that music-something that is a passion- was something worth pursuing. Right now, I am a computer tech by day and a musician chasing this dream at night. A lot of people say those things don’t go together because one is a left brain thing and the other is a right brain thing, but it comes easy to me. Hopefully though, I can stop looking at these computer screens and start playing more guitar!
Seems you are well on your way. Prior to signing as an artist, you were signed to a publishing deal at Studio Gold. How did that come about?
One of my friends met Mike [Mouret, of Studio Gold] and let him hear some of my material. I was initially interested in recording a buddy’s song and was inquiring about that, but then Mike asked me about my songs and it snowballed into something more. I think it was in April that I signed a publishing deal and so far it has been going really well. I can work at my day job and play and write music, which is great.
Was signing as an artist something that happened as a natural progression?
We went into the studio and cut some demos and Mike asked me how passionate I was about being an artist. I told him that was my dream. It’s so cliché when people say that there is no better feeling than writing your own songs and hearing people sing it back to you, but it’s true. I have always had that desire and passion to be artist. As much as I love writing, being on stage is where it’s at for me. I went from having a publishing deal to being a signed artist and I am really excited about it!
So being a newly signed artist, are there plans for an EP or single?
The immediate goal is to fill out an album, maybe a six song ep, and push a single out to radio either in the fall or by the first of the year, but we haven’t discussed anything in detail yet. I just want to get some traction and get the ball rolling. It has always been my dream to get a song on radio and let the fans decide whether or not they like the music.
You write a lot of your own songs. Are you planning on recording your own material or would you record outside cuts for an album?
I would be open to anything that fit my style, but right now we are recording mostly my material in addition to one song that my buddy wrote. There are a lot of awesome songwriters in Nashville, the best of the best are up there, so any song that can make the album that much better, I’m open to it.
You mentioned you are open to anything that fits your style. Being that country music seems to be a wide open genre at this point, where is it that you fall?
That’s an interesting question. Country music seems to have elements of just about every other genre these days. I guess I’m just country-country, if that makes sense. I’m a traditional old soul with a fresh approach to country music and I think anyone who listens to my music will be able to hear that.
Are there any specific artists you admire or cite as influences on your sound?
I’ve always been a huge Merle Haggard fan as well as a fan of George Jones and George Strait. I’m also a huge fan of Vince Gill and Keith Whitley. We named our daughter Adriana, after Vince Gill’s song and we are expecting a son in December and are planning on naming him Whitley, and calling him Whit. Those guys are like Scott Brantley’s Mount Rushmore of country music (laughing). As for the more modern guys I like Easton Corbin, Chris Young, Mo Pitney and Dierks Bentley. They’re closely related to what I do.
The Big Cooler Crew is the name of your band. How did that come about?
I have a song called “My Cooler.” The idea of the song is that there’s this down on his luck country boy, he’s not doing too well, and his girlfriend left him, but he still has the biggest cooler (laughing). About a year and a half ago we decided to call the band that. It was a joke at first, but it kind of stuck. Merle Haggard had his Strangers and I have the Big Cooler Crew.
Sounds like it could be a fun bunch!
You have won numerous music related awards in Georgia. Is that where you primarily play?
Right now we are 99% in Georgia, but we have also played in Florida, the Carolinas, and Tennessee. A couple of guys in the band still work other jobs, so it’s hard to travel, but we’re hoping to do that more. I'm so excited to be a part of Studio Gold and to finally be releasing music. I’m stoked and looking forward to, hopefully, big things.
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Curtis Braly says music is in his blood. He was born into a family where the love of music was an integral part of his life. His first exposure to performing was singing with his mother in the church choir which led to his first solo performance at the ripe old age of five. From there, he worked at a radio station, moved to Nashville to chase his dreams and then relocated back to his native Texas. Over the last year and a half things have progressed quickly for the singer who took the time to speak about his roots, his new EP and more.
You performed in a talent show in 8th grade, where you won first place, was that when you realized that you wanted to pursue music professionally?
I always toyed with the idea. I loved music and it was a hobby; I was in the church choir and played at parties for fun, but it definitely hit me like a brick wall during the eighth grade talent show. I knew immediately that I had an addiction to performing. That was the turning point where I started to figure out how I could pursue music.
You sang in the church choir, but was country music always what you gravitated to?
Always. I personally enjoy listening to the country music of the late 80’s and mid 90’s when the genre was strong for story-telling. I’d listen to that more than any other genre; it was the music that made the hair on my arm stand up or give me goose bumps. It was music that would bring out feelings and emotions; music that really touched me. Music was always huge in our house growing up. From a young age I had a love for the older artists, but there are still artists of today that I enjoy listening to as well.
Is there any one artist is that you consider a personal Influence?
I don’t think there is any one artist who has had a particular influence on my sound. I have always tried to be myself, but that being said there are those artists who have styles that I have enjoyed. Reba was always a big one for me. She is very good at bringing her music to life in her live shows. She would play out the story on stage using actors and props, which you didn’t typically see in live setting. That’s something that I want to do as my career progresses—to put on a show where people not only listen but are drawn in visually. Every time I plan a new show I think about what Reba would do. She’s a big inspiration for the kind of things I want to bring into my live shows-things you don’t see these days especially from male vocalists. I also admire Garth Brooks and Clay Walker for their high energy shows; they make everyone in the audience sing along and feel important. Chase Bryant, one of my favorite new artists, has a great stage presence and a great energy. He doesn’t just stand behind the mic, he moves around and tries to engage the audience. I try and accomplish those things in my show today.
Born in San Ramon, California, Melissa Ratley's family relocated to Dallas-Ft. Worth two months later. After completing her degree at the University of North Texas Melissa spent years pursuing radio, but ultimately her passion for playing guitar and writing songs called her to pursue music behind a different microphone. In January she released her album A Lonely View and it's current single "The Outside" is already garnering significant buzz. Melissa graciously took the time to speak about her roots, music and more.
You first performed at a talent show when you were six years old. Was that when you started playing guitar and singing?
Around age six I performed in the talent show where I strummed my Sears Harmony [guitar]. I’m sure I didn’t play any chords and had no rhythm whatsoever; I think people just thought it was cool I had a guitar and I was hacking at it (laughing). My older brother, who played classical guitar, tried to teach me the chords to Travis Tritt’s “Here’s A Quarter.” I hated it, my fingers hurt and I cried! From then on, I was pretty much self-taught. I would pick the guitar up here and there finding a song I liked and learning the chords and figuring out little riffs. I’m by no means a guitar player, I am more of a rhythm person which is probably what I will always be, but I’m always looking to be better and learn new things.
I never performed in middle school. I always thought there were more talented people around me and I didn’t necessarily want to steal their thunder or say “hey I’m a singer too, you should listen to me.” I was well aware my friends were talented, so I kept quiet and studied with Loretta, Tammy and Dolly at home. After graduation, I came out more as a singer songwriter and people were like, "why didn’t you tell me?" I did a worship band in college, but after a while I found the divide of being in a worship band and singing about drinking and cheating in a country band was too great for me, so I stuck with one medium and just went with it.
What influenced your decision to play country music? Is that what you grew up listening to?
I was always drawn to country. My mom let me watch country music videos for hours! She listened to The Judds, Diamond Rio, Shania and Alan Jackson, while my dad was a fan of Vince Gill, Hal Ketchum, and Roy Orbison. I grew up listening to all of those artists and that blend was what basically became my musical foundation. My sound is also influenced by people like Keith Whitley and Reba and I love the older guys like Lefty Frizzell, Hank Williams Sr., and Buck Owens. When I listened, it was always a learning process. I looked to see how they were influenced, how they came to be drawn to the music, how they honed their craft and how they chose to do what they did.
You learned from some of the best! But before you did music full time you worked in radio, was this initially what you wanted to do?
Radio was a complete and total accident. It was 2009 when the economy wasn’t in such great shape and I couldn’t find a job for five months. I applied anywhere and everywhere and one day I got a call for two jobs, one for a call center and one for Rebel Radio. I was drawn to music, so I read a script for my audition and got the radio job. I produced a show, did remotes and realized then, while I was killing myself studying micro and macro-economics, that maybe radio could take me further in a career. I thought maybe journalism might work out for me so I eventually went into radio full time. I became a program director, which is a job I still have so much respect for because it requires a 60-80 hour week and is a lot of work. When I went full time into radio though, I hit pause on music and did not write or touch my guitar, which was collecting dust, for two years. Finally, it got to me that I could go back to radio anytime because radio was not going anywhere, but I knew that I had a certain amount of time to take a shot at being a musician. So I put radio aside and started to do music full time.
With sixteen top ten hits on Texas radio, Rich O’Toole is no stranger to chart success, but like many artists, he is always looking for ways to challenge himself and broaden his horizons. Currently, O'Toole is involved not only with music, but his clothing line, his successful app and penning the theme song for the Corpus Christi Hooks. While out on the Almost Famous Tour with Johnny Cooper, O’Toole graciously took the time to talk about TexMoji, “I’m Hooked,” 17 Army and of course…tacos.
Last week you performed at a rally for Senator Cruz. Is this someone you are supporting for a 2016 Presidential bid?
He and I come from the same hometown and share the same views on God and religion, but I don’t try to get behind any one person when it comes to politics because I feel that I would be gaining or losing fans for the wrong reasons. Senator Cruz is a great guy and I was lucky and honored that he asked me to play for him, but to quote Elvis, “I’m a musician, not a politician.”
Understood. So onto the music. “Talk About the Weather,” which was released in April, is now a Top 10 hit on Texas charts. Congratulations! What’s the story behind the song, which is a pretty poignant one?
I wrote it with Stephanie Lynn and Evan Gamble, who are both actors in LA. Stephanie is the assistant to Ryan O’Neal, so we went to his house and wrote it right on the beach in Malibu. I came up with the lyrics, which are about an ex. I still want to call and talk to her, but after you fall out of love, there is nothing much to say. The clever line is “I don’t have much to say, let’s talk about the weather.” It’s a really emotional tune and I asked Stephanie, who has a couple of albums out, to sing on it as a duet and it worked out great. We just shot a music video with Taylor guitars, a live session out on Venice Beach, for it. The song is our sixteenth top ten since we started and our fastest rising single so far. Hopefully, if we play our cards right it will be another #1 for us.
Will that song be on an upcoming album?
It will. I have to add a few more songs and then we’re ready to go back into the studio. I would like to release another single and then have the record out maybe next spring.
We’re really excited about it. I wrote the majority of the songs with Evan and I think they are the best songs I have written so far. I split my time between Texas and California and the songs are about the differences between living in both places and falling in and out of love. It’s shaping up to be a cool record.
A few weeks ago you tweeted that your next single was going to be an odd cover that might win or lose fans. Can you elaborate on that?
It’s hard to talk about it because we changed the song so much. I am not going to tell anybody what it is because I want people to be like “wow, why did he do this, this is crazy.” I will say that it is a major pop song put out by a giant artist about thirteen years ago. It’s a country cover with mandolin and fiddle that we did it for fun. We’ll see how it shapes up; we want it to be perfect before we release it.
Sounds intriguing! There is another song that you recorded recently, “I’m Hooked,” which is the theme song for the Corpus Christi Hooks. How did that song come about?
I am a huge baseball fan. I was a pitcher until I threw my arm out and then picked up the guitar at sixteen. The Hooks are my hometown team and their big campaign is called “I’m Hooked.” I wrote the theme song for it in about an hour with Billy Decker, who produced it. It’s just a really fun ballpark anthem.
In addition to the music, you launched the TexMoji app which has been the talk of Twitter. Was this something that was a long time in the making?
It was a long time coming. My partner, Sean, who runs the Sorry I’m Texan Twitter account, and I were out in LA talking about how we should really do Texas themed emoticons. We launched it a few weeks ago and the state really showed up--we had twenty-eight thousand downloads in the first weeks. Anyone can get Texas themed emoticons like Whataburger, Dairy Queen and other things that represent our state. It’s a lot of fun and people seem to be loving the app.
We plan on updating it with about twenty to twenty-five new ones within the next couple weeks. We also want to add Texas country bands and some of my other favorite bands in the near future. Having iPhones ourselves, we didn’t recognize that much of our fan base has Androids, so we got a lot of slack for that. In about three weeks though we’ll launch the Android version.
In addition to all of that, you also have the clothing line, 17 Army. Can you explain a little bit about what that is?
I think it’s so hard to sell someone a shirt with your name on it and not feel like you have an ego, so I stopped printing a lot of tour shirts; I typically only do one or two per tour. 17 Army is my logo; it is about promoting something I’m about, but not having my name on it. Seventeen is my favorite and lucky number for my baseball idol Mark Gray and that goes along with the American flag. 17 Army is about giving back to, and raising awareness for, musicians and the arts. 10% of all proceeds go back into the community to buy say, sculpting materials, paints, and things like that.
Being that you are involved in so many different areas, does any one take precedent over any of the others?
Music is always first. I am a songwriter first, but if I only have one thing going on, I get bored and when I am bored half the time I’m drinking wine and going to a bar. It’s good for me to keep busy, thinking of new ideas to help put more money back into my music. I don’t want to seem greedy or like the P. Diddy of the scene, but I like exploring new creative outlets that help form the foundation of my music career.
Switching gears to social media. You’re very active on Twitter, Snapchat and other arenas. You’re very funny, honest and positive. Is that part of who you are?
I came to the realization, especially like in 2013, when I totally got frustrated with the scene and had a meltdown, that I didn’t want to be fake. That’s why I talk about bug butts, I think girls with big butts are attractive, that’s why I tweet rap lyrics and talk about tacos. I don’t talk about anything that’s not real. I am honest and tell everyone who I am so it doesn’t come as surprise to people and bite me in the ass later. I could fake it and say I love cowboy boots and I love cowboy hats just so people would buy the music, but it’s not true. For better or for worse, even if I lose followers, I cannot tell people something that’s not true to me. It’s better safe than sorry because I don’t want people down the road, if my music career gets bigger, saying he lied or he’s different than he said he was. That’s why I really appreciate people like Johnny Cooper and Sunny Sweeney, they are both so honest and want to make sure people know who they are so they have a fan base that likes you for you. Always keep it honest you know.
You mentioned tacos. Anyone who follows you on social media knows you love tacos. Where or when did that all start?
I don’t know what the obsession with tacos is. You know how it started, my mom moved into this townhouse complex and I lived with her before I bought my own place. They were doing construction and every day the workers would stop at noon for lunch. I was twenty-four, drunk and hungover so I would wake up and eat with them. This went on for like six months straight. I thought, man I can eat lunch for $3 at a taco truck! It turned into my diet, but it’s more like a hobby, kind of like collecting baseball cards. There are a million taco trucks in Texas, so it’s fun if I see a truck on the side of the road to whip over, try it and judge it. I love talking about tacos.
I see a book in your future.
I would love to do a taco book! We talk about it and I have gotten hundreds of emails about places to eat and have been to about seventy trucks. I could do it, but that’s six months of work, plus I wonder if someone would buy it. I think it would be interesting though and I would love to do that.
I am sure there are more than a few people who would buy it.
So finally, as you and Johnny are driving around to the venues on this tour, what are you listening to?
I’m about to turn on some Jay Z and Justin Timberlake. We listen to 90's country, the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen….and Johnny says some NEEDTOBREATHE. Anything that has a good beat and good lyrics, I’m into it.
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2015 is shaping up to be a pretty great year for Logan Brill. She has been making waves with critics and crowds alike with her numerous live performances, including stops at MerleFest and Stagecoach. This past June she released her new record, Shuteye, and made her Grand Ole Opry debut in May. We caught up with Logan while she was in NYC to talk about the Opry, success and more.
We had the chance to speak back in May prior to your first Opry performance. Being that playing the Opry is such a revered experience, do you remember it or was it one of those moments when you are so excited that you cannot recall it afterwards?
That’s actually it. You’re the first person who said it in that way. It was totally a blur! I was so amped about the performance the whole day, I had a lot of friends in town for it so we hung out all day, but once I actually played my two songs and walked off the stage I was like “I don’t remember what I said, played or any of the moments from it,” which is really unfortunate.
Personally, it was such an emotional night for me-both to play the Opry and to have my family and friends there. We will be back at the Opry in July and are on track to play a couple times each months for the next couple of months. My goal next time is to be in the zone and be able to walk off the stage and remember all that happened (laughing).
Sounds like a plan! Do you recall who introduced you or how receptive the audience was?
Jon Conlee introduced me and came back after my set and talked with me for a little while. He signed a little note for me and we took a photo. It was so cool to have someone who has been in the business for so long and who is so well respected spend the time with me.
The Opry has a built in crowd; they don’t necessarily come to see an artist, they come because it’s the Opry, but I felt like everyone was engaged and I think that people had the same feeling sitting in those seats as I did standing on that stage.
Bobby Wills is a CCMA Male Artist of the Year nominee who won the 2013 Canadian Country Music Association CCMA Rising Star title. In addition, Wills has successively taken home the Alberta Country Music Association ACMA Male Artist of the Year award two years in a row (2012/2013). Now after finding success in Canada, Wills is preparing to bring his music to the states with the July 17th release of his debut EP, Crazy Enough (Willing Nashville). Wills kindly took the time to speak about the album, taking risks and more.
“Crazy Enough,” your new single, is a real up-tempo country song which you co-wrote with Mike Pyle and Walt Aldridge. What is the story behind the song?
We were in a songwriting session and talking about kids and the not very well thought out things they do. I have teenage boy who we have watched over the last few years do a bunch of foolish things like jump off the garage with an umbrella. We also got to talking about the moments in our own lives where we may have done something like that. When I was a kid in Manchester Massachusetts there was an amazing spot at Singing Beach where I would jump off a cliff, which probably wasn’t the smartest decision (laughing). Both of my co-writers had similar experiences jumping into the river in Muscle Shoals. During the conversation, someone said the line “well you just have to be crazy enough” and everyone’s head turned and we decided to chase it.
So you were a risk taker when you were younger, is that still the case?
Yeah, I think it is. I think being in the music industry proves it (laughing). I take risks within reason. I’m a family man so I have to be careful, but I think risk is part of reward. Life is an adventure and I want to make sure it stays that way.
Going back to the song, you chuckle a lot in it. Was that planned or ad-libbed?
Those are 100% real; that song still makes me chuckle. It’s such a warm song for me; it’s fun to play and sing and I love watching the reaction from the crowd to some of the lines. Being that it’s about my boy and watching him grow up, it’s also very meaningful to me. Those chuckles that you hear on there just came out and we kept them.
Listening to your music, it seems that lyrics are very important to you.
I’m very fortunate to work with some of best writers on the planet. The one thing that we agree on, and the reason the three of us write together, is that we want the songs to have the opportunity to mean something to someone. I feel like my favorite songs are always the ones I can insert my own life into or the ones that help me through a bad day or make me laugh. That’s what a good song is, so we always try to pursue something from a writing point of view that does that.
Our writing together started out as a comedy of errors. The first day I wrote with Mike, who produced the record, I had another cancellation, so I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with myself. We went down to Muscle Shoals and the rest is history. When you find people you have that creative synergy with you tend to go back to that well. It’s fun and they’re just great guys.
At only sixteen years old, Texan Abbey Cone is preparing to release her debut album, simply titled, Abbey, on July 10th. Her all acoustic project is a collection of sixteen songs, fifteen of which Abbey had a hand in writing, that showcase her songwriting and vocals, both having a maturity beyond her years. Ahead of the release, Abbey graciously took the time to speak about her roots, the album and more.
You grew up in a rodeo family, so what drew you to music as opposed to rodeo?
I have three siblings, two sisters and a brother. They’ve all done rodeo since they were little, so being the youngest, I was taken around to rodeos all the time. When I realized I was covered in dirt and at a rodeo I didn’t want any part of it. Plus, I’m deathly afraid of horses. It’s weird. I mean, I’m fine until they start moving, then I freak out and am like “oh take it back.” I’m scared and they sense that I’m scared, so they’re going to freak out. It’s like a lose-lose situation.
What contributed to that fear? Did you experience a traumatic incident or are you just aware of what could happen?
Both. I have seen a lot of stuff happen, but when I was seven my brother was babysitting me--and I use that term loosely--and he thought it would be funny to put me on a horse on our land and slap its back. The horse took off with me on it, running in the wide open and I was hanging on for dear life. When I finally got off I was traumatized. I respect the sport, but it is not my thing. My thing was singing the National Anthem at all of the rodeos. I was about six or seven when I sang it for the first time. My mom took hold of my hand and we walked out into the arena and sang it.
Six or seven years old is so incredibly young! Were you nervous?
My mom says I was nervous and I think that’s why I made her come with me and hold my hand. I was singing in the living room for family and I kind of jumped to singing for 1200 people really fast.
Is that when you began singing, when you were six?
When I was little, I sang to Barney and all of the cartoons. I loved the Cheetah Girls too, but it wasn’t a conscious thing. My mom noticed I was on pitch and that maybe I could sing. I wanted to take piano so we went to a lady who taught voice and piano. She didn’t start giving vocal lessons until age ten, so we were like okay we will just continue with piano, but my mom asked her to listen to me sing--she did and said “ok, we’ll get you in sooner.” So I started voice lessons to learn to sing properly at age six.
You must have made an impression on her!
In addition to singing the National Anthem at events, you also spent a lot of time singing at the Grapevine Opry, correct?
I started there when I was nine. Curtis [Jones], my guitar player, was the bass player there and Janice, who is now my back up singer, sang there as well. Rocky Gribble, who produced my album, was the owner, operator and lead guitar player there. They are like family to me.