Tayler Lynch Jumps From TV to Your Radio

tayler coverSometimes, the simplest of things make the biggest change.

Tayler Lynch was a teenager with a budding television acting career already under his belt when he heard a song that inspired him enough to change career paths.

“I heard Brad Paisley’s ‘Letter to Me’ on the radio one day,” he said. “And, it hit me right then, and I was like, ‘I want to do this. I want to affect people the way that song just affected me.’”

edited for blog interview2Three album releases later, the young songwriter and vocalist from Louisville, Ky., is making noise in Music City and beyond. He sat down and talked to us recently about his career, including “Pieces of Me,” his latest album project.

“Pieces of Me” features 10 songs, the majority of which Tayler wrote solo, bucking the Nashville trend of co-writing. “I kind of knew what I wanted to do (on the album), and I really didn’t know how to explain what I wanted to do,” he said. “So I thought, ‘you know what I’ll just do it. I’ll do it myself to see what happens.’ And, I also wanted to see if I could do it myself. I’d done a lot of co-writing and I wanted to give it a shot I wanted to see how good of a writer I really was on my own right and see if I could really do this on my own.”

He added, “I think there’s probably 2 or 3 songs I did a co-write on. The rest of them I wrote by myself, so a lot of the influences and the ideas and things like that came from different artists that I listen to, and really just what sounded good to me, what felt right to me.

“A lot of the songs came from me sitting around playing my guitar and experimenting with chord structure and things like that,” Tayler said. “I would play a couple of chords, and they sounded really good together, and I was like, ‘You know what, I’m going to build a song around that,’ and then the idea for the actual lyric would hit me and it just kind of went together really well.”

If you haven’t heard Tayler’s music yet, you certainly will. And chances are good you have seen him on television. Even before he was in high school, Tayler had built a solid acting resume, including appearances on Grey’s AnatomyEverybody Hates ChrisDesperate Housewives and ER.

edited for blog interview3“I actually started out in the entertainment business as an actor, probably from the time I was in the third grade until right before my freshman year in high school,” Tayler said. “I would travel – my mom and I – back and forth to LA.”

His acting career, however, took a backseat when Tayler entered high school. “Before I started high school, I was told by the school that I needed to make a decision,” he explained. “Did I want to go to school, or did I want to travel back and forth to LA? Because they weren’t willing to work with me the same way my elementary school and middle school did.”

He said, “I decided that I wanted to have the normal high school career and experience all the things that come along with that. In doing so, I realized I really have a love and a passion for music that I hadn’t fully vetted out, because I had been doing acting; and, so I guess it kind of worked out in the long run.”

Acting’s loss became music’s gain. “Without being able to travel, I had to find something else to occupy my time with. And, I was like ‘I can do this music thing, and I’m actually passionate about this’ – and passionate in a way I really didn’t think I was at first.”

Tayler said he would give himself an A-minus for his writing on the “Pieces of Me” record. “While I am proud of it, and I do think I did really good work – and other people think I did really good work – I don’t want to give myself a perfect grade because there’s always room for improvement,” he said.

His favorite song on the album is “When He Gave Me You,” Tayler said. “I wrote that song for my parents, so it’s kind of got a special place in my heart, and between the three of us.”

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Visit his Web site: www.taylerlynch.net

The Nashville music industry is taking note of Tayler, as well. For the past 2 years, he has been named an Emerging Artist at CMA Music Fest. And, he was recently the featured Artist of the Month at the “Welcome to Nashville” showcase at the legendary Silver Dollar Saloon. Back in his hometown, he has performed the National Anthem at several events at The University of Louisville, the latest being at the KFC Yum Center to more than 10,000 people. 

Tayler has also sung at  several breast cancer awareness events for the university. His grandmother is a 2-year survivor, and he lost two other grandparents to cancer. He said singing at events like these is him doing his part to help find a cure.

When he is touring, Tayler said playing clubs and festivals are his favorite venues, “just because people who are there, especially clubs, they’re there because there’s music. They’re there to hear somebody play.

“It’s a struggle sometimes when you go someplace where people aren’t necessarily expecting for there to be a band or there be music, and then you spend part of the time playing trying to get people warmed up to you, but if you’re at a club but you’re at a festival it’s kind of a given. You can jump right in,” he said.

Though he occasionally performs solo, he mostly fronts the Tayler Lynch Band. About his show, he quipped, “Think vintage Garth Brooks type of energy, and the hip shaking of Luke Bryan.”

He called Brooks, “a huge influence. He and George Strait are two of my biggest influences. In 5 years, I’m hoping to be signed to a label. I’m hoping to either probably to be an opening act for somebody. Hopefully now that Garth’s back on the road he might need me,” Tayler laughed.

Tayler hits Nashville at least once a month, usually to perform. He is studying music business online at the Berklee College of Music. ” I want to know as much about the business as I can,” he said. “For one it interests me. And, two, I don’t want to get screwed. I want to know what some record exec is telling me is the right thing.”

Drew Six: In His Own Words

drew pt 2 fp

Photo: Nick Aholt photography

In Part 1, Drew Six talked about how he got his start in the music business, his live show and more. Today, we publish the rest of our interview, “Drew Six: In His Own Words.”

Do you consider yourself more of an artist or a songwriter?

“I was an artist first. I was fortunate to be one of those people who always knew what I wanted to do. For as long as I can remember, I was singing. And also at a very early time in my life, I realized if I wanted to be a big artist – and be an artist on my terms – that writing songs was part of that. I think my favorite artists are the kind of artists who do a little bit of both, where the best song wins. Meaning, if you wrote the best song it ends up on the record. But if there’s something better, then you go with that song. So there’s a little bit of both in me. I do enjoy the writing, but I’m certainly an artist first.

Talk about your new single, “Learning to Drive.”

“Some songs happen really quickly. ‘Learning to Drive’ was with me for a long time. I had the idea for it – and frankly it had been sitting there for a number of years – and I came back to it because I thought it was a good hook and a good idea. Basically what that song is about is, as you go through life and through different stages you start to think you’ve figured some things out. You know, teenagers think they know it all. Then you move forward a little bit more and throughout life you think… it might be a week later, month later, years later you look back and say, ‘Man I didn’t know anything.’

“To me, that’s living life. You don’t want to be flat-line, you want to be expanding and learning and starting over in a way throughout your life. But you’re not actually starting over. You’ve built the base of experience and you’re constantly moving forward and learning new things and that’s the metaphor in “Learning to Drive.” And  the flip side to that is just the rush that you get. That can be a good thing or a bad thing, and unfortunately a lot of people have to have things happen in their lives – and sometimes they are bad things – to really open their eyes and appreciate life and feel life, and it shouldn’t be that way. But that’s what I’m talking about when I’m talking about that first-time feeling. It’s not the same after the first time, you can only have the first time once, then you have to have a new first-time experience. Then you’re constantly evolving and learning. And that’s the idea behind ‘Learning to Drive.’”

cd-4.75inx4.75in-single-frontWhy do you release singles instead of albums?

“Because frankly that’s what major label artists are doing too. So, I have more traction if I keep things going. The first single off of this group was ‘We Choose Living.’ ‘The Bull,’ I’ve been holding back. It’s certainly something that has branded us a bit. We have the bull logo and I think it’s a really fun live song. I kind of want to do a remix of it just for fun for some of the DJs who are working in a lot of the country bars especially where they have a mechanical bull. So ‘Learning to Drive,’ we’re still riding that one out. It’s doing well.”

“We Choose Living” was a hit from its first day. Talk about that.

“With ‘We Choose Living,’ I had the sales records right off on that one. And we had a PR campaign because it was surrounding Variety Children’s Charity. And that one outsold Taylor Swift on the first day, on the country chart of iTunes, so we had bragging rights on that deal. It was one day, but we moved some singles.”

Talk about your affiliation with the Variety Children’s Charity.

“Variety is a children’s charity that helps bridge the gap with insurance companies to help provide mobility equipment for special-needs kids. The woman, Debra, who heads up the charity in Kansas City, approached me basically to perform at some of their charity gala events; and, she’s a very hard person to say no to. And to be completely honest I didn’t know anything about the charity when she approached me. It started out (with me) doing a couple of performances, then she approached me about singing with Danielle who I had not met. (Danielle is living with Cerebral Palsy.) And again, just being completely honest, there was not something personal in my life when I first got involved. But it changed over time.”

Tell us about Danielle and about how the song came to be.

“Danielle is truly inspirational because she’s someone they said would never walk. And not only does she walk, she snowboards and skydives. One of her passions is acting, and they have adaptive equipment for her to use, and she does acting and singing. And they wanted me to sing a song with her, and I was honored that they would approach me for the opportunity, and I said yes, absolutely. And she said, ‘You can choose the song,’ and I said, ‘I want to write something, because I want it to be something very specific.’ They gave me complete creative freedom, and it was one of the hardest songs that I have ever written, because I wanted to approach it in a dignified manner. So I wrote for months, and it came to my deadline (before I was finished).”

What was your take-away from being around the kids?

“I realized that most of these kids just want to be like everybody else. They want to be treated like everybody else. And I think all of us are a little guilty, growing up, if someone is a little different not staring at them. Then you find yourself isolating yourself from someone who’s different which is completely the wrong way to be. My comfort zone certainly changed, and I started having friendships with a lot of the kids and specifically Danielle. We talked back and forth about the song, and I realized we had a lot in common because basically they all want to follow their dreams. They don’t want people telling them they can’t do it, especially when they’re living with a difficult body and special needs. We found some common ground there then everything worked and so she had a lot of personal input on what she liked and what she didn’t like. And I always joked with everyone if I forgot the words I could look to her because she knew the song better than I did. That was a very, very cool experience as an artist and as a human being. Thankfully it’s a song that stuck with me. It stuck with my fans, and I play that song almost every night. We also donated the proceeds back from the iTunes sale of the song, and that was cool. Once a year do a big event, and that was the event I actually sang it the first time.”

You call yourself a shy person. We don’t believe it.

“People have trouble believing I’m shy by nature, because I don’t come across that way. But I’ve learned the business side, you know, I’ve learned to get out there and network, and those are things I had to develop. To whereas the thing on stage, you develop that, too. But some of it you have or you don’t have. So that was my place to reach people, especially at a young age. Then over time you really, truly have to love the experience you have to love the music.”

Why do you do it, night after night?

“You can’t do it for money, you can’t do it to meet girls. You’ve got to do it because it’s a part of who you are no matter what. And I’m a big believer in, ‘If you follow what you love, that the other things have a way of working out.’ And I like to call money abundance because I think things come into your life that you need, and it’s not always necessarily cash. It’s people who help you, and any time you do something good for people, you know it truly does come back to you. And I think everything great thing that’s ever happened in my career as I move forward started from being in a place of gratitude and trying to help other people. And it’s just about energy, good energy.”

You have chosen a tough path.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you there aren’t days all the time when I think maybe I should’ve done something else. I think we all go through that. I think the greatest artists – the most and rich and famous artists you can think of – go through those same kind of doubts from time to time, because once you get there, what seems to be on top then you’re just trying to stay there all the time. And I realize the more people I meet that are people I look up to, it’s really not so different. They’re in a different place but they’re doing some of the same things on a larger scale.”

Final thoughts.

“I still want a label deal, but I’m willing to think outside the box. Really, the goal is not to get a record deal, though. The goal is to be playing arenas, touring, being on television, reaching more people — doing what I’m doing on a larger scale. If I won the lottery today I would do exactly what I’m doing, and I think that’s a good sign that I’m doing something I love, I just want to do it on a larger scale.”


Drew Six Still Causing a Commotion

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Drew Six opens for Darius Rucker and Luke Bryan (Photo courtesy of Nate Aholt Photography)

First of a two-part series

Drew Six’s stage show has been causing a ruckus as long as he can remember.

“When I was in grade school,” he recalled, “I had an uncle who played guitar in a country band. I was way out in this rural town and they let me come up and sing. I remember I sang ‘Johnny Be Good’, and a fight broke out in the bar and they started throwing chairs in the middle of my song and I was like, ‘Hey, this is for me.’”

Despite the possibility of being hit by flying furniture, Drew new he had found his calling.  “So here I was,” he said, “I was literally a kid in grade school up there rocking out with the band. To get up on stage with a real band was pretty darn cool, you know. This was a lot more fun than an office would ever be – just a different kind of office.”

Now, Drew fronts his own band full time. And, the Kansas City, Mo., native still loves clocking in for work each day. “I enjoy the live performance the most,” he told us recently. “I like connecting with people, and even when I’m writing songs I’m thinking about how I’m going to connect with people in a live setting.

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“I’m blessed that I do music as a career. It’s my full-time job. I’d like to say one day I won’t do quite so many shows – because I do over 260 shows a year – but once again I’m very fortunate to do what I love. And some of those are acoustic and some of those are with the band. I enjoy the bigger production shows more, but I would probably miss the intimate acoustic shows if they weren’t a part of my regular booking.”

drew six beaverdamusa.comDrew — who splits time between KC and Nashville — works at a frenetic pace. And when he isn’t working, he is still a music fan. “Every time I go to a concert – it doesn’t matter who it is – it’s a spiritual experience for me. It’s moving,” he said. “And whenever I forget, or I get down about the struggle of making it in the music business, all it takes is to be at a concert and realize how much it’s who I am and how much I love it and how much it moves me.”

He added, “And looking at a great artist and the effect they have on the people when you’re in the crowd – and especially when you’re on stage – you can tell that there’s just no other feeling like that.”

Drew has made serious inroads in the music business already, despite the fact that he is an independent musician. “We get to open up for a lot of national acts, so we play 20,000 seat outdoor arenas,” he said, “And for me it’s the rush of the performance. Those are the ones I like the most.

But playing clubs is close to his heart, also. “That’s my life day-to-day most of the time,” he said. “That energy is very primal. It’s right there in your face. The crowd – you can reach out there and touch them. And I’ve played large-scale venues where the front row is back farther than the entire club. Bur for now I really enjoy being a front guy and moving around and putting on the show. That’s a big part of what I do, and the high energy that goes into that.”

Like all artists, Drew is a free spirit, which helps him embrace the changing face of his music. “One of the things I love about country music is there’s really no rules, and the genre is constantly expanding and changing. You know there’s always traditional country as a part of that. And I look at myself as someone who grew up in the Midwest and that’s always going to be who I am; that’s my background,” he said. “And there’s country in there, and there’s soul in there, and country and soul are close cousins because they’re stories about people and feelings and living and that comes through in all my music.

He added, “I love commercial music. I love popular country. I love Nashville Country, lots of different artists. Honestly if I put on a what I would call a pop country station I’m going to love a little of that music. It’s not going to be all the kind of music that I do. Then I might change over to an electronic dance station on the radio and enjoy that, too. So all these influences are kind of coming into my music.”

When it comes to Drew’s music, though, seeing is believing. “I always try to tell people before they focus on anything that they have to see us, and I think that’s the intangible part of an artist,” he said. “You’ve got to be there. You kind of can’t see it on video. You’ve got to be in he house.

“I’m all about production,” Drew added. “You know, building the excitement, running on stage. Getting the crowd into it and making them a part of it. When people come to our shows, people are on their feet the whole time and most of the time dancing, and they’re a part of the show. That has certainly come into play (for me) as a songwriter, because I write songs for these kind of venues, and I think that’s an advantage because I’m out there every night, as opposed to guessing what people are going to react to. I’m always testing it to know what works to get a crowd excited live.”

Next week: Drew talks about his new single, “Learning to Drive,” his work with Variety Children’s Charity, and more.

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Lance Carpenter: Success, Country Style

lance carpenter, beaverdamusa.com, barry currinNashville songwriter Lance Carpenter is still helping those in need. He’s just found a new way to do it.

His tribute song, “This is Our Home,” was inspired by the devastation left by tornadoes in his and co-writer Matthew Huff’s home state of Arkansas in April. It’s not surprising they arranged for the proceeds to help the victims of the storm which claimed the lives of 15 people in its 40-mile path.

What is surprising, though, is that only 6 months prior to the storms, the Ozark, Ark., native was helping victims of natural disasters in a different way.

“Up until October of last year, I worked for FEMA for 8 years,” he told us recently. “I traveled the country and worked Federal disasters — Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Ike, and last, Hurricane Sandy up in New Jersey and New York City.” Lance has been based out of Nashville since 2011.

lance 2He continued, “Matthew is a good friend of mine. He’s from Mammoth Spring, Ark., and we both had people affected in the storm. He called me and was coming to town, and he had this song he was wanting to write. And I didn’t know it was about the tornadoes. I just thought it was something else.

“And I told him, ‘Man in all these years I’ve never written a song about a disaster because I’ve been so close to them, but now that I’m resigned from (working for FEMA), and I’m doing music full time, let’s do this.’ But let’s not just do it for the folks in Mayflower and Vilonia, Ark. Let’s make this universal where anyone in the country, anyone in the world who went through something like this — you know a storm in your life — this song would kind of help you get through it, give you some hope.”

So they wrote it. Lance described the result this way: “We got knocked down to our knees, but we’re going to get back up and pull together, and the community is going to prevail.

“I talked to my publisher and our lawyer, and we got it to where a 100% of the proceeds of it are going to go to all the storm victims. Us not being huge artists, that may not be a big amount but it’s a small piece.”

But the piece may have been bigger than they imagined. The song rang up 10,000 listens online in its first week. “We’ve got calls from many states saying, ‘hey, we heard your song it touched us. Thank you so much for giving us something to listen to and hold onto and have that hope.’ So it’s an honor to use this gift of music we’re given to help other people and not just try and get a No. 1 song on the radio, and not just play a big sold-out stadium or something.”

lance 3This is only one of many examples of Lance’s success since he went full-time in the music business less than a year ago. This year, he released his self-titled debut album and backed it with a successful tour.

“We released it last February here in Nashville and had a big show down at the Listening Room, and that went real well,” he said. “Putting that first album together was exciting. I was in town a couple of years and had a lot of songs to choose from.” For the album, Lance wrote two of the songs himself and co-wrote the other 10.

He described the tour as “wonderful.”

“We got a band put together, and so far this year we’ve played shows in Tennessee and Arkansas, Kansas, Ohio, Kentucky. We played some acoustic shows down in Key West, Fla. We spent a whole week down there for a songwriting festival – a great networking opportunity.”

The next leg will take him north. “I’ve got some guys in Boston I’ve played with, and I’m going to be in the Boston and New Hampshire areas pretty much all of September. And I’m going to do a parking lot party with Darius Rucker and then play Toby Keith’s, and a couple of Hard Rock (Cafes) and some house concerts.

“It’s going to be fun,” he said, in what appeared to be somewhat of an understatement.

Lance arranges his tour to include venues where all his fans can see him. “There are certain people who will come out to bars and listen to you play, and then some others they want to see you in church,” he laughed, “So I try to play shows everywhere I can so I can reach as many people with my music as I can.”

Although he is enjoying life on the road, Lance considers himself a songwriter first. “When I first came to town, I was afraid to put 50 percent into trying to be a songwriter and 50 percent into trying to be an artist,” he said. “And I had the fear I would fail at both of them, so I just kind of focused on songwriting and craft, and got to where I could write a decent song. Then I was blessed to get a publishing deal signed to Bigger Picture Music Group in 2012 just shortly after putting the album out.

“I got a couple of cuts on Dylan Scott over at Sidewalk Records pretty quick,” he said. “And about a year into that is when I thought all right let’s put some songs together and do an album. And I never dreamed that I would get a band together, and we would go and be playing shows with Toby Keith, Luke Bryan and some of those guys.”

Currently, Lance is a staff writer for Parallel Entertainment. “That’s my job,” he said. “And on the artist side, that’s all on my own, independently. And we do that for fun and we have a good time out there with the band and the fans playing our music.”

Lance said he is satisfied with being an independent musician for the moment. “I would rather be in a crowd of 20,000 people and hear an artist sing a song I wrote back to me than be on stage and sing to 20,000 people,” he said.

But, not so fast.

He added, “My friend, Casssandra Tormes — we had breakfast not too long ago — she used to work for Cotton Valley Records. She’s one of my champions in town that loves my music and kind of got some things going for me. And she said, ‘Well what about I throw a third little wrinkle into that?’ She goes, ‘What if you’re on stage and 20,000 people are singing your song back to you?’ And that kind of got the chills on the arms and I thought, you know, that’d be pretty nice.”

He added, “Right now my goal isn’t necessarily to get a record deal. There’s a lot of people who come to town to write songs — you know Eric Paslay, Thomas Rhett, the list goes on and on — who come to town and have success and become artists in their own right. I’m not going to say I don’t see that in the future, you know that could definitely be a possibility.”

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Lance’s latest accomplishment is “Love Me Like You Mean It,” a song he wrote which was recorded by Kelsea Ballerini. The tune is already on Sirius XM the Highway. “She’s on radio tour right now, and in September “Love Me Like You Mean It” goes for adds for regular radio, so that is something I’m really excited about right now.” He added, “She’s a phenomenal artist, and hopefully we’ll have a long career in this business.”

Though he’s serious about his music, Lance doesn’t take himself too seriously all the time. “I’m country as a horse turd,” he blurted out during our talk. “And I’m a pretty good ol’ boy. I am what I am and you get what you see.”

Then he said, “The more successful I am, the more significant I can be in the lives of other people. Right now I just want to write great songs and go out there and have some fun, and what the Lord has planned for me I’m willing to accept.”

And whatever the future holds for Lance Carpenter, his fans will certainly be thankful for him.

Erica Bryan: Acting’s Loss is Music’s Gain

erica mastheadActress turned Singer
Releases First Single

Erica Bryan’s life is a whirlwind.

And she wouldn’t have it any other way.

The actress-turned-singer from Roswell, Ga., recently talked to us about her roundabout journey to Nashville.

“My mom brought me to my first audition when I was 8,” Erica said, “She kind of introduced me to theater, and that was all I had ever done ‘til I was 18. Then I went to college and majored in musical theater because I didn’t know what else to do with my life,” she laughed. “And so, then after college I moved straight to New York City to audition for professional stuff.”

erica bryan, beaverdamusa.comMost fresh college graduates would be intimidated heading to the world’s biggest stages, but not Erica. “It was just simple,” she said. “It was an easy transition because I was like, ‘well, here’s what I know, so let’s go to the city where we’ll make it happen.’

“So, while I was in New York, I was auditioning for stuff in New York but also for stuff all over the country, because everyone auditions in that city no matter what state they’re from,” she said. “So I got different shows, but the first show I got was in North Dakota. It was actually a country revue. I had one country song in my book that I sang (for the audition), and I got the part. So I spent summers in North Dakota singing only country.”

Like all upstart actors, Erica had a second job. “I was in a country band on the side also, and so that’s how I started singing country again; because I hadn’t sung it since I was in 7th grade and did Shania Twain karaoke.”

That marked the beginning of Erica’s rekindled love affair with country music. There was just one problem. “I was like, ‘you know, I really need an acting role. That’s why I came here — to be an actor,’” she said.

“And so I went back to New York and auditioned for more stuff. And I got a leading role in a play in Indiana that was an original musical with very heavy acting. I lost my mom and had to go find her — so very heavy acting, lots of singing.”

All the while, the country music bug wouldn’t leave her alone. “At the end of it all I was like, ‘you know what? I had way more fun in my country show than this heavy acting role.’ So I said, ‘I think I’m in the wrong field.’ So I literally just decided after that to move to Nashville.”

erica bryan, beaverdamusa.comShe high-tailed it to Music Row and never looked back. “I knew three people,” she said. “One was the orchestrator of the musical in Indiana, and he was in Nashville, and he had some connections in Nashville. So I met with him and set up some meetings with the people I knew. And then those meetings led to meeting people at publishing companies. And those meetings led to meeting other songwriters. And from there it’s just really helped me get my first introduction to Music Row and everything that goes on in Nashville.”

The story of her first single, “This House is Haunted,” is as unorthodox as the story of her journey to Nashville.

She explained, “Well, I was dating my boyfriend, and he also moved to Nashville when I moved here. We had been long distance for a while, so our living in Nashville is really our first real-life kind of situation. But we ended up going through a breakup time, and so during that I went to my co-write (with Tammy Jacobs and John Milstead) and we were just kind of talking about what was going on in our lives. And I was like, ‘you know I’m going through this breakup and I have to pass my boyfriend’s house every time I go, and I’m always reminded that he’s there.’

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“And then I go to our room and see our pictures everywhere,” she continued, “because I don’t know what’s going to happen with us. And I haven’t taken them down and then one day I was lying in bed and looked down and realized I was wearing one of his old shirts to go to bed in. And I was like, ‘gee, he’s everywhere.’ And so just from talking about that, we kind of got the song together and started writing it. And it was definitely what I thought was the best song that I have written and so it’s like, I have to put this out.”

With another quick laugh Erica added, “But we’re back together now. And he’s in my band so he has to hear me talk about it like every time we play that song.”

But there is nothing funny about “This House is Haunted.” The writing is as impeccable as Erica’s vocal. She channels her inner actor and tenderly delivers the lyric with a heartfelt vulnerability and heartache. (Buy it right now.)

And her efforts have not gone unnoticed. “I’ve gotten a really good response,” she said. “I think people have been really relating to just that feeling of going through a breakup and knowing someone is always there. And it seems like a lot of people have appreciated the kind of new sound that it has because I don’t think it sounds just like everything on the radio especially with country.

“It has kind of a darker feel, so I appreciate the people are liking it and getting it, because it’s kind of scary putting out something that’s different.”

Erica told us what fans can expect from her live show. “They really get me. I try to tell a lot of how I wrote the song and really where it came from. So I’m not trying to just manufacture something. They really get the real stories and pretty much all my songs have a lot of emotion in them, so it’s really just having my story and lots of raw emotion with a full band.”

Erica plans to release an EP in 2016. And if her first single is any indication, Nashville will not want Erica Bryan wandering off for a long time.


Asteria Lux: Never Mind the Generation Gap

Courtney Yovich, Genesis Green and CJ Watson comprise Asteria Lux.

Courtney Yovich, Genesis Green and CJ Watson comprise Asteria Lux.

Nashville music veteran CJ Watson is officially out of retirement. And he expects to stay that way for a long time.

“I’ve probably been in a couple hundred bands, and none of them has been this much fun or had this much promise,” CJ said about his new project, Asteria Lux.

He, along with bandmates Courtney Yovich and Genesis Green, recently took time out of their schedules to sit down and talk with us.

Asteria Lux is a Nashville-based jazz trio which just released their first EP, “Lovedrunk.”

That’s a somewhat-ironic title considering Courtney is 17, and Genesis just celebrated her 18th birthday. At 49, CJ makes no qualms about robbing the musical cradle.

“The funny thing is,” he said, “Yeah, there are moments when it’s obvious that we’re from different generations, but most of the time these two are just my best friends in the world. They’re people I would hang with if I wasn’t doing music at all. They’re good people; and they’re both really smart and they love any kind of music, and that’s the kind of people I like to surround myself with.”

They aren’t just smart, though.

Asteria Lux is currently touring the South and Southwest. See them if you can.

Asteria Lux is currently touring the South and Southwest. See them if you can.

Courtney has won numerous songwriting contests including a top 20 finish in the CMT Song Contest. She was selected to play at the Hatch Festival and receive mentorship from renowned musician and producer Patrick Leonard. Genesis has sung on records by Stevie Wonder and Eric Heatherly. At 16, she earned a coveted spot at ASCAP’s Young Writers’ Conference. CJ, on the other hand, got his first record deal more than two decades ago. Since then he’s had tons of songwriting success and has written two books. He has lectured around the globe at universities and songwriting workshops. And, he was in the first rock band to tour China.

He told us how the band came to be. “I started working with Courtney — we started writing together when she was 12 — and we just immediately hit it off,” he said. “I knew that she had some special talents and so we did that for a while, and I produced a record on her that we just loved.

“And then a couple of years later, I got a call from a friend who said, ‘I’m going on the road, and my intern needs to get some hours in,’ and I said, ‘Okay, sure, whatever.’ And she sent Genesis over. And about the second or third week I said, ‘I know you’re probably a singer or something,’ and she did a few songs that she had written and they were really good so I said, ‘Wow, how long have you been doing this?’ And she said, ‘Oh, I’ve been writing 6, maybe 7 weeks now.’

He continued, “I immediately started producing work tapes on her, and we started writing together. I don’t know why it took me more than a second to have the idea, but one day Genesis and I had been talking to an agent friend of ours, and he was developing the act to book, and he said, ‘There’s just something missing.’ And something clicked in place in my head and I said, ‘Courtney is what is missing from this.’ So I talked to both of them because they were fans of each other, liked each other and had a lot of musical respect for each other. And they said, ‘Yeah we’d love to do an act together if you’ll be in it.’ So I un-retired and been having a lot of fun ever since. And so over that time, these two have both become family to me.”

Their sound immediately gravitated toward jazz. There was only one problem, as CJ explained. “Courtney was the only one of us who really knew anything about jazz. I have done everything but jazz, but she teaches us as much as she can, and fortunately for us she’s a good teacher.”

After gushing with an “Aw, thank you,” Courtney said, “I was playing jazz music since I was 5 years old, so I’m really, really excited the direction that we are going.”

About the band’s unique sound, Courtney said, “We have such a wide influence of different styles. It’s not just traditional jazz, but it also has some classic rock and psychedelic influences and everything — very singer-songwriter acoustic type of stuff, to full production like Supertramp, Pink Floyd kinds of things. So I think we’re pushing the boundaries of what modern jazz is, I guess.”

Genesis added, “People ask me, ‘Where did you get the idea for your style and the style that you use when you sing?’ One day I just kind of came into it,” she said. “When I met CJ, I had a little more of a rock thing going on, but the more I wrote with him and the more I sang and went around and tried different things, I realized that my voice really sat in the jazzy type of stuff that we were writing. And we just started writing it and I love singing it.”

Wait a minute. Teenage girls are supposed to be “Swifties” or “Beliebers,” right? What’s this Pink Floyd stuff?

“It gives me hope for the future,” CJ quipped about his young bandmates’ musical tastes. “These two know almost all the music I grew up listening to and a lot of music that my dad and my grandma liked. They have a very wide spectrum of stuff that they listen to, which I think is awesome. Courtney’s got more vinyl records than I do.”

Genesis said, “I listened to Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald growing up, as well as Pink Floyd, and the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones. Every classic rock band that you could think of, I love.”

“One of the things that impresses me the most about both,” CJ said, “Is that (they) don’t draw any boundaries when it comes to listening. Genesis loves musicals and stuff like that, and then for Christmas last year, she was like, ‘I’m really hoping I get the new Black Sabbath album.’

Though Asteria Lux carries a jazz label, the three members don’t necessarily cling to the genre. Genesis said, “We have people ask us what genre we are, but we would really like to get to the point where we can say we just make good music — you know music we love with all kinds of influences and all kinds of genres.”

The band is currently on tour throughout the South and Southwest US. Following a short break, they head to the Northwest with hopes of extending the tour into Europe this fall.

CJ said they are not particular where they play, but he likes to be in venues where people listen to what they’re singing. “We put a lot of care into the lyrics, and we love it when people hear them. That being said, if people are just partying, having a good time and dancing, we’re okay with that, too.”

“Lovedrunk” is an apt title for the EP. Asteria Lux’s music is as intoxicating as it is smooth and silky. Courtney and Genesis share lead vocals on top of CJ’s masterful lead guitar and background vocals. Courtney also plays guitar, while Genesis’ bass anchors the rhythm section.

“Essentially I started playing bass a year and a half ago when we went out to Montana to start the whole band thing and film a couple of music videos for Courtney,” Genesis said. “I played guitar for 4 years before I started playing bass, and I’m not afraid to say I’m a terrible guitar player but an awesome bass player,” she added with a laugh.

Courtney said, “Guitar is my primary instrument. I started playing guitar when I was 5, so I guess it’s been 13 years now since I’ve been playing. So yeah, that’s been what I’ve been working on my whole life. It’s been a journey for me,” she continued. “You know I’m from a small town in Montana, and so now I’m living on my own in Nashville and working with these guys, so yeah, it’s been this incredible adventure, and I’m so excited to be working with them.”

Genesis said, “This is the most fun experience I’ve had. I started doing music with CJ when I was 15, and nothing has been such an experience. It’s awesome. You’d think having two teenage girls in the band would be detrimental, but we’re both totally cool and not egotistical and not stepping on each other’s feet, so it’s great to have your bandmates be your best friends.”

CJ credited Music City power couple Sheree and Lou Spoltore for “opening some doors” to kick start Asteria Lux’s early success.

“We’re going to ride this thing as far as it will take us,” he said. “We are having the time of our lives.

“You know, the thing with music is, it’ll surprise you every day,” he said. “If you just put the time in, put the work in, and don’t come in with any expectations other than making music, it will keep you from getting bored for your entire life.”

And sometimes, it’s even worth coming out of retirement.

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Q&A With The Madison Letter’s Clayton Jones

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The Madison Letter hams it up with the crowd after a show. (Click to enlarge.)

A couple of weeks ago, we interviewed The Madison Letter frontman Clayton Jones for this Tunes from the Dam blog. Now, here are a few more nuggets from the multi-talented musician:

Q: You met in college. How old were you when you started The Madison Letter?
A: I would’ve been 18 still at the time, just about to turn 19. I’m the youngest in the band. I’m 23 now. Tyler (Ross) is turning 24 in a couple of weeks here and Mitch (Schrock) is 25, so there’s one year difference between all of us.

You all graduated from Greenville College (Greenville, Ill.). What did you guys study there?
It’s definitely known for its music program. I studied music business and the other guys studied audio engineering. Industry stuff we can tie into our craft.

How has having a college education helped you guys?
Honestly, you really don’t need a college degree to pursue music. I would say studying music helps out most if you’re going into teaching, but studying music in school I think for me — just the relationships you build with people there who are up and coming and learning their craft at the same time as you — is the most valuable thing. But you definitely have to take what you learn in school and apply it. Music is all about just doing it, you know. You’ve got to be out playing, out writing. You know if I were a songwriting major or something like that, either I write great songs or not, you know. And it’s the guy that’s writing the great songs who is going to get the publishing deal.

How long have you been based out of Nashville?
We moved down here last summer. We all graduated school back in May of ’13 and moved down as soon as we all could, and so it’s going on a year right now.

How have you built your network in Nashville so far?
We moved down here along with several other friends from school who graduated our year as well, people getting into audio engineering or booking, or what-not. So all these people entering the business at the same time as you so (helps you) build up your team over time. Everybody’s kind of making their own advances in the industry and you can feed off each other and stay friends and help each other out.

What’s the worst thing going on in pop music right now?
(Thinks a while…) I guess with a lot of the dancy club songs and stuff, definitely the lyrics. Within pop music sometimes lyrics can get watered down. There’s not stuff that really has much of a substance to it, you know. But there are a lot of songs on top 40 radio that do. I think that’s one of the easy things to slip into; you know, the easy listening real basic lyrics is what people connect with quickest as well.

How does The Madison Letter rise above that?
I think being able to blend those two things — having a song with substance but a song that’s super catchy and really selling the lyric of the song through the melody is definitely the best scenario.

The Madison Letter Finds its Voice

TML Frontman Clayton Jones says
First Album 
Will Showcase ‘Niche’

The Madison Letter is Clayton Jones, Tyler Ross and Mitchell Schrock

The Madison Letter is Clayton Jones, Tyler Ross and Mitchell Schrock

For fans of The Madison Letter, the wait is almost over.

The trio’s first full-length album release is expected this summer. And according to frontman Clayton Jones, it will feature a cohesive voice The Madison Letter has been crafting since its formation 4 years ago.

“It should be coming out in July is what we’re shooting for right now,” Clayton said during a recent interview with BeaverDamUSA.com. “This is really our first focused album that has one sound that we’re really driving home. We finally found our niche, and I’m really excited about it. This is kind of like the big ‘this is who the Madison Letter finally is’ sort of thing. So that’s really exciting, and it’s taken all this time to kind of develop that kind of sound and release songs in different areas of pop-rock.”

Besides Clayton, who plays guitar and keyboards, The Madison Letter consists of drummer Tyler Ross and bassist Mitchell Schrock. The band, which currently calls Nashville home, has two EPs under its belt.

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Clayton wrote eight of the 10 songs on the new album. The other two, he co-wrote. “I think that it’s going to be an album where not many people are going to be skipping over songs; there aren’t any filler songs on it,” he said. “I think every song going on this album has its own place. It’s all in the same vibe. There’s nothing way leftfield or anything, but each song has its own character to it, and that’s the great thing.”

Clayton explained the task of choosing the songs for the album. “We narrowed down from 40 or 50 of my favorite songs I’ve written over the last couple of years to find those 10 we really wanted to do. So we really whittled it down a long ways,” he said. “This album is kind of like a pop rock thing with some pop R&B soul overtones to it — kind of some sing-rappy, real percussive, almost kind of rap-like singing sometimes. It was a lot of fun.”

The band has already released the first single, “Don’t Wanna Miss It.”

“We’ll be releasing another single in a couple of weeks called ‘Stop,’” he said, noting that the album’s title is still up in the air.

Regardless of the title, fans will appreciate the groove. “There’s a lot of big tempo kind of stuff that really makes your body rock back and forth,” he said, “But there is one real ballad, called ‘Never Going to Be Together.’ I pretty much played the whole thing myself, just me and the piano until the last chorus; and the band kicks in and really ends on a real epic high level. So the song just grows the entire time until the end and it kind of explodes.”

The bandmates met at Greenville College in Illinois. Clayton studied music business, while Mitch and Tyler studied audio engineering. Following graduation, they packed up and moved to Nashville.

It might be easy to think a pop act would have a hard time getting traction on Music Row. Not so, Clayton said.

“Man, I love it. I love the thought of it, because every single time I go to a writers’ round or something, nine out of 10 times you’re going to see a round full of all country songs and all country artists trying to pursue that genre of music,” he explained. “And I love being able to personally get up and whip out a pop song that’s just not country at all.

“I think that definitely helps me stand out here, which hopefully takes us far in this town. But I think also with the fact that country is becoming more pop, me having my pop sensibility in just my writing you know allows me to be able to write better pop-country music as well.”

He added, “I think as I grow my name as a songwriter and establish myself more, hopefully a lot of country writers will be looking to me to help with that real pop edge to their more down-home country style. Top 40 pop has definitely gone a lot more electronic in the past years. And that’s what’s mostly there, but you’ve kind of got the more rootsy — you know like Mumford & Sons, like 4 on the Floor –type banjos and stuff in the pop world too.”

Clayton compared being in a band to a marriage. “We’ve been through a lot of stuff over the time we’ve been together,” he explained. “Just relationally we’ve all grown tremendously. People talk about being a band is just like being in a marriage but X-amount more people than just one. So it’s definitely something that you learn a lot about yourself. For me personally I’ve learned more about myself from being in this band more than maybe anywhere else.”

Among other things, he said he has learned “what areas I’m selfish in, when I get selfish, when I’m impatient.

“You just kind of learn what your shortcomings are and things you aren’t good at, and you really learn how to become more selfless and really understand people on a deeper level,” he said. “You learn how to let certain things go, and really learn how to work with other people in close quarters like that, so I think that’s stuff I’ve learned relationally with the guys. Stuff I’ve been able to apply all across the board with all people I meet.”

If you’re not familiar with The Madison Letter already, you will be as they continue their musical ascent. And you will definitely want to see this marriage succeed.

Related: Q and A with Clayton Jones.

Visit The Madison Letter’s web site and listen to “Don’t Wanna Miss it.”

Lily Nelsen Steps in the Spotlight

Lily Nelsen Uses Adversity
to Her Advantage

lily nelsen, beaverdamusa.comAdversity can push a person in one of two directions. Either they cower and hope it passes, or they fight back.

Meet Lily Nelsen, fighter.

At only 17, the aspiring country music singer has already seen more than her fair share of adversity. As a young child she was diagnosed with Kawasaki Disease, which is the leading cause of heart disease in children. “I’m blessed to be here today,” she said.

Then at age 12, she found out she had Type 1 diabetes.

How did she handle it?

“Of course, it’s a shock when you get diagnosed with something like that, so (music) was pretty much my way of getting my emotions out. I started songwriting after I got diagnosed,” she recently told us. “It was my way of coping with the entire situation. And I decided that I wanted to start really pursuing my career after I got into songwriting.”

One of the first songs she penned, “Better Me,” was an upshot from the diagnosis. “I think it kind of came from that place of being upset about having diabetes — because I felt like a lot of people didn’t understand a lot about the disease.” She explained, “I felt different from my friends, and stuff like that, so it really, really helped me to deal with the situation.”

Since then, Lily has put her musical talents to good use from a philanthropic standpoint. She has performed to help various organizations, including Make-A-Wish and the Wounded Warrior Project.

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Lily performs at Nashville’s Hard Rock Cafe

“I also contacted the Kawasaki Disease Foundation,” she explained, “and we decided to put together a compilation CD with a bunch of different songs from different artists. It should be released soon. It’s a cause that I’m really passionate about.”

Lily was bitten by the country music bug at a young age. “My mom (Jayne Nelsen) used to be a singer-songwriter. She had a CD out, and she was doing the recording thing, too. And she decided that she didn’t like being away from my sister and me,” she said. “Actually before she decided she wanted to stop doing it, we moved to Nashville, and we just fell in love with the whole music scene in Nashville. Mom stuck with the songwriting side of everything.  And she’s really a great songwriter.  I’ve learned a lot from her. She was probably my first influence when it came to music.

“My parents encouraged me to take guitar lessons from a young age. I started taking guitar lessons when I was 7, and I also took some drum lessons,” Lily said. “I was into acting and I was the lead in two musicals in middle school, which was really fun. So I just fell in love with being on stage and being in front of people.”

Lily started home schooling this year to make time for her career. “I was so busy with writing appointments and performing out, I decided it would be the best route for me to take at that point,” she said. “I do about one to three co-writes a week. I love the songwriting side of everything, and I love performing on stage.”

Lily said she has co-written seven songs with Amanda Williams. “She’s kind of mentored me. Amanda is an amazing person to have on my team in the business.”

Four tunes Lily has co-written are featured on her Web site. She wrote “The Life I Left Behind” with 14-year-old Dallas Remington. Sal Oliveri produced the songs, she noted.

“And also I just did a video with Carl Diebold and that should be coming out pretty soon. It’s for my song ‘Growing Up’ which I haven’t released yet.”

Lily has spent much of 2014 writing. “I’ve been writing every week if possible, and that’s been great. I’ve found a lot of new co-writers recently, and I’m excited about working with them in the future. I just want to play out as often as possible and keep honing the songwriting craft.”

When she isn’t writing, Lily is performing somewhere. About her show, she said, “It’s very acoustic. It’s just me and my guitar usually. Sometimes I’ll bring on a Cajon player.” Lily has played most of Nashville’s notable venues, including the Bluebird Café, Hard Rock Café and BB King’s.

With good reason, Lily is excited to see what the future holds for her. “Five years from now I want to have one, or two or three albums out. I would love to have an album out by the end of this year; that would be amazing,” she said. “And I just want to keep working with the people I’m working with. I’ve built an awesome team around me; they’re so awesome and encouraging. And I just want to leave it up to God to where it goes from here.”

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The Dirty Guv’nahs Turn Pro With “Hearts”

Let’s get one thing straight from the get-go: The Dirty Guv’nahs are much more than your typical college-town band.

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The Dirty Guv’nahs

The Knoxville, Tenn., sextet proves that on Hearts on Fire (Summertown). Frontman James Trimble and bandmate Michael Jenkins wrote all 11 songs on the record, which was released on March 11. Each song tells a story through evocative lyrics, aided by talented musicians and tight production. Naturally, it’s folksy, rootsy and oftentimes deep. But it also has its fun. Though The Guv’nahs transcend the college feel, the Athens, Ga., influence is inescapable. I also heard Counting Crows, some U2 and The Stones. Mostly though, it’s The Dirty Guv’nahs, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Here’s a recap of the tracks:

“Where We Stand” is a mid-tempo boy-gets-girl-back tune that foreshadows a recurring theme throughout the album of dealing with fear. “Every generation has a past/I don’t want to be a soldier for the last” is a pretty nifty lyric.

Though I was already somewhat familiar with The Guv’nahs, I truly discovered them when I first heard “Morning Light” and saw the video. I subsequently gushed about it here. Go watch, listen and read in case you missed it.

“Lovin’” is a good ol’ tempo tune about young love and devotion. The band conveys a Rolling Stones feel with a Motown vibe. “I’ll make a living out of lovin’ you.” It makes you want to hug somebody you love (or would like to).

I especially liked “Ever Start to Wonder.” This fun upbeat jam tune features a nifty slide guitar and piano part. Bonus points since the lyric mentions Market Square in Knoxville, which is a pretty cool place to hang out for a while. According to the band’s web site, it was written in 2010 and reincarnated for this album.

“Dear Jamie” is a true tearjerker. “And it feels like my whole world’s falling apart/And I don’t mind dying, baby don’t break my heart.” If you haven’t figured it out by now, Trimble and Jenkins are gifted writers. Think U2 on this one, all the way down to the MLK Jr., speech dubbed in at the end. The slide guitar weeps.

“Slow Down Easy” delivers the best line on the album: “In the times you need me most/I leave you standing with my ghost.” Loose, groovy and soulful describe it best.

“Tarwater (The Fighter)” is an inspiring anthem about perseverance. It’s based on the life of USA Olympic Gold Medalist Davis Tarwater, who failed to make the Olympic team twice, retired, then came out of retirement to win a Gold Medal in 2012. Take this one along with you go on that run in the morning. Find some steps and go all Rocky Balboa.

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“Under Control” has a cool driving groove. It was my least favorite on the record, but it’s not a throwaway by any means.

“Three Little Angels” features  Amy Helm, daughter of troubadour Levon Helm. “Angels” is a cautionary tale about trying to go through struggles alone. It’s the most acoustic song on the record.

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The Dirty Guv’nahs (Photo: Marc Millman)

“Someone to Love” is the song to play when it’s way later at night than it needs to be, and you’re sitting alone in a motel room with a bunch of empties far away from home. Again, the slide guitar is impeccably moving, and the B-3 compliments it nicely. If it didn’t have so much competition, this would certainly be the encore for the band’s live show.

“Canyons.” This ballad about yearning for love ends with the characters feeling as much desperation as when it began. Consider the chorus: “I just want to be loved/That’s all I’m holding on to.” Now, consider the last lines: “At the bottom of it all/That’s where you’ll find hope.” About the song, Trimble wrote, “I spend way too much time comparing myself to other people. Insecurity and jealousy that I didn’t even know existed seeps from the corners of my heart and drives me deep into a canyon where the only thing that I know how to do is surf the internet, watch TV, build up walls, and silently or verbally compete with other people who are going through the exact same struggles that I am. That’s not exactly how I want to live the rest of my life.”

Struggles notwithstanding, Trimble and the rest of The Dirty Guv’nahs raised the musical bar with Hearts on Fire. Get it. Visit the band’s web site.

The Dirty Guv’nahs are:
James Trimble, vocal
Cozmo Holloway, lead guitar
Kevin Hyfantis, keyboards, BGV
Justin Hoskins, bass
Aaron Hoskins, drums
Michael Jenkins, rhythm guitar.

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