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.

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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.

Get Social With Catherine Britt

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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 RichardSterban.com.

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

Get Social With 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…]

Ray Scott On The Rise Of Independent Artists Finding Success Through Social Media & Satellite Radio

Ray Scott On The Rise Of Independent Artists Finding Success Through Social Media & Satellite Radio

Having scored four #1s in the United Kingdom and being an artist who has received major airplay on SiriusXM, Ray Scott knows a thing or two about how to be successful in the music business, all without having the backing of a major record label, I might add. He recently released his 5th studio album, “Guitar For Sale” and is currently working on an EP entitled, “Honky Tonk Heart,” scheduled to be released in October. You can see him locally at Muddy Creek Cafe and Music Hall in Winston-Salem Saturday night. We recently chatted with Scott about the rise of independent artists and how they are finding success in non-traditional ways, as well as where you can find the best chicken in Nashville. Naturally. [Read more…]

Exile Interview: Marlon Hargis On “Kiss You All Over” 40th Anniversary

Exile Interview: Marlon Hargis On "Kiss You All Over" 40th Anniversary

When I worked in radio, Exile was a staple of my playlist. I just knew that I could play them and, not only do I love their music, but I knew my audience would, too. They just have that sound, you know? Everyone knows “Kiss You All Over” and I absolutely love that song, but other personal favorites of mine are “Nobody’s Talking” and “I Can’t Get Close Enough.” Can you believe I haven’t seen them in concert though? That’s all about to change on Labor Day and I am super excited about it. I got a chance to talk with Exile’s Marlon Hargis about the band’s anniversary, their current tour schedule and more. Read on for all the details. [Read more…]

Catching Up With Kasey Tyndall At Carolina Country Music Fest #CCMF2018

Catching Up With Kasey Tyndall At Carolina Country Music Fest #CCMF2018

Last week I attended the 4th annual Carolina Country Music Fest in Myrtle Beach, SC. Let me tell you, it was hot. So hanging out on an air conditioned RV and chatting with North Carolina native, Kasey Tyndall, was a welcome reprieve. She was fresh off of Parmalee’s “Hotdamalama” tour as well as a performance in Nashville for CMAFest. I actually caught a show in the “Hotdamalama” tour but Kasey wasn’t on that particular bill so I was glad to finally get to meet her at Carolina Country Music Fest. Ronda and I got to get out of the Myrtle Beach heat and chill with Kasey on an air conditioned tour bus. Life is good. 😉 [Read more…]

Lewis Brice Interview: Can You Duet, Joey and Rory & Brotherly Love

Lewis Brice Interview: Can You Duet, Joey and Rory & Brotherly Love

Interviewing Lewis Brice at this year’s Carolina Country Music Fest was unlike any other artist interview that I had ever taken part in previously. I met up with some of his crew, caught the end of his set and watched as he did a meet and greet with a line of very eager fans. Then I got to go backstage as we preceded to walk through a crowd to the RV where the interview was to take place. Along the way, several fans stopped him to asked for autographs and pictures and such, to which he happily obliged. I even held his beer while he signed a few things. So ladies, I like to think I helped make this happen for you in a very tiny way, lol. He sang along to Morgan Wallen’s “Up Down” [Wallen was on stage as we were walking to the RV] so I feel like I even got my own little impromptu concert.

Lewis Brice Interview: Can You Duet, Joey and Rory & Brotherly Love

EPR: So you had two performances here this year?

Lewis Brice: I did.

EPR: Are you going to do anymore? Or where are you going next?

Lewis Brice: I think I am done for today. So I had 2:30 on the stage right there – it was awesome. I had a great time. And then I had the Blue Moon Tent, which was fantastic. I mean, it was packed in there.

EPR: And you did meet and greets.

Lewis Brice: Yeah, meet and greets at that. And so, I’ve been rock and rolling all day, since I got here.

EPR: Are meet and greets typical at your shows?

Lewis Brice: Yeah, we are getting more and more. Now I guess I am doing a little better and better so people are requesting meet and greets so yeah we are doing meet and greets at shows and stuff like that.

EPR: That’s cool. A lot of people really love that you know? How many shows do you usually do a year?

Lewis Brice: Weekend Warrior, if that puts it in perspective – about 4 days a week. It comes out to about 180 to almost 200 something like that.

Lewis Brice Interview: Can You Duet, Joey and Rory & Brotherly Love

EPR: So where are you going next?

Lewis Brice: Well, I am finally finishing up CMA Fest this week and Carolina Country Music Fest. I fly back tomorrow, actually, and I have one more CMA Fest show. So I’ve had like 3 shows this week and then today and then tomorrow I have one more show, acoustic. When I get done with that, I am done for at least one day. Then I’m back on the road – I think I have a show in Ohio on the 21st, back in Nashville the 23rd. From there I am off to the races. I know I am playing Maine, I’m thinking I’ll be in Minneapolis, Oregon.

EPR: So you are from South Carolina, right?

Lewis Brice: Just 2 hours down the road from Myrtle Beach, right down Myrtle Beach Highway in Sumter, SC.

EPR: So this is kind of like your stomping grounds. Do you get to come back to South Carolina a lot?

Lewis Brice: More holidays now. We are so busy. I live in Nashville. I mean my favorite times to come back are Thanksgiving and Christmas. And then we go camping right here at North Myrtle Beach, around the Little River area. So, we actually made the Myrtle Beach News a couple of years ago, I think we did. It said “Loud Explosions In The North Myrtle Beach Little River Area That Nobody Can See!” We go on a camping trip every year, in the middle of the swamp and just have a good time.

EPR: Obviously having a really good time. [laughs]

Lewis Brice: Yeah, we make noise. [laughs]

EPR: So people who are on the outside who didn’t get invited get to know? That’s kind of messed up isn’t it? [laughs]

Lewis Brice: [laughs] Well, you know, that’s a very personal trip. It’s like 6 of us at the most. And we just sit in the woods for 3 days and that’s our 3 days to not worry about our cell phones or anything. It’s our 3 days a year off.

EPR: You need more than 3 days, but hey, 3 days is 3 days.

Lewis Brice: Awww, if I’m awake, I’m working.

Lewis Brice Interview: Can You Duet, Joey and Rory & Brotherly Love

EPR: Alright. Alright. So tell me about your partnership with the Disabled American Vets.

Lewis Brice: It’s really awesome. I met Mike – he got in a pretty bad spot. He couldn’t find a job, this, that and the other and I met him today for the first time. I talked to him a couple of days ago. And the service he gave, just what he did for our country. Now, he has his own organization, or he’s working with the organization. He’s just an inspiring person, you know? I can’t even imagine being in his position, when the bullets are flying at you. Somewhere else in the world where the people around you, they aren’t fans of you. It’s crazy what he put up with.

He’s just a good dude. I’ll hang out with him after the show today. I think he’s still around. I think he’s back in the room. I told him to come back a little later, we’ll have a couple of cold ones.

EPR: That sounds like a good day. So you were on “Can You Duet?”

Lewis Brice: I was. I moved to Nashville over 10 years ago. A couple of years in, I was able to go on a show called “Can You Duet?” through CMT. And we did well, I got the Top 8. It was a great, great experience, it really was. I learned a lot about the business, in the TV sense, I guess. A lot of it was like hurry up and wait, but the talented people I was fortunate enough to meet on that show, my buddies Brownell & Richey, Nick Brownell and Jeremiah Richey.

I met a couple other people – some of my favorite people I met on the season were Joey and Rory. They were on my season, God bless her soul. They were the sweetest people in the world and I was able to become friends with them. But everything that happened with her… their base on faith, it’s awesome. It’s an amazing, beautiful thing. Man, Rory, he’s just a great dude. Joey, she was a beautiful soul.

EPR: They seemed like they genuinely cared for each other.

Lewis Brice: 110,000%. When I met them, that’s exactly – you saw them, wherever you saw them, that’s exactly who they were. They were some of my favorite people. They loved each other, they loved life. They were just beautiful human beings. I think out of that season, I was just fortunate to meet them.

EPR: Yeah, and like 1000s of people try to get on that show.

Lewis Brice: I think they said the number was like 3 or 4 or 5,000 or something like that. I was able to make the Top 8, so…

Lewis Brice Interview: Can You Duet, Joey and Rory & Brotherly Love

EPR: Were you nervous? Was that a nerve wracking show for you?

Lewis Brice: It was kind of nerve wracking because there’s a differene between playing on TV and playing in front of an audience. In front of audiences, you can be a little more live and a little more loose, but on TV they hear every word and every inflection in your voice. Yeah, I was a little nervous. I don’t get nervous that often, but for that I did.

EPR: Do you have to sing differently [on TV]? I know you were talking about every inflection or whatever, but is it a different style entirely – how you use your voice?

Lewis Brice: You really have to hear your voice. It’s not really – you gotta sing how you are going to sing. I would have to learn a lot more about singing, like I would have to scream to sing I guess if I were trying to sing sing. But when you are in the studio or on TV and it’s right there, you hear everything, so it’s more singing than it is the former, I guess.

Lewis Brice Interview: Can You Duet, Joey and Rory & Brotherly Love

EPR: So, you and your brother [country singer Lee Brice] have both been able to make it in the music industry. Is it odd at family reunions and get togethers that so many people are doing well? Any fun rivalries?

Lewis Brice: Actually it’s really awesome. Honestly, it’s a cool thing. I mean, 2 brothers working it out in country music. So, it works out well. Him and I work very well together. We are best friends and he helped me produce my last album and I helped him produce the new album. I tell you, he’s a work horse. I’ve learned a lot from him and when we get together he believes in that music just as much as I believe in it. I’m very blessed to have a good brother like him. We’ve done a really good job to keep separate I guess.

EPR: So, you have made a lot of lists like, “New Country Artists To Know,” and “Ten Artists To Watch.” How do feel about that? On such big label magazines.

Lewis Brice: When it comes to musicians, Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone Magazine – when I woke up and I saw that I had that article in Rolling Stone Magazine, I was like “Geez, that’s crazy!” I was also in Billboard this past year. I’m going to try and prove them right. I’m going to keep on working and I have new music coming out.

Check out Lewis Brice’s tour dates here.

Lewis Brice Interview: Can You Duet, Joey and Rory & Brotherly Love

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