Catching Up With Del Gray Of Little Texas

Del Gray Little Texas

Every country fan who hasn’t lived under a rock the past 30 years knows the song “God Blessed Texas” by Little Texas. Their other songs that have really stuck with me over the years are “What Might Have Been” and “Amy’s Back In Austin.” I also really love “You And Forever And Me.” For some reason that song always makes me think of the start of spring. So I am excited to finally get to see them tonight in Liberty, NC [concert info at the end of this interview]. Won’t you join me?

Catching Up With Del Gray Of Little Texas

Eat Play Rock: This weekend you’re playing in Liberty [NC] and you guys are also playing in the Everglades, right?

Del Gray: We are. It’s a last minute gig that came up. We did that gig a few years ago and I guess somebody fell out. And the promoter called to see if we could do it so we’re, we’re headed there as well.

Eat Play Rock: Nice. That’s a lot of traveling in one weekend, but I guess you guys are used to it.

Del Gray: Oh yeah. Well we are and we have two bus drivers so we can run continuously.

Eat Play Rock: That’s good. I read that, when you guys were first becoming really popular that you played like 300 plus shows a year. And you didn’t always have the best driver. Is that true?

Del Gray: Well, by the time we started doing that many shows we did but, you know, the van and trailer days, we played everywhere from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, all the way up to Phoenix Arizona and every place in between. The year that our first single “Some Guys” was released, we actually played 319 dates and continued that pace for the next five, six years. I mean we would do anywhere from 250 to 300 days a year so we worked it hard. But you know what’s nice about that is it really sets up for what we do now. I mean we kind of laid a lot of groundwork and and built some great relationships. And I tell people I get to be a rock star on the weekends and I’m home with my family during the week because we do about 70 to 75 dates a year. So it’s basically weekend work, which is fun.

Eat Play Rock: Yeah, that’s nice. That’s a big change in the amount of shows. Do you ever feel antsy, like you’re not playing enough or are you good with the momentum you guys currently have going?

Del Gray: Not really I mean we play almost every weekend, it’s a little slow in the winter but after after a busy summer we’re kind of ready for some downtime so no, at 31 years into it, that’s a perfect schedule for us.

Eat Play Rock: Shows in general are just slow in the winter. There’s just not a lot going on from anybody really.

Del Gray: You know, we do some theaters but, the bulk of our work is fairs and festivals and we play some casinos. We happen to be kind of moving into the theater year round playing. We’re playing some smaller theaters in the winter and that’s that’s fun. It keeps us working. So we’re excited to get over to North Carolina and play. Back in the 90s the bulk of our record sales was in North Carolina, South Carolina. We played a club called “Cowboys Nightlife.” And there was about three or four those, so we really had a good fan base in the Carolinas.

Del Gray Little Texas

Eat Play Rock: Yeah there’s definitely a lot of fans for Little Texas here. You said that you guys play theaters and fairs and casinos mostly. Do you have to change your set a little bit to cater to the different audiences are they basically the same?

Del Gray: We do. I mean, a festival or, or a fair – it’s a little more rocking. And a theater show… we grew up on Willie and Waylon and Merle. We also grew up listening to KISS and Van Halen and Rush. And so we’re highly influenced by rock and the Eagles were one of our favorite bands. But in a theater setting, its a little tamer. More stories about the songs get told. It’s more intimate.

Eat Play Rock: Speaking of The Eagles. You guys did an awesome version of “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” Do you still play that today?

Del Gray: We do, absolutely. We just put that back in our set a couple of months ago and so, yes, you will hear that, depending on our week. We played a theater this past weekend and our acoustic guitar player, Dwayne O’Brien, sings that song. He was a little under the weather last weekend and was having some vocal trouble so we we didn’t do it. But I’m sure he’ll be all ready to go this weekend when we play.

Eat Play Rock: We definitely hope he feels better. Okay, so you guys broke up for a while. What let you know that it was time to reunite and go back on the road?

Del Gray: Like three or four of us became staff writers and had success with with other artists in the music business. And we would see each other at events and somebody called one day and said, “Hey you want to go rehearse at SIR?” and we kicked into “Amy” and kind of looked around and said “Yep, this sounds like Little Texas.” It was one of those things where I tell people the best thing that ever happened to us, is the fact that we took a break. It gave everyone a chance to grow up and kind of enjoy what we had worked for the 10 years previous. So, when we put it back together it was easy. It was like hey let’s go do this.

Eat Play Rock: I also read that you guys reworked some of your songs since Little Texas has a little different lineup now. Is it true that some of your songs are a little more guitar-centric now? And, if so, how do you think it’s changed the feel of some of the songs?

Del Gray: Well, we’ve always been a guitar driven band but we no longer have a keyboard player. And we kind of love it. It’s great. And it rocks a little harder and it gives Porter a chance to even play more – which he is a fabulous guitar player. So, the band now is four pieces – all original guys – and Porter Howell is our lead singer. He wrote the bulk of the songs, the hits, back in the day, and he was kind of a stunt vocalist anyway.

Eat Play Rock: Well, as far as like the newer sounding music, the keyboard isn’t really an instrument that, in my opinion, has stood the test of time anyway. If you are going to lose an instrument, it’s not the worst thing to lose. The music sounded good back then but the keyboard is not something I think that’s necessary for today.

Del Gray: What’s neat is we just went in and cut 16 new songs, 8 of the hits and then 8 new songs for a 30th anniversary project that we’re working on this year. And, Porter, basically if there was any kind of keyboard part that was prominent in the mix, he was able to do on guitar. So, it’s something that you just don’t miss.


Eat Play Rock: So, you guys were on “Star Search.” That’s the first reality music based competition I remember. What do you think about when you see those competitions today and how they compare to “Star Search” back in the day?

Del Gray: I wish everybody well. Fortunately, I’m in a position where I don’t have to watch that. I mean, people say, “Well what do you listen to today?” I search out great music and Americana music and older music. I love some of the girl singers in country. Miranda Lambert is one of my favorites. I’m a fan of Eric Church. But I don’t listen to the radio and I don’t keep up with it. I’m a fan of talk radio. And my radio stays on talk radio.

Eat Play Rock: Besides radio, it’s interesting all the formats you can get music in today. I mean you can download it, even vinyl has made a resurgence. What do you think about the availability of just so many ways to enjoy music today?

Del Gray: What’s neat about that is, that ASCAP, BMI and SESAC are all finally getting a handle on all the different streams. So you would think that a band 30 years into their career, that the royalty checks would be dwindling, and that’s not the case for us. Because of all the different streams, we’ve seen an increase over the last three to five years.

Eat Play Rock: Well, I mean, “God Blessed Texas” is on every other movie you see so you have to be making bank off that one in particular.

Del Gray: Oh yeah!

Catch Little Texas live locally tonight at 7pm at Liberty Showcase Theater and check out the rest of their tour schedule here.

Del Gray Little Texas

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Eli Young Band’s Mike Eli Talks About “Love Ain’t” & “Break It In”

eli young band
Photo Courtesy John Shearer

With megahits like “Love Ain’t,” “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” and “Crazy Girl,” the Eli Young Band is one of the best country acts out today. They have a long track record of producing tunes that are both catchy and relatable, thus garnering the band multiple awards and nominations including Song of the Year and Group of the Year. If you haven’t gotten to catch the Eli Young Band live, you have several chances locally this weekend. Read on to learn about their inspirational “Love Ain’t” video, new single, “Break It In,” and how that particular song applies to both their lives and careers.

Mike Eli Talks “Love Ain’t”

EPR: So first I’m going to ask you about the video for “Love Ain’t” and what was your inspiration? I mean what made you guys decide to cover that subject matter?

Mike Eli: We do a lot of work with the Wounded Warrior [and] we were brainstorming. We wanted to find kind of the ultimate love story because “Love Ain’t” is obviously a song about what love is. We wanted to find that ultimate love story, whatever it might be, whether or not it’s something that we create in a video format. And at the time we were working with the Wounded Warrior Project and talking about what we’re doing with the single and they said, “You know what? Let us let us look around because we may have something.”

So they started streaming us some of the footage of Taylor and Danielle Morris and we were incredibly moved by what we saw and what we were told about them and it kind of just started snowballing after that. It was such a huge opportunity to be able to be a part of telling their story to a lot of people who didn’t necessarily know…a lot of people don’t realize that a lot of these men and women, when they come home from serving their battles, a lot of relationships don’t survive. The Wounded Warrior Project and a lot of organizations out there do their best to help families and circles survive from the war.

EPR: Yeah, they do seem like such a wonderful and dedicated couple and it’s really amazing to see what they’ve been through and how they’re able to, you know, work through that together.

Mike Eli: They are every bit as awesome as you think they are.

eli young band
Photo Courtesy Cal Quinn

Eli Young Band And Their College Days

EPR: Well, okay, so to switch subjects, you guys started as a college band, is that correct?

Mike Eli: That is right. We started the band in North Texas, back in the day. In the beginning we were, obviously this was a hobby and really an outlet for us to be able to make music while we were getting our degrees and it turned out that we were able to continue.

EPR: So did you all meet in college because I know that two of you did for sure but was that the case for all of the band members?

Mike Eli: Actually yes. So James and I ran into Jon and then Chris which is part of the story. The other three guys had met prior to that, and had kind of started jamming and making music together before we started the band. and I started college ’99 and they had been jamming together and I said, “Hey man, I sing. Maybe I can join in.”

So James and I had started writing music, a few songs, and so we started kind of playing acoustic at some of the local places in Denton [Texas] where we started the band and it was working until October of 2000 when the other two guys jumped on stage with us and they played about four songs, and it all snowballed from there. ‘

Mike Eli On “Break It In”

EPR: That’s really cool that kind of fate brought you guys together like that. A lot of groups can’t stay together that long because they just can’t get along. Being that y’all met in college and have been through a lot together, can you tell me how that applies to your single “Break It In?”

Mike Eli: Yeah, I mean, I think that “Break It In”, is one of those songs that is an incredibly appropriate song for where we’re at in our lives and our career. We feel like we’re kind of just drinking this thing in. You know, I think over time, we’ve figured things out and we’ve become better musicians, better performers and better entertainers and we kind of feel like we’re hitting our stride 20 years later. And there’s not an awful lot of bands that can can feel that way as far as being the same four dudes making making music together.

On The Road & Time Off For Christmas

EPR: Will you get to take any time off for Christmas?

Mike Eli: We will. Yeah. This is our last weekend and we’re ready to play our show in Charlotte and then we are off for about a month.

EPR: That’s great any big plans?

eli young band
Photo Courtesy Cal Quinn

Mike Eli: Yeah! A whole lotta Christmas and some traveling and family and those things that we’ve been neglecting too much over the first of the year. So we’ll be playing some catch up will be a lot of with that. That will be a lot of what that month is all about.

EPR: You already mentioned the show in Charlotte. But you also have a show in Greensboro this week. Do you want to tell me about your shows and what people can expect to see?

Mike Eli: Obviously, the show, will be revolved around the hits, but we play a lot of those old songs that maybe just the fans who have been with us a long time will know. will find that maybe you know. So, it won’t just be the radio hits. It will be a lot of the stuff that the hardcore fans that have been with us and supporting us for a long time will know.

It’s an old school rock’n’roll show. We’re a band that’s very rooted in old school rock and roll and I think that when people come to our show, that’s what they see. You know, we’re just getting up there and turning our amps up and having a good time. And we really feel like that we’ve hit our stride and the shows have just been a ton of fun and and hopefully people come out to just have a really good time.

Catch the Eli Young Band TONIGHT at Cone Denim Entertainment Complex in Greensboro, TOMORROW NIGHT at The Fillmore Charlotte and at House Of Blues in Myrtle Beach on SATURDAY. Check out the rest of their touring schedule here.

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Howard Bellamy Interview: Blake Shelton Tour & Advice For Newbies

Howard Bellamy Interview

As one of the most successful duos in music history, the Bellamy Brothers are still touring and going strong after 40+ years on the road. Today, in this exclusive Howard Bellamy interview, he talks with us about the brothers’ upcoming tour with Blake Shelton, their successful show on The Cowboy Channel that lets you take a peak into what life is like on their ranch and advice that they would give to anyone just entering the music business.

Howard Bellamy Interview

Howard Bellamy Interview: Blake Shelton Tour & Advice For Newbies

EPR: Tell me about your upcoming tour with Blake Shelton.

Howard Bellamy: It starts this February. We did it last year actually, same tour, and it went quite well. So Blake decided that he wanted to do the same tour over again. So, it’s our second year together. This year we are going to the west coast and touring there. Last year we were mainly East Coast and Midwest. We are looking forward to it. It was a whole lot of fun and a very successful tour. Blake’s been a long time friend and he got these old dudes, he kind of liked our music growing up, so he decided to take us on tour with him. It was a good stroke for us and he enjoys it as well.

EPR: Between your music and his as well, that’s a lot of good music. How long do you guys play? Or how long does each show last?

Howard Bellamy: We kind of come back and forth during the shows. It’s laid out so that we make an appearance for a few songs, we go away, and then we come back and do a few more and then, at the end of the show, we all get together in a circle and do an acoustic thing, a sing-along, with the audience. We do some of the bigger hits and we do a little contest to see who can get the most people singing. It gets to be fun. And you know, Blake is Blake. He always exaggerates things [laughs]…so it’s laid out pretty well and, so far, it’s probably the same show that we will be doing this year.

Howard Bellamy Interview

EPR: You guys have been touring since like the 70s. How do you keep from getting burned out?

Howard Bellamy: Well, that’s a really good question that I don’t have an answer for because I have burned out [laughs]. As you get older, at our age, of course we pace ourselves a whole lot different than we ever did. I mean, we don’t do the crazy things that we used to do. You just learn to pace yourself. We still do like 150 shows a year, which is a lot for a younger act. Somehow we have been able to maintain and at times I wonder what we are trying to prove. But we are still doing it. So it’s just what we have done all these years and it gets to be in gets to be in your system. I guess we are adrenaline junkies or something. You just get used to doing it and you don’t know any different. You just keep doing the same old thing.

EPR: I was talking to Doug Gray from the Marshall Tucker Band one time and he said that he wouldn’t know anything else to do. Is that kind of the way that you feel?

Howard Bellamy: Well, we wouldn’t know anything else to do and we are not good for anything else! So, it gets to be what you do. It’s like a habit you can’t kick. As long as the people come and enjoy the show…you get used to having fun with the crowds and the fact that you’ve made somebody feel better that day, coming to the show and leaving feeling good. It’s a great feeling to do that.

See What Their Life Is Like On Honky Tonk Ranch

EPR: On the days that you are off, when you actually have downtime, what do you do to relax and unwind? What kind of hobbies do you have?

Howard Bellamy: We live on our old family ranch in Florida. We kick around on the ranch and enjoy, really, just doing nothing, just whatever comes to mind…You’re on a schedule so much, if you can have a few days where there is just no schedule, you can sleep in and have no plans, just kind of [do] spontaneous stuff, that seems to be my favorite things to do. That’s how I come off of it best.

Howard Bellamy Interview

EPR: Someone could easily see a little bit of what life is like on your ranch because you guys have a show on the “Cowboy Channel.” Tell me about “Honky Tonk Ranch.”

Howard Bellamy: We just started our 3rd season filming. So we will be, quite a few weeks in the winter, filming that show. And it’s doing quite well. This season we have some bigger things happening and it’s been streaming into like 67 countries. So, it’s got to be quite successful and it’s going to be expanding this year. Yeah, we’ve got that going on, too.

Howard Bellamy On Touring 72 Countries

EPR: You do have a lot going on! And you guys have toured pretty much everywhere, lots of countries that other acts won’t go to. Is there any place that you want to tour that you haven’t had the opportunity to yet?

Howard Bellamy: Well, we have been to 72 countries and toured. There are a few places left – we haven’t been to Argentina or Brazil – [places] I would like to go. I like ranches a lot and we recorded with Brazilian artists and had hit records down there but never toured there. And we haven’t toured China, which I don’t really know if I want to go there or not. I can’t make up my mind. There are few left that [I] am curious about. 72 countries, that’s a lot of countries, and we have certainly seen a big part of the world, and played to lots of crowds. It makes you realize that music truly is a common language. You don’t have to speak the same language for people to have fun. And whether they can speak your language or not, they know the words, they know the melodies, and sing-along with you. That’s a really great thing that we have been fortunate enough to witness throughout the years, going to new places and breaking new ground.

EPR: You guys had a book come out last year [“Let Your Love Flow: The Life and Times of The Bellamy Brothers“] that shares a little about your time in the music industry. What is something that you talk about in your book that people might not expect?

Howard Bellamy: If you read the book, you are going to learn the real truth. You never really know what people think of you, they have their own opinions. But we laid it out pretty much the way it happened in the book. There’s a lot of truth in there, a lot of things went down that people never had any idea went down. There’s a lot of corruption in this business and we’ve survived. And the wild, crazy days of the 60s and 70s that we were fortunate enough to live through. Hopefully, at this point, we have a little more common sense than we used to have. It’s a story of survival, really. We had a lot up against us. It starts in Florida as kids coming up on the ranch, a little bit about what went down there, how rural it really was, and how far in the country we really lived. To go from that to having [now] toured 72 countries, it’s pretty amazing that can happen to someone. But as they say, “Only in America,” right?

Howard Bellamy Interview

Advice For Music Industry Newbies

EPR: Since you have been in the music industry so long and have seen so many things and know so much about it, what is one piece of advice that you would give someone just starting out in the industry today?

Howard Bellamy: You know, advice is the hardest thing to give. I think different people have different careers and they take different paths. It’s never really the same. We used to say, “Go to law school first, because the record labels will take you for a ride.” Historically, especially in the old days – I think now they still do it. But we used to always say to go to law school first and then become an entertainer because you are going to need it. If you are going to get a lawyer, they are going to take you for a ride, so somebody’s going to take you for a ride. [laughs]

EPR: Either way you’re in trouble, right? [laughs]

Howard Bellamy: But, you know, if it’s your passion, you’re head set that’s what you are going to do, stick with it. I’ve seen people who are very talented who never made it, more talented than some who did make it. So, it’s not total justice in that way it comes down either. It’s like life itself, some people get a good break and some people who deserve it never get the break.

EPR: And my last question for you: what is your song that people request the most, that people never get tired of hearing?

Howard Bellamy: It’s between 2 or 3 songs. I think the song most requested, and of course depending on what area you are in, is “Let Your Love Flow,” “If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body” and “Redneck Girl.” It’s between those songs and if you are in rural Texas, you’re going to have to play “Redneck Girl” to even get out of there. And, oddly enough, in a lot of parts of the world, that song, it’s the same way. It’s one of the more mindless songs that we ever wrote…

EPR: But it’s fun…

Howard Bellamy: It is fun. I think that’s it. People want to have fun. And that’s what you forget. I remember being younger in a band. You always took everything so technical. It comes down to having fun with the people, that’s what you realize later one.

Catch The Bellamy Brothers live locally at the Liberty Showcase Theater on this Friday night and check out the rest of their tour dates here.

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Raelyn Nelson Discusses Her Music, Puns & Her Famous Grandfather

Raelyn Nelson

Though you might not have have heard of Raelyn Nelson yet you are about to. She is the granddaughter of Willie Nelson, yes that Willie Nelson, and music runs through that family’s blood. Starting out on a guitar gifted to her by her famous grandfather, she has now been playing and learning a variety of instruments for years. Read on to learn more about the Raelyn Nelson Band and be sure to check out their music today.

Raelyn Nelson Discusses Her Music, Puns & Her Famous Grandfather

EPR: So tell me about your band. What kind of music do you play? Who provides inspiration?

Raelyn Nelson: Okay, so my band is like punk garage rock with a country girl frontin the band. So I met Jonathan Bright through a mutual friend and I was trying to find a place to record some songs that I’d written, and he had studio in his back of his house and he was like “Oh come over. I won’t charge you much to do some demos.” This was a few years ago and my kids had just gotten old enough where I could get out a bit more. I had gotten done nursing them and I was able to get out a little bit more.

So I started going over there and recording some demos and by the end of the first session, he was like, let’s put a combo together and and write more songs and I was like, “Okay!” I was so ready to jump in and his background has always been rock, garage rock, underground in the independent underground rock music scene. His stuff is like Cheap Trick, Ramones, The Clash, a mixture of all kind of that stuff and then when you add a country twang melody on top of it is basically a hybrid of what it is. It’s like men and me singing my melodies on top of it.

And we’ve kind of stayed around here for two or three years and then over the past couple of years we’ve been able to get out and about. We’re still an independent band. We’re not signed by anyone or anything like that, not that we’re against it. We just haven’t been approached and, you know, we’re just trying to get out and share with everyone. My grandpa’s always been real supportive. My whole family makes music and are all making our own different kinds, different sounds. But, what else is there? We were doing singles for a long term and then just packaging it as an EP, and we were given the advice, “Ya’ll just need to put together a full album and do it.”

Raelyn Nelson Band Debut “Weed And Whiskey”

So over the past year, that’s what we’ve been doing – putting together this album and it’s just come out November 8. And our first single was “Weed and Whiskey,” which is like a protest to the opioid crisis, because my little sister went through – one of her boyfriend, last year, he ODed died, and it’s been a huge impact on my little sister and our family and his family, of course.

So, all of us have someone in our life who has been affected by the opioid crisis, and my thoughts are, we don’t need to. All we need is a little bit of weed, a little bit of whiskey. And so I wrote the song. And it was kind of like a protest to the opioid crisis but it sounds like a party anthem song.

Turns Out Raelyn Nelson Is Quite Punny

EPR: Tell me about “Pun with Raelyn Nelson.” I saw it on your Facebook page.

Raelyn Nelson: Okay, so before we had any anything really ready we were just writing songs and getting things going. We we like, “We need something to put out to start the Raelyn Nelson brand or whatever.” And I’ve always loved puns, and we thought of the first one, and then thought of a second one and just kept going and it’s completely ridiculous and stupid but we love it so much. I actually get people like, “We need another pun,” you know, so it was kind of part of the thing and I feel like I’m minor in comedy so…

EPR: You have to entertain them any way you can right?

Raelyn Nelson: Yeah! You know, back in the day when country music was first starting, people would tell jokes on stage. It was like a Dolly and Porter, Loretta and everything. They would tell jokes and I just want to bring that back and lose all the seriousness. Just don’t take it so serious.

Raelyn Nelson On Her Love Of The Ukulele

EPR: So, a ukulele – that is an unusual instrument to choose to play. Tell me what you love about playing the ukulele.

Raelyn Nelson: Okay, so when I first went to J. B.’s place, Jonathan Bright’s place, he had just finished an all ukulele album – that was replacement cover songs. It was done in all ukulele and it was with Tom Littlefield, the album is called “Treatment Bound,” by Bright Little Field.

There were like six different ukuleles around the studio, and I picked one up while he was engineering stuff on our music and I was like hey, I was like, “Can you teach me how to play this ukulele?” And it turns out if you play guitar, you can pick up the ukulele pretty quickly. It’s not a hard instrument to play, and I was playing it a lot in the studio and I was like, “You know what? I want to play this and it’s easy and I can move around and I didn’t have to think about it too much.” And let’s be fair, like you said, it’s an interesting instrument to choose and you just kind of stand out a little more.

But also, if you plug it in to an amp, it kind of sounds like a really high guitar. Not high necessarily, but like the high end of the music is is pinging in on top of all the grungy guitars and I think it sounds great. And my voice is soprano so it kind of melds in with my voice better. And I play it a little better than I play acoustic guitar, and I’ve just fallen in love with it. I can move around more on stage so I don’t have to think about what I’m playing as much, like I said, it’s really easy to play the ukulele.

So, you know, it’s just like I can, I can focus on entertaining and singing, and still be able to play because I like when artists are playing something rather than just getting up and singing. I respect all artists, but I like the look of it better. The shows that I like to watch are ones when everyone’s playing an instrument.

Raelyn Nelson

Raelyn Nelson On Her Famous Grandfather

EPR: Okay, so you are the granddaughter of Willie Nelson. Do you feel that that has helped open more doors for you in the music industry, or do you think that instead, it’s out more pressure on you to live up to, you know, someone else’s legacy.

Raelyn Nelson: I think a little bit of both. I think there’s a good part because they’re like “Oh, you’re Willie Nelson’s granddaughter!” So I know everybody’s probably going to take a listen to the song, you know songs I’ve written. But that doesn’t mean that they’re going to like it because my music is not my grandpa’s music, but I will say he did inspire me to become a songwriter, and I’ve always had these melodies floating around in my head which, that’s really what I bring to the table – my opinion or lyrics and melody. I feel like it comes from the same spot where he writes his songs because he’s always been a huge amazing person, and always working.

I was like, four or five years old when I realized, that first moment of, “Oh he’s a big deal,” because we were all at a restaurant and all of these people start swarming him. And my dad picked me, held me really close and tight, and I remember everyone just being really tense and trying to get us all out of the restaurant and I remember my little brain being like, “Why is everybody trying to talk to him?” It confused me but that was my first moment of like, “Oh, he’s a big deal.”

And ever since then, it’s always been like, “Protect him!” You know what I mean? And one point of view is like he’s always working, and he is entertaining and he’s devoted his life to his music and the fans, and I don’t see him ever stopping. I think she will die on the road, you know, and that’s how I want to be. And I just want to play forever.

Editor’s Note: Willie Nelson, at 86, is still actively touring and performed a duet with Kacey Musgraves called “Rainbow Connection” on this years CMA Awards last week. Several media and podcast outlets made assumptions that Willie Nelson was sick after seeing his CMA performance last week. But it was in the teens that night [cold weather is notoriously rough on a voice] and he is, afterall, 86, and has smoked a LOT in his day. So, his granddaughter is quite protective of her grandpa and thinks perhaps we all should chill. 😉

Raelyn Nelson

EPR: Kacey [Musgraves] seemed pretty protective of Willie [Nelson] and like she really cared about him and I was wondering if there’s a chance they might actually rerecord “Rainbow Connection” together

Raelyn Nelson: Yes! It was really pretty. Sure. Yeah, sure. I will suggest that. And you’re right, she’s great. I almost kind of thought that maybe him and her had smoked before they went on, just the way they both kind of looked. You could tell that both of them were in the moment, too. I’ve met her before and I was like, I wonder if they had smells a little weed beforehand too and I think that she is one of the ones he would actually want to smoke with. He loves Kacey.

EPR: Yeah she seems sweet. So, with the Willie Nelson Family tour, would you ever be part of that? Do you ever tour with him at all?

Raelyn Nelson: He’s suggested it before, and I’m kind of…I just want them to suggest it. I don’t want to be like “Hey, put me on!” I want them to be like, “Let’s put Raelyn on.” So I’m just biding time and waiting and trying to build up as much as I can for my band and my music by myself so that is more likely to happen. Now we have done, I mean family shows with all our bands get together and play. But the Willie Nelson Family Tour, he’s always called his band “The Family,” so it’s super confusing, and my uncle Lucas goes with him and takes a little bit of the heat off of him vocals and guitar wise, too. So it’s a little confusing, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re all going to be there but a lot of times family is there and everybody gets up for the Gospel set the end of the show and he always invites the family to sing in the gospels sets. But yeah, I’m hoping. I just don’t want to push it on my own. It’ll mean more if they are like, “Hey Raelyn, we want you.” I know he would make it happen if I ask. But I don’t want to ask someone to be asked.

Raelyn Nelson

EPR: Willie Nelson is going to be headlining Merlefest, that’s near me, next year. It would be really cool if you were there for Merlefest.

Raelyn Nelson: Okay, Merlefest! I will reach out to Merlefest and see about getting on that way.

EPR: Yeah, because that’s a big festival with a large, diverse crowd. It would be really cool if you could be on the stage at Merlefest. So definitely look into that.

Shop Raelyn Nelson Band’s store here and check out the band’s tour dates here.

Get Social With Raelyn Nelson

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311’s Nick Hexum Talks New Album “Voyager” & Epicenter Music Festival

311's Nick Hexum Talks New Album "Voyager" & Epicenter Music Festival

Epicenter Music Festival is next week and 311 will be there, bringing massive hits like “Down” and “All Mixed Up” and perhaps new material off of their upcoming album, “Voyager” (out June 28). Singer and guitarist, Nick Hexum, talks to us today about their new album, the origin of their name, Epicenter Music Festival and much more.

311’s Nick Hexum Talks New Album “Voyager” & Epicenter Music Festival

EPR: 311 got their name due to a streaking incident involving one of the then bandmembers, that got him arrested. Was it a dare? Did his buddies come to his rescue or just let him think about what he had done?

Nick Hexum: Well, only P-Nut was there but as I understand it, it was daytime shenanigans because there was no school that day.  It was spring and the pool was closed.  Someone was dared to jump the fence and skinny dip. He got caught and was brought home to mom, naked, cuffed, and given a “311” ticket!  (“311″ being Omaha police code for “indecent exposure”).

311's Nick Hexum Talks New Album "Voyager" & Epicenter Music Festival

EPR: 311 has been around for many years when the majority of bands that were coming up about the same time are long gone. What is your secret to not losing that artistry and creativeness that makes it still possible to perform and make quality music?

Nick Hexum: For me, I work hard to keep that sense of wonder about exploring new music. That means you keep exposing yourself to new stuff and not become the grumpy old guy that only likes the old stuff. We stay excited about music and that makes it exciting to listen to. Cannabis helps keep that youthful sense of wonder!

EPR: Early in your career, 311 lost all of their equipment in an RV fire. How did you not just say “forget this!” and pack it up then?

Nick Hexum: Because we had a gig the next night! And then like six more left on the tour. So, we just needed to borrow instruments and amps to get through it. We rented a car on my credit card and made it back home. Then, I found a guy to lend us money to buy a much safer RV and some new gear.  Our record company didn’t offer to help us so we had to do it ourselves.  That’s ok they got their comeuppance. But no, we never considered giving up. We were having way too much fun!

EPR: What can you tell us about your new album, “Voyager” coming out later this year?

Nick Hexum: I feel it is another exciting step forward. We boldly go into some new territory! I think the title “Voyager” is quite fitting because we see ourselves as musical explorers.

EPR: Do you hang around to watch the other bands at music festivals?

Nick Hexum: Yes, we’ve made so many great friends with other bands. I love to watch other bands to get inspired. There is some kick-ass heavy music on Epicenter Fest!

Catch 311 at Epicenter Music Festival [5/11] and check out the rest of their tour dates here.

Get Social With 311

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Robert Earl Keen Talks Willie Nelson, Tyler Childers & The Texas Music Scene

Robert Earl Keen Talks Willie Nelson, Tyler Childers & The Texas Music Scene

You can’t be a real fan of the Texas music scene if you aren’t familiar with Robert Earl Keen. A member of the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame, Keen’s musical influences span many genres and include talented musicians, making his style both interesting and hard wrap in a neat package at the same time. Today, Robert Earl Keen talks to us about his musical influences, the Texas Music Scene and his badass sister, the foosball queen.

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An Interview With Tom Gimbel Of Foreigner

An Interview With Tom Gimbel Of Foreigner

Foreigner is one of the most successful rock bands in the history of the universe. Recently I got to chat with Tom Gimbel, who shared with us about some of the philanthropic things Foreigner is doing for school music programs as well as the very generous donation the band made to Shriners Hospital for Children. Did you know that Tom Gimbel is a certified golf instructor and he’s also a formally trained musician? Read on to learn all kinds of cool stuff in our interview with Tom Gimbel. Oh, and see where he pranked me!

Tom Gimbel: We are headed your way and it sounds so delightful after the frozen, Cold As Ice tour of Canada.

EPR: It’s actually been cold here [North Carolina] a lot, too, but it’s starting to warm up finally.

Tom Gimbel: I’m sure it’s warmer. Anything above 0 is going to be really warm.

EPR: Well, you named your tour appropriately, so…

Tom Gimbel: Yeah! I like both. No, we are changing it. It’s going to be the Colder Than Ice tour. I’m not a physicist, but I think ice is 32 degrees. Right? We’ve been cruising around at around 0. 32 would be balmy.

EPR: Foreigner is headed overseas in the summer, though, right?

Tom Gimbel: We do that almost every year, yes.

EPR: Is there anywhere that you have wanted to tour before that you haven’t made it to yet? After years of touring, I would think that you have been to most places but is there somewhere that you have missed along the way?

Tom Gimbel: I do feel like I have been around the world a few times over the years with all of the different configurations in the bands that I have worked with. I haven’t been everywhere. I haven’t been to Antarctica. That might be kind of fun since I’m used to the cold now.

EPR: That might be a little rough after Canada. Maybe you need to thaw out first?

Tom Gimbel: I didn’t get totally acclimated. Yeah, it’s no problem, as long as you’re inside [laughs]. There are probably some other places if I thought about it, but we’ve been to Russia, we’ve been to China. We were just in Hong Kong. We did a marvelous benefit there for a children’s orphanage. Gosh, South America, so many times. Peru, Columbia, and everywhere in between. Of course, around the States so many times. I really feel like most of the places I would have wanted to go, I’ve done. We recently did the Royal Albert Hall in London, England and the Opera House in Sydney, Australia. We played there with a symphony orchestra and we did our orchestral versions. It’s been a wild ride. I feel like we have made most of the stops, not to mention Carnegie Hall. Our acoustic set was at Carnegie Hall. It’s really been fantastic.

An Interview With Tom Gimbel Of Foreigner

That Moment I Got Pranked By Tom Gimbel

EPR: You are also a certified golf instructor, too, right?

Tom Gimbel: Yes, absolutely.

EPR: Do you get to do a lot of that in the summer?

Tom Gimbel: I used to but we’ve been so busy that I am lucky if I get a chance to sneak out and play in the summer. We do like to get out there and work at it. I like teaching because you can fix your own flaws. We make a video and we look at it and know what to look for.

EPR: Am I correct in that you got your love of golf initially from playing in celebrity gold tournaments? And, if so, who was someone that you liked pairing up with most of all?

Tom Gimbel: I remember the time I was paired up with Sean Connery and Jack Nicholson. [Tom does a decent impersonation of Jack Nicholson] And Jack Nicholson was like “I’m so terrible with golf…firecracker, firecracker, sis boom bah. Have a really good game and then we’ll all go to the spa!”

EPR: Were you paired with both of them on the same day? That had to be crazy.

Tom Gimbel: No, I made that up.

EPR: You got me! [I totally believed him!]

Tom Gimbel: [Tom does a spot on impersonation of Sean Connery] “Oh yes! They all laughed at me when I first attempted to play 007.”

EPR: Stop it! [laughs] No, I’m just picking.

Tom Gimbel: You never know who you are talking to. Some people might not even know who those are. [Tom impersonates Sean Connery again] “The movie stars from your era are different from mine.”

EPR: Oh no, I definitely know who they are. But did you really get paired up with someone on the golf course that you really enjoyed working with?

Tom Gimbel: Sure, Blaine McCallister, he’s a golf pro. He plays on the senior tour so I got to play in a Pro-Am, where the amateurs play with the professionals and he was our professional. I couldn’t believe it, I was amazed. If I am talking about actual golf people, but you are talking about celebrities, right?

EPR: Well, I’m assuming that YOU would be the celebrity part of the pairing…

Tom Gimbel: I’ve met some interesting people. Do you know the singer called Sia?

EPR: The one that does the “Chandelier” song, right?

Tom Gimbel: Yeah, she’s got like a lampshade on her head.

EPR: Right.

Tom Gimbel: I played with her husband.

An Interview With Tom Gimbel Of Foreigner

EPR: Cool. Was he good?

Tom Gimbel: Yeah, he was definitely good. That’s his full time job. He’s Sia’s husband. He is working on his golf a lot, I think. It’s just great to see all those people. It’s always for a fundraiser so it’s always charity based. And George Lopez does a marvelous fundraiser. And Vince Neil, the singer from Motley Crue, also does one. Golf is a really wonderful world and I encourage people, if they are interested, to check it out.

EPR: I don’t know that I can name too many artists like this but you were actually formally trained in music school, right? And what did you focus on in college?

Tom Gimbel: Yes, that’s true. I loved this Maynard Ferguson Big Band Jazz. He was Canadian and he would play these trumpet notes that were super high, a very powerful big band sound. So I was studying to be a big band composer and arranger. That was my major, but I was focused with the saxophone, really. I was lucky enough to work with one of the best teachers of all time Joe Viola, at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and he really got me started down the road of playing the saxophone like you’re singing. “Like it’s an instrument, like it’s a voice.” That’s what he said, “You have to develop a voice.”

So I was focused on that and I realized that my heart was in rock and roll. I’d been in rock bands ever since I was a kid, always playing electric guitar with drummers and other people. I always wanted to be in rock bands. So, even though I went to school for jazz, I realized that rock was my true calling and started being in bands again and, of course, earning money and trying to scratch out a living after I got out of college, playing in bands. It’s just been an automatic. It’s not like I chose music. Music chose me. And my blend of music is playing in rock bands. That’s what I’ve always been driven to do and I hope it’s what I’ll always do.

EPR: Speaking of bands, you are currently with Foreigner, but you also played and toured with Aerosmith. Tell us about that.

Tom Gimbel: I sure did. I did a couple of world tours with them and it was phenomenal. I have been so fortunate to work with such incredible talent like Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, the whole band. And then later Mick Jones, Lou Gramm, Foreigner, for probably 25 years now. The first 10 with Lou Gramm and then the second 15 with Kelly Hansen. So, it’s been an incredible journey for me. And I feel very blessed.

An Interview With Tom Gimbel Of Foreigner

Tom Gimbel On The Band’s Enduring Success And Touring

EPR: You guys consistently make the top of lots of lists for like the “Most Downloads” and “Biggest Selling Artists of All Time” and such. I saw that you made the “Top 40 Best Selling Music Artists Of All Time.” I found it very cool, how many huge bands that you are ahead of. I saw you in concert with Def Leppard a few years ago and they were one of the bands that you surpassed. How does it feel to have outsold so many really great, talented bands, in their own right?

Tom Gimbel: Definitely. All bands at that level are great. That’s the correct word. I can’t even say “Def Leppard” without thinking of how monumental they are. I think when we talk about numbers, it’s just a numerical reflection of the staying power of the songs. People still like these songs. And there is something magical there that Mick Jones has created and, a lot of times, with Lou Gramm together, in the songwriting that…I’m not tired of these songs. We’ve done these songs over a thousand times, just since the band reformed in 2005. So there is another 12 years of playing before that.

For me, I’m not tired of these songs so I totally get it that people still like hearing them. People play them and their kids hear them and their kids say, “Oh, I am going to grab that song, too, and throw it on my playlist. I kind of like it. It gives me energy and it makes me want to dance around.” I can relate to the sentiment and the feeling. That’s a big part of the magic that’s in these songs, you can say, “I know what that feels like.”

EPR: That’s great that you haven’t tired of these songs because, for me, you just kind of put it into perspective. I’ve never really thought of the fact that you have played that song 1,000 times.

Tom Gimbel: And that’s just the performing. With rehearsals and sound checks it’s well over 2,000. I’d probably say at least 10,000 times. But I love them. I look forward to playing them every night.

EPR: Well maybe I can develop a little empathy for a band who doesn’t play my favorite song one night. [laughs]

Tom Gimbel: That’s the beauty of a Foreigner show because every song is a thing. I look forward to each one of them for different reasons. They are all equally good.

EPR: And my favorite song by Foreigner is “Urgent” and you definitely played that, so we’re good!

Tom Gimbel: Yeah! We start rocking and thumping and I grab the saxophone and start spinning around. I don’t even know who I am. It’s fun.

EPR: You guys have a really cool light show, too. I mean, I’ve been to hundreds of concerts but your light show stands out as one of my favorites. You used green lights and yellow lights and, for me, it just looked really cool as compared to other shows I have seen.

Tom Gimbel: Yeah, Mick Jones gets very involved with the light show and we like to give it an extra flavor. That’s part of the fun of coming to a concert. It’s not just the sound. But the sound is enough. You know, there’s no stereo, I tried at home with a big screen TV and a great stereo…you can’t come close to a great concert experience because of the enhanced sound and the lights also. You’re so right about that.

An Interview With Tom Gimbel Of Foreigner

Foreigner’s Gift To Shriners Hospital For Children

EPR: Tell me about your gift to Shriners Hospital for Children. It’s really just amazingly generous.

Editor’s Note: Foreigner created a new music video, for their #1 hit song, “I Want To Know What Love Is,” featuring Mick, Kelly, and some Shriners children with all proceeds from the music download going to Shriners Hospitals. Foreigner also put together a new live version of their greatest hits, and are donating all proceeds to Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Tom Gimbel: That’s just the least we could do, really. I wish we could do more. Our history goes back a long way. We’ve been working with the Shriners and selling CDs and they help us put the song on the CDs at the shows and the profits go to Shriners. And we make donations to the local choirs. But the hospital itself is so incredible. There’s, I think, at least 20 now. They are such deserving people, they are totally innocent. They are so brave and so incredible. So we try to do whatever we can to work with the Shriners and we’ve done a nice bunch of work over the last 10 years. It just seems automatic. There’s always that situation where I wish we could do more.

How Foreigner’s Doing Their Part To Save School Music Programs

EPR: Tell me about the choirs you are featuring on your tour.

Tom Gimbel: We started a program a while back to try and raise awareness about music programs being taken out of schools, With these budget cuts, they just come in and say, “Oh, that’s it for music.” The children didn’t do anything wrong. It’s not like they were partying with a tuba or anything. They just come it one day and it’s, “All right, hand in your instruments. There’s no more school band.” The instruments go back and the music program is done. And I just think that’s a travesty. We all think that. Music and the arts are so important. So we just try to say, “Hey folks, if there is anything we can do, contact your Board of Education, PTA, is there such a thing as a PTA anymore?”

EPR: Yeah, I think so.

Tom Gimbel: I hope so. Yeah. Or the Superintendent of schools and the budget and we try to see if there is anything that we can do. So, for our part, we will have a local choir come and we make a donation to the music program. It sometimes helps them buy instruments, books or whatever they need. And they get some experience, being on stage with us. It’s really good, if they want to continue performing, to get a little bit of that experience. It’s under your belt and there is no substitute for it. You have to get up in front of a big crowd to get comfortable in front of a big crowd. There’s no way around it really. So we are happy to do that and it’s kind of a high point in the show to see the young people step up to the plate and really belt it out.

In the old days kids were shy about singing. My generation, especially at church, we kind of stared at our shoes and [mumbled] and it was the same at school. But nowadays young people are not shy. They will take the stage by storm. They will come out like gangbusters. “Yay! We’re here!” And we tell them to sing as loud as they can. And they belt it out and for me, sometimes it’s hard to hold back the tears.

See Foreigner TONIGHT at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and check out the rest of their tour schedule here.

Get Social With Foreigner

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Catherine Britt On Moving To The US & Her Battle With Cancer

Catherine Britt On Moving To The US & Her Battle With Cancer

Recently we got the chance to talk with Catherine Britt. If you don’t know her, you are missing out. This spitfire moved from Australia to the US at age 17 to chase her musical dream – alone. Did I mention that she had never been here before? Fast forward to 2010, when she won the CMA Global Artist of the Year award. Read on to learn more about this amazing woman from the land down under.

Catherine Britt On Moving To The US & Her Battle With Cancer

Catherine Britt: I’m in the US for about 3 1/2 weeks total.

EPR: And then you will be back in Australia doing a tour later this summer?

Catherine Britt: Yeah, I’ll be back on the road over there. We pretty much tour all year round in Australia. Then come over and do something in the States as well.

EPR: You moved to Nashville at like 17, right?

Catherine Britt: Yeah, I was 17 when I first come over, around 2002. I was here about 6 years, then I realized that I wanted to go home and sort of figure out what to do next. Then I moved back to Australia and played over there and come back and forth.

EPR: Had you ever visited the US before you decided to move here?

Catherine Britt: No, I just left school and we weren’t really a family to travel much overseas. We did a couple little sets but mainly in Australia. No, it was a big move and about as far away from my family and everything I do as I could get. It was pretty extreme to move over here.

Catherine Britt On Moving To The US & Her Battle With Cancer

EPR: So what did your family think when you approached them with the idea of basically moving halfway around the world to someplace you had never been?

Catherine Britt: Well the first time that I came over, I asked my dad to come with me because I was too young, actually, to sign a contract. He had to come and sign on my behalf, as like a parent/guardian, I guess, on the contract. In the end, he kind of got a vibe for it. I didn’t really know it at the time but he said that he was really sad. And I knew that he sort of lost control over everything. You know, his baby was growing up and going off to do what I was meant to do. So there was not much that he felt like he could do about it. Now that I am a mom, I can’t imagine what that would have been like for him. At the time, I was just in my own world and really focused on what I wanted to do. I didn’t really even think about it when I was 17.

EPR: We are really brave when we are teenagers.

Catherine Britt: I don’t know if I was brave or stupid. I just sort of went, “Sure, let’s go.” I suffered the consequences of that. I was incredibly homesick and I really struggled a couple years with some pretty serious mental illness, with depression and stuff. I didn’t really think it through, I guess. But when you’re offered an opportunity, you’ve got to take it and see where it leads you. And it led me to where I am today, where I am meant to be.

Catherine Britt On Moving To The US & Her Battle With Cancer

EPR: You are an extremely busy person. You work in radio, too, but you also contributed a lot of time to a magazine, as well, as editor and owner, right?

Catherine Britt: Yeah, we recently sold it, it was a music magazine, Rhythms. It was like a blues and roots, cultish magazine that’s been around forever. We took it into it’s 25th year. I had it for a couple years and then moved it on to the next person. It was an experience, that I won’t do again [laughs]. It was pretty full on. It was a little family business, really. Me and my husband did the day to day stuff and my mom and dad did everything else. And then my brother ran the website. It was pretty full on. I’m glad I did it but I’m kind of glad to be down the track from it as well. It was all consuming, a 24/7 job.

EPR: Since you don’t know if you will do that again, do you know if you will be involved with the magazine anymore at all? Or are you just cutting ties completely?

Catherine Britt: I haven’t been so far. When I walked away, I made a clean break, but I can always come back to it. I love writing, especially about music. It’s really easy for me, to write, from a place that is very passionate for me. I always found that really easy to do but I needed a break from it for a little bit. But maybe, I’m not ruling it out.

Catherine Britt On Moving To The US & Her Battle With Cancer

EPR: You won the 2010 CMA Global Artist Of The Year. That is huge! What was that like?

Catherine Britt: Yes! I didn’t really expect it, to be honest. It was pretty weird. I’d just sort of moved back to Australia and was still finding my grounding back there and figuring out what to do next. Yeah, they told me that I had won that award and it was being announced at CMAFest. It was a great honor, obviously, after the 6 years of experiencing being over here and everything that I had done. It was really nice from your peers in the industry. It was definitely a really nice feeling.

EPR: You talked about your fight with depression at times. Also, you have been sick, but you kept on working. Do you think that helped in your healing process?

Catherine Britt: Yeah, I think that was my coping mechanism. I was in the middle of a tour, actually, when I was diagnosed. I just released a new album and I found a lump a week later. So, I was going to doctor’s appointments in between touring and literally went and got a biopsy and then went back on tour and was basically called back in when I got home. When I got back I found out that I had breast cancer.

After I got over the shock of it all, I decided I was going to power through and not let it slow me down and change my life. I didn’t want that to happen. I didn’t want to become the person who became her illness. I struggled through going to work and was actually going through chemo and that was really hard. I was really, really tired and it changed everything, obviously. It changes your appearance and my hair fell out and, being a performer, that was interesting, so I struggled a lot with things like not having eyelashes and having to go onstage to perform and trying to glue fake eyelashes on to my eyelids and stuff like that. So it was terrible but, for my mental health, I think that’s what I needed to do.

Catherine Britt On Moving To The US & Her Battle With Cancer

EPR: I am so glad that you are doing well today. You have a new album out. Would you like to tell us a little about that?

Catherine Britt: So this record is “Catherine Britt and the Cold, Cold Hearts.” It’s my band, back in Australia. It’s just a bunch of songs I wrote, basically, since the last record, and all that happened in the last 3 years. It influenced a helluva lot of very, from the heart, songwriting, I guess you could say. So, it’s a lot of life changing stuff, getting married, having my little boy, beating the cancer, as well. It kind of came out in all the songs. It’s a positive album I’m really proud to put it out into the world and I’m really stoked to have new songs out there.

See Catherine Britt TONIGHT at Muddy Creek Cafe and Music Hall in Winston-Salem and check out the rest of her tour schedule here.

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One On One Interview With Richard Sterban Of The Oak Ridge Boys

One On One Interview With Richard Sterban Of The Oak Ridge Boys

Richard Sterban has been a fixture in the Oak Ridge Boys for decades. As the wonderful, deep bass voice featured in iconic Oak Ridge Boys classics like, “Elvira,” he helps to round out their unique and trendsetting sound. Now a published author, in our interview with Richard Sterban, we discuss his decision to leave Elvis to join the Oak Ridge Boys, the band’s partnership with Dave Cobb and their enduring friendship with President George Bush.

One On One Interview With Richard Sterban Of The Oak Ridge Boys

On The Oak Ridge Boys History & Longevity

EPR: You guys have a pretty full tour schedule this year, don’t you?

Richard Sterban: We are a group that traditionally works a lot. We average about 150 days a year, every year. And this year is no exception. In fact, when it’s all said and done, we are probably going to end up with more than 150 this year.

EPR: Tonight you are going to be in concert with Alabama in Salem, Va. They have been touring for 50 years and the Oak Ridge Boys have been touring a similar amount of time. How do you compare?

Richard Sterban: We have a very long and fascinating history. Believe it or not, it actually dates back to the 2nd World War. There was a group back during the war called the Georgia Clodhoppers. That’s a fact. That name actually did exist.

They would go to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and they would entertain the people there that were actually working on the development of the atomic bomb. It was called the Manhattan Project. These guys would go to Oak Ridge on a regular basis because the people there could not leave because what they were working on was very top secret stuff.

So, going to Oak Ridge all the time, they then became known as the Oak Ridge Quartet. And that group continued singing from the end of the war until the middle of the 1950s as the Oak Ridge Quartet. It was then disbanded and reorganized in the later 1950s as the Oak Ridge Boys. None of us are from that group either, I would also like to report. 

William Lee Golden, the guy in our group with the long beard, he’s the first guy who joined the group, in 1965. Then our lead singer, Duane Allen, came 1 year later, in 1966. I joined the Oak Ridge Boys in 1972. I was singing with Elvis. I was actually singing with the King of Rock and Roll. One year later Joe Bonsall joined in 1973. 

So we have been together like this, this foursome, for 46, almost 47 years now. But Duane Allen and William Lee Golden have been in this group for over 50 years. So we have established some longevity in the music business as well. There’s no doubt about it. 

EPR: That’s awesome because so many groups have internal fights and disagreements and they just can’t get along or stay together that long.

Richard Sterban: Well, you are right about that, you know? And I have to be very honest with you. There have been times when we have had our differences and disagreements. But I think over the course of the years we have developed a friendship that I think is second to none.

Each guy in the group is different and each guy brings something different to the table. But I think that is part of our appeal. And I think that over the course of the years we have learned to respect that difference between the four of us. I think as we have gotten older, we now get along better really. I think we all realized a long time ago that we need each other so we pulled together as a team. We are a true brotherhood. And now that we are older, I think that we get along better than we did when we were younger. I think we are too old now to let little things bother us.

One On One Interview With Richard Sterban Of The Oak Ridge Boys

On Leaving Elvis To Join The Oak Ridge Boys

EPR: You mentioned Elvis a minute ago. You have a book out, “From Elvis To Elvira.” Tell us a little about that.

Richard Sterban: First, I love the title, “From Elvis To Elvira.” The title says it all basically. For about two years. prior to joining the Oak Ridge Boys, I sang in a group called JD Sumner and the Stamps Quartet. For about a year and a half of that time I actually sang with the king of rock and roll, with Elvis. And back then, he was the biggest star in the world. His tour was the biggest tour in the music business, no doubt about it. And so I was a part of it. It was very, very exciting to be part of it.

I have some very fond memories of the times I spent with Elvis and I did get to know him just a little bit. It was a very special time in my life. And now that many years have passed, I have a chance to look back on that, I am really very glad. I am very thankful I had a chance to experience that and get to know one of the biggest stars in the world ever.

Quite often I think, “Who is out there today, 40 years after they pass away, that will still be as big as Elvis is today?” I don’t know that there is anyone out there today that has what Elvis had back in those days. He was certainly one of a kind. He was a special person. Forty years after his passing, he’s still a big star worldwide.

The fact that I was able to be part of his tour for a while and get to know him just a little bit was certainly very special for me personally. It really was.

And one thing that is kind of interesting, I think it’s one of the most important parts of my book, is a major decision that I made. I was singing with Elvis, apparently on top of the world. I got a phone call one day from William Lee Golden of the Oak Ridge Boys. Back then he didn’t have that long beard [that he has now]. He was Mr GQ back then. He had short hair, dressed in the latest fashion of the day. He was a pretty hip guy. He is still today, I think, but anyway, he was totally different back then. He called me up and he said that the bass singer in the Oak Ridge Boys wanted to leave the group and get off the road and the Oak Ridge Boys wanted to know if I would be interested in joining the group.

So here I was, singing with Elvis, but I had to make a decision. So what do I do? At the same time, I was a big fan of the Oak Ridge Boys. I believed that the Oak Ridge Boys had a great deal of potential. So I really wanted to be a part of the group. So I made the decision to leave Elvis, leave the king of rock and roll, and to join the Oak Ridge Boys.

So back then when I made that decision, several people said “How in the world can you leave Elvis to join the Oak Ridge Boys?” But I really believed I was doing the right thing. And I think time has proven that I made a pretty good decision. That was in 1972 and I will never regret that decision because so many great things have happened to us as a group.

We’ve been very fortunate and we’ve had a great career and it all culminated about 3 and a half years ago when we were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. What a tremendous honor. It’s difficult to find just the right words to describe how special that is. I never dreamed years ago, when I was singing with Elvis, that someday I would be in the same hall of fame with him. Now I am in the same Country Music Hall of Fame, with Elvis, with Johnny Cash, who was also very instrumental in the early days of the Oak Ridge Boys, with George Jones and Dolly Parton, and our friends Alabama, they are in the Country Music Hall of Fame as well. So it’s a very unique family of artists and for the Oak Ridge Boys to be part of that is beyond words and a tremendous honor. So in the last almost 50 years, a lot of great things have happened to us but the greatest is probably being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

One On One Interview With Richard Sterban Of The Oak Ridge Boys

On Being Pioneers, Elvira & William Lee Golden’s Beard

EPR: The Oak Ridge Boys also got the ACM Pioneer Award. Tell me more about what that means.

Richard Sterban: That is awarded by the Academy of Country Music. It’s a pioneer award, basically. It’s for an act that kind of blazes the trail and makes what is happening today in country music possible because of what we did years ago. So we were awarded as pioneers in country music and that is awarded by your peers. So that is a special award as well to say the least.

EPR: It’s definitely an honor when your peers recognize you. We talked about “Elvira” a minute ago. Speaking of “Elvira,” how often do people approach you and ask you to do your signature bass lines in the song?

Richard Sterban: The answer to your question is probably an obvious answer. Yes. Very few days go by when somebody doesn’t ask me to do that. And I do a lot of the interviews for the Oak Ridge Boys, just like I’m doing with you right now. Especially radio guys, not so much newspaper people. But radio guys always want to hear a sample, you know, “Giddyup oom papa oom papa mow mow.” And I usually oblige because people want to hear it. If I had such a thing as a claim to fame, it would probably be that line.

We recorded that record in 1981 and to this day it is still one of the largest selling single records to ever be recorded in Nashville so that’s something that we are proud of. And you can count on the fact when we come to Salem, Va., that “Elvira” is definitely going to be on the show and you are definitely going to hear me do, “Giddyup oom papa oom papa mow mow.”

EPR: On a different note, how long did it take William to grow that beard?

Richard Sterban: The only thing that I can tell you is that it has been many, many years since he has shaved. At this point it’s been so long, I don’t remember him hardly ever not having it, if that makes any sense. He threw his razor away many years ago. And he could fill you in on this better than I can but several years ago a razor company or someone offered him a substantial amount of money to do a commercial and to shave that beard and he turned them down and refused. That is his trademark, it really is. It’s the thing that probably makes him the most recognizable of all the Oak Ridge Boys.

Sometimes when you are in a group, when you get away from the other members, you can become anonymous, to a point. But it’s more difficult for him. Even when he is somewhere by himself, people spot him. They know he is somebody. There is no doubt about it. He has a unique look and it’s part of what makes the Oak Ridge Boys the Oak Ridge Boys. I don’t know that we would be the Oak Ridge Boys without William Lee Golden. He is certainly a very special person.

One On One Interview With Richard Sterban Of The Oak Ridge Boys

On Working With Dave Cobb & “17th Avenue Revival”

EPR: Tell me about your new album and what it was like working with Dave Cobb.

Richard Sterban: I could spend hours talking about Dave Cobb and the relationship that the Oak Ridge Boys have with him. He is a special person. If you know anything at all about the music scene in Nashville, he is hot right now. He is probably the most in demand producer. He has now produced two different projects on the Oak Ridge Boys. We worked with him for the very first time about 12 years ago on a project called, “The Boys Are Back.”

We got to know Dave Cobb through Shooter Jennings, Waylon Jenning’s son. Shooter is an artist now in his own right and he called us up about 12 years ago and asked us to sing on a song with him and we obviously agreed. We knew Waylon very well and we remembered Shooter when he was just a little boy. So we go to the studio and Dave Cobb is producing Shooter Jennings.

And we hit it off and [Cobb] agreed to do a project on us and it was called, “The Boys Are Back.” The title song was written for us by Shooter Jennings. And it was a very much critically acclaimed project and he took us down some roads, musically, that we had never traveled before. For example, we did a cover of the White Stripes’, “Seven Nation Army.” That’s something that we would never have dreamed about doing on our own. But Dave Cobb said, “Trust me on this fellows, this is going to be a great song for you.” And sure enough, it got us more attention probably than anything we have done in years. Another song we did on that project was Johnny Lee Hooker’s “Boom, Boom.” I did the lead vocal on that and it’s something I would have never thought about doing but Dave Cobb kind of insisted that we do it and he was right. We are still doing that song and we’ll probably do it when we come to Salem.

So anyway, we remembered working with Cobb 12 years ago, so after our induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame a few years ago, we talked amongst ourselves. We decided that we would like to do something special to commemorate the fact that we are now in the Country Music Hall of Fame and we decided that maybe Dave Cobb would agree to work with us again. We knew it was a long shot because, since those days, he has moved to Nashville, and he is one of the hottest producers.

So we got in touch with him and he agreed to work with us again. He said, “Sure, I feel like the Oak Ridge Boys are family.” He refers to us as his older uncles. We had to wait our turn because he is in such demand. So it took a little while to get it together but he finally called us and he said, “I’m ready to work.”

I remember, we had lunch with him at a restaurant right on Music Row and I will never forget, his very first words were, “What I want you guys to do, I want you to think of Elvis, maybe Jerry Lee Lewis, that old rockabilly kind of sound, maybe some old blues. Think of Ray Charles, and maybe even some of the old black gospel, spiritual type things. What was it about those artists that made them so special? It’s the same thing that makes you guys special. The very first singing that they ever did was in church. It was gospel music.” So he said, “What I want to do on this project, it doesn’t have to be an all gospel project, a lot of it will be, but the most important thing is I want to go back to church. I want to tap into that feeling of going to an old time revival.”

And Dave Cobb knows something about that because his mother was a Pentecostal preacher and he has been to his share of revival meetings. So he knew exactly what he was talking about and he knew that all of us had experienced that as well. So recording this project at RCA Studio A, the most historic recording studio in Nashville, was like going to church. It was almost a religious experience.

And it’s not all gospel, a lot of it is the old hymns that we were assigned as kids in church and in Sunday school. But, also, some of today’s contemporary country song writers are represented on this project. Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, two of the hottest writers in Nashville, they have a song on this project. Vince Gill and our good friend Jamey Johnson has a song. So it’s a nice mixture, it’s a nice balance of today’s modern country writers, along with some old fashioned gospel. And one black spiritual on there was so old that Dave Cobb had to actually go to the Smithsonian to get the lyrics.

He took old rockabilly and he married it with gospel and today’s country music. And the final result is something that we are so proud of and the music is very meaningful. It’s music that’s touching people’s lives. So we will include some of the music from 17th Avenue Revival, along with all of our hits, I already told you that we are going to do “Elvira,” in Salem.

The title, “17th Avenue Revival” is an interesting title. It represents the revival of that old, historic recording studio, RCA Studio A, right in the heart of music row. They were going to tear it down about 5 years ago. Developers tried to buy that property and build high rise condos. But investors and many people in the music business got together and we were able to save that studio. So recording this album there represents a revival of that old, historic recording studio. Chet Atkins developed the original Nashville Sound right there in that studio.

Dave Cobb has now moved into Chet Atkins’ old office and does all of his stuff there. He does all of Chris Stapleton’s stuff there. And the Zac Brown Band. The list goes on and on. Now he’s recorded the Oak Ridge Boys there. I could talk for hours about how great it was to work with Dave Cobb. He really is a special guy.

One On One Interview With Richard Sterban Of The Oak Ridge Boys

On Their Enduring Friendship With President Bush

EPR: Tell us about your long lasting friendship with President George Bush.

Richard Sterban: Back in December, we had an amazing honor. We sang “Amazing Grace” at the funeral of President George Bush. I told you that being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame was the greatest honor that the Oak Ridge Boys have ever experienced. Singing at President Bush’s funeral was also a tremendous honor.

We established a friendship with President Bush many years ago. We first met him when he was the Vice President under President Ronald Reagan. President Reagan invited us to sing on the lawn of the White House at the Congressional Barbecue while he was president. I remember that day, we went there and we were doing a sound check on the lawn of the White House. They had set up a stage there. While we were doing the sound check, in the middle of the afternoon, we notice this entourage of men walking across the White House lawn towards the stage. The guys came up on the stage and right in the middle was this tall, lanky gentleman and he introduced himself as Vice President George Bush. He did not have to do that. Of course we recognized him immediately. But he proceeded to tell us that he was a big fan. He said that he could not be at the concert that night, he had to fly to China, I believe, on some official Vice Presidential business. But he asked “Would you guys be willing to do a few songs for me, right here and now?” We said, “Sure, Mr Vice President. What would you like to hear?”

We realized at that moment that he really was a big fan because he started naming album cuts, not hits, but obscure album cuts that he wanted to hear, so we realized that he really was a big fan. And we gave him a little mini concert that afternoon, right there on the lawn of the White House, and on that day, that started the friendship with him that lasted for many years. And not just with him, but with his wonderful wife, Barbara Bush. We maintained that friendship for many years, even after they left the White House. Many times we would go to Kennebunkport in the summertime, the four of us and our four wives, and hang out with them. And we would give private concerts, right there in his living room. And he would invite the neighbors over and it was a very informal kind of a thing. We always sang for him right there in his living room and one song that he always wanted to hear, and we always included, was his favorite song, “Amazing Grace.” We did it for him many times over the course of the years.

Not too long before he passed away, he asked us if we would sing “Amazing Grace” at his funeral. And we promised him that we would do it. We told him, “You can count on us, regardless of wherever we are, we will be there.” It just so happened that he passed away in December while we were in the middle of our Christmas tour. We were in a place called Spokane, Washington. We could not have been much further away, really. After the concert, we did our Christmas show, which is about 2 and a half hours, we went right to the airport, got on a private plane that was donated to us by a very dear friend of ours, and we flew to Houston. We got there at 5 o’clock in the morning, no time to get any sleep. We went to the hotel and had like an 8 or 8:30 call at the church. There we talked to George W. Bush and Jeb Bush, the former Governor of Florida, and they thanked us so much for doing this for their father. We went to the church and we sang, “Amazing Grace,” at the funeral. What a tremendous honor and a very emotional experience. After the funeral, we went back to the airport, flew on the airplane back to a place called Kennewick, Washington, did another Christmas show that night, all of that without any sleep. We did not miss a show but the most important thing is we were able to keep our promise to President Bush.

See the Oak Ridge Boys in Salem, Va, with Alabama TONIGHT and check out the rest of their tour schedule here.

Photos courtesy of Oak Ridge Boys via Facebook and

One On One Interview With Richard Sterban Of The Oak Ridge Boys

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Rockie Lynne Talks The Art Of Songwriting & Bartending For Charity

Rockie Lynne Talks The Art Of Songwriting & Bartending For Charity

One thing I really love about Rockie Lynne is that he didn’t let a little bit of fame go to his head. His main focus is on helping people in need. From all of his work with and for the troops that we discussed in our last interview, with Operation Build and Tribute To The Troops, to his stint bartending at D’Laney’s Sports Bar for charity this week, he is one of the first to pitch in when an opportunity to help presents itself. Tonight, you can catch Rockie live in Statesville at a really cool venue, The Twisted Oak. [Read more…]