How to: Justify How Lazy You Were This Winter

katherine holmgren, beaverdamusa.comI don’t normally research anything for this blog (because I want my words to speak for themselves) but today I’m going to throw some outside knowledge at you: Nashville gets an average of 123 hours of sunshine in January and 308 hours in June.

I’m no mathematician, but according to the formula for percentage increase I found on a middle school math help website (www.mathgoodies.com), that’s a 150% increase in sunlight hours. A HUNDRED AND FIFTY PERCENT, YOU GUYS. 123 HOURS IN A MONTH THAT HAS 31 DAYS TO 308 HOURS IN A MONTH THAT HAS 30 DAYS.

This is blatant confirmation that my body contains no Vitamin D whatsoever coming off this bleak winter. No wonder I’ve been scowling at children and openly laughing at the idea that love and happiness exist. I never stood a chance!

What I’m trying to say here is that the winter laziness you championed in January and February was not your fault. You had 185 hours of daylight darkness to deal with in January alone and you did your best. Sure, maybe you leaned a little too heavily on your Netflix and Goldfish Cracker addictions but what else were you supposed to do? And yeah, sunlight shouldn’t necessarily affect how often you shower or do laundry, but people need to know you at your worst so they can appreciate you at your best, right? It’s hard to care about anything when the sun starts setting at 2:30pm.

Thank goodness for March and the precious halfway point it marks between depression and 308 hours of June happiness. I went for a long walk in the sun on Sunday afternoon and felt the first ray of hope enter my bloodstream since before The Great October Sinus Infection, Charlie Brown . I daydreamed out of my office window on Monday until my eyes burned from the precious light bouncing off cars, making me think I had gone blind.

I’ve been watching the new Tina Fey show on Netflix, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (which I believe is also a credible source of Vitamin D), and I feel myself beginning to change, you guys. I’m smiling more. I’m noticing the dust and small piles of laundry I’ve let seep into my bedroom. Today I wore a dress to work! Tomorrow I might plan and execute my grocery shopping ahead of time for the rest of the week!  Sometime soon I might actually take time to find a dentist in Nashville and schedule a cleaning! Big things are happening! Spring is coming!

S.S.D.D.

musings 250_edited-1No, not that phrase; in this case, it stands for Same Story, Different Day.  And I’m not talking about Groundhog Day.  This will be my first musing where I muse about the same subject, a second time.

I previously wrote about seeing Mac McAnally (read it here) at the Franklin Theatre (“re” vs. “er” since it is in Franklin, TN).  I had the opportunity to see him again at a relatively new music venue in Nashville named City Winery.  It bills itself as a listening room which basically means – shut up and listen while the band/artist is playing.

The stage is in a huge room with tables instead of regular theater style seats.  They pride themselves on their wine list and their menu.  The menu for the listening room is limited compared to the dining room menu.  All of the items would fall in what I call “pretty food” and they only have micro-brews.  However, it is a great place to listen to music.

Enough about the food; this is a music column, not a restaurant review column.  I was very excited about this show because I had great seats.  As a Christmas present to my wife, I had gotten us seats at the front table.  [Yeah, she saw through that as well].  We literally were resting our elbows on the stage.   We were surrounded by Mac fans.  One drove from Atlanta to see the show and quickly introduced himself and presented a business card touting his Jimmy Buffett fan club.  Our other table mate also drove in from far away (can’t remember) and had an influence on the set list – more on that later.

As Mac played, you really got the feeling that he loved what he does and acted as if he couldn’t believe that people would actually pay to hear him play.  He also went through about six different guitars as he wound his way through the set list.  He didn’t disappoint in his song selection or showing why he is seven-time CMA musician of the year.  As I said in my previous post, he is a songwriter’s songwriter and a musician’s musician.

set listSpeaking of the set list, here is a pic of the actual set list taken by the lady sitting across from us:

I told you we were close.  The handwritten notes to the side are notes on which guitar Mac would use for the song.  He added another song about two or three songs from the end.  It was a song named “Barney” which is on his debut album from 1977.  He added it because of the previously discussed lady at our table.  She kept asking him to play it and he did.  It was refreshing that he did that because it is a great song and it shows that his shows are some slick, highly produced sets.  He also closed with the Duane Allman’s instrumental “Little Martha”.  He told the story again of how he kept trying and trying to learn this song years ago only to find out that it was two guitars on the song and not just one.  You can also see that he paid tribute to Mr. Buffett by playing “A Pirate Looks at Forty” which was another song not on the list.

As you can tell, I am a huge Mac fan and encourage anyone to go see him if you can.  He truly loves his songs and the stories that each tell.  Here is a no zoom picture to show again how close we were:

mac

Musing in Music City

Zach

P.S.  As a closing nugget, the stage announcer introduced Mac as “Mac McNally” to which the majority of the crowd heckled the announcer.  Later in the show, Mac referenced that and told the story of how Buffett is always laughing when he calls Mac.  Seems that Siri pronounces Mac’s name as “Mac-Anally” with a long “A” on the Anally part (as in “anal”).

My Songwriting Journey, Part 1

erica bryan, beaverdamusa.com, behind the micNote: First of 2 parts.

My journey with songwriting started when I moved to Nashville. After a few weeks of living here, I had a meeting with Brian White, who ended up getting me a job interning at his brand new publishing company called SB21 Music. The CEO is Steve Pasch, who wrote the Number 1 hit for Lenny Kravitz, “Stand By Your Woman,” among many other songs, and Brian wrote the Number 1 hit for Rodney Atkins, “Watching You,” as well as many other big country hits.

They needed someone to register their catalogue of songs, keep things organized, and answer the door when the writers arrived for their co-writes. I had no knowledge of songwriting or music publishing at all. Honestly, I don’t even think I knew what a Music Publishing Company even was. But soon enough, I was in the middle of listening and watching songwriters write songs every day and learning about copyrights and registering songs with PRO companies (the people who count your radio play and then give you your money!). I also learned that many artists write their own songs. I just thought that artists sang other people’s songs, but I learned that songwriting is an essential step in becoming an artist.

So, I decided to try my own hand at songwriting.  The SB21 writers were so sweet to me and often mentored me about songwriting. After I was done interning for the day, the writers would sit me down and give me tips on how to write a song. I got out a pen and paper and wrote down everything they said and would apply the principles at home with my own songs. They would tell me things like the use of opposites (like Katy Perry’s song “Hot N Cold”…tons of opposites in there!) and mixing tempos between the verse and chorus- I began to look at all music differently and see these techniques being used in songs on the radio.

Then, right before I left the publishing company to go work for Reba’s Business, I asked Brian if he would co-write with me as a Christmas gift. (I wasn’t getting paid, so I figured they owed me one!) He agreed, and there it was, my first co-write of all time, with someone who had written a Number 1 song. I have a feeling not everyone gets to do that on their first go at it- but also feel that no one should…I quickly realized the songs I had brought in were elementary and anything but impressive. But, he kindly gave me some pointers and we did end up finishing my first song called, “Faster Slow Down.” (Can you say opposites?!)

Since that first co-write, I’ve written with many other great writers, and am happy to say that my songwriting has vastly improved. I’ve even gone back and written with the writers at SB21 Music, so everything has come full circle.

Stay tuned for part 2, about how I approach songwriting and how I come up with lyrics and ideas, and give some insight about how I wrote my last single.

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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Ghosting on Broadway

erica bryan, beaverdamusa.com, behind the micPromotion can come in many forms. I’m not really sure how I thought of this form, but I decided that the best way to promote my music video was to dress up as a ghost and run around downtown Nashville. So, I recruited my friends and had my boyfriend film everyone’s reactions. We did get a little nervous leading up to it and thought about all the things that could go wrong. But, what kept us going, was thinking about all the things that could go right.

So here we are, making  our very expensive costumes: white sheets!

 erica 0807 1

Walmart only had 2 white twin sheets…so one of us had to be a cream colored ghost!

 erica0807 2

We did get some mixed reactions. One of us got “hit on,” although no one could see our faces. I didn’t know standards could be set so low! Children were scared of us–but then they were fighting over the free download cards we gave them, so I guess they got over their fright quickly! Some people would “boo” us and try to scare us. And some people just asked what we were doing- which was the perfect time to hand them a download card and segue into telling them about my music video! We filmed the footage and put together a promo video to announce my music video release. Here it is:

And because I love my blog readers so much- I even made a special blooper reel, just for you! Here it is:

If you haven’t gathered the point of these shenanigans yet, it is this: to tell you that my music video will debut on 8.13.14 at CMChatlive.com. I’m thrilled to be able to share it with you next week! Stay tuned, because I will have a behind the scenes post about the music video. And, if you read my blog post Turn Up the Radio, you can stream my interview with East Nashville Radio THIS FRIDAY at eastnashvilleradio.com 8am, 12pm, 3pm, 6pm and 9pm CDT. 

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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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.”

Justine Blazer, ‘Gasoline’ Catch Fire

Part 2 of Our Interview

Just a few years ago, Justine Blazer found herself having to describe her transformation to country music. “I always felt like I had to explain, ‘Oh, yeah I’m from Detroit.’ And it was always like the ‘Oh, they have country music?’”

justine newShe doesn’t have to explain herself anymore. Armed with a successful country album, a single climbing the charts in Europe and a bus full of road-ready musicians, Justine is quickly gaining traction and respect.

Justine either wrote or co-wrote each of the 11 tunes on Gasoline, which she released in March, 2013. “It’s actually been my best received album yet,” she said. “I think that’s because it’s the first album I did here in Nashville. I really found myself with my writing and representing my style and my sound, versus the previous album (“Welcome to My World,” 2010). I felt Gasoline was more of a benchmark to lead me to where I’m at right now.”

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The first video from Justine’s record is for the party anthem “Amen for the Weekend.” The video has aired on TNN, GAC and Zuus Country.

“We’ve had a few different songs off the album go to radio which was validating, because they all hit at least Top 100 somewhere on the charts,” Justine said. “I just had a new single, ‘On the Edge With You’ go to radio in Europe. I signed a European deal last month so that’s circulating out there and I’m getting more exposure now on a worldwide level, so that’s exciting.”

justine blazer beaverdamusa.comWhile being a 5-foot-10 former model makes for eye-catching album art, it’s obviously Justine’s talent behind the microphone is what resonates with her fans. She has been described as a female Jason Aldean. But she says her fans aren’t confined to one demographic.

“It really is a huge market because I’ve had everybody from younger kids, to older college age, to everywhere in between,” she said. “I think there’s a song on the album that can relate to everybody in some sense, so it really is like this wide range of people who like the album and have bought it.

“A song speaks to somebody so maybe that’s the essence of the album. It has a pretty wide range of subjects to talk about.”

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Justine has taken on 2014 with a vengeance. “We are very busy,” she said. “Some of my goals this year are to get over to Europe, start getting my music circulated (there).

Beyond that, “We work with (Dodge) Ram trucks and have been working with them since 2011,” Justine added. “I just got back from the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, and we did two weeks out there. We performed for the rodeo before and after it with Ram trucks. That’s kind of neat. And I’m working on getting a music video done for one of my songs “Not Over You” which is on the Gasoline album; and we’re looking forward to possibly doing CMAs this summer.”

To supplement performing, Justine is eager to pitch her songs on Music Row. “I have my own publishing right now, but I would like to branch out a little bit more and perhaps be a part of that community, that scene. I’ve been so busy doing my promotion on my own stuff, and that’s going to continue. But parallel to that I want to get more of my songs as a songwriter out there as well, because that’s just as lucrative as doing the live show thing,” she said.

And, she’s glad to pick up her pen again. “I’ve been actually writing a ton lately. I’ve written (and co-written) several new songs in the past few weeks… That’s been really fun, just getting back to the drawing board and creating. I didn’t do any writing at all in 2013,” she said, “because I was so busy promoting the current stuff, recording it, doing the radio tour and all that stuff you’ve got to do to get it promoted, which is fun. But that’s a whole other element. So it’s kind of going back to the drawing board and creating more songs and stuff like that.”

Look for Justine on the road this summer. “We already have a lot of dates booked this year and this summer and just growing that as well,” she said. “I take my full band everywhere. They’re really dedicated to my project, and I’ve got a great group of guys who represent my sound and my show.”

Like lots of artists these days, Justine works independent of a record label. “I’ve actually had a couple of different contracts come my way between management and labels, but I just felt like it wasn’t in my best interest, because it wasn’t anything I wasn’t already doing myself,” she said.

“I would love to sign on eventually or maybe get a distribution deal with one of the majors,” she explained, “just because they have the resources and the advancement, like the money to expedite the process. It’s something that if it’s presented to me, and if it’s something that feels right at the time, then I would definitely consider that, but right now I’m just kind of doing the indie thing.

“I’m just over here trying to play some gigs and write some songs, and I don’t want it to turn into something not fun anymore.”

Read Part 1 of our interview here.

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Justine Blazer Brings Detroit Sass to Nashville

justine blazer beaverdamusa.comDetroit is arguably one of the most important cities in American music history. Consider the influence of Stevie Wonder, Ted Nugent, Bob Seger, Madonna, Kid Rock, and dozens more. Though music has evolved since Motown, one thing remains the same: these artists aren’t just from Detroit, they are Detroit.

Country artist and Detroit native Justine Blazer is no exception. Let’s see: her latest album is titled Gasoline, no less. Her father worked for Ford Motor Company. And she speaks with a confidence worthy of her Detroit musical ancestors.

“I feel like I can sing about and represent the blue collar, gridiron town of Detroit or relatable cities like Gary, Ind., Pittsburgh, some of those other markets,” Justine told us recently. “You know, I was just in Madison, Wisc., and you wouldn’t think that country music would resonate, but I’m learning that country music isn’t just about people who live south of Mason-Dixon, north of Florida and east of Texas. It’s definitely got a really mass appeal.


“And I think it’s about the song,” she said. “I think whether it’s a fun rocking tune, or a sassy tune, or if it’s something that’s got a little bit more subject matter to it, I think it can relate,” she said. “So you just have to take it for what it’s worth and make it work for you and not apologize from where you’re from and what you represent. And I represent… the hardworking good people that I grew up with. Those are my peers, and my friends, and my family, and you know they speak country music, too.”

Justine moved to Nashville 2 years ago. And if hard work is any indicator of success, she will soon be a household name. She tours relentlessly, acts as her own manager and promoter, and still made time to write or co-write every track on Gasoline, which was released in March, 2013.

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Pop music’s loss became country’s gain some 10 years ago. “I was in high school, and I thought I was going to be the next Britney Spears — you know we all thought that,” she laughed. “And it’s kind of like I wanted to be a pop star. Most artists may go through that phase – trying to find out who you are.”

Call it foreshadowing, but Justine got a glimpse of her musical future even before Britney’s influence. “Actually I lived in Nashville when I was a kid. My parents lived here for a bit, and I definitely felt like my country roots started when I was at a young age because I lived in Nashville.”

It didn’t hurt that Justine was listening during a time when females dominated country radio. “There aren’t as many now , but there were (many female artists) then like Jennifer Day, and SHeDAISY, and Dixie Chicks, and Shania, and Faith Hill, and the list just goes on — and Trisha Yearwood, and LeAnn Rimes, and Lila McCann. I could just go on with all those CDs I had that were female fronted.”

Justine can’t remember not wanting to be in the spotlight. “I always loved singing. I started singing when I was 5. My mom put me in lessons and I always wanted to be in showbiz. I wanted to be on stage, and I always was on stage doing dance lessons and dance competitions and pageantry; and you know, whatever allowed me to be on stage, I did. And it was something I wanted to do, even at a very young age. So I just did whatever I could to be on stage, and I always thought I really wanted to be country.

“I recorded my first country demo at 13 years old that was submitted to Nashville. And I did some other studying – I studied opera and jazz, just some other genres just to get myself more well-rounded as a vocalist. And it wasn’t until my second album that I decided to embrace the country thing, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

“And if somebody likes country — especially female fronted, that’s what I am,” she said, adding, “I know right now very popular on the radio is kind of like that bro country kind of stuff which is cool, but I think my stuff sets it apart because I’m not that.”

Obviously. She’s just a good ol’ Detroit girl.

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(Next week, Justine will talk about the making of Gasoline, her new single release in Europe and what she sees for her future.)

Remembering Charlie Daniels’ Volunteer Jams

“Ain’t It Great to be Alive and
be in Tennessee!” — Charlie Daniels

Charlie Daniels hosted the Volunteer Jam for decades. Here, he plays for US troops in Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jeremy D. Crisp.)

Charlie Daniels hosted the Volunteer Jam for decades. Here, he plays for US troops in Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jeremy D. Crisp.)

With those words, Charlie Daniels kicked off the first Volunteer Jam I ever saw. He also kicked off every Vol Jam with those words. My first Jam (I think) was Vol Jam IX back around 1980 or so. It is strange how your mind jumps around.   I was walking through the parking lot at work strategizing getting my youngest son to his violin lesson. Violin turned to fiddle which made me think of Charlie Daniels and then Bam! I was suddenly thinking about the Volunteer Jam. For those of you from the Nashville area who are over 40 years old, you know about the Volunteer Jams. Read on for a walk down memory lane. If you haven’t a clue, read on about a great musical event that will probably never be duplicated again.

Charlie Daniels started the Volunteer Jams back in 1974. As the name suggests, it was basically a jam session where he invited all of his musical friends to stop by and play. The venue changed through the years from the War Memorial Auditorium to the Municipal Auditorium, to Starwood Amphitheater. The early Jams, including the first I attended, were truly spontaneous. Charlie didn’t know who was showing up until they were backstage. Each act would come out and play anywhere from two to five songs. Even lead singers without their bands would play with whoever was backstage. Charlie would typically open up the Jam with a set of his own. I noticed through the years that the length of his set depended upon how deep the lineup was backstage – the more people backstage, the shorter the set. It was fun between acts to try & guess who would be showing up next. Once my friend Joe & I saw a flute being brought out with the electric guitars. We immediately thought it might be Jethro Tull. Wrongo – Marshall Tucker Band. The number of acts was typically in the low teens, so the show typically ended around 2:00 a.m. The show would close with all acts (who were still around) coming back on stage to play a couple of songs together. Throughout the night, Charlie would introduce each act and come out and play with them.

The acts spanned all aspects of music and locale. There were gospel acts (Jordanaires), country (Roy Acuff), and rock (Ted Nugent). Some of the acts I saw were Billy Joel , Roy Acuff , Leon Russell , The Jordanaires , Jimmy Hall (Wet Willie), The Marshall Tucker Band , James Brown, Molly Hatchet , Crystal Gayle , George Thorogood , Bill Monroe , Papa John Creech (90 year old fiddle player), The Outlaws, Delbert McClinton , Quarterflash, and Ted Nugent – who actually bear-hugged Charlie and picked him up.

The latter Jams were broadcast on a radio network so they weren’t as spontaneous due to commercials, promotions, etc.  Also, I seriously doubt in today’s world that you could get acts schedules coordinated, egos checked, and waivers waived to pull off a concert event like the Jam.

However, all the Jams were great and allowed me to see a wide range of acts that I probably wouldn’t have gone to see by themselves. To answer Charlie’s question – Yes, it is good to be alive and to be in Tennessee.

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