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The story of Midnight River Choir is proof that sometimes great bands just happen. One night, four strangers ended up on a late night float trip down the Guadalupe River. As they made their way down the river singing songs, the beautiful harmonies floated into the heads of sleeping campers. The next morning, the boys overheard a man telling a friend that he was “awakened by a midnight river choir.” That was all it took. Eric Middleton (lead singer and guitarist), Justin Nelson (lead guitarist), Jeromy Yager (former bassist), and Mitchell Pyeatt (drummer), realized the magic of their combined talents and began writing and performing together under that River-God given name.
The formation of Midnight River Choir was nothing short of a force of nature that now translates seamlessly during their live shows. This band needs no labels or comparisons. Their music speaks volumes about who and what they are. Their lives have been woven together by a strong thread of energy both on and off stage. That energy is raw and natural and soaked up from the earth through their bare feet. They believe that what you get is what you give and they give everything they have to their crowds. When that kind of energy lands back at the feet of the boys it is something of supreme intensity. And no one ever forgets it.
With roots buried deep within the genres of blues, alt. country, americana, soul, and a major influence of old-fashioned American rock and roll, it’s extremely hard to describe exactly what brand of music you’re hearing coming from whatever stage or stereo system the Offenders are occupying. But one thing is for sure. It refuses to go unnoticed. And what good is music once it’s been labeled anyway?
The guys released their debut album, ‘Shape of it All,’ late in the summer of 2007 and have sent several songs to the top requested lists – including the number 1 song of 2008 on radiofreetexas.org, ‘Fallin From High.’
The band spent much of 2009 gearing up for the release of their much anticipated ‘Lee Road Sessions’ EP to be followed up with a full length album of entirely all new material.
Now, after teaming up with famed producer Mike McClure, the third record is complete and will be released January 18th, 2011. ‘Not Broken Yet’ is a 13 track (12 new, 1 re-recorded) album of material unlike anything you have ever heard from Hunter McKithan & the Offenders. Be sure to grab a copy of the album and catch a live show next time they’re in your area.
Anyone wondering about Wood & Wire’s sound need not look any further than the four-piece band’s name, which honors the purity of acoustic instruments and the gorgeous music a skilled artist can coax out of just simple wood and wire.
Founded in 2010, Wood & Wire’s core members are Tony Kamel on lead vocals and guitar, Dominic Fisher on Bass, and Trevor Smith on Banjo. Their sound, as Smith puts it, is “a modern take on traditional mountain, hillbilly, and country music”. In just a few short years, the band has had the honor of playing notable festivals and venues across the country like The Telluride Bluegrass Festival and Old Settlers Music Festival. Later in 2014, they’ll make their way across the country playing Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Oak Hill, NY and the IBMA Street Fair in Raleigh, NC. After that the guys will make their way home to Austin to play the Austin City Limits Music Festival.
In February 2013, the band released their self-titled debut album to much critical acclaim. In March of this year, the guys began work on their follow up album working again with Grammy nominated producer/engineer Erick Jaskowiak in Nashville, TN. Their second effort is a coming of age collection of original songs based on real and personal experiences with a coastal theme and is set for release in early 2015. While Kamel is the primary songwriter and vocalist, his tunes become Wood & Wire tunes when coupled with the talents, insight, and ideas of Fisher and Smith. The album will also feature an original written and sung by Fisher and an eclectic instrumental composed by Smith.
Touring heavily to round out the second half of 2014, the band has recently enlisted the talents of Billy Bright on the mandolin. Billy is a veteran in the acoustic music world having toured with Peter Rowan for many years and worked with heavy hitting legends like Tony Rice and Vassar Clements.
Wood & Wire is poised to have a another breakout year; as they bring fiery bluegrass footstompers and loose, acoustic jams to packed venues across the country, it’ll be hard to say who’s having a better time: the band or the crowd.
Libby Koch (pronounced “coke”) is a Houston-based Americana singer-songwriter. Named Songwriter of the Year by the Houston Press (2013), Koch draws from a classic Americana blend of country, folk and rock, and cites Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, Janis Joplin, Patty Griffin, Gillian Welch and Dolly Parton among her influences.
ordinary elephant is an acoustic songwriting duo out of Houston, TX
Staunchly independent, Nick Verzosa has proven to be that necessary mix of pure talent, hard work and personality required to dig deep roots into the always competitive Texas music market and shows the ability to spread his branches outside the state lines as well. His strong belief in working hard for what you want is self-evident in his road-warrior mentality, still finding time to vigilantly hone his songwriting craft, which he would tell you is his true passion. Relatable lyrics flow over the smooth gravel in the bottom of Nick’s voice and tumble powerfully over the edge in the most poignant moments of his songs.
Backed by his band, The Noble Union, Nick has supplied loyal listeners with some new provisions in the form of their brand new EP, LOVE IN PRINCIPLE out April 2014.
LOVE IN PRINCIPLE is just a taste, an appetizer to whet the appetite for their full length album release in the spring of 2015. This six-song EP is produced by AJ Vallejo, a multi-dimensional artist recognized not only for his success in the notorious Austin-based rock band Vallejo, but also for his production chops on projects that include Jessica Kellner (NBC’s “The Voice”) and American Idol alumni Kendall Beard. AJ also stars as producer on the band’s debut music video for the first single “Love On It”.
The belief and support surrounding Nick Verzosa and the Noble Union boasts a pedigree of great distinction including universally respected and admired songwriter, artist and producer Walt Wilkins who produced the band’s first EP, THE SMOKING GUN in 2010 and their first full length album, SHE ONLY LOVES ME in 2011. Combined, these two noteworthy efforts brought in five Top 40 singles on the Texas Music Chart establishing the College Station-based band as a respected contender for the attention of the great Texas music fan base. While they continue to build a lasting impression among fans, they have already earned the respect, love and reputation as a tight, professional group, by many of their brothers and sisters in arms. A force on the live music circuit, tackling an upwards of 200 shows a year, Nick Verzosa and the Noble Union are consummate entertainers snagging co-bills with acts like Chris Young, Reckless Kelly, Kyle Park, Josh Grider, Brandon Rhyder, Gary P. Nunn and Six Market Blvd. The growing buzz is contagious, and music fans are responding quite nicely to Verzosa’s kind of medicine. “Most people can’t afford a therapist. Music is the best kind of therapy I’ve got.”
“Sam Riggs wears a legacy of honest country, makes good rock, writes lyrics that matter and straps on a stage presence second to none.” — Ray Wylie Hubbard
Receiving a hand up in this business of music from the likes of Ray Wylie Hubbard is no small accomplishment, and that mentorship – and sometimes harsh instruction – was not lost on Sam Riggs, who has had the fortunate opportunity to meander through Wylie’s cerebral countryside over the last few years. At the time of their meeting, Riggs was already a commercially-viable songwriter with an impressive root system, having sprung from his family’s musical genes; but he was still feeding off the unripe fruits of his youth. Through the songwriting school of Hubbard, he learned the time-honored virtue of patience and the aptitude for turning the rough and tumble falls to the ground into a steady, recovered gait.
“He opened my eyes to songwriting, and I could see the idiot I had been and the idiot I was going to be, and he helped me to navigate that. He taught me what it really is to be a songwriter.”
Those rough and tumble falls steadily began upon Riggs’ relocation in 2007 from his home base in Florida to Austin, Texas, after some friends brought him a CD from the prominent Texas-based band, Reckless Kelly. Their unprocessed lyrics and raw production hit Riggs squarely between the eyes, like hammer on nail, driving him to plant his personal flag in a place where he could be his own artist. His inception was less than spectacular, as he struggled to imprint himself on the hearts of Texas Music fans while also drawing heavy influence from commercial radio. With hard stares and indifferent responses, Riggs diligently worked to strip down the polish and bring out the more natural shine – a task that resulted from the truth that, as Riggs so accurately put it, “You can’t bullshit a Texan.” The experience was both a breath of fresh air and a simultaneous smack in the face, and it ultimately cultivated the signature collection that is his debut record release, OUTRUN THE SUN.
“The only thing that matters is how you interpret this life. I wanted this to be reflection of my intent and an echo of my soul as songwriter and artist.”
Following the release of the 2012 EP, Lighthouse, OUTRUN THE SUN is a perfectly ripened delicacy that will be available for the picking on October 29, 2013, on Nashville-based Vision Entertainment. Produced by Erik Herbst (Eli Young Band, Bowling For Soup, Josh Abbott Band), the debut album from Sam Riggs signals a lyrical comprehension that reaches far beyond Sam’s years, and musical compositions that are both brave and progressive. The driving will in “Longshot”; the matter of abuse in “The Change”; and the love-provoked courage in “Lighthouse” are just a few of the towering giants included in this release.
The record is fully backed by a live show that comes out swinging and keeps the energy high. Having opened for acts that include Chris Knight; Joe Diffie; Kevin Fowler; Pat Green; Eli Young Band; Randy Rogers Band; Josh Abbott Band; and, of course, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Sam Riggs has become well-educated in the art of working a crowd. Riggs himself never fails to dazzle with his “musical chair” performances that never restrict him to one location on the stage. Vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, banjo, fiddle, and even drums are all part of the magic that he hypnotically spins on a nightly basis.
Outrun the Sun is available NOW.
Get it on iTunes here: http://smarturl.it/OutrunTheSun
Your audience is like a dreamer, and the last thing you want to do is wake a dreamer. We try to draw them in with our music and keep them entranced in that dream. — Sam Riggs
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit. — Aristotle
There’s really not a bad track to be found on Outrun The Sun and for a first full-length effort, that’s a remarkable thing for a previously unknown to me band. There’s a depth and complexity to much of what’s presented on the album and there’s a highly good chance that Sam Riggs will become the next big thing to break out from Texas. The album is that strong. –Matt Bjorke, Roughstock.com
Everything’s BIGGER in Texas, including the booming baritone of Lone Star native Justin van Sant, whose ebullient vocal style and undeniable charisma flow effortlessly together in a rushing stream that refuses to be stemmed. “I’m always performing,” Justin says. “I’m performing at work, I’m performing standing in line at the post office.” Influenced as much by country’s ultimate entertainer, Garth Brooks, as by Texas music mainstays like Pat Green, Randy Rogers and Robert Earl Keen, who’ve built their careers on legendary live shows, van Sant has developed a keen sense of showmanship that shines brilliantly through on his debut indie album, Justin van Sant.
Growing up in Houston, van Sant shared his love of music with his two triplet siblings and younger brother (“If we’d practiced, we could have been the Von Trapp family,” he quips). He sang constantly. “When I left for college,” Justin says, “the thing my Mom missed the most was hearing the sliding glass door open and I’d come in singing, all the time.” At the University of Texas in Austin, he began playing in a motley assortment of bands and developing his unconstrained songwriting style. When he later moved to Nashville to pursue songwriting, “I found out there were all these rules about writing— you have to use a lot of ‘furniture’ *strong visuals+, you have to go verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus. And I kind of understood that, but I wanted to bring in a freer style of writing. I wanted to be able to be myself,” Justin says. To truly be himself, he began to realize that he needed to be an artist.
Both as a songwriter and an artist, van Sant was welcomed warmly in Music City. “As soon as I got off the plane, literally walking through the airport I heard live music, and immediately I knew this is where I wanted to be and this was what I wanted to do.” He spent the rest of the day downtown on Broadway, sponging up the scene and telling anyone who’d listen that he was a moving to Nashville to pursue his music career. He located a friend in Nashville who offered him a couch to call his bed, and he quickly found a job waiting tables, where he met his co-writing partner, Richard Karg, mopping the floor. Together, the pair penned “Whiskey Two-Step” and “Destination Me and You,” two of Justin’s first adventures in co-writing.
Richard soon introduced Justin to producer/musician/songwriter Paul Sikes, a Monument Publishing writer with an Emerson Drive cut, an appearance on the “Today Show” in NYC and holds by Brad Paisley and George Strait to his credit. Impressed with Justin’s rich vocals, Sikes offered to produce an album for him, playing most of the instruments himself and “proving what you can really do in a bedroom.” Sikes collaborated closely with van Sant on song selection (the album features a few well-chosen cuts by #1 hit songwriters including Lee Brice, Luke Bryan, Rory Feek, Tim Johnson, and Will Robinson), as well as the writing of “Lifting Weight” and “Something I Can Do With My Eyes Closed.” Altogether, Justin had a hand in writing seven of the 12 songs on his debut album, all of them distinct—from the jazz-tinged romance of “Fall’s Coming Early” to the tongue-in-cheek humor of “When The Honeymoon’s Over.” “This album, it’s my perspective on life,” Justin says. “I think if you have a unique perspective that draws people in and makes them feel inspired, that’s the point of it all.”
This special point of view, along with a magnetic, fun-loving personality and spectacular voice have begun to attract a following for van Sant. From the storied Bluebird Café to Tootsie’s, Puckett’s, Douglas Corner, and The Listening Room, his often humorous, always energetic performances have charmed crowds across Nashville. For Justin, there’s nothing more satisfying than connecting with people in this way.
With his album complete and a band ready to go, Justin moved back to the great state of Texas headlining shows at The Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo Hideout as well as the cook-off, Midnight Rodeo in Austin, Billy’s Icehouse and the County Line San Antonio for their Texas Music Series. He’s opened for acts like Cody Johnson, Josh Abbott, Wade Bowen, Brandon Rhyder, Charlie Robison, Honeybrowne, Brian Burke Band, Bart Crow, John David Kent, and Reckless Kelly. He released his first single to radio in June, “Destination Me and You.
“When it comes to food and people, I’m willing to try anything you put it front of me. If your hand is held out, I will shake it and get to know you,” Justin says, recalling with excitement his first record release party at Cactus Music. “After the show, people I didn’t know were waiting in line to meet me. It was maybe 6 people, but for me it was 600.”
Matt Stillwell was born in the mountains of North Carolina and has loved music all of his life…well music and sports. During college, athletics was Matt’s priority, not music. At Western Carolina University, he was an All Conference performer on the baseball team, playing both infield and outfield. Touted as a probable major league draft choice during his junior season at WCU, he chose music over baseball. He says, “I could have chased the dream and went and tried out and played independent ball,but I thought, ‘If I’m going to chase something,’ I’d rather it be music.”
In late 2008, he released his debut single, “Shine” debuted at #25 on iTunes country chart and the accompanying music video reaching #5 on CMT Pure and breaking into the Top 10 on GAC’s Top 20 Country Countdown. Stillwell has been touring in his custom wrapped bus called “The Mule” across the country headlining his own shows, as well as opening for country superstars such as Dierks Bentley, Jason Aldean, Gloriana, Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton and performing at huge music festivals like Country Thunder. Matt has released his sophomore album Right On Time to much fan anticipation.
Stillwell explains, “This album means a lot to me on several levels. We’ve been playing a few of these songs live for a while now and people have been asking for the whole album, so it’ll be great to get it in their hands. For me this is also a collection of songs that I really believe in and that I’m proud of, so it’s a step in the right direction as an artist.”
To him the album is “pun intended: it’s right on time.”
Bri Bagwell is real country music, and what country music should strive to be. She is an independent artist without a record deal, and without management. Her popularity is derived 100% by word of mouth and her raw talent. This grass roots effort is rare these days; it speaks to her infectious music and appeal.
She fell in love with music at an early age, and started playing in a band with her older brothers while just a teenager growing up in New Mexico. A couple of weeks after turning 18, she moved to Austin, TX to study at UT and begin her music career in the live music capital of the world. Late nights, rowdy Texas crowds, and being alone on stage with just a guitar shaped her onstage charismatic charm. She learned to gain a crowd’s attention with her beautiful voice, singing songs she wrote herself.
Her first CD, “Banned from Santa Fe”, released June 2011, sold through several printings, and gained traction very quickly among music fans. Bri Bagwell was the only female artist on the Texas Music Chart for a few weeks with her single, also titled “Banned from Santa Fe” and her song “Whiskey” became her 1st top 15 hit and has passed 70,000 YouTube views on the single’s video.
In 2013, Bri released her self-titled EP, which featured two brand new radio singles, “Hound Dog” and “Crazy”. Her latest radio release, “Crazy,” has been praised for its witty and relatable lyrics, and it continues to climb the Texas charts. When she’s not on tour, you can find Bri in Nashville, Tennessee, writing songs for Sony/ATV Publishing on Music Row.
In the internet age with music coming at you from every type of media, it is harder and harder for artists to get attention. Bri Bagwell is not only gaining attention, but she is also drumming up excitement; and, she does it all without a million-dollar budget.
Dave Fenley is an amazing Texas artist. Thrilling that he was discovered on America’s Got Talent:
Here’s Our Side Of The Fence by Curtis Grimes. This song is totally ear candy. Makes you want to hit repeat!
To hear Curtis Grimes sing is to take a trip through the heart of country music. A Texas native, Curtis was raised on a steady diet of George Strait and Alan Jackson, and he possesses the everyman charm of both his heroes, along with a refreshingly mature voice that—in an era of country raps and pop beats—truly stands out.
“Strait is a big inspiration and who I aspire to be. But I’m also a fan of strong voices like Chris Young and Clay Walker,” says Curtis, “I’ve always liked the traditional sound. I became a singer because I can relate to those heartache songs. But I also like to have a good time, and when I get onstage, it’s go time.”
Which Curtis has proved time and again in front of massive audiences. When he was still playing bars in Austin, he won a contest to open for Kenny Chesney at Kenny’s local arena show, and followed up that milestone by competing in front of Blake Shelton and his coaches on the debut season of NBC’s hit singing series The Voice. A member of Team Cee Lo, Curtis won over viewers and lasted an impressive eight weeks on the show.
“To be a singer, opening for Kenny Chesney at that time was the pinnacle. That experience justified my decision to pursue music,” says Curtis. “And The Voice opened the door and got us playing outside of Texas.”
A standout baseball player up until college, Curtis tabled his diamond dreams to write and sing country music. Yet the all-American guy, who taught himself how to play guitar on a second-hand instrument he bought at a pawn shop, still calls upon his sports discipline when performing, be it for his faithful Texas following or the budding fan base he developed through The Voice. “I get in that zone, just like when I was pitching,” he says. “All eyes are on you and you just deliver.”
Now, Curtis is ready to deliver on an even larger stage, with songs like the honky-tonkin’ “Irresponsible,” the infectious sing-along “Smile” (a big hit with the singer’s passionate female fans) and “Home to Me,” which appeared—along with Curtis—in a national commercial for Supercuts. All three songs were Top 5 hits on the Texas music charts.
For the ever-busy performer, it’s all about the work ethic, a sense of pride instilled in his family by his great grandfather. “He owned a saw mill, my grandfather was a pipeline mechanic and my dad worked at a chemical plant,” Curtis says. “That’s my background. If you work hard, no one can take that away from you.”
Nor can anyone take away what the small-town boy has already achieved in a relatively young career—or what he’s poised to accomplish in the studio, on the road and on the charts, thanks to bona fide country songs like current single “The Cowboy Kind.”
“Along with baseball, country music has shaped my life, and through hard work and determination, I ended up getting to sing it for a living,” Curtis says gratefully. “And the best part is the ride is just beginning.”
Here’s Scott Dean’s 1234 music video filmed on location at Firehouse Saloon!
Scott Dean McCurry is a Dallas singer-songwriter who has been paving his own path on the Texas Music Scene for nearly a decade. Influenced by a vast range of styles; Scott has continually pushed the envelope with his personal spin on contemporary rock n’ roll. In 2013, Scott decided to transform his “fist-pumping sunshine rock” into a unique version of Texas Country, exchanging funky-rhythms and synthesizers for pedal-steel and fiddle. Although he has embarked on a new genre, two things still remain consistent; “his catchy upbeat melodies that get stuck in your head”, and his “raucous, energy-filled live performances”. In the process, he opted to drop “McCurry”, as to not be confused with a recent American Idol winner with a strikingly similar name.
Just recently, Scott put the finishing touches on his new EP, “Re-Shuffle”. Although it is his 5th studio album, it is his first Country release. The tunes are full of carefree energy that will make any youthful spirit want to crack open a cold-beer and start singing along. It was his intent to make each tune on the record uplifting and fun.
“Country tends to have the ability to make people either really happy or really sad, I wanted people to hear this music and wish they were out on a Saturday Night. Each song started as a rough idea written on a bar napkin with a couple of buddies, so I wanted that same essence to be captured in the studio…”
Although Scott has primarily spent the majority of his career in a different music realm, he constantly found himself playing within the Texas Country Scene. Gigging festivals and clubs with Texas Country legends like Robert Earl Keen and the Old 97s, and current acts like Kevin Fowler and Josh Abbott. Channeling his love for old school country, like The Flying Burrito Brothers and Jerry Jeff Walker, Scott decided to go all in this year, and re-shuffle his music career; hence the album name.
“Making this kind of music is something I’ve wanted to do for years. Living in Texas my entire life, I have always been exposed to it, and always had such an admiration for classic country and its ability to vividly bring stories to life.”