A Year in Review

For my own Christmas present, I made myself an Apple iPhoto book with pictures from my first year as a touring artist. It’s fun to think back on the highlights of the year and how far you can go in only 365 days.Here are some of the highlights of the year! (The description is below each photo.)

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First show of the year at Bongo After Hours Theatre in Nashville, and my first time ever playing guitar in public! EEEE! That was a scary time.

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My first song to ever be released on iTunes!

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My first radio interview and performance on East Nashville Radio

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My first music video of an original song!

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Headlining a show at my Alma Mater, where I used to watch other Nashville artists come and perform!

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The first time Kelly Clarkson ever watched my music video!

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My first Writer’s Round.

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My first (and last) engagement.

Looking back, it’s very evident that this year was a lot of first’s. I spent a lot of time preparing in advance for these first’s, and I’m so happy that I’ve accomplished so much this year. But, I know I’m not done. It’s only the beginning, and I have a lot more work to do. So here’s to 2015, the year of making seconds instead of firsts!

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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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.)

Reviewing “Albuquerque Sky” from Sarah Peacock, plus other tidbits

Sarah peacock beaverdamusa.comOn October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy slammed the New Jersey coastline and quickly became the second costliest hurricane in US history.

Sarah Peacock was right in the middle of it. Then she did what songwriters do: she wrote a song about it.

“I lived through it,” she said. “I was in Red Bank, New Jersey, when it blew ashore. We were in the eye of the hurricane, and I experienced the devastation first-hand.”

“Hurricane” was the heart-felt effort that came from her experience. Download it from www.sarahpeacockmusic.com, and 100% of the proceeds go directly to Hurricane Sandy relief.

“I saw the damage. And I saw a lot of the folks who were friends of friends; they were government employees who were involved in the relief efforts. It was horrible, then at the same time I saw the love and compassion people started showing toward each other. They really pulled together. It was something I thought was very neat.

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“Love is the most powerful force in the universe, more power than any wind can blow.”

***

Sarah and her booking agent Mollie Clayton jokingly call (or maybe not) her current outing “The Definitely Indefinite Tour.” She’s spanned 46 states, including Alaska. But gigging isn’t all she’s about these days. Sarah and her team take the business end of music very seriously. “We plan to build the fan base exponentially this year,” she said. “We’re working on a video now. It’s a lot to juggle.” She tirelessly does press and appearances. “You never know when that moment is going to come,” she said.

***

Sarah’s new album Albuquerque Sky is a mixture of modern and traditional country. Her southern roots pepper the songs with tenderness, truth and a little sass when necessary. As she noted, this album is a vast departure from Straight For Your Heart, her first release in 2009. Do not cherry pick the songs in this album. It is wall-to-wall. Get it at www.sarahpeacockmusic.com. In the meantime, here is our down-and-dirty review of each track.

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“Jeans”… Driving country rocker, 100% radio-ready, the female answer to Aldean.

“Things We Didn’t Do”… Catchy and upbeat tune about leaving the door open after a break-up. Big vocal, big chorus, shredding slide and electric guitar solos.

“Albuquerque Sky”… Reflective mid-tempo, earthy and acoustic.

“Cast My Line”… Cool groove, radio friendly, nifty guitar riffs.

“Dry Spell”… Lyric-driven, thoughtful.

“Jesus, Wonderful Lord”… A creative effort for all you Baptists out there.

“Rio Grande”… Intimate, heartfelt vocal, folksy.

“Not Just a Country Song”… Another cool country groove song. Awesome harmonies.

“Paralyzed”… We love the mandolin and Dobro solos. Anybody wanna two-step?

“One Ticket”… Haunting, a la “Midnight in Montgomery.”

“Our Place”… Upbeat, up-tempo, perfect summer song.

“Where Will You Run”… Toe tapper, light and airy melody, big chorus. For what it’s worth, this is the Beaver Dam’s favorite track on the album.

“Blue Flame”… Different feel from the others with lots of piano.

“If It Don’t Kill Me”… Fresh lyrics, a beautiful cry-yourself-to-sleep ballad. Aspiring vocalists: learn to sing this way.

“I Left My Heart in New Mexico”… Fun Texas-swing, ‘70s country feel.

“117 Stewart Street”… “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” has nothing on this little ditty.

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Rising Star Kellie Lynne Talks To Us About Her New Single

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Kellie Lynne rocks her new Beaver Dam tank!

Ask anyone in the country music business about keys to success, and they’ll always mention “networking” as a top requirement.

You won’t find rising country star Kellie Lynne arguing with that.

Kellie’s new single, “Dirt Cheap” is already getting plenty of airplay. And she probably never would’ve had the opportunity to record it if not for networking. “I went with a friend to Thompson Square’s No. 1 party,” she said. From there she “connected with someone on Facebook who worked for a song pitching company.” That social media connection led to a pitch session, where she came away with demo CD of song possibilities.

The more she listened to “Dirt Cheap,” the more she loved it. The song chronicles empowerment following a painful break-up. “I’ve had a great reaction to it,” she said, adding that fans have told her it’s helped them through their own similar situations. “And it connected with me,” she added. That’s obvious, considering Kellie’s soulful, heartfelt vocal.

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It’s also notable that “Dirt Cheap” has pretty good parents. It was written by Nashville songwriting powerhouses Hillary Lindsey (“Jesus Take the Wheel”, “A Little Bit Stronger”, “American Honey”), Dallas Davidson (“Put a Girl In It”, “I Don’t Want this Night to End”) and superstar Luke Bryan.

She recorded it in Brentwood, Tenn., with Producer Marc Eric. “Marc played all the instruments, except the drums,” Kellie said. She has Jeremiah Bivins to credit with the drum work.

The new single is featured on two iHeartRadio stations — The Nashville Channel and New Country — as well as a “ton of indie stations” Kellie noted. She filmed the video at a farmhouse in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., with director Michael Monaco. You can see it on TCN (The Country Network). You can also see it here.

kellie lynne beaverdamusa.com

We love this picture mostly because it shows Kellie doing what she does best. But check out the guy behind the band. We hope there wasn’t an open manhole.

Kellie’s hard work has already paid off for her since moving from Pittsburgh to Nashville in 2010. She was recently named Nashville Universe Female Vocalist of the Year. She was also nominated for Entertainer of the Year by the same organization. Nashville Universe is owned by musician Michael Kenney. (www.nashvilleuniverse.com)

Never one to take a break, Kellie has been writing constantly lately. Plus, within a few weeks, she will host one of the “Breaking Out” segments on the nationwide TV network TCN (The Country Network.)

She has opened shows for Loretta Lynn, John Michael Montgomery, Mark Wills, Chris Cagle, Trent Tomlinson, Aaron Tippin, Cody McCarver and Emerson Drive to name a few.

Kellie brought the house down during a live presentation of “Showtime at The Apollo”, receiving a standing ovation after singing “Broken Wing.” You really need to watch this.

“Dirt Cheap” is her first video. Earlier singles included “I’m There” and “Bad.” Both received airplay on XM/Sirius Satellite Radio.

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Check out www.kellielynne.org.

We appreciate Kellie for taking time out of her schedule to talk to us. She’s a huge talent, and she’s on the way up. You can connect with here…

http://www.kellielynne.org

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