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Your Country’s Right Here: The Randy Rogers Band Talk ACMs, Texas Music, And Willie Nelson

Randy Rogers, who fronts the band that bears his name, didn’t take it lightly when they received a nomination for Top Vocal Group from the Academy of Country Music.

Just before heading to Las Vegas for the April 3 event, hosted by Reba McEntire and Blake Shelton, Rogers said that the nomination was one of the highlights of his career. He didn’t even focus on the award. Other nominees in that category are Little Big Town, the Band Perry, the Zac Brown Band and the award winner Lady Antebellum.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say it means the world to us,” says Rogers of the nomination. “It’s a huge deal for all of us, the band and crew. My parents [came] to Vegas for it. It’s a huge, huge deal to us. We’ve taken a different path when it comes to the national spotlight.”

The band has truly carved its path the old-fashioned way during its 10-year career, playing 200-plus concerts a year, charity events and appearing on late night television. The nod for the award in one of the most prestigious nationally recognized categories makes Rogers and his team feel as if all the hard work has paid off.

The band is also set apart from some others because they make it a point to constantly interact with fans during meet-and-greets and through social media. Rogers and his team take pride in having solid relationships with the fan base.

“I’m proud to bear the flag and wave the flag of the hard working acts out there,” said Rogers. “A lot of them don’t have label support like we do. A lot of them are putting out indie records and earning their fan bases. That is what we’ve done. Time with our fans is time well spent.”

Although it’s a fairly open secret that Texas-based bands may have a harder time making it than those in Nashville, the Randy Rogers Band has had some high-level fans—including Willie Nelson and Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel—rooting for them.

Rogers even mentions that he’s discussed recording with Nelson and Benson but it’s too soon to tell if that will materialize when the band begins pre-production for their eighth studio album this summer. If they do it, though, they won’t be shooting for a high charting record although they’d love to have one.

“We have been talking about that in the front lounge of the bus,” said Rogers. “I don’t think we ever tried too hard and I don’t think we are trying too much this time. We never had a radio hit. This will be the eighth record we are going to make and we’re just going to be us.

“Every time I’m writing a song, I won’t be thinking about a possible radio hit or if it would make a catchy tune on the radio. I’m going to write a record for us, that we want to play every night and that represents our band and who we are.”

The Randy Rogers Band are on tour. For concert and other information, check their Web site.

Your Country’s Right Here: The Avett Brothers Step Onto The Next Musical Path

The Avett Brothers truly do bluegrass proud.

That means more than releasing great music. The band also servers as something akin to ambassadors to bluegrass, bringing it to an array of audiences including during high-profile gigs such as when they teamed with Bob Dylan and Mumford & Sons to rock the recent 53rd GRAMMY Awards.

“This is our 10th year, 2011,” says band member Bob Crawford. “Every year that passes, we get more comfortable. That’s not a bad thing. And the band plays better and better and we’re always more of a family. With all the years that pass, we get closer and closer. All that is new is old and we’re still doing it. That’s the breaking news. Ten years and still going.”

Modesty likely keeps Crawford from mentioning the other “breaking news” —the music from the band is more widely received than that of most other bluegrass bands, thus widening the musical playing field for other artists. You can confirm that just by watching how the Avett Brothers move easily around American root music. One week they may play at the annual DelFest in Cumberland, MD., with founder and headliner bluegrass legend Del McCoury. Not long after, they take the stage at the Los Angeles’ Staples Center for the GRAMMY Awards, melding their sound with artists in other corners of roots.

Photo by Todd Roeth

The secret, one suspects, is the musical backgrounds of each of the members.

Consider Avett Brothers’ founders Seth and Scott Avett. They were well schooled by their father Jim Avett, a noted songwriter and singer whose sound was born from the music and spirit  of Bob Dylan, Tom T. Hall and Merle Haggard.  That means love of the music comes first.

“I told the boys early on,” Jim Avett told “Country Music Pride,” “play it the way you play it, and if it’s good, if it’s entertaining, then folks will come to hear you. If not, then we’ll sit here on the front porch and entertain ourselves.”

Perhaps that’s one reason the Avett Brothers have left the album-a-year system. They’ve taken more control of their schedules to balance time with their growing families, tour commitments, special projects and writing and recording. The balance has certainly made their sound more deeply textured, said Crawford.

“Now we’re on a longer cycle and [write] more songs and that means more time with the songs to mature and grow,” he said. “For us this is just the next step, whatever that is.”

That means that Rick Rubin’s role as producer — on both the band’s past album “I and Love and You” — and their upcoming album is always shifting. His embrace of the fluid style the Avett Brothers embrace makes him a key player in the creative process, says Crawford.

“He listens to [our music] and gives us an opinon of someone not in the room,” said Crawford of the synergy the band has with the famed producer. “A common refrain from him is ‘Whatever you want to do, however much you want me or don’t want me, I’m on board and flexible.’”

That has given the group plenty of breathing room which they believe will even take their music to a new place.

“We hope this looks back and looks ahead at the same time,” said Crawford of the album for which no release date has been determined. “And that’s going to be a real subjective call for the listener. So far we haven’t strayed so far (from what we’ve done in the past)… but we’ll see.”

For more information about the Avett Brothers, including their tour schedule, go to their Web site.

Your Country’s Right Here: Eilen Jewell Carves A Path In Loretta Lynn Country

Eilen Jewell knows that the wide open country, about which Loretta Lynn and other classic country stars sing, isn’t gone.

The Idaho-born Boston transplant feels such a power with those images that she wrote much of her upcoming album while holed up in a shack in the Idaho mountains. Like clean air and the smell of nature, that’s the only place to really find the genuine vibe needed to create the country music album she plans to release this summer.

“What I did was take about ten days and went to this little shack in the mountains in Idaho where there was no electricity or running water and no distractions,” Jewell says. “I  just wrote for a solid week. I tried to write a sketch of a song in the morning and one at night. A lot of them were inspired by what I was feeling and seeing at that time, so there’s a lot of western imagery. It reminds me of where I grew up and makes me more than a bit homesick.”

Although she’s based on the east coast, Jewell found her country music calling in the west. That’s where she became a self-professed lover of pedal steel and immersed herself in the songs of Loretta Lynn and other classic country artists.

After honing her skills in such modest venues as Farmers’ Markets in and around New Mexico, Jewell arrived on the national scene with her 2007 release Letters from Sinners & Strangers, that soared to the Top 10 on Americana radio charts. The 2009 album Sea of Tears won critical acclaim as did her 2010 album Butcher Holler, a side project that is her tribute to Lynn and her legendary fifty-year career.

Songs on the Butcher Holler album are Jewel’s interpretations of such classic Lynn songs as “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (with Lovin’ on Your Mind)” and “You Ain’tWoman Enough (to Take My Man).” Yet while Jewell’s stamp is on these versions, they’re close enough renderings to let you know she’s—well, paying tribute—to Lynn.

“It is a bit of a double-edged sword,” says Jewell. “You don’t want to sound too imitative and you don’t want to sound like you’re making it into something it’s not. I don’t really like [to hear cover] songs when the artists change the song for novelty sake. I’d rather err on the side of the faithful but I also didn’t want to sound like Eilen Jewell imitating Loretta Lynn.”

Special kudos to Jewell for making the vocals just what she intended. That was arguably challenging  because Jewel’s original music is accented with touches that lead back to her love of  ’60′s girl groups including the Shirelles and Roni Spector & the Ronettes.

But, of course, not too much.

“To me [country music] is like the wolf or the eagle. You don’t see them in many places but they are not extinct. They are part of America life,” she says. “It’s like Kenny Rogers singing. You may not hear it all the time, but it doesn’t mean it is dead. It is still there. It is still part of my life.”

Your Country’s Right Here: Sara Evans Shows Off ‘Stronger’ Music

Sara Evans was singing “A Little Bit Stronger” at a recent concert when she saw a man toward the front of the audience looking right at her and weeping.

The power of the song she chose as the centerpiece of her March release, Stronger, just underscored how grateful she was to be back with new music.

“When he was looking at me, crying, he had a little smile on his face, too, as if to say ‘I love this song. It means the world to me right now,’” said Evans.”I hated that he was going through something so hard, but I get so much joy as artist and entertainer really connecting with the fans in that way.”

That’s one reason Evans feels that recording the new studio album, her first in six years, was not only fun, but a of a homecoming, too. Although Evans continued to play concerts, write books and educate fans about her passions including the American Red Cross, the hiatus from writing and recording made her feel as if something was missing.

Yet her life was so filled with changes through those years, she had no choice but to leave writing and recording behind for a while. After weathering a high-profile divorce while continuing to raise her three children in a positive environment, Evans found love. When she and football-star-turned-sportscaster Jay Barker married, they settled in Birmingham, Ala. with their blended family of seven children.

“I never intended to take such a long break between studio albums. Life just happened, and I still toured and worked on writing novels but the music had to go on the back burner for awhile,” said Evans who released her latest novel, Softly and Tenderly, in January. “My No. 1 priority is always, no matter what, my family, then my friends and then my career. I have been accused of focusing too much on my career, but that’s honestly not the case. I always put my husband and my children first.”

That doesn’t mean, though, that she didn’t feel a tug to return to writing and recording.

Although she was joyful as opportunities arose to do just that, she was filled with a bit of apprehension, too.

“I spent a whole lot of time writing songs, searching for songs and getting songs from Nashville,” she said. “At time, it was frustrating. I knew I was going to make this record but I had to think about who I am now and what I wanted to say.”

Her manager urged her to take the pressure off herself and take her time selecting the songs she she wanted to record. That support, she said, made all the difference in selecting the ten tracks for the album, six of which she co-wrote.

“Once I relaxed, it all fell into place,” she said, noting the relaxed pace helped her find “A Little Bit Stronger,” which she and her manager predict is a game changer for her career. “When I heard that song I pulled my car over and called my manager and said “Have you heard this?” It became the centerpiece to the whole, entire project.”

Not, to mention, something akin to the theme for her life.

Photo by Russ Harrington

From that point on, Evans threw herself into writing, turning out songs including “What That Drink Cost Me,” about a fatal car crash and “Ticket to Ride,” about finding love.

Although some of the process was especially challenging, such as writing “Ticket to Ride” which has many time changes and what she describes as a “weird tempo,” Evans said the results were well worth the effort.

“I feel like I put together an album full of singles,” she said, noting each song on the album is a jewel, among the best she’s ever recorded. “I feel like I’m called to be an artists and an entertainer. That’s what I was meant to do.”

For more information about Evans’ music, her novels and upcoming concerts and appearances, check her Web site.

Your Country’s Right Here: Lucinda Williams Is “Blessed”

Lucinda Williams was backstage at the Los Angeles Convention Center last fall when something happened that likely changed her life.

She was killing a bit of time while preparing to sing “Comes a Time” with Emmylou Harris and Patty Griffin at the tribute to Neil Young as MusiCaresPerson of the Year when she met legendary producer Don Was.

“We were hanging out back stage and Don came over,” said Williams noting that though she and Was had each followed the other’s work through the years, they had never formally met. “Tom [Overby, her manager and husband] was watching and noticed Don and I had a chemistry.”

Talk about timing. Williams had just written the songs for the follow up to her 2008 album Little Honey and was just starting to think about recording. Call it fate or karma or whatever, but it seemed natural that when she and Overby later began to discuss the new record, Overby suggested Was be invited to co-produce.

“We love Don’s past production work,” said Williams. “Part of it, too, was getting that extra set of ears. Also, we didn’t want to make the same album twice.”

Not that anyone would think duplicating Little Honey would be a misstep. The album was widely hailed by critics, especially for the love songs to Overby who Williams wed in 2009 during a concert (and after the ceremony, she went back and played an encore!).

With those album goals in mind, Williams and Overby sent Was the songs and then went to dinner with him where they extended the invitation for him to co-produce. Was readily agreed.

What no one knew at the time was that the Was, Williams, Overby teaming was a true aligning of artistic stars. Not only did the Was Overby production work well but the players Williams and Was handpicked for the album brought an undeniable freshness to the sound.

Keyboard player Rami Jaffee and guitarist Val McCallum were tapped by Was to join Butch Norton on drums, David Sutton on bass and Greg Leisz on guitar including pedal steel. As if that team wasn’t powerful enough, Elvis Costello—who also played and sang with Lucinda on her song “Jailhouse Tears”—was brought in to add some no-holds-barred guitar work.

But the heart of the album is, of course, Williams superb songwriting. Once again, she has done what many feared would be the impossible—reinvent herself. The brilliant multiple GRAMMY Award winning singer/songwriter—who has penned an array of classic songs including “Passionate Kisses” and “Change the Locks”—was well known for her songs about unrequited love and broken hearts such as “He Never Got Enough Love” and “Steal Your Love”  when she made Little Honey. That album shifted her direction when it let the world in on the secret that she and Overby had found love.

Now she’s shifted gears again and made an album that has won critical praise after critical praise while tackling subjects far away from her unrequited love comfort zone of writing. Although the songs about broken hearts are easy to write, she said she was more than ready to cast a wider net creatively thanks to her rock-solid relationship with Overby.

“Tom is the big difference. I have a security I never had before,” she said. “It’s hard to talk about the process as a writer. Especially now with this album more than ever I’m being asked how I came up with the songs. So much of it was almost a stream of consciousness thing. I can’t detail that—it just flowed.”

It’s also taken fans along for the ride. A quick look at Williams’ Web site, Facebook page and other social media outlets shows that many fans are talking about the song— and word—”Blessed”. They detail what the word means to them in their lives. A full-length documentary made up of many of those stories is in the works and HBO is interested in the project, said Williams.

“I’m very excited about it,” said Williams of how her song has impacted so many and turned into a way for others to express themselves. “Times are tough right now. People need this.”

Lucinda Williams will be on tour to support Blessed. For a complete list of concert dates, more information about the album, and to tell your story of how you’re “Blessed,” check her Web site.

Your Country’s Right Here: Tristen Introduces ‘Charlatans At The Garden Gate’

You have to love a young songwriter who has guts enough to say she’s bored with “people’s diaries entries made song.”

But that remark perhaps underscores why Tristen Gaspadarek—known only as Tristen in music circles—is one of the bright new lights in Nashville music. Tristen was never one to write and perform songs that seem like sonic issues of True Confessions magazine. Ever since she began writing as a young teen, Tristen would step back, observe the human condition and share her musings in songs much the same way as do her musical icons including Emmylou Harris and the Indigo Girls.

“No Doubt’s ‘Tragic Kingdom’ rocked my 13-year-old world,” said Tristen of some of her early influences. “When Lilith Fair hit, that was also the time when you were listening to mainstream music and there was a lot of attention paid to women in music. I was pretty into that.”

Yet the world is full of rabid teenage music fans whose passion for the art fades as they mature.  Credit her father’s love for music that gave her access to his home studio or her own tendency to throw herself fully into beloved pursuits, but it wasn’t long after Tristen graduated from DePaul University in Chicago that she decided to fore go graduate school and a traditional career path, instead moving to Nashville to develop her musical artistry.

“I didn’t know anybody there but I’m kind of the person that once I make up my mind about something, I throw myself in,” she said. “I was ready to get out of Chicago andstart something new and it was really exciting to get to make music. I realized I didn’t need all the thing a lot of people are trying to acquire in life. It’s a lifestyle choice you make.”

Now as she and her band travel in a van to play at various club dates in support of her just-released album Charlatans at the Garden Gate, she reflects a bit on how she began to develop her musical chops in Music City.

“I played with anybody who would play,” she said. “Lots of people in Nashville do the same thing.”

As she played more and joined singer-songwriter circles, the songs she wrote shifted and matured as the stack of completed tunes grew. Although her observations and influences vary widely, Tristen has always been true to her style of songwriting. That’s likely why the song on Charlatans, though penned at various times, meld perfectly into an album.

Although the record has just been released, Tristen’s already gained critical praise for the songs that seems deeply personal yet are universally understood. One stand out track is “Matchstick Murder” in which she sings about the pain of losing love while “Heart and Hope” concentrates more on the physical side of love while steeling oneself against the emotional ties.

“I’m the person who likes to talk to her friends about life,” she said. “That is sort of the same way I am about movies. If the story isn’t compelling, I can’t watch it. I have a hard time with action movies. I can’t suspend my disbelief. I try but it doesn’t work. Then I go through phases where I’m listening to an artist, like Dolly Parton, and I think ‘Oh, I want to use ‘Cheatin” in a song.’”

The path to major musical success may—at this time, anyway—may revolve more around songs as diary entries, but Tristen is content with the path she’s taken. It’s not a stretch to believe many will continue to join her as she examines the many facets of love and life.

“That’s what I love about old country, the topics and the twists and turns in the songs,” she said. “A lot of that you can hear in more modern country music but it seems less sophisticated to me. I like to look at [situations] and try to figure them out.”

Find out more about Tristen and her tour on her MySpace page.

Your Country’s Right Here: Joanna Smith Tells Us Why She’s the “Next Big Thing”

Just when you start to yawn over proclamations that various critics have found the “next big thing” in country music, along comes Joanna Smith and shows you—yes—that is clearly true sometimes.

You’ve likely heard Smith’s new single “Georgia Mud” that had its radio debut February 7th, or read critics at Billboard Magazine, Variety and Roughstock proclaim her musical potential.

But we all know that the airwaves are filled with one- or two-hit wonders so we decided to find out if Smith is the real deal. The bottom line—Yep, she has her head on straight, knows her stuff and has the chops. But don’t take our word for it. Check out some of her straight talk in the interview below:

OS: So how does it feel to have all these major music critics single you out as an up-and-coming musical powerhouse?

JS: You know what? It sounds so cliché, but I’m just enjoying the moment. I really don’t have time to celebrate because I’m so busy, but I do want to savor it. This is what I’ve waited for, the opportunity to play music. This business is filled with fleeting moments and I’m just trying to strike while the iron is hot. That means I need to stay as busy as possible. When you love what you do, it makes it fun.

OS: I’ve read that you grew up in Georgia on a pretty steady diet of Reba McEntire, The Judds and Dolly Parton. I think you were so brave to move to Nashville and try to make it big. How did you start?

JS: When I first moved to Nashville, I was too young to get into the honky tonks. I thought writing would be my way in. So I took odd writing jobs and looked for publishing deals. I competed in a talent contest (in 2006) and got to open for Glen Campbell at the Ryman. Then I got a regular gig at Tootsie’s. I started playing down there and it was quite an experience.

OS: The talent contest had to be unnerving.

JS: The talent contest wasn’t quite as bad as signing at the Ryman. I was very new to town, relatively speaking. I had experience performing but to sing at the Ryman—I didn’t feel worthy. I was so nervous, but my mom and dad said it didn’t show. It was such a whirlwind.

OS: How did your parents react to you pulling up stakes, leaving behind a college scholarship and moving to Nashville?

JS: My parents freaked a little bit. My mom more than my dad. My dad was a little calmer because he had his own [musical] dream. I had to leave a scholarship at Auburn University to do this. But I have always known this is what I’ve wanted to do and my parents have been extremely supportive.

OS: Did you know anyone in Nashville when you arrived?

JS: I really didn’t know a soul. I knew one person, Luke Bryan, and at the time he wasn’t as well known as he is now. He is from the same place that I am. When we were younger, he’d come over [to my parents' house] to go fishing with my dad. He thinks of me like a little sister. He was wise about the music business and he wouldn’t let me get in any trouble. He’d be honest when I asked him about opportunities and people, but he let me fend for myself.

Luke let me come over to his publishing company and showed me around, introduced me to people. That’s how I did it—I built my circle and met more and more co-writers and wrote better and better songs and signed a publishing deal.

OS: Tell us about your new single “Georgia Mud.”

JS: I love that song. It is one of those songs that has a very fresh melody and is enjoyable for a singer to perform. I never get tired of singing it. It’s about where I’m from and about lingering love and first loves that are hard to get over. I think everyone can relate to it although it is set in Georgia. It’s written sort of like a mini movie.

When I sat down with the two co-writers to write the song, they wanted to write a song about Georgia. I was sitting there politely trying to figure out the best way to tell them that I couldn’t write another song about Georgia. But then one of them threw out a riff and it went from there. This might be the best Georgia song ever.

OS: Was the song easy or difficult to write?

JS: It was super easy. Sometimes you have to work really hard at them but we didn’t with this. I am very lyrically minded. I love words and love to read and so [when my co-writer] started saying “bare feet hanging off a tire swing,” well, I used to have tire swing in back yard that I loved. It went from there.

OS: Perhaps a good way to wrap up a bit is to compare the first time you played the Ryman to last November when you sang your own song “Getting Married,” and the classic Tammy Wynette tune “Stand By Your Man” at Tootsie’s 50th Anniversary celebration there. Tell us about that.

JS: Things moved so quickly. They had a full red carpet out and flashbulbs going off everywhere. I just figured I’d strike a quick pose and then try to figure out what celebrities are there. I met Kris Kristofferson and Mel Tillis, which was so great.

When your career takes off and you’re just getting started you don’t have a lot of time to prepare (before you go on stage). You get there, get your eyelashes on right and it’s time.

I just figured I was there and I’d savor the moment! I loved it.

Joanna is scheduled to perform with Kenny Chesney and Carrie Underwood on April 30th at the Stagecoach Festival in Indio, CA.

For more information about that concert, her upcoming album or other news, check her website.

Eric Church Presents a Sonic “Homeboy”

Only two days after its release, Eric Church‘s new single “Homeboy” isn’t his anymore.

That might seem odd since Eric carefully birthed the February 15th release right from the nugget of an idea to fruition, but he feels strongly about his attitude.

“Once they’re released, they aren’t mine anymore,” said Eric just before leaving Nashville for the latest leg of his concert tour. “It’s really weird because of the way I wrote the songs and recorded them, but once people hear them they belong to those people. It’s almost like the songs are kids.”

That’s likely even truer now for Eric than it was for past songs.  When the time came for Eric to begin to write his upcoming album, he rented a cabin in a secluded part of North Carolina. Then he spent several months in seclusion developing ideas and writing songs. “Homeboy” is the first song from the album Eric hopes to release later this year.

“When I went up there, I got a fairly good handle on it,” said Church of writing the songs for his album. “It takes me a while for the songs to start telling me what they’re about. It’s a very intriguing process.”

Even those in Eric’s inner circle often have to wait until Eric is comfortable with a song to let them hear it. He doesn’t do demos anymore, he said, instead letting the cuts speak basically stand on their own.

Now out on tour—both headlining and sharing bills with Jason Aldean and Toby Keith—it’s clear that Eric’s style works well for him. Even though this leg of his concerts is just underway, fans are as rampant as they were when they forced last year’s Country Throwdown organizers to move him from the Outlaw stage to the Main stage.

“Our fans are just great,” said Church. “They are always right there, pulling [other fans] up out of their chairs.”

That’s especially true now that Church is nominated for the Academy of Country Music Award for Top New Solo Vocalist. In his competition against Easton Corbin and Randy Houser for the award, Church released a video “Everyone Is Doing It,” that features a host of people in different settings talking about voting for the awards or, in the video’s vernacular “doing it.”

Although Eric said he laughed out loud when he watched the video— that also features a guest appearance by Luke Bryan, who last year received ACM’s Top New Artist award—he said his main goal with music isn’t to win such award.

“I just want to make an epic record,” said Eric. “That’s what making music is all about.”

Watch Eric’s ‘Everyone Is Doing It’ video here

Eric is on tour. His next scheduled concert is February 24th in Florence, SC with Jason Aldean.  For a complete list of concert dates and locales, check here.

Your Country’s Right Here: David Nail Keeps Heartache Flowing

Would Taylor Swift write Taylor Swift songs if she didn’t tap into personal heartbreak over her failed romances? She doesn’t have to face that challenge right now— for good or for bad—but David Nail does.

The GRAMMY Award nominee for Best Male Vocal Performance for the song “Turning Home” has plenty of hits—such as the beloved “Red Light”—but many of those songs were inspired by his own failed romances and resultant broken heart. So what’s a now happily married man to do if he still wants to pen the tearjerker songs—such as those on his debut album I’m About to Come Alive—without the inspiration despair breeds?

“I have been just such a miserable person all my life ,” says Nail, noting the sour ending to past romances until the starsaligned and he found his very own fairy tale ending that culminated with his 2009 wedding to Catherine Werne. “I think, at least for me, the majority of my songs come from life experiences. It’s always been really hard for me to try to look at a lyric as fiction or try to put myself into what would I would do in a scenario.”

Yet that’s just what Nail is teaching himself to do now that he’s run out of recent grist from his mill of personal experience, at least on the heartache side.

Take the song “Let It Rain,” the February 8 release that Nail co-wrote with Jonathan Singleton. It was when talking about the Zach Braff movie The Last Kiss—you know, the one where the man cheats on his pregnant fiancee and she kicks him out of the house and viewers are left with a cliffhanger ending—that Nail started to think of what he’d do in such a situation. Call the last scene of the movie—which is literally and figuratively stormy—the eureka moment that brought Nail and Singleton the inspiration to complete the song.

Yet there are only so many movies to be watched and Nail does have his own archive of stories, so he’s tapped into them for musical inspiration. The result are songs for his new album, one of the most eagerly anticipated releases of this year.

“I have managed to do it,” says David of tapping that fictional and historic emotional wells. “I told my wife ‘Now, you can’t get mad and ask me who these songs are about. I’m thinking of old mistakes’…At the end of the day, I’m a story teller and I just took a while to use my past as a reference point. It’s easier to write when it’s true.”

Your Country’s Right Here: JaneDear Girls Rock, Country Style

Attention fans of the JaneDear Girls: There will be no cover of “Cherry Bomb,” the song made popular by The Runaways, forthcoming.

The fan request for that particular 1970s-era song notwithstanding, Susie Brown and Danelle Leverett have garnered a strong, some would even say devoted, following for their brand of country rock. That’s evidenced by the fan-generated Academy of Country Music Award nomination for “Top New Vocal Duo or Group,” and the nod from the ACM in the form of the “Top Vocal Duo of the Year” nomination. The recognition was spurred by the duo’s self-titled debut album that was released February 1. The album’s first single “Wildflower” has already reached the Top 20 on the country charts.

“You just have to follow your heart in life and if you do that, the hard work will pay off,” said Leverett. “We are excited about the album and getting our fans more music. We just want to connect with everyone.”

Despite the nixing of a “Cherry Bomb” cover, the duo’s first meeting does have a hint of Runaways’ flavor to it. As fans know, producer Kim Fowley introduced Joan Jett and Sandy West who went on to form the all-woman band in the 1970s. Brown and Leverett were introduced by a mutual friend at a Nashville club at which Brown was playing. They swapped phone numbers, met to go swimming and a few weeks later found themselves writing and playing music together.

“We wrote our first song and [our friend] helped us finish it and said ‘You guys are a duo,’ said Leverett. “We just went from there.”

The teaming of the two—who are each multi-instrumentalists that play eight instruments between them—attracted industry interest particularly from country royalty John Rich, who went on to produce their album. Leverett had met Rich when she first arrived in Nashville, and he took a professional interest in the young woman who also hailed from Amarillo, Texas.

Leverett and Brown have written songs together for about five years now, and have a good feeling for each other’s style and taste. Perhaps that’s why selecting the eleven songs for the debut album was fairly straightforward.

“We sat down with [John Rich] and listened to a bunch of songs,” said Brown of the selection process. “Every day is a holiday is the theme that really kicked it off. All the songs are fun, high energy and very feminine.”

That is how the individual songs evolved, too. Consider “Wildflower,” which Brown co-wrote.

“I had an electric mandolin that I had bought in Utah…and I went to a guitar center and got this little amp,” said Brown. “We started jamming on something and I had this little flower in my hair. One of my friends said ‘Let’s call the song ‘Wildflower.’ I said ‘That’s perfect!’ so we started jamming and had the song [written] in about two hours. Now it’s the first single.”

Leverett has similiar stories to tell including about “Shotgun,” which she wrote because she enjoyed the traditional sense of  ”riding shotgun” in a truck and also sees the term as an example of bonding with a life partner.

“I started playing a solo riff on an acoustic guitar,” says Leverett of the co-writing process. “We wrote the entire song with different lyrics and decided the first line was our favorite. We rewrote lyrics [so they would tie back] to that lyric. At the time, I was dating someone with a truck and my favorite thing to do was ride in the big truck. But both Susie and I come from families…where [parents and grandparents] are partners for life. That’s what Susie and I want.”

Although they are both still moving toward that personal goal, professionally their music partnership couldn’t be sweeter.

Find out more about the JaneDear Girls and their debut album on their Web site.

The JaneDear Girls are opening for Jason Aldean on his “My Kinda Party Tour.” For a complete list of those and other scheduled JaneDear Girls’ appearances, check here.

 


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