ACM, CMA, and CMT-nominated duo Love and Theft, made up of singer/songwriters
Stephen Barker Liles and Eric Gunderson, first hit the scene with their debut single
“Runaway” which landed in the top 10 on the Billboard Country Charts. They
followed it up with their #1 platinum hit, “Angel Eyes,” from their self-titled album
from RCA Records Nashville. The album also yielded “If You Ever Get Lonely,”
“Running Out of Air,” and fan-favorite “Amen.” Their latest single, “Night That You’ll
Never Forget,” is the first release from their new album due out later this year.
Celebrated for the distinctive style, sparkling harmonies, and sonic depth, Love and
Theft is currently hard at work on their next album with producer Josh Leo
(Alabama) and can be seen on tour throughout the country.
Joel Crouse is a breakthrough country pop artist recording on the Show Dog – Universal Music label. Today, at 20 years of age, the Nashville singer/songwriter is creating his debut album in collaboration with Country/Pop/Rock producer Jamie Houston.
From opening a sold out show at the oldest dance hall in Texas, to singing on the top of a snow-covered mountain in Colorado, Shane Smith and The Saints have managed to cover serious ground in the Texas music front without an album to their name. After two years of hard work, the wait is finally over with the highly-anticipated release of the debut album Coast.
After playing music throughout his adolescence, Smith decided to take the leap in 2010 and devote his life to music. Though never easy, Smith looks at the opportunity with nothing but humility and wide-eyed enthusiasm. “When I listen to songs from artists like Guy Clark, Hayes Carll and Adam Carroll, I’m reminded of how powerful music can be and the ways it can move people. I look at music as a never ending opportunity to truly impact a listener.” It is this unyielding passion and love of the open road that have provided Smith and The Saints with a deep seeded relentlessness to perform on as many stages as possible. “Music’s ability get through a day of work, relieve a tough time or even causing a person to dance for the first time in years, I think that is my favorite part about doing this… seeing a reaction from the song. I hope they find that in Coast.”
Almost all of the miles traveled have been spent with the passenger seat occupied by fiddle player and long-time friend, Bennett Brown. Accompanying Smith and Brown are Tim Allen on lead guitar, Jordan Rochefort on drums and Brian Wolfe on bass. The past few years of travel and camaraderie have helped the band develop the weathered grit sound of old roots rock and traditional country. Many different audiences have been able to kick up their heels to Smith and are now looking forward to hearing the band on the air.
The album’s music reflects relationships made on the road over the past years. Recorded and co-produced by Bob Gentry in the pines of east Texas, the debut album Coast features 13 tracks of powerful multi-part harmonies, in-your-face fiddle riffs and the driving rhythms that make roots music so unique. Coast features guest appearances from Aaron Watson and members of both The Trishas & Turnpike Troubadours.
Tracking the record was no easy task. Spanning a total of two years in and out of studios, all while juggling a 180 shows-per-year schedule; Smith has fought a very long fight to arrive at this debut. That effort along with the relationships made between the members of the band over the years are reflected in the debut single “Coast,” carrying their sound to Texas radio airwaves this summer.
In 2010 Mike Ryan rose above 80 other competitors to win the 95.9 The
Ranch Pickin’ Party singer/songwriter competition, and every indication
pointed to more musical success in the near future. His EP “The First One”
was released that summer and produced 2 singles, “Slow Hand” and
“Won’t Let it Show” that both reached the top 25 on the Texas Music
Educated and easy going, Mike’s musical influences are as vast and varied
as growing up in the internet age allows. Some favorites of his would
include The Allman Brothers, The Eagles, ZZ Top The Rolling Stones,
AC/DC….Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, Bill Withers….Bob
Dylan, Elton John, Stevie Wonder… and they continue on down the list for
about a mile and a half. Some of his favorite guitar players would be SRV,
Gibbons, Mayer and Paisley.
With hisfirst full length album “Night Comes Falling”, Mike established himself as a prominent figure
among his peers and has solidified his own promising future in country music. Ryan emanates a
competitive spirit when it comes to his career and his strong work ethic is credited for his dedication to
his craft. “I don’t want to let things slip away because I didn’t work hard
enough, or somebody else was better and worked harder.” His hard work has paid off.
He spent his college years at the University of North Texas which gave him the opportunity to be
influenced and inspired by the large, eclectic musical community there as well. Mike Ryan is a genuine
guy with genius talent, and the vision to surround himself with first rate musicians to help him maintain
his direction, and you can bet that when the curtains roll back they’ll light up the stage.
In March of 2013 Mike’s song writing talent led him to a publishing deal with Sea Gayle Music out of
Nashville, Tennessee. Sea Gayle is widely considered one of the top publishing companies in Nashville
and in country music. Later, in the fall of 2013 Mike added the APA talent agency out of Nashville to
handle his tour booking.
At an early age, he’s poured a strong foundation for limitless and long-standing career. The strength of
his ever-expanding guitar and vocal ability, as well as the desire to organize and maintain a band of bad
asses, prove he is building a career to weather any storm. When it comes to Mike Ryan, whether it’s
listening to recordings or seeing him live, you realize you just experienced something special. The good
kind of special. And then BAM! …he finds a place in your list of favorites. You want more. You want to do
it again. Mike Ryan is the real deal in a refreshingly down-to-earth package. Sincere smile included.
It obviously takes some degree of talent to make it in the music business. It also takes killer songs that mesh the perfect lyric with a fitting and compelling arrangement. But perhaps the hardest, most frustrating part of the whole ordeal are the roles that timing, cosmic alignment, being in the right place at the right time, and pure unadulterated passion play. That matrix of unidentifiable variables that come together for some, while conspiring against others is what Josh Grider explores on his newest album, Luck & Desire.
Luck & Desire didn’t start out as an album title. “’Luck and Desire was just this song I had about songwriters and the music business.” Josh explains. “One day Jeff Middleton (co-writer) and I were talking about all the folks, ourselves included, that come to Nashville chasing a dream. They’ll lose money, time, and spouses, even their minds trying to figure out how to make it in this crazy business. We talked about how opportunity has so little to do with talent, and so much to do with timing. That led us to this idea of personifying desire and luck, and the interplay they have. You gotta get lucky, but a lot of that is just hanging around long enough for the chance, and even then there are no guarantees.”
Josh got his chance. The Las Cruces, New Mexico native moved to Nashville by way of Texas in early 2011 just to “try something different.” There, he hung around Music Row for a few years meeting fellow songwriters, signing a publishing deal, and building a network of like-minded peers who challenged his writing and supported his dreams. One of them was fellow singer/songwriter and soon-to-be producer, Trent Willmon. The connection was mighty. “He’s savvy,” Josh explains. “He understands what being an artist is. He understands what being a writer is. He understands Texas and Nashville, and he understands the road. He understands so much of what I do, and the proof is in the pudding. We made a great record.”
That was the goal—to make a great record. But for Josh, it was about more than just making an album that would sell well or produce a litany of number-one hits. He says his goal was “to make something artistically satisfying enough for the purist in me, but relatable enough that I could play it for my dad.” He pauses and explains, “My dad is a smart guy, but he’s not a studied musician or anything, he’s just a lover country music.” Indeed he is. He raised Josh on the classics, the legends. Merle Haggard, Marty Robbins and Willie Nelson are the foundation that Grider builds on, but his own generation of musical peers is also present in his music. “Dave Matthews was a huge influence. John Mayer and Chris Thile make me want to just quit,” he laughs. “I’m just blown away by everything those guys do. I could never do what they do, but I’m certainly challenged by them. For me, they are setting the bar for songwriters in our generation.”
Before you discount Josh as another young artist trying to “pop” the country format, listen to his explanation of how his diverse musical influences, which also include a generous dose of Garth Brooks Tracy Lawrence, Alan Jackson…and even a touch of Dr. Dre…meld: “I always say, if my musical influence was a house, it’s built on a rock solid concrete foundation of country. But, there’s a blues room I can walk in and a jazz room and a classical room, but no matter how many rooms there are, I’m always standing on country.”
Josh’s confidence is unflappable. His mix of traditional and modern influences has combined to make a living, breathing collection of songs that range from ethereal and pensive, to light-hearted and downright funny. He makes no more apologies for his electronic loops than he does for his thoughtful lyrics. He proudly says, “I’m not ashamed of one thing on this record. I love traditional country music, but I doubt anybody will call this a traditional country album. I’ve got all the respect in the world for what was done, but I also believe that you’ve got to keep moving the ball forward. New stuff has got to keep happening. I’m not going to do it better than Haggard did it, so I’m not going to try and do that. I need to sound like me. My goal is to be greater than the sum of my influences. Not better than, but distinguishable from. Hopefully that’s what you’ll hear in Luck & Desire.”
The formally trained singer, who remembers pressing, “play” on his Fisher Price tape recorder to hear Ricky Skaggs “Heartbroke,” always knew country was where he belonged. Even though he played guitar in a jazz combo in high school, and received a scholarship to attend college and study classical voice, it only took one night performing in a Waco honky-tonk for Josh’s relationship with his roots to be cemented. “There was this night at Six-Shooter Junction in Waco, Texas. We had a little thrown-together band and played some cover songs, and I was done. I had already been in this little jazz thing, and they wanted me to sing classical at school, but fronting a band and singing country songs was the place I knew I was meant to be.”
Josh began putting pen to paper in high school and soon realized his passion. He beams when he says, “Writing is my favorite thing in the world. I’m very fortunate to be given the ability to deliver what I write, and I guess that’s why singing the songs I wrote is my second favorite thing in the world.” Writing is more than a job for Josh. It’s a passion that allows him to chronicle his life, and a therapy that helps him make sense of the world around him. When speaking about song selection for Luck and Desire he says, “I just started looking at what I had been writing and all of the sudden these themes of want, and need, and desire, and getting or not getting what you want started surfacing.” According to Josh, that is just what seems to happen. “There will be seasons in my life and things that I go through that will definitely influence my writing. It’s really neat to go back and look at how the songs reflect what I was going through in my life and how I was trying to work it out musically.”
He’s a thinking man’s writer with an incredible baritone voice that delivers lyrics directly to his listener’s soul. But he also has a keen funny bone, and he cleverly bookends Luck & Desire with evidence to both of this attributes. He calls the title track the entrance music to this melodic movie and “One Night Taco Stand” the hilarious outtake reel. Listen closely—the front end of the album is loaded with luck, but the project wraps with pure desire.
There is, too, an unspoken theme to Luck & Desire that Josh is most proud of. “Luck and Desire definitely play a big thematic role in this album,” he says. “But that particular song sort of ends sadly for desire. I think there’s more hope than that in the record. Overall, I want there to be hope, because I have hope. Without it what the hell is the point? I say focus on the good and believe that something good is going to happen, and it just might.”
For more information check out www.joshgrider.com.