South By Midwest

EllieMay Kay

EllieMay Kay was born with a name destined for country music. Luckily, she’s got the voice, too”a honeyed twang that belies the fact that she’s actually a Midwesterner raised outside of Chicago. Now living in Nashville, the singer is committed to making a name for herself in the city that country dreams are made of. Like many a country artist, she knows how to paint a picture of a wholesome upbringing while infusing the lyrics with humor. Case in point: The Girl with the Fishin’ Rod, a honky-tonk boot-scooter about growing up country. While other girls primped and preened, Kay was out with Grandpa castin’ and reelin’ and catching looks from boys. You Get Me is a lazy love song that details all Kay’s quirks, from tie-dyed hippie shirts to midnight chocolate urges. On Beautiful As Usual the country coquette delivers a yawning, country pop nugget that rocks and rolls you . Trading the fishing rod for a mic was a smart move.


Low-Country Seduction

Coles Whalen
Coles Whalen is a woman who makes things happen. When she wanted to jumpstart her music career she bought a pickup truck, toured the country and sold CDs out of the back. Then, when opportunity knocked and kept knocking, she picked up her guitar to open for artists like Joan Jett, Pat Benatar, Rufus Wainwright, and yes, even Akon in Montreal, Nashville, Denver, and all points in between. But it isn’t just sheer will that’s gotten Whalen to where she is today. Her homespun blend of bluesy, swampy folk has something to do with it. On Wake Up Easy Whalen breezily sings, You’re making coffee, making the bed / I kind of feel like making something else instead. A languorous piano, creaking washboard and softly shaken percussion help create a mood of sleepy-eyed seduction. Those coy turns-of-phrases continue in The Getting Side, a bluesy mid-tempo strut where Whalen warns, If you’re giving your love, make sure it’s me on the getting side. A backwoods coquette, Whalen knows how to woo her listeners. Make sure you stay on the getting side with this one.

“Wake Up Easy” – Coles Whalen

Bourjeaurd's Big Break

While Canadian country singer-songwriter Danielle Bourjeaurd has been performing since before she can even remember, some pretty amazing things have been happening in her musical career as of late. This talented young woman”known for her incredible voice and stage presence”placed in the Top 2 for OurStage’s Capital Hoedown Showdown Competition, and we think she has what it takes to go all the way.

Bourjeaurd’s song “Way Too Late”, which was publicly released on Ottawa’s radio station Y101 in July, is now being played on Canadian country radio in all provinces. And because of her success throughout Canada, she has been nominated to play FanFest at the Canadian Country Music Awards. Show your support for Danielle, and check out her video “Way Too Late” here!

Grace Potter Talks Robert Plant, Kenny Chesney, and Nocturnal Awakenings

The recent Americana Music Awards in Nashville may be over, but Grace Potter’s still savoring her memories of the event.Besides mingling with such country, bluegrass and Americana heavyweights as Rosanne Cash, The Avett Brothers, the Courtyard Hounds, and John Mellencamp, Potter had the chance to chat with Robert Plant, who has embraced Americana despite his long rock legacy.

by Adrien Broom

“It was so awesome. My life was changed forever,” said Potter. “Not only did I meet Robert Plant, but he knew who I was. I was completely bowled over¦.Normally I wouldn’t brag about that but in the whole world, he is my model. He’s graceful, serene and all about being the bad boy, too.”

The smart money bets that Potter will have plenty more household name artists seek her out in the coming months. Ever since Grace Potter & the Nocturnals burst onto the scene in 2007 after signing with Hollywood Records, they’ve caused a ruckus among music lovers.

Now that she’s done a duet with Kenny Chesney on the song “Hemingway’s Whiskey,” the title track of Chesney’s new album that was released September 28th, the buzz is louder than ever.

“It still feels really fresh to me,” said Potter of the song and her excitement at his request for her to join him in song. “When [Kenny] emailed and asked me to join him, I couldn’t stop thinking of [his] song ‘She Thinks my Tractor is Sexy.'”

Although she knew of Chesney’s talent, Potter said she was wasn’t prepared for the beauty of “Hemingway’s Whiskey.”

“It was stripped down and beautiful,” she said. “[I especially loved] the really nice, subtle drums. I thought the song was just magic as it was¦.[For the full version] they didn’t want it too fancy or over produced or polished. I felt it was the perfect song for me to be a part of and it was a bit of a departure for Kenny, something his voice fits perfectly into¦.He’s such an amazing vocalist.”

By Adrien Broom

Although her goal is to tour with Chesney, for right now Potter is focused on her own tours and promoting the band’s self-titled album that was released in June. The Vermont-based group’s new line up has made it more hard-charging and working with producer Mark Batson has finally propelled Grace Potter & the Nocturnals into a musical space they’ve always wanted to inhabit.

“This is just what I always wanted,” said Potter of the sound. “This album was almost 10 years in the making and it’s exciting to absorb it¦.The band is my focal point right now.”

And it’s on fire, with players grabbing sounds from each other and advancing them in certain ways, which gives the music elasticity. That’s why the music might take on more of a country vibe at a Nashville concert but add dollops of soul when they take a Memphis stage.

“We are very much a chameleon band,” said Potter. “I celebrate that we have this gray area. Our show has changed to [not just incorporate more] country but bringing around sexy style too. I’m not afraid to shake it and dance on stage.”

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals are on tour. For a complete list of dates and cities, check here.

By Nancy Dunham

Nancy Dunham writes about music for Country Weekly, AOL Music’s site The Boot, The Washington Post, Relix and other publications.

Check out Grace Potter and the Nocturnals’ new video for Paris (Ooh La La) below, and see vintage Grace in a video interview on OurStage from 2008.

Country IS A Little Bit Rock 'N' Roll

During Punk Rock’s first mid-’70s era there was much dismissal of Country Rock in New Wave music circles.  By 1995,  the genre of  New Country,  an infusion of mainstream Country with Rock influence, had gone so on the nerves that prejudice against its predecessor, the  psychedelic sounds of Space-Age Country, seemed to automatically lift.  It was that same year I heard Beachwood Sparks, and then, Alternative Country ‘zine No Depression made its debut indicating a resurgence of the popularity of Country.

I See Hawks In LA (L-R) Shawn Nourse, Paul Lacques, Paul Marshall, Rob Waller

Since, Country Rock has evolved to include elements of nearly every genre. Los Angeles, for example, in the new century has spawned local nature-themed bands I See Hawks In L.A. and Old Californio.  I See Hawks In L.A. features rich, deep vocals complimented by gritty but pure-in-instrumentation sound on their five CDs (Shoulda Been Gold, being their latest). Old Californio on the other hand, offers psychedelic bounce and in-the-pocket, ethereal jams such as those heard on their 2009 album Westerning Again and songs  from their forthcoming album, which they’ve recently debuted at their live shows.  The geography and environment in which we live, said Californio’s Justin Smith, is as much of an influence as the music itself, and that follows with our releases; we don’t rely on people from the outside to make this a visible thing.

Old Californio (L-R) Paul Lacques: Lap Steel, Woody Aplanalp: Guitar, Jason Chesney: Bass, Justin Smith: Drums, Rich Dembowski: Guitar & Mustache, Levi Nunez: Keys

Austin, Texas  Country artist, producer and songwriter Jesse Dayton‘s sound embodies a post-Cramps roots-country garage tone with a thankfully greasy edge. On his forthcoming album One For The Dancehalls Dayton is branching out, writing with songwriter’s like Universal’s Trent Summar, Damon Bramblett and recording a song by Nick Lowe.

Laura Cantrell

Originally from Nashville, Tennessee, Laura Cantrell chose New York City to cultivate her own brand of  folk rock-infused Country music  to compliment her clear, angelic voice “ best heard above sparse instrumentation.   Cantrell is currently completing her fifth album, this one to be based on the music of Kitty Wells, now 91.  Cantrell said,  It was a real thrill to think that I could pay some tribute  in a way that might bring it honor.  It also helped work through the realities of having a music career, family and interest in the history and continuity of Country music during this post-digital music environment.

By Domenic Priore

Domenic Priore is a music journalist, author and DJ based in Los Angeles. In addition to writing for some of the most recognized music rags in the world, Domenic is the author of Riot on Sunset Strip: Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Last Stand in Hollywood.

What's Brewing In Country: Band To Fan Loyalty

Picture the beer taps at your favorite pub for a moment and think about how you always tell the barkeep you want the brew from a particular one.
Now picture the beer taps sans logos but with faces of major country music stars (seriously, stay with us here) “ Brad Paisley, Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw, Alison Krauss, Taylor Swift, and the Court Yard Hounds for starters. The suds and the stars may have more in common than you think.

It’s a good bet you are loyal to your beer of choice and not just because of taste. Grassroots marketing likely made it a staple with your family and friends who introduced you to it as if it was another friend. That’s the same reason many fans pledge allegiance to certain country musicians.

Unlike musicians in rock, pop, hip hop and other formats, it’s fairly unusual for country musicians to appear on YouTube or MySpace one day and on major heavy rotation lists the next. A lot has changed since the Grand Ol’ Opry was appointment radio, but one thing has remained true “ country fans put enormous stock into country musicians that honor the community.

To determine which of the up-and-coming country performers of today — Lissie, Sons of Sylvia, Truth & Salvage Co. to name a few “ will be tomorrow’s amphitheatre stars, consider their commitment to their fans.
Let’s face it “ Taylor Swift didn’t have a 15-hour meet and greet at this summer’s CMA Music Fest in Nashville because she found herself with downtime “ she did it because country royalty is made and broken by fan interaction.

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Doubt that? Consider the Zac Brown Band. Less than 10 years ago, Zac Brown was just another guy in Georgia with a small family business “ Zac’s Place, a restaurant he owned and managed with his dad — and a dream. On weekends he’d grill up food, invite the members of the Zac Brown Band over to play, and create his own mini festival right outside the restaurant. Weekdays the band spent on the road playing concerts and hosting eat-and-greets to build the fan base.

Although Zac’s now flying high with awards, sold-out shows and critical acclaim, he frets about not having enough face time with his fans. That’s one reason the group bought a new culinary trailer, so they can feed more fans when the band tours behind its September 21 album release “ aptly named — “You Get What You Give.”

You don’t need to ask if Bomshel, Gary Nichols or Megan Mullins will be tomorrow’s mega country star. Watch how loyal they are to fans and vice versa. Then you’ll know.

Nancy Dunham

Nancy Dunham writes about music for Country Weekly, AOL Music’s site The Boot, The Washington Post, Relix and others.