Category Archives: Interviews

Josh Turner Talks Live Across America

The following is a syndicated article that first appeared on

The experience of putting on a live show is something that many a country singer cherishes, and Josh Turner is certainly no exception.  His new Cracker Barrel release Live Across America – which drops today – attempts to encapsulate for his fans the experience of attending a Josh Turner live show.  The platinum selling country music star, whose current single “Time Is Love” just became his sixth Top 10 hit, recently sat down with a small group of media journalists (including yours truly), to talk about his experiences in touring across the country, and in making this live record.

On the live show experience and his connection to the fans:  My show has grown over the years.  We started out just playing some really small venues, playing bars.  We didn’t have a lot of technology and a lot of equipment that we could carry along with us.  We were all traveling on one bus.  It was just humble times.  As I’ve had hits, as I’ve sold records, as I’ve continued to make somewhat of a profit, we’ve been able to take more stuff out on the road to improve our show – to try to make it better not only musically, but visually for the fans.  Luckily I’m to a place now where we’re carrying lights out; we’re carrying video; we’re carrying as much equipment as we need to put on the show that we put on now.  As traditional as I am, I feel like my show is pretty high energy.  We have a lot of wireless units that we use to where not only me but my band guys can move around onstage – They’re not tied to a cable somewhere.  We have three big video walls going on behind us that’s showing video footage and video content.  I feel like it’s pretty high energy.

For the connection that we have with the fans, I’m excited that I get to share it with them because they come out, and they pay a certain price for the ticket, and I want to give them their money’s worth so that when they come to a Josh Turner show, they’re not just coming for the songs.  They’re coming for an experience.  I’m excited to be at a level of my career where I can give them that, and where they can go away just in awe, and wanting to come back the next time I come around.

On the challenges of recording live:  Well, it’s your typical challenges, technical difficulties.  It depends on what kind of production companies you end up with on the road, the kind of venue we’re at, if it was an outdoor thing, depending on the weather.  There was a lot of variables.  The good thing is technology has come to a place where it’s a little easier to get a recording.  These performances that we chose are just kind of from those nights and those venues were the crowd was really into it, but they weren’t so wild and rambunctious to where you couldn’t hear the music like you should.  It was from good-sounding venues, depending on what kind of song it was.  We just really kind of chose the ones where we were all feeling good and playing good, and the magic was happening, and we didn’t have any technical difficulties and all that.  Probably these were the nights where we tried not to think about the fact that we were being recorded.  It’s a little different recording a live show because when you’re in a studio, you know when the tape is rolling, or when the machine is rolling, and so there’s always that feeling of “All right, I gotta do it the best that I can do it – I can’t mess this up” kind of thing.  But with a live show, you know it’s not gonna be perfect, but you still try to do your best that you can do.  You’re not only singing, and not only playing, but you’re also entertaining, so that kind of gives it a different flair.  There was a lot of challenges to this, but the good thing was we didn’t have to go out of our way, or schedule extra days to make a record.  We were recording live as it was happening, and as we know it out on the road.

On the experience of touring with keyboardist wife Jennifer, who appears on the album:  I’m excited for her because she gets to hear her work and her talent on a recorded piece of material.  It’s tangible now.  I’m excited not only for her but for my whole band because I feel like I have a really good band.  They got to show off their talents on this record, and they get something to show for it now, my wife included.  I can sit here and talk about how great I think she is or they are, but now we have that proof right here on that record.

It’s great for me to go and do a show, and to be playing to a crowd, and then turn right around and see my soul mate back there playing piano and singing harmonies with me.  We go to the stage together; we leave the stage together; we meet three little monkeys at the bus door, so there’s nothing better for us right now.  It’s something that I realize is fleeting, and that probably won’t last forever, so we’re just cherishing it while it lasts.  There’s nothing better than being able to play music, especially at this level, with your spouse.

On memories associated with touring in different cities:  There are some stories with some of these cities, but we play so much on the road that it’s hard to remember everything.  If I go to a city one time, I pretty much remember it.  I think it’s part of my photographic memory.  The one interesting thing about this record, for the “Why Don’t We Just Dance” track, we recorded that in a casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and needless to say, that was one of the more energetic crowds we had.  We were out there doing our show, and I think it was right before this song or somewhere within this show, little comments and little things that the fans would scream out between songs or even during songs was pretty entertaining, pretty comical.  There was this one fan in New Jersey at some point during the show that was yelling out for me to take my shirt off or something like that!  It was just crazy.  Little stuff like that we kind of had to edit out – obviously wouldn’t want that to be on a Cracker Barrel record! [Laughs] It’s just funny for me because I know that it was there, and we had to take it out.  Little things like that just kind of make me laugh, and all of these places that we play were pretty special, and I think that’s why the performances from these towns ended up on this record because the fans were just into it one way or the other!

On his favorite live albums:  I guess one of the first live albums I ever heard was Johnny Cash, Live at San Quentin.  That really inspired me to kind of delve into more of Johnny Cash’s repertoire and his catalog – what he had done prior to that and even beyond that.  When I came across that record, it was many years after it had been made.  I found it on vinyl at an antique store somewhere back home.  It was cool because you got to hear a show that happened a long time ago.  You got to hear the bantering between the songs, and you got to hear all the imperfections within the songs, and you got to hear the energy from the crowd, and you knew that they were inmates and that this was a special time for them.  It was an experience to able to sit and listen to something like that.  Obviously the technology has come a long way since 1968, and obviously none of these songs were recorded in a prison, but Johnny Cash, Live at San Quentin was probably one of my favorite ones.  Another one that I always liked was Lyle Lovett’s Live in Texas.  That was another one of my favorites too.  I love Lyle Lovett, and I think he’s a great artist.

On the influence of his musical heroes:  Johnny Cash, obviously, and Randy Travis, Hank Williams, Vern Gosdin, and John Anderson are my five big heroes in my musical life.  Not only have I learned from their success, but I’ve learned from their mistakes.  I don’t think it’s right to look at somebody and say ‘I want to be just like them,’ because you’ll never be just like them.  For me, the biggest thing my heroes taught me was how to be Josh Turner – the good and the bad of it.  That’s what I’ve strived to do from day one.  When I get up onstage, that’s exactly what I’m doing.  I’m not trying to be Johnny Cash.  I’m not trying to be Randy Travis.  There’s already a Johnny Cash, and already a Randy Travis.  I’m trying to be the best Josh Turner that I can be, musically and personally.  I think this record really kind of shows a lot of that, because this record, as opposed to the last live record that I did for Cracker Barrel (Live at the Ryman, 2007) has more of the hits throughout my career in it, and it really was cool to be able to have a recorded live version of these songs, and hear how the crowds react to it, so I’m excited about it.

On covering Waylon Jennings’ “America”:  The name of the record obviously is Live Across America, and basically that’s what this record is.  It’s twelve tracks.  Each one of them was recorded in a different city, so it really gives the fans kind of a little taste of what it’s like to travel from city to city to city, and sing these songs.  It’s an interesting record because it’s a little bit of a journey for the fans because it gives them a taste of what it’s like for us.  It’s not really a patriotic record, but it’s definitely an American record.  Each one of these scenes is very different.  The crowds are very different.  The energy that I get off these different crowds is very different.  The venues are very different, but it’s all under that American umbrella.  When I was trying to think of a song that kind of summed all that up, I didn’t want to choose your standard straight-up patriotic kind of song.  I was looking for something else – something that kind of told the American story in a cool kind of way.  That would still fit in with what we’re doing, so the first song that came to mind was this Waylon song “America.”  We kind of created our own arrangement of this song, and obviously it’s more broken-down than Waylon’s version.  I wanted it to be a little more intimate.  I wanted it to be as if I was telling this story, and I was really pleased with the way it turned out.

On the inclusion of “So Not My Baby” (an unreleased album track from Everything Is Fine)“So Not My Baby” just has kind of an interesting story to it, because I heard that song years ago, and I fell in love with it.  I felt like it was a hip way to say that.  I felt like it had the potential to be a single, and at being a hit – I still feel like it should have been.  It was on my Everything Is Fine album.  I actually tried to record it twice on the Your Man album.  For whatever reason – Either we ran out of time, or it just was not coming together – It just didn’t stick for whatever reason.  It just kind of haunted me.  I knew that it was a good song, and I knew we had everything we needed to create a track on it.  For whatever reason, it just wasn’t working.  I guess the time just wasn’t right.  So when the Everything Is Fine album rolled around, on the very first session, very first day, my producer Frank Rogers and I said, “You know what?  We need to go in there right now and just start on this song, because if it takes three hours, it takes three hours.  That’s exactly what we did.  We went in and we really just wrestled this thing to the ground, and it turned out great.  We put harmonica on it, and it just turned out to be a great dancing songs.  We played it live out on the road for a long time, and it always got a great reaction.  Then when it came time to make this record, they were letting me choose three more acoustic tracks.  “America” was one of them.  “Me and God” was the other.  I wanted to bring back “So Not My Baby” because it shows off my vocal range.  It’s a good dancing song, and it’s a cool way to tell that message.

On what he considers his signature song:  “Long Black Train.”  It’s not a commercial song.  I was surprised when they even decided to release it.  It was actually my second single.  A lot of people think it was my first, but it was actually my second single.  The first single died at #45.  So when they came to look at the possibility of the next single, they were looking at “Long Black Train,” and I thought they were crazy.  But I really am proud of them for choosing that song, because they were like “We need to choose the song that really sums up who Josh Turner is,” and they chose “Long Black Train.”  I was still kind of thinking in the back of my mind that ‘This is not gonna be good!’  Because even when I wrote it, I didn’t’ think anybody would want to hear it.  I thought it was too old-fashioned and too old-timey, and it is.  It’s not a song that you would automatically say ‘Oh, that’s a radio-friendly song.’  I was just really surprised at how well the song did.  I was surprised at the impact that it had on people, the impact it had on my career.  I wrote it by myself, and when I think of signature songs, I think of “Hello Darlin’.”  I think of “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”  I think of “I Told You So.”  I think of “Folsom Prison Blues.”  I could go on and on with artists who wrote a song by themselves, and it became their signature song, and “Long Black Train” is that song for me.  I can’t do a show, and not sing it.  Fans still love it, and thank goodness!

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Posted by on August 28, 2012 in Interviews


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Working Two Jobs – The 1-to-10 Interview with Emmylou Harris

Few names in country and folk music are met with such deep reverence as that of Emmylou Harris.  Over the course of her over forty-year career, Harris placed 45 singles in the Billboard Country Top 40, sold over 15 million albums worldwide, took home twelve Grammy trophies and three CMAs, and was enshrined in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008.

Along with her substantial accomplishments in music, every bit as worthy of recognition is what a big-hearted, giving person Harris constantly proves herself to be in supporting causes that are important to her.  These include animal rescue and adoption – something Harris has often shown to be near and dear to her heart.  A passionate animal lover, Harris will participate in the first annual Woofstock at the Fontanel Mansion in Nashville, Tennessee – a two-day charity event to be held on August 17-18

I was able to catch up with the lovely Miss Emmylou right between her getting back from playing festivals in Montana, and having to jet off to Norway the next day.  We spoke with her about her recent and upcoming pursuits during my fan-struck telephone conversation with her.

Ben Foster:  I think it’s such a great thing what you’re doing for all these dogs at Woofstock, and I can tell you’re someone who really genuinely and passionately cares about animals.  To begin with, I’d like to hear you describe your connection to animals, and what has caused you to be the passionate animal lover that we all know you to be.

Emmylou Harris:  I guess it goes to my childhood.  My father and my mother and my grandparents, aunts, uncles, pretty much everyone in my family were animal people.  My father was actually studying veterinary medicine at the University of Virginia when World War II broke out, and he signed up for the Marine Corps.  But all of my family kind of instilled a love and respect for animals, and we always had companion animals when I was growing up.

But then I became an adult, and I went on the road, and really didn’t think about having animals.  It just didn’t seem like it was a practical thing to do.  But then when I moved to Nashville I had a couple of cats, but it still seemed like a dog would be traveling a lot, which would not work out.  Little did I know how great it is to have a dog on the road with you.  I think it was 1992 I adopted a dog named Bonaparte from Nashville Humane.  We already had a small dog that was my daughter’s.  But I had gotten Bonaparte as sort of companion for her dog, and he just turned out to be this great traveling dog, so for ten years, whenever it was convenient, or whenever I was on a bus tour (which was a lot), he would travel with me.  Even when I was away doing an album, like when I was in New Orleans or when I went off to San Francisco, and I was going to be someplace I long time, I would bring him with me.  When he died very suddenly in 2002, he was only 11.  Even though we had other animals in our home, I was very close to this dog, and didn’t really think about getting another dog for myself.

But somehow I felt like I wanted to get more involved in animal rescue since he had been a rescue, so it was as a memorial to Bonaparte that I started Bonaparte’s Retreat.  I thought I could connect with Nashville Humane because I had a big backyard, that I could build a small rescue which runs as a common area.  Initially we were going to take three dogs.  I think we went up to six, but because I’m so limited by space I can only have so many dogs on the property.  But we’ve been going eight years now.  We’ve developed a relationship with some foster homes, foster parents in the community, so we probably deal with about twenty dogs at a time.  We pretty much put our effort into rescuing from Metro Animal Control because these dogs have such a short window of time before they’re put down, whereas Nashville Humane, although we still have a good relationship with them, they’re pretty much a low-kill shelter, and we know that those dogs are probably safe until we find a home, whereas the dogs at Metro by law only have a certain window of time.  If nobody adopts them, then a perfectly healthy dog that can give so much joy to a family somewhere gets put down.  It’s really quite heartbreaking.

Yeah, it’s very sad to see a dog’s life cut short like that.

Well, there’s no reason for it.  If we could extend the foster programs, if we could get more people to spay and neuter their pets, Nashville could become a no-kill city.  There are several around the country, and it’s just going to take a lot of effort and communication, and people coming together to decide they’re going to do that.  The people and communities that are involved in dog rescue are really trying to make that happen.

So what do animal lovers have to look forward to at this year’s Woofstock?

Well, this is our first year.  It’s going to be a daytime event.  The doors will open at ten.  It’s at Fontanel, which is Barbara Mandrell’s old home place, and they have concerts there at night.  We’re going to be at the front of the property, and we we’re going to have music starting at eleven.  I’m going to be playing, Buddy Miller, Shawn Camp, Ella Mae Bowen, and the Whites – I’m real excited about that – Mike Farris and I2 South.  Sam Bush is going to make an appearance.  Obviously there will be food and drink on the property.  I’m going to have Emmylou’s Closet, which are a lot of clothes that I don’t wear anymore for sale.  We’re going to have auction items.  We’re going to have lots of little kiddie pools around for the dogs to get cooled off.  There are walking trails; There’s a creek.  There are going to be a lot of different booths up of different animal products, and things that people can purchase.

We’re just hoping it’s going to be a really nice time for families to come to bring their dogs, and to just have a good time outside, and they’ll listen to some music.  Nashville Humane will be there, and Metro Animal Control will be there with dogs for adoption, as well as obviously Bonaparte’s Retreat.  We’re testing the waters.  We want to make this an annual event – something that people can say “Oh, when is Woofstock this year?”  We’ll always have music, and try to keep it local because we’ve got enough great musicians and great communities where we can showcase, and strut our stuff as well as our mutts!

Do you have any other upcoming projects that you would like to give your fans a little teaser for?

Oh yeah!  Actually Rodney Crowell and I just finished a duet record, and it’s going to be coming out sometime early next year.  It’s a duet record that we talked about probably since the first day we met, and sat down and sang old George Jones songs together.  That’s going to be coming out, and I guess that’s the only thing I have definite.  I know that there’s talk about re-releasing Wrecking Ball with extra tracks, and I will say that on October 24 at Marathon Music Works in Nashville, Daniel Lanois, Brian Blade, and Malcolm Burn and myself – the original musicians on Wrecking Ball, we’re actually going to perform Wrecking Ball, along with some other music.

How exciting!  That was quite a landmark album for you back in ’95.

Yeah, it sure was.

And we sure do love Rodney Crowell, so that duet record sure is something for us to look forward to.  Speaking of Rodney, you recently got to participate in his KIN project with Mary Karr.

I love that record!  I love that record.

Oh yes, he’s an amazing songwriter.  Lots of great songs and great artists.

Yeah, it really is.  I’m excited about the record, but also the idea of us going out and doing shows together. We actually just did a benefit in Montana.  He sat in on my set at the Red Ants Pants Festival – it’s in White Sulfur Springs, Montana.  So we just did that.  I just got home from that on Sunday, and I’m leaving for Norway tomorrow.

It sounds like you sure are keeping busy.

Well, I am keeping busy, and I feel like I kind of have two jobs now, you know with the dog rescue, and the music which I still love, and being able to put my time and effort and energy into something else that I’m really passionate about.  I feel really really blessed to be able to do it, but it does keep me busy!

Speaking of your music, earlier this year you celebrated your 20th anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry.  What does that milestone mean to you?

Well you know, when you look on those milestones, you say “Twenty years?  Was it really twenty years?”  When you keep busy, it can seem like just yesterday.  But that was wonderful because I had all pals there.  Rodney was there, and the Whites, and I got Shawn Colvin.  I’ve been wanting to get her on the Grand Ole Opry because she does just about the best version ever of Lefty Frizzell’s “That’s the Way Love Goes,” and I said “Girl, you have got to come sing that on the Grand Ole Opry!”  It was a really wonderful night, and I do love to perform at the Opry, especially when it’s at the Ryman.  There’s something so special about that venue.

In March of this year, how did it feel to be given the Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award for being a pioneer in the country music genre?

Well, it’s always good to be a pioneer!  As long I don’t have to be in the covered wagon!  So that was a really great honor.  It was.

In looking back on all that you’ve accomplished over the course of your career – having hits on the charts, winning awards, being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, what moments stand out as being most meaningful to you?

You know, I don’t really know if you could pick one.  Obviously, everything kind of started with meeting Gram Parsons, and going out on that first tour, and being sort of thrown in the water – or being out in the water with no paddle, learning about country music, playing in a country band.  It really set me on the path that I’m still on today, and I’ve just been able to work with so many great musicians, all of the band members I’ve had, and you know Rodney’s one of them.  Then being able to actually get to work with heroes like Bob Dylan and Neil Young and Mark Knopfler and Roy Orbison.  Sometimes I have to pinch myself.  But really I’m just grateful that I still love music, that I still have the opportunity to go out there and work, and that the fans are still coming to see me.  You know, I must be doing something right.  I don’t know how, but I just want to keep doing it until I can’t do it anymore.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the music scene today.  What artists do you enjoy listening to, mainstream or otherwise?

Well you know, I just kind of listen to my buddies that are around town.  I’m a huge fan of Buddy Miller obviously, somebody that I’ve been fortunate enough to work with.  We go out with Patty Griffin and Shawn Colvin,and do the three girls with their Buddy, so I’m always up on what they’re doing.  They’re just really a lot of good music happening right now that’s maybe a little outside the mainstream, but that’s okay because I think everybody’s able to hear all this stuff now.  You don’t just have to listen to what’s on Top 40 radio to really hear some great music.

Absolutely, and it’s so great to see talented artists finding ways to succeed without the support of radio even.

Oh, and I did want to say that in September I’m going to do a TV show with Mumford & Sons that I’m really looking forward to because I love their stuff.

Oh wow!  That’s so exciting

It’s called Crossroads.  I don’t know what we’re going to do, but we’re doing to do something!

They did a great version of “The Boxer” on Jerry Douglas’s new record, didn’t they?

Oh yeah, I was talking to Marcus and he told me about that.  I can’t wait to hear it.

Well, we’ll look forward to seeing that!  That must be a very exciting thing you’ve got coming up.

Yeah, its’ always good to collaborate with people.  Keeps you fresh!

And you sure do have some talented buddies!

Yeah, I do.  I’m a lucky girl!

For more information on Emmylou Harris, visit

For more information on Woofstock, visit


Posted by on August 1, 2012 in Interviews


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This Time It’s Personal – A Conversation with Kellie Pickler

The following is a syndicated interview that originally appeared on

Kellie Pickler first got her start in the music business when she finished in sixth place on the fifth season of American Idol.  Since then, she’s carved out a respectable country music career that’s yielded five Top 20 hits, including “Red High Heels,” “I Wonder,” and the Top 10 “Best Days of Your Life.”  Her new album 100 Proof, which features a more traditional country sound than her previous efforts, drops today.

I had the chance to speak with Kellie Pickler in Nashville recently.  In the interview that follows, she shares how her new musical direction came about while discussing how she’s grown as an artist in the years since her debut, and how music helps her find healing from painful childhood experiences.

Ben Foster:  You’ve got your first new album coming out since 2008, and you’ve said that you made this album as country as you were allowed to make it.  What made you want to steer your music in a more traditional direction?

Kellie Pickler:  My grandparents had a big part in raising me, so the first style of music that I was ever introduced to as a kid was traditional country music.  My Grandpa Pickler taught me my first song, and that was Hank Senior, “My Bucket’s Got a Hole In It.”  I love the classics.  That’s where my heart is.  You know, I think country music is so wide right now, which is good.  There’s so many different styles of country music, and I think there’s room for all of it, including that traditional sound, which is where I’ve always wanted to be.  I’ve always wanted to make the kind of record that I made with this one.  When I first started out, I was nineteen and green when I first moved to Nashville.  I didn’t know anybody, and I didn’t have any friends or any family here.  You’re scared to take risks.  I was scared to take risks ‘cause I didn’t want to piss anybody off and get sent back home.  I definitely feel like I’ve paid somewhat certain dues where I’m in a place where I’m willing to jump, and if my parachute opens, it opens.  If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t!

Ben:  So basically you’ve reached the point where you’re taking control of your career and saying “This is the kind of music I want to make.”

Kellie:  Yeah, absolutely.  I think this is the best record I’ve made as far as being consistent from the first song to the last song.  I’m so proud of it.  I’ve never ever been more proud of anything I’ve ever worked on like I am this project.

Ben:  Which artists would you say have had the most influence over the sound and styles of this album?

Kellie:  Definitely Tammy.  I love Tammy Wynette.  She is one of the biggest reasons why I fell in love with country music, along with Kitty Wells and Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn.  I think it’s important for me, when I went into the studio this time, to really just put all of myself in this record as possible, and really shine a light on the people that even influenced me to even do this in the first place, and this is where I’m the most comfortable.  You know, it’s easier to be yourself than to try to be something you’re not.  I’m very much a people pleaser.  I want everybody to be happy; I want everybody to like me; I want to like everybody.  I’ve tended in the past to kind of compensate a little bit of who I am in order to get people to like me, to be honest.  It’s scary because I know for every artist – I think I speak for most every artist – when you go in the studio, it’s hard to go in the studio and not think first off “What is radio gonna play?  Is this gonna be something that we can get on the radio?  Are they gonna like this?”  Because radio is our biggest voice in country music.  It’s how people hear our songs.  It’s how people know about our shows.  It’s how people know that we’re still making music.  The only place I’ve ever wanted to be is on the radio – on country radio.  I don’t care about being on any other station except country radio.  I don’t wanna be on any other station except country radio, ‘cause this is my home.  This is where I wanna be, and this is where I belong.  I just went in the studio and I didn’t make a record for anyone else but myself.  It’s the first time I went in the studio and made my record.  I did it for me, and sometimes it’s okay to be a little selfish and put yourself first.

Ben:  Absolutely.  That makes some of the best albums.

Kellie:  I think so too!  I look at people like Dolly, and I look at people like Loretta, and I look at people like Tammy and Kitty Wells.  Had they played it safe, they wouldn’t be the icons that they are today.  I think that it was important for me to do the same thing they did, and that was just jump.  Jump out of the plane.  You never know – That parachute might open, and you might have a soft landing, or it could be rocky.  But either way, you’re gonna know that you took the risk to jump, and you’re not gonna have ‘what if’s.

Ben:  Since you’ve been talking about some of the artists who shaped your sound, that makes me curious to ask you what is your personal favorite country albums of all time, if you have one, and why?

Kellie:  Oh gosh.  Goodness gracious, that’s hard to say.  My grandma passed away several years ago, but she and my grandpa had this old record player, and my grandpa gave it to me about a year and a half, two years back, and I got all their vinyls, and so that’s what I listen to.  I still collect vinyl records, so it’s hard to go through and say what my favorite record is.  I do have a Hank Senior record that is pretty old, and it’s more of a live sound record that I listen to all the time when I’m getting ready, and it has some of his older hits that I love.  But there again, there’s so many Tammy records… one of my favorite Tammy records is of course the one where it has “Bedtime Story” and “The Divorce,” and there’s “I Don’t Wanna Play House.”  That is one of my favorite songs.  That might be my favorite Tammy song.  It’s one of my favorite Tammy songs, “’Til I Get It Right”…  I mean, there’s just so many great ones, you can’t pick one.

Ben:  In what ways is 100 Proof a truer reflection of yourself than your past two albums?

Kellie:  I’d say that, of course this record is gonna be more me than the last one because this record is exactly where I am in my life right now.  A lot’s happened.  It’s been three years and four months since the last record came out, and I’m married.  I married my best friend, and he’s so good to me.  I’m so happy.  I think when people hear the songs on this record – the people that know me, not just acquainted, and I have played this record for a couple of my very close friends – they all said ‘There you are!  There’s Kellie.  That’s the Kellie we know.  That’s the Kellie that’s sitting in front of me.’  So I know, not because I just feel that way, but because the people that know me have stated that.  And my Grandpa Pickler, he knows me better than about anybody, ‘cause he had a big part raising me, and the songs are about my life.  There’s no song on this record that I sat down and thought ‘I gotta write a song for this album!’  No song was written for the intentions of being record, like “Mother’s Day” that my husband [Kyle Jacobs] and I wrote.  We didn’t write that song for anybody to hear; in fact I didn’t want anybody to hear it in the first place.  We just happened to write that song on Mother’s Day, and it was written for me to find closure, to heal.  It just, some way or another, it made its way on the record.  But for me, it’s never a premeditated plan of what this song’s gonna be about, and that it’s gonna be recorded, that it’s gonna be on the album.  There’s no thought except this moment right now I need to write this song and get what’s in my heart down on paper so that I can heal – start that healing process.  For me, music is so therapeutic, and there’s so much closure found in writing, and that’s why I write.  I don’t write for any other reason but to find closure, and it just happened to make the record.

Ben:  That personal touch really shines through on “Mother’s Day,” to me as a listener.  In the songwriting, and I also thought that was one of your most compelling vocal performances that I’d heard.

Kellie:  Thank you, thank you for saying that.  It was important for me to make sure that songs like “The Letter,” which is just an acoustic guitar and me, and “Mother’s Day” it was important for me to make sure that these songs were not over-produced.  I didn’t want any of these songs to be over-produced.  I want to sell this song by the power of the lyrics, and the power of the realness behind the lyrics – that they’re true stories about my life, and it doesn’t need to be overdone.

Ben:  I’d love to hear you talk about the people you got to work with for the album, such as the qualities Frank Liddell and Luke Wooten brought as producers, as well as some of the awesome songwriter’s you got to work with like Dean Dillon and Leslie Satcher.

Kellie:  Frank and Luke – it really started with them, as far as they were the ones that convince me ‘You’re not just a singer; you’re an artist, and that’s what we want to capture on this record.’

Ben:  There is a difference.

Kellie:  Yeah, there is, and I never really thought of it that way until Luke and Frank said that.  For them, the most important thing, like I said, was capturing the artist Kellie Pickler, not the singer, but the artist, and I think they captured my soul on this record.  I really do believe that.  And the fact that I got to write with Dean Dillon – He is to me like country music royalty.  He wrote one of my favorite songs.  He’s written so many of my favorite songs… “Set ‘Em Up Joe”!

Ben:  He’s one of the reasons George Strait is country music royalty.

Kellie:  Yeah!  I was so shocked that he even took the time to write with me, because I reached out to him.  I reached out to him, and asked for him if he would write with me because I’m a fan.  And Leslie Satcher, I reached out to her, and they were willing to take the time to work with me on my record, and they didn’t have to.  They don’t need me, Leslie and Dean.  They don’t need me.  I needed them.  I really did, and I still need them because I’ve learned so much from them, and I know the longer I’m around them, the more I’m gonna learn.  I value their opinion and their guidance.

Ben:  It’s great to see you moving yourself forward in your career.  That’s really awesome to see.

Kellie:  Thank you so much.  I feel too like I was so nineteen and green when I started.  Nobody knows themselves at nineteen.  You think you do, but you don’t, because you’re not supposed to.  But yeah, I’m excited, and that means a lot to me that you say that, ‘cause that’s what you wanna do as an artist.  You wanna touch people through your music, and have an impact on people’s lives.  I think music has so much more power than it’s given credit for.

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Posted by on January 24, 2012 in Interviews


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Talking with Jeremy Abshire of The Grascals

This six-piece band from Nashville known as The Grascals, since its founding in 2004, has quickly become one of the most revered and successful acts in modern bluegrass music, performing on the Grand Ole Opry and at bluegrass festivals across the country.  They have won several major awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association, including the 2007 award for Entertainer of the Year.

Prior to joining The Grascals, fiddler Jeremy Abshire played as a member of Billie Renee and Cumberland Gap, and as a member of Dale Ann Bradley’s backing band.  He is known for his fluid and energetic fiddling style.

Earlier this year, the Grascals released their Cracker Barrel album The Grascals and Friends – Country Classics with a Bluegrass Spin, which featured collaborations with the likes of Dolly Parton, Dierks Bentley, Charlie Daniels, and others.  The band’s latest release is the 7-song EP – Dance ‘Til Your Stockings Are Hot And Ravelin’ – A Tribute to the Music of the Andy Griffith Show.  The EP was released digitally on March 29, and was released in physical CD form earlier this month.  In this interview with The 1-to-10 Country Music Review, fiddler Jeremy Abshire discusses both of these recent projects, along with overseas touring experiences, and the one ‘award’ that means the most to him.
Ben Foster:  I’d love to hear some about your latest project, the EP Dance ‘Til Your Stockings Are Hot And Ravelin’ – A Tribute to the Music of The Andy Griffith Show.  How did that project come about?

Jeremy Abshire:  Well, actually it had been talked about for a while.  Mayberry’s Finest was actually doing a food product package where this CD was going to be included as a bonus to the packaging that they were offering Cracker Barrel, and we had worked with them before, so they thought it would be a great fit, and so did we.

Ben:  What do you love most about the Andy Griffith Show?  I’m guessing you’re probably a fan of it.

Jeremy:  Oh yeah, I’m a huge fan.  I think shows like that have just kind of gone by the wayside.  Even with kids growing up today, a lot of them don’t even know about The Andy Griffith Show.  I think it’s shows like that that shaped my youth, and people of my age demographic.  I think some shows like these could really help out our youth today – just simple shows with simple messages.  The Andy Griffith Show has always had a great message.  I’m glad to be supporting that.

Ben:  That’s true.  You don’t see that kind of stuff on TV much anymore.  These days it’s mostly just fluff.

Jeremy:  Pretty much.

Ben:  I understand the EP also includes one bonus track – “Boy, Giraffes are Selfish.”  What can you tell us about that song?

Jeremy:  Well, that’s actually a tune that was done on the show, and that’s something that the guys wanted to re-work, and add as a bonus track, so we worked that up in the studio and gave it our own feel.  So that’s pretty much how that came about.  We just worked it out, and did it the way we would do it.  That was done by the Dillards originally, and it was on the music soundtrack for The Andy Griffith Show

Ben:  I’d also like to talk about another recent Grascals project – your Cracker Barrel album The Grascals and Friends – Country Classics with a Bluegrass Spin.  Would you like to tell about the creative process the band goes through in covering classic songs, and putting your own personal spin on them?

Jeremy:  I think it’s hard any time you sit down to pick out material to try to figure out what might reach an audience, so we just tried to keep it simple.  We just picked out first who we wanted to work with, people who we’d worked with in the past obviously – Dolly, Dierks Bentley, Charlie Daniels.  We’d worked with the Oak Ridge Boys before.  So we had known all those guys, and we were friends with every one.  Basically, once we decided who we wanted on the project, we started looking at what songs would best fit them, best fit us collectively together, how that would sound, and we just came up with what we thought were songs that more people would enjoy, and also songs that we thought would sound great with the artists that we wanted to make a part of it.

Ben:  That must have been such a fun record to make.

Jeremy:  It was great.  Any time we get to work with Dolly or Dierks or Charlie – They’re such great people anyway – to have them be a part of a project, and to work with them closely, is tremendous for us.  We always love to work with anybody like that.

Ben:  I understand Dolly also added her special touch to your recent single and video for “I Am Strong.”  What can you tell us about that?
Jeremy:  We would have loved to have Dolly there when we originally shot the video.  She wanted to be a part of it, but unfortunately she had other commitments.  What she did, which was so kind of her, was to kind of re-shoot her part, and she did an amazing job.  I think all of us pointedly agree that she really made the song.  When she comes in, it’s just such an uplifting feel to the song.  The song is amazing anyway.  It just celebrates all the children at St. Jude.  She cares so much about the kids at St. Jude, and she’s such an amazing person that having her be a part of that song just couldn’t be a better feeling for us.

Ben:  Would you like to tell about some of your experiences in visiting with the kids at St. Jude?

Jeremy:  It’s a bittersweet place.  There’s a lot of children there with a lot of horrible cancers, and it’s very hard if you’ve never been there before to just walk in there and take the tour, and take it all in.  But you know the people at St. Jude have made that place a positive place for children in just their daily activities, the way the hospital is set up.  When you walk in there, it’s not like you’re walking into a hospital or a ward of a hospital.  Every room and every place you go is like a Chuck E. Cheese.  It’s such a positive environment for children.  As much stuff as they’re battling with the cancers and the chemo, and everything they have to go through on a daily basis, and it being a kid, amazingly they are so positive about it because of the environment that St. Jude has provided them.  They just exude that positive attitude.  It’s hard to see children in pain, but it’s also uplifting to see a place that takes care of them so well.  The kids are so positive about it that it actually makes you positive.  When we go there, we just like to have fun with the kids and play with them, and it’s just a fun day.  But for anyone that just comes off the street and walks in there for the first time, it is a hard thing to take in, because the realization is there that there are kids there with some horrible cancers.  But they’re fighting them, and St. Jude has come up with so many revelations in different cancers that no one else has been able to do, and they’re just steadily working on trying to find cures for a lot of them.  They’re doing wonderful things there, and we’re just glad to be a part of their loving team.

Ben:  That’s great that they’re helping the kids to keep a positive spirit when they’re going through something so difficult.

Jeremy:  Yes, they absolutely do.

Ben:  Since you’ve had the opportunity to take bluegrass music overseas with a couple trips to Europe last year, would you like to tell some about those experiences?

Jeremy:  We had a great trip to France.  Anytime you get to go out of the country and play the music you love for people who love it, it’s an awesome experience and opportunity.  I myself had actually never been out of the country.  I really enjoyed the trip to Greece especially.  It’s surprising when you go to a completely different place and you play the music that you play, and people really love it.  They love bluegrass in Europe.  They don’t get it nearly enough, and there’s very few radio stations that play country and bluegrass.  They were so receptive and so warm to us and to all the other bands that played.  But if I had to pick a favorite, I would have to say that Greece was my personal favorite.  It’s such a beautiful place.  France was gorgeous too, but we spent less time there, and it was so cold when we went.  Greece was warm and great, and actually Nikos Garavelas, he actually has his own radio show that plays bluegrass in Greece near where we played, and is very successful doing that.  He’s very successful with promoting the music in Greece and in Europe in general.  He’s written a book on the history of country music, and he’s really done a great job of promoting the music over there, and informing the public on the history of country.  He’s a great friend of the band as well.

Ben:  That must have been such a fun experience.

Jeremy:  Yeah, it was.  It was amazing.  One day we had some downtime and went to his parents’ house, which was right by the ocean.  It was absolutely beautiful, and his mom was cooking all day, and laid out this huge spread of Greek food which was absolutely amazing.  His whole family was there, and everyone was just so receptive.  It was just like a Friday night grilling out with your neighbors.  Everybody came over and they grilled chicken and different meats and had all the sides to go with it.  We spent the day swimming in the ocean and eating good food and enjoying good company, so I think we all had a great time in Greece.

Ben:  In closing, I’d like to ask you, when you look back on the accolades your band has received, what would you say have been your proudest moments as a member of the Grascals.

Jeremy:  I would have to say, for me personally, we’ve been a part of so many different things.  I personally have been so many places, and met so many people, and been a part of four projects now.  I’ve enjoyed each of them in different ways, but I would have to say going to St. Jude and really learning about St. Jude and the children there, that’s really been a big part of this lately.  Recently we took a trip to St. Jude in January.  It was for the Country Cares seminar, which was basically where a bunch of artists in country get together and talk about how to raise money for the kids, how to better everything.  We met a lot of different children, and talked to a lot of different parents.  We took pictures with some kids, and we had a nice time there.  I’ve had the opportunity to play for president Bush, so I’ve got some amazing moments that are framed and hung on my wall.  When we got back from that seminar, there are some kids who actually made a crayon drawing for each of us, and they had those framed and sent to us, thanking us for supporting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  As far as an award or something that hangs on the wall that I remember, there’s nothing that I hold dearer to my heart than that because it came from St. Jude.
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Posted by on June 16, 2011 in Interviews


Getting to Know Melanie Denard

Melanie Denard is an independent artist on a small label who is already making a name for herself through her powerful personality-infused vocal performances and her distinct country-soul musical style. Her first album Dare to Live was released just last year. In the time since the release, Melanie has continued performing and working toward her goal of achieving household-name recognition as a country artist. This talented artist recently took the time to have a chat with me about her musical style and the career she hopes to create.

Ben: Would you like to start by telling a little bit about your background, and your early experiences in singing?

Melanie: Oh gosh, how much time do we have?

Ben: We have time!

Melanie: Well, let’s see. I’ve always known from an early age that I wanted to sing. It’s something that was definitely a God-given talent. There’s a lot of musical talent in my family. I have an uncle that’s in a gospel quartet. My grandmother sang and played guitar. My brother writes. So I get it honest. I started out singing in church, and then from there in high school I was in a national touring company and toured the world pretty much, doing performances. Once out of high school, I was in an opera company for a few years, and then after that I joined some bands. You know, just club bands, played in a Southern rock band and a country band, and then got a job working at a Fortune 500 company, kept the band thing going, and then met my manager, which is why I’m sitting here today in Nashville! It’s been a wonderful musical journey my whole life.

Ben: I understand you’re known for putting your own signature style on a song, or “Melanizing” it as they say?

Melanie: Oh, that’s right! You did your homework!

Ben: So how do you do that?

Melanie: Well, that’s a hard question to answer. I’ve spent much of my life doing a lot of cover tunes. I just try to take the song and make it my own, and just put a little soul in it, and I guess that’s what they call “Melanize.” My manager came up with that word. It actually fits. Yeah, I do that. I just make songs my own.

Ben: I understand your style draws on a mix of influences. How would you describe your style?

Melanie: Country-soul! A lot of soul influence, a lot of blues. I grew up lovin’ Wynonna Judd. I think our voices are really similar. She’s a big influence of mine. Elvis Presley – I’ve always loved him. It’s just a style I sort of developed. When I moved here to Nashville, I tried to sort of lose some of that to be more commercial, but then I realized that I can’t. That’s why I really love the producer I met up with, Dan Frizsell, because he let me be me, but he kind of kept me commercial for country.

Ben: When I was listening to your song “All I Ever Did Was Love You,” I got a bit of a “No One Else On Earth” vibe from it.

Melanie: Oh yeah? Well, good! That’s a compliment! Thank you!

Ben: It absolutely is. I love that song.

Melanie: Well, thank you. That’s one of the songs on the album that most describes me and my singing style.

Ben: Since you’re known for being an energetic live performer, what would you say makes for a good live show?

Melanie: You just have to keep the audience interested. I go see artists perform, and there’s milling around the room and people are talking and not really paying attention. A lot of times I notice that when I step onstage and I start singing that all eyes are on me, and that’s what I try to do – just enthrall people and feed off of their energy. It gives me more energy and allows me to bring more passion and excitement to the music. I do that – I get people’s attention.

Ben: Any artists in particular who serve as role models or influences for you both in style and in performance?

Melanie: Well, Wynonna of course. I grew up loving her. Bonnie Raitt – huge influence on me as far as the blues aspect goes. I like all music. I grew up listening to all music. My daddy liked country music, and that’s how I was introduced to country music at a very young age, and I’ve listened to it ever since.

Ben: I understand you’ve also covered the Dusty Springfield hit “Son of a Preacher Man.” Would you like to tell a little bit about your connection to that song, and how you put your own spin on it?

Melanie: That’s a song that I’ve always sang in bands and whatnot, and when I moved to Nashville in my first year of living here, there was a competition that GAC announced for the next video star. They had a video contest. That’s one of the songs that was on the list of songs to do, so I picked it because I knew it already and knew it well. That’s actually the first song that I recorded with my producer, before I ever started the Dare to Live album. We did “Son of a Preacher Man,” and I told him I wanted it to be a country version of it, so we put some fiddle on there and a little bit of steel. It turned out really, really well. Nothing happened with the video contest, but once I finished the album, I decided since “Son of a Preacher Man” turned out so well, I’d like to throw it on the album, and I’m so glad I did. It has proven to be a great idea because on the radio tours and everything I’ve gotten so much great response from that song. Everybody just loves that song.

Ben: It’s definitely very well-suited to that country-soul kind of style.

Melanie: Oh yeah!

Ben: And it’s like the country elements don’t seem slapped-on. It seems more natural than on some cross-genre covers.

Melanie: Right. It’s a great song. I’m glad I put it on the album.

Ben: So do you have any favorites among the songs you’ve recorded for your album?

Melanie: Well, I didn’t write any of the songs on the album. I’d like to take credit for the songs, but I was pitched so many great songs by wonderful well-known songwriters here in Nashville, I just couldn’t pass a lot of them up. I do write. Hopefully on the next album I put out I’ll have some co-writes and writes on it. But it was very important to me to be able to relate to the songs as if I had written them so I could bring more passion to it, and I think I did a really good job of doing that.

Ben: Definitely. Are there any songs you wish you had had a part in writing?

Melanie: Gosh, all of ‘em! [Laughs] “Dare to Live,” I’d have to say, the title track from the album, because I picked that song mainly for what it talks about and what it says. Because it’s my story. I risked everything, moved here, and quit my job and sold my house in Georgia just trying to do this thing. I’d have to say “Dare to Live” if I had to pick one, but I wish I had written them all!

Ben: Do you have any career goals that you hope to accomplish as a country artist?

Melanie: Well, I hope to have a sold-out show at the Bridgestone Arena this time next year! [Laughs]

Ben: I’ll buy a ticket!

Melanie: I’m just blessed to able to follow my dream. I live my dream every day. I’m just gonna do what I do. Hopefully the major goal is to get a major label deal. I have a label showcase coming up this year in April, and I’m very excited about that. I’m gonna start touring with the band. We’ll try to do the casino circuit and try to get out there and perform! I just hope I get a major label deal and one day be a household name.

Ben: One more question – What is country music to Melanie Denard?

Melanie: Oh gosh, it’s my life! I grew up listening to it. I can relate to it, as a lot of people can. When I hear country music, it reminds me of growing up with my dad and riding in his truck and listening to country music when he’d pick me up from school. It’s my life. It’s what I do, and I hope that one day the world will know who Melanie Denard is, and love my music as much as I love singing it to people.


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Posted by on March 30, 2011 in Interviews


"It Was a Fun Journey" – Interview with Brett Eldredge

Brett Eldredge made an immediate impression on fans and critics with his touching debut single “Raymond,” which told the story of a young man’s friendship with an elderly woman who suffered from Alzheimer’s, and who thought he was the son she had lost in death decades earlier. “Raymond” continues to climb the country singles chart, having just reached Top 30 status. In addition, Brett Eldredge has had the opportunity to perform on the Grand Ole Opry, and has extended the invitation for his fans to share their own experiences with Alzheimer’s on his official web site, and to share how his song has affected them. In a recent interview, Brett discussed the inspiration behind his special song, as well as his connection to country fans and to the hallowed Grand Ole Opry.

Ben: Would you like to tell a little bit about your background, and what led to you making the decision to move to Nashville and to pursue a career in country music?

Brett: Yeah, I’m from Paris, Illinois, which is a tiny little town of about 9,000 people, about 4 ½ hours from Nashville. I lived there until I was about 18, and then I moved to Elmhurst, Illinois, to go to my first two years of college. I found myself in love with Nashville one time when I came to visit to see my cousin [Terry Eldredge] play – He’s a bluegrass musician in the Grascals. So I came down to see him down at the Station Inn, which is now my favorite venue still to this day. I got up there, and I sang a song with him. I was hooked. I’ve done a lot of different genres, and sung a lot of different stuff. My love was already country music, but when I got down here and saw that in the flesh, and got to hear the actual instrumentation and the fiddle and all that stuff, I was like ‘This is it. This is what I want to do.’ So I transferred schools down to MTSU, and I was like ‘I’m gonna go make this happen. I’m gonna figure out how to make this happen. I didn’t know what I was doing really; I just kind of showed up! I didn’t really know anybody. I got to Nashville and went to MTSU for college, and I’d go back and forth every day after class. I just started writing songs with people, and playing those songwriter night when there would be like two people there. It was a crazy, crazy experience. There was actually one time when my buddy’s dad came to visit, and it was just his dad in the crowd, and I was just playing these songs that I wrote, and I was just starting to figure out how to write songs. So I started to develop songs, and eventually signed a publishing deal. I just kept writing and eventually developing myself as an artist, and figuring out who I was. I was eventually showcased, and found myself a record deal. It was a fun journey so far.

Ben: So would you like to describe your songwriting process?

Brett: There’s no certain exact process that I do. Sometimes I’ll have a title or something that I’ll just write on this paper sitting here, like from the newspaper, or something I might hear in some kind of conversation that somebody had at the McDonald’s. There’s never an exact form that I follow. If I have a title, I might go and say “This is something I heard. This could be a cool title for a song.” I might write that, or I’ll just show up and start singing something, especially if it’s a co-write. You know, somebody’s sitting there playing something, and I’ll just start singing. I don’t even know what I’m singing. A lot of times people would laugh because it’s actually gibberish, and most of the time it is gibberish and I’ll start to put words with it. With some of it, it’s not like we’re going to record any of that gibberish. But sometimes on some of the work tapes and recordings, you can hear some of those random lyrics come out. But eventually we put real words to it, but it’s a fun thing. I love to write songs, and I still write songs all the time. I’ve got at least two hundred unfinished songs. On my phone, I’ve got a recorder, and I’ll just record something, and I’ve got a million of those that I’ll probably never ever listen to again, but maybe one day I’ll have a bored day on the airplane. I’ll hit PLAY on something and then all of a sudden I’ll have it back in my head, and I’ll start writing it. So it’s cool. I love songwriting.

Ben: Would you say that you’re a singer first, or a songwriter first?

Brett: I moved to town as a singer first. I still always want to be a singer first for sure. That’s how I grew up, and that’s how I started. That’s why I moved here. Then I discovered songwriting, and I discovered a whole other part – singing songs that you wrote, and being able to tell a story even more if you lived it, or had a part in making that song. Singing has always definitely been my passion, but now songwriting is too – a little bit of a combination of both, if that’s a fair answer.

Ben: Yeah, kind of like “Which wing does the bird like better?”

Brett: Yep!

Ben: So would you like to tell about the artists that have influenced your style the most?

Brett: Yeah, there’s a wide range of artists that I love. I love Ronnie Dunn, Brooks & Dunn. Ronnie Dunn’s voice – I just was captured by it. One of my favorite singers of all time. Frank Sinatra – huge fan of him and that whole generation. The way he phrased words and sang songs, you could believe everything he said. I’m a scholar for singers – I love those crooner kinds of guys. I love Ray Charles and Vince Gill. They’ve got this naturally God-given gift to feel, and sing their butts off. I love those kinds of singers.

Ben: Would you like to tell about the inspiration behind your current Top 30 hit “Raymond”?

Brett: It’s inspired by my grandmother who has Alzheimer’s. She still has Alzheimer’s now and has had it for several years. She was getting worse with it about three and a half years ago. That’s when I wrote this song. It was a call from my dad that sparked this idea to write this song. My dad called and said “Your grandmother’s starting to forget people in the family. She’s starting to slip up a little bit.” So I was torn up. She means the world to me. She’s the lady who cooked me fried chicken every Sunday, and just did everything for me. To hear that she was starting to lose some of who she was – It was killing me. I had to find some way to find comfort in the situation. A lot of times I go to songwriting. So I went and told a friend who I’d never met actually – He wasn’t even a friend at this point, Brad Crisler. I showed up, didn’t even know him, and I started telling him about the issue that was going on with my grandmother, which I never do. I’m not that kind of guy. I keep my family issues to myself. But I had to tell him, and he was taken in by the story. He had relatives in nursing homes growing up, and so did I, so it was just something that was so real to us. The song pretty much wrote itself at that point. We had both experienced it. We’d been there. All of a sudden it would just take off, and stuff would really start flowing out. We didn’t have an idea called “Raymond” anything. It just came. It was weird. It just came from some special place I guess. It only happens every once in a while as a songwriter, but when it does, you know it.

Ben: I understand you’ve also opened up the opportunity for your fans to share their own experiences with Alzheimer’s.

Brett: Yeah, on, my web site, there’s a little box where you can call. People can share their stories, and there will be a recording on my web site. People share their stories of how the song’s affected them or how Alzheimer’s affected them. It’s incredible how the song has touched certain people. A lot of times they’ve just got done listening to the song, and it’s crazy. They’re like already crying at the beginning. People are so passionate about it. They see it every day. A lot of people have Alzheimer’s, and live with it for a long time. You got to see that. So you hear the message of people that have the same struggles, and everybody’s in it together. It’s a big deal – 5.5 million people have Alzheimer’s. It’s like an epidemic now. So it’s crazy to see what kinds of people are getting affected by it. It’s a cool deal to hear their stories, and I enjoy that part of it, though I hate to hear it.

Ben: Would you like to also describe the creative process behind your music video for “Raymond”?

 Brett: The music video is a crazy concept. This is my first major video. I roll up in a parking lot, and there’s two huge trucks with forty people of a crew, and I was like ‘Is this for me? Is this how this works? Am I at the right place?’ But it was a really cool process making the video for “Raymond.” Shaun Silva shot it, and he’s an unbelievable director. He’s done a lot of Chesney videos and all that stuff, but he’s just a really talented guy at making it real. For making a music video, a lot of people have different ideas of how the video could go. He was the one that I felt really brought it home in capturing the kind of relationship we’re trying to capture with this song. In a lot of the video, you’re seeing me and the lady, Katherine Davis, talking. Shaun said “Talk about something from your childhood – some really emotionally special point in your life.” She started telling me about when she was a kid around Christmas and all that stuff. She got teary-eyed and crying, and I was getting teary-eyed. It was an emotional kind of moment, and so in a lot of the video that’s the kind of stuff we’re talking about. That’s how he made it feel real, and I felt a good relationship with her, so it was a cool thing.

Ben: Yeah, it really brings the song to life. Seeing as you made your Grand Ole Opry debut last year, would you like to tell about that experience, and about your connection to the Opry?

Brett: The Opry is country music. It’s a special place – a place that I had been trying to get to play for a long time. When I signed with the agency, I had no reason to be on the Opry yet, but I kept telling them I wanted to be on it. They were like ‘We’re working on it. We’ve got to get there at the right point.’ I finally heard that I got to do it, and I was just pumped. There’s nothing like it. It’s a special place, and there’s so much history behind it. I’m gonna go stand on the same circle that Hank Williams and Johnny Cash and Elvis stood on – Elvis only one time, but he was there. So many people have been up there. To know that I was gonna do that was a special thing. So I got to bring my family, and Bill Anderson introduced me. He was a mentor of mine. The cool thing was I got to play a song that Bill and I wrote together. So all of it kind of came full circle. Literally, I walked out into the circle, and I saw my parents and grandfather and grandmother and brother and everybody. It was a special feeling. Though I was kind of nervous walking up – The closer I got to that circle, my heart beat a little faster. But once I got out in that circle and looked out in the crowd, I felt the warmth of the country music fans. They’re just so accepting, and I was home. I’ve played four times since, and I hope I get to play it for a long, long time.

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Posted by on March 9, 2011 in Interviews


Interview with Steve Rice of No Justice

Steve Rice is the lead vocalist and guitarist of the popular Okahoma-based band known as No Justice.  Guitarist Jerry Payne, bassist Joey Trevino, drummer Armando Lopez, and lead guitarist Cody Patton round out the the rest of the No Justice lineup.  The band has gained a large fan following in the Lone Star State, having charted seven Top 10 singles and four number ones on Texas country charts in only a four-year span.  I recently had a chat with Steve over the phone about the latest No Justice projects, including their most recent album 2nd Avenue, released last July on Carved Records

Ben:  The first thing I wanted to hear your thoughts on is how would you say the Red dirt music scene is different from the mainstream Nashville country scene?

Steve:  Well, we’re all broke!  That’s the first one.  A lot of these bands, we all work together for the same cause.  There’s no real competition or anything like that.  It’s just a real laid-back environment.  The fans are really loyal and dedicated.  You’re starting to see it less and less in the Nashville music scene, but there’s a lot of originality down here for the most part.  Then again, you have your cookie-cutter stuff just like you do anywhere else.  But then you start to see a lot less of that cookie-cutter type stuff.  In Nashville, people like Jamey Johnson are coming along and doing stuff that’s a little different.  But yeah, that’s pretty much it, and the big one is that we’re all broke.

Ben:  Do you have any favorite Texas or Oklahoma artists?

Steve:  I like some new artists that are coming out.  He’s not from down here, but he plays down here.  He’s a Nashville boy – Sean McConnell.  There’s the Turnpike Troubadours that are just getting started and making some waves.  There’s a lot of them, man.  If you asked me who I don’t like, I could probably give you a lot better of an example… No, I’m just joking!  I’ll keep my mouth shut on that.

Ben:  Tell as about your experiences in touring with artists such as Willie Nelson, Jack Ingram, and Dierks Bentley.

Steve:  I’d say they were pretty pleasurable.  We’ve toured around with Jack and Dierks.  We only played a couple shows with Willie Nelson.  Dierks is like a buddy you’d have in high school – just a really nice guy.  He goes out of his way to make sure everybody’s taken care of, which is cool, you know.  A lot of people don’t do that.

Ben:  How does your current album 2nd Avenue fit in with the previous No Justice albums?  In what ways is it similar or different?

Steve:  A lot of the similarities would be just style-wise.  We definitely push the boundaries with the rock and blues genres on the new record.  We still have kind of the same melodic exploration that we’ve always had. 

Ben:  Do you have a favorite song on 2nd Avenue?

Steve:  Oh man, they’re kind of all favorites, and it’s kind of refreshing to be able to play something new after a little hiatus since the last record.  I like the roller coaster melody with “5 More Minutes,” and I like the inspiration with “Coming Up the River,” and I like the rock side with songs like “2nd Avenue.”  We want to take somebody on a one-time ride with this record instead of the same thing ten times in a row.

Ben:  Do you feel like being able to take a hiatus for a few years made for a better album?

Steve:  I’d say yes.  Three years ago we wouldn’t have made the same record that we made recently.  I don’t think it was “our time” to record any earlier than we did.  I’m a believer that you shouldn’t rush a record.

Ben:  Have changes in membership had a significant effect on the band’s sound and group dynamics?

Steve:  Since Cody has added a third harmony vocal and his signature lead guitar to the mix, it has definitely changed our sound a bit. It’s hard not to with such a dominant instrument.

Ben:  Johnny Cooper and Rebecca Lynn Howard contribute vocals on a couple of tracks.  Could you tell us how they came to be a part of the project?

Steve:  Johnny was there quite a bit during our recording process, and I thought it would be cool to have him on a few tracks, just to throw a wrench into the gears and switch things up a bit.  Rebecca and our producer, Dex [Dexter Green], were friends and we thought her voice would really compliment the song.  We were very happy with the outcome on both performers.

Ben:  Would you like to tell about your next new single and video “Gone Ain’t Far Enough”?

Steve:  “Gone Ain’t Far Enough” is my first attempt at writing a waltz.  It is also one of the more country tracks on the record.  It will be interesting to see how we do with a more country song on the radio since the first two singles off the record that went to radio were definitely more rocking.

Ben:  Final question – What is country music to Steve Rice and to No Justice?

Steve:  In a nutshell, I think its based on simplicity and honesty.  It stretches from the good people that we meet to the great musicians we work and share the highways with.  Country is one of the few genres in today’s music scene that actually still has some good values.


Posted by on February 5, 2011 in Interviews


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