Well regarded and known throughout Texas and the Midwest, singer- songwriter Bart Crow has released five albums, garnered six number ones (on the Texas Music Chart) and has an ever loyal and growing fan base that connects with his musical sensibilities. Now, partnered with Thirty Tigers, Crow is poised to reach an even larger audience with his latest album, The Parade, due October 2nd. Ahead of the release, Bart kindly took the time to talk about the new record, the songwriting process and much more.
Before we get into the record, congratulations on your Opry debut in August. Was that a bucket list item that you can now cross off?
Absolutely. It was the most amazing thing that I’ve done in music. It’s the mother church, it’s where country music started. Now, I know I’m not the countriest of country music, but the Opry invited me and I played it and I’ve got that. They said they’d love to have us back and I’d love to take them up on that because it’s a pretty incredible opportunity and feeling to play there.
Your new record, The Parade, releases October 2nd. Six albums in, what if anything, did you do differently?
In the beginning, nothing. Now that we’re at the end, there was a huge difference. I thought we would be releasing a record around September of last year, which would have put us at two years from Dandelion, and that didn’t happen. I worked with Justin Pollard, who plays drums with Pat Green--they tour, we tour, the other guest musicians do other things, so the biggest difference was that it took 17-18 months to get the record made. During those months, I was still writing songs, so in the end a handful of these songs that made it [on the record] weren’t even written until September or October of last year or the beginning of this year. I hated it at the time, but in hindsight, it’s the smartest thing that could have happened. We ended up with the right songs, the songs that needed to be on the record.
Another terrific thing that has happened is that you have partnered with Thirty Tigers to release the record. You're in some mighty fine company.
Isn’t that the truth? I am thrilled to be working with Thirty Tigers and the whole crew there. And what a good time to be on the Thirty Tigers roster with the butt kicking they’ve been doing with Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Aaron Watson, and countless others. Those artists’ success is obviously a beautiful reflection of their music and artistry and it’s also a reflection of having Thirty Tigers behind them. The people there are so passionate about music, they’re not comfortable just plugging you into a system and trucking on; each project has its own plan and I love that.
They heard a couple of my albums, asked a few people about me and kind of agreed to bring me on sight unseen-- and haven’t asked me to change anything. They want people to love the artists who they have put their time, money and effort into….and that’s exactly how I’ve been made to feel. They’ve accepted me for me and what else could I ask for….besides a million dollars? (laughing)
Hailing from Arizona, singer-songwriter Shari Rowe grew up on Country and Christian music. She released her recent EP, Moonshine, in May of this year and kindly took the time to talk about her roots, the single and more.
Growing up, what drew you to music and when did you know that you wanted to pursue it professionally?
Well, growing up, I was surrounded by a musical family--we would have talent shows in the living room every year on Christmas and were always trying to find harmonies. I participated in a few talent shows in school, and sang in church. I sang with my sister and sister-in-law in church for a service, and the pastor said something like, “There’s more going on here than a hobby, I think you should do more songs.” That was the moment where I thought that maybe I could do music.
You sang a lot in church, so where does country fit in?
The three of us would sing in local churches and after about two to three years, we got signed to Q Atlantic Records, the record label from QVC. We toured singing contemporary Christian music and performed on QVC on Easter and Good Friday where we also got to speak with the viewers. After several years, we went our separate ways professionally, but that’s how I got my start.
When people think of country music, they think of the South, but Arizona really still is the West with a huge country fan base. I was raised on country music; I remember long drives with my Dad to the outskirts of town where he would play Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. I grew up listening to that, so country was a natural progression for me.
Your most recent EP, Moonshine, was released in May with the title cut being your current single.
I released a full length album in 2012 and, for being independent, we had some really good exposure and growth. That project landed me with Lamon Records who released the most recent EP. I started writing the title cut, “Moonshine,” then finished it over a Skype session with Aaron Rice and Luke Buishas. I had never written over Skype before and was curious as to how it would go because co-writing is a vulnerable situation and a relaxed, comfortable vibe is pretty important. I wasn’t sure that it would feel that way over Skype, but those guys were great. We finished the song in the first session in about an hour.
Singer-songwriter Jimmy Charles grew up involved in athletics, but left Maryland for Nashville to pursue a career in music. He has received radio play for four of his songs and has opened for such artists as Kip Moore and Kacey Musgraves all while being incredibly active with numerous charities. On September 1, Charles, who is the national spokesman for ZERO, released the touching single, "Superman," which was written to raise awareness about prostate cancer. Jimmy kindly took the time to talk about the single, his charitable involvement and more.
You grew up in Maryland, played football in college and earned a communications degree. How does music fit into the picture and when did it become the path you wanted to pursue?
I was always into athletics, but did music on the side, for myself. I was in chorus growing up, but I never took that super seriously. I started writing when I was fifteen and my dad taught me how to play the older country stuff, historic country roots, on the guitar. All of a sudden one day the clock strikes zero and I realize that I’m never going to put on a helmet and shoulder pads again. Something that was in the forefront of my life was suddenly gone and I had a huge void. That’s where music came in. I started to fill that void with music and the more I put it out here, the better of a response I was getting. It made me say “Hey, maybe I’ve got something here, so why not try something I love.” I tried out for Nashville Star along with forty thousand other people and made it to the top fifty. I never ended up on television, but I moved so far through that I really started to believe in myself. I wrote a song for a friend and his mom, who has MS, to dance to at his wedding. It was the first time I performed in front of 200 people. I was so nervous, but the response was incredible. Everyone was in tears and I saw that I could really move people with a song I wrote. It made me fall in love with music and believe in myself even more and the next thing you know I’m packing up and moving to Nashville, where I have been for about seven years.
And now you have a song out, “Superman,” which raises awareness for prostate cancer. What inspired the song and how did you connect with ZERO, the nationwide organization whose mission it is to end prostate cancer?
There’s a great story behind the song. I’ve done a lot of charity work over the years, I was at Chesapeake Urology Center in Baltimore and they work with ZERO, who are tied to thirty-seven prostate centers across the country. In Baltimore they knew me, watched my career and asked me to come back to perform at one of their [ZERO's] events. I did it, then they called me back and asked if it was possible to write a song to raise awareness for men to get their prostate checked. It was a very awkward question and I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it, but I wrapped myself around it. I read as much as I could and spoke with a man, Phil Shulka, who was a Stage 3 Gleason 10 survivor. He wasn’t supposed to make it. He wasn’t given much hope, but he battled through and he won. Now he is a mentor at Chesapeake Urology where he goes to bedsides and helps other men with cancer. We brought him to Nashville, set up in a writer’s room with myself and my friend Goose Gossett and we just listened to his stories for over an hour. It was an emotional experience, and when he finished we went to work and we came up with this song. As soon as we were done we knew we had a hit on our hands. We sent an acoustic version from the writer’s room to Chesapeake and they called us back crying. We recorded it and I sang it in front of 3,000 survivors and their families at one of their races, after which, everyone was coming up to me, hugging and thanking me. ZERO then asked me to be their national spokesman in the coming year and I said yes, but wanted the song to have a video because I knew the world needed to hear this song. It’s a song for prostate cancer, but not just for prostate cancer—it’s for anyone who has been affected by cancer, which is everyone. They agreed, we and we put a video together.
Prostate cancer doesn’t show symptoms and when it does, it’s too late. A lot of men think they’re healthy; they don’t go to the doctor to get checked or tell anyone they have prostate cancer. So the song acknowledges that men can feel strong like superman, but there is something that can kill you, it’s a matter of life or death and it’s not just about you. Some men suffer alone, and don’t even tell their families. We don’t want them to feel like have to hide or be alone. It’s nice for me as a younger man to be the voice for these men and bring awareness to it. It’s incredible to believe that 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and every nineteen minutes in the U.S. a man dies from it, which is more than breast cancer. Women have a great, strong voice and it’s more fun to talk about saving the tatas than it is to talk about the prostate, but you never hear about it.
Beloved and lauded from Idaho to NYC, The Black Lillies will release their fourth album, Hard To Please, on October 2nd. Now a six piece, the band consists of Cruz Contreras (guitar, keys, mandolin, vocals), Trisha Gene Brady (vocals, guitar) and Bowman Townsend (percussion) alongside new members, and multi-instrumentalists, Sam Quinn, Mike Seal and Jonathan Keeney. As the band has grown and expanded, so has the music, which features soulful grooves, varied instrumentation and genre blending styles. Front man Contreras kindly took the time to speak in depth about the album, songwriting and more.
Congratulations on the record, it’s truly fantastic. The album was successfully funded via a PledgeMusic Campaign, which really speaks volumes about your ever growing fan base.
It does, absolutely. I think this is the third record where we’ve done some sort of fan funded campaign and this time I definitely feel like all of the pieces came together and we got to make a pretty legit record. We got a producer [Grammy winner Ryan Hewitt], worked in a great studio in Nashville [House of Blues Studio D] and brought in great players. It’s all because of our fans that we were able to make the record we wanted to make and the record they wanted to hear.
Alongside the personnel changes in the band, there were a few things that were done differently with this record, such as bringing in an outside producer and going outside of your hometown to record. How do you think those things affected the process and the record in the end?
They affected it a lot. In the past everything has been self-produced; also, we tour so much that we don’t really rehearse per se, we work out our sound and songs on the road in sound check and playing live. So when it came time to record in the past, we booked time and recorded everything live in about a twenty-four hour period. That had some really great results, the best part of which is that you get the live energy, which to me is really crucial and important, but sometimes you cut yourself a little short on sonic quality. Something I would hear from people would be like “hey we dig your records, we like the songs, but we really want a record that sounds a little more like a live show, something that you can crank up and everything’s there, big and strong sounding.” It’s hard to capture the live energy and get a really high sonic quality recording, but I think we got it on this one. We had enough time, everybody was on board and the experience we had [in the studio] made for the chance to get it, so we’re thrilled. I think we made our best record yet.
As a fan I would have to agree.
You really hunkered down within a two week span to write for this record. Were most of the songs written in that two week period or had they been around awhile and tweaked during that time?
It was a combination of both. Each song has its own story; two or three of the songs had been written about a year prior, some we had previously played on stage and still there were some that were evolving. We did some preproduction, rearranged them and kind of got a fresh take on them, but the bulk of the material was written in the two weeks leading up to the recording, which was pretty daunting, but also challenging. I always respond to a challenge and having a deadline forced me to focus. Those two weeks before going to record were the only time we hadn’t toured in, I don’t remember how long. So here’s the thing, even though that was the first time I could sit down and focus, I had months and months and months to think about it, so the concepts for some of them were totally fresh. I think the very first song I wrote for that new batch, the song called “Desire,” came out of nowhere. It’s special with the first song because you’re in the moment and you’ve got a sum total of ideas from a year of touring and the second I got it done I was like alright this is cool. It was a new idea and it kind of set the tone for the record.
When you work with a producer, they’re going to really encourage you to come up with the best material. Honestly, a few months before [going to record for this album] I thought I had the whole record done; so I grab my phone and I’m like “Okay I’m ready, let’s go do it.” And Ryan’s like “Well okay, you have three songs.” I’m like, “What?” There’s different ways you could respond to that, I could have been like “Oh well these are my songs I wanna stick with them,” but I think another thing that really made this project work was the mutual respect of everybody involved, respecting other people’s opinions and perspectives. So I went back to the drawing board and I’m glad I did because I think we came up with a really strong record from beginning to end.
Held at the beautiful Spirit of The Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida, Magnolia Fest will be celebrating it's 19th year this October 15-18th. MagFest consistently features some of the world’s finest performers in Americana, Roots Rock, Acoustic Blues, Singer/Songwriter, Bluegrass & Newgrass, Cajun/Zydeco, New & Traditional Folk and American Roots music. In the fifth of a series focusing on the artists who will be performing at the Fest, Jerry Joseph, whose career has spanned more than thirty years, kindly took the time to talk about playing the Fest for the first time, being inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame and more.
Magnolia Fest is entering its nineteenth year, how many years have you been a part of it?
So, being that there are numerous festivals for you to choose to play at, why did you say yes to being a part of Magnolia Fest?
Well, a lot of reasons. One because I don’t think we’ve ever done any of those late fall Florida things, not that I can remember anyway, and we're psyched to do it. We’re always moving, doing load in and playing, so I never look at these things as social events, but I’m excited to go down there and do it. It’ll be cool to play with all of those bands.
Caleche Ryder grew up in rural California riding horses and singing country songs. After competing in Miss America 2008 as Miss Nevada, Ryder turned her focus to music and hasn't looked back. She recently released her single "West Coast Cowgirl" and graciously took the time to speak about the song, her upcoming EP and more.
When was it that you decided to pursue music professionally?
Music is my passion; I have always loved singing and dreamed of being a country singer. I’ve actually been singing since I was a little girl. I sang in choir, played Sandy in a sixth grade production of Grease and sang “Wind Beneath My Wings” at graduation. I was Miss Nevada in the 2008 Miss America pageant and my talent was singing. Miss America is a huge ordeal and after it is over, everyone takes a deep breath before moving onto the next thing. The majority of the girls got married and had kids, but I started dating a guy who encouraged me to pursue a music career. He knew it was my passion, thought it was totally do-able and, along with my family, gave me the extra motivation and courage to pursue it.
I started working on my career and writing my own music. At that point, I had gone through a lot. I was in a relationship for six years, was cheated on and then we broke up, so I had a lot of stuff to write about. And it turns out, I am really good at writing lyrics! I don’t mean that [in a bragging way], but writing has always been my strong point. Growing up, I was really good in English, but Math…shoot me you know! (laughing)
I hear ya! Do you write all of your songs yourself or do you co-write as well?
I co-write with lots of people here in LA, but I write with my producer, David Kidd the most. We get each other. Over the years it’s gotten easier as we’ve gotten better and faster at writing together. He knows me really well which helps because I am writing with someone who knows my past and my feelings and is a friend.
I can write a song myself and then bring it to my producer or another writing partner and they always make it a little better. Two heads are better than one I think. It's rare you see a song written by one person be a slam dunk. If someone else can give a tiny piece of input and make it that much better, why not. If you run it by someone you trust, they can help you take it to the next level. I do the same thing for other artists too. They’ll bring me songs they’re stuck on and I give them my perspective. It’s really cool.
Considered one of the fathers of Americana, multiple Grammy and Americana Music Association Award winner Jim Lauderdale is one of the most respected singer-songwriters today. Over twenty-six albums he has successfully gone where the music leads him: roots, country, folk, bluegrass, soul and more. In addition to being an artist in his own right, Lauderdale has had his work recorded by George Jones, The Dixie Chicks, George Strait and many others. In the continuing series spotlighting the artists of Magnolia Fest, Lauderdale warmly took the time to speak about the festival, including what has him returning year after year, his upcoming album Soul Searching and more.
Magnolia Fest is heading into its 19th year, have you been present at them all?
I have not, but I have been doing it, gosh I lost count I’ve been doing it for so long. I started out doing Springfest and have been so fortunate to be able to do both every year for a while now; they’re one of the highlights of my year.
There are so many festivals nowadays, what makes Magnolia Fest so special and has you returning?
Well, for one thing I love the people that attend the festival. There are some who have returned for all these years and some who started later and keep coming back because they enjoy it so much. It is really nice to touch base with those people. And of course there are the performers. It’s a comfortable atmosphere and nice to reconnect with other bands and artists where this may be the only time our paths cross all year. And I really like to jam. Some of the nights after everything is over, I get to jam with some of these folks, like my friends Donna The Buffalo who are there every year. We get to play together and I love to do that every opportunity I get.
Sounds like a wonderful time in many regards. I had the opportunity to speak with Tara Nevins and she was saying the audience there is a very attentive, music loving audience. Do you find that as well?
I do. They are very enthusiastic and you can feel it. As a performer it makes so much of a difference when you’re looking out and you see people enjoying it and giving back to you what you’re giving to them. That makes it really such a pleasurable experience.
With two multi-award winning albums and over four hundred awards, including two Golden Guitars, Dianna Corcoran is a beloved face on the Australian country music scene. Now, the singer-songwriter, who has worked with the Australisn Defense Force and deployed three times to perform for troops serving in Afghanistan and Egypt, is readying to make an impact in the U.S. with her debut single. Dianna kindly took the time to talk about her roots, "God Did Good," her upcoming album and more.
As a young adult, Dianna’s first interest in country music came in yodeling. After finishing high school, she worked three jobs, which were in recruitment, a dog food factory and a car parts plant, where she saved enough money to make her first record.
You worked really hard at a variety of jobs; was it always the goal to pursue music?
Absolutely. I didn’t even choose music, it chose me. I’m sure a lot of artists tell you the same thing, but that is the truth. Even when a thought came into my mind to do something else, I’d always come back to music, and making music. I was very musical right from the get go. Mom told me I was singing before I was talking. I sang “Twinkle Twinkle” before I was saying anything; it was just in my blood I guess. Mom and Dad both were in bands before they were married. Mom sang and Dad played the drums. Dad bought me guitar when I was around eight. He handed it to me and I went out in the backyard and taught myself how to play.
Hard work, that’s my nature, where I come from. I have obtained a dream of working with Aristo, but even having a team doesn’t mean you stop working--it means you just have an extra pair of hands.
That's an incredible attitude to have. Do you have any specific influences either on your writing, singing or playing?
I have listened to such an eclectic collection of music over the years, that I can’t pinpoint one artist. My earliest influence was Olivia Newton John, even though she was much older than me. I was obsessed with her, I wanted to be Sandy (laughing). In terms of the songs I listen to on the stereo, that goes from hip hop to old school country. Country is my favorite though and I will always come back to that. I would listen to artists like Tim McGraw, Blackhawk and Jo Dee Messina and read all of the credits and say ‘Oh my gosh, I want to go to Nashville and work with these people!’
Singer songwriter Kate Ryan is preparing to make her mark on the music industry. Blending Country and Pop, the Colorado native released her six song debut EP, Now Revolution, on August 21st. Kate kindly took the time to answer a few questions via email about her roots, the EP, and what's ahead.
Your musical career began in church, was that the first place you began singing?
Church was the first place that I performed, and it was to a packed church on Christmas Eve! I actually began singing before that. When I was 6 years old, I asked my piano teacher if she could teach me how to sing. Fortunately she is a great singing coach, and not only did I learn to sing, but I learned to play as well.
What drew you to music and when did you decide to pursue it as a profession?
Music is something I love to do and it has been since I was extremely young, but it wasn't until 5th grade that I realized I wanted to do it as a profession. This was around the same time I realized being a princess was unfortunately out of the question. This was also around the time the TV show Hannah Montana became popular and I found the life portrayed very intriguing.
Being that your music is pop/country where do you draw your influences from?
I listen to a variety of music genres, which is why the songs are so diverse. I write about things that are happening in my life and have meaning.
Why do you gravitate to country music as opposed to say, straight up pop?
Pop country gives me the flexibility to sing about many things. Country music is a more laid-back genre. The people are just consistently more kind and down-to-earth. The country music fans just love music and connect with the artists.
For over twenty-five years, Donna The Buffalo has toured the nation with their "ever evolving grassroots sound" that blends rock, cajun, folk, reggae and more. The band, comprised of Jeb Puryear (vocals, electric guitar), Tara Nevins (vocals, guitar, fiddle, accordion, scrubboard), David McCracken (Hammond organ, Honer Clavinet & piano), Kyle Spark (bass) and Mark Raudabaugh (drums), promotes a feeling of community through their music and among their fans, known as "The Herd." In the third of a series featuring some of the artists performing in October at Magnolia Fest at the Spirit of The Suwannee Music Park, Tara Nevins took the time to speak about being a mainstay at the Fest, The Stampede Tour and more.
Once again, you will be performing at Magnolia Fest in October. Have you played all nineteen years and what keeps you coming back?
We have actually. It’s a very beautiful spot with live oak trees, Spanish moss, and palmetto trees. There are a few festivals that are just great and this is one of those. We know everyone really well and have made great friends there. The festival is family oriented, there’s great music and it’s a really wonderful, music loving audience. We look forward to it every year.
Will you be closing out the festival as you have done in the past?
I haven’t looked at the schedule yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we do—it’s a tradition every year. There are people who have not gone home yet and stick around to see what might happen and who might come on stage to play, which is always a fun part of the finale. It’s one of the highlights of the festival and we have had some amazing moments doing it.