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Parmalee – New Artist Spotlight – CMA Close Up Interview

Parmalee

ParmaleeParmalee’s Country Pedigree

Parmalee is a Southern rock patrimony, dues paid in church gigs, a player too drunk to pick, and a late-night gunfight: Parmalee’s Country pedigree is as real as it gets.

Brothers Matt and Scott Thomas tagged along on their father’s blues/rock band gigs around Greenville, N.C. Soon they started playing on their own, joined by their cousin Barry Knox, a church choir drummer. After their dad’s inebriated guitar player failed to appear for a show, Matt took his place, with Scott assuming the drum chair and Barry switching to bass. When guitarist and keyboard player Josh McSwain came onboard, Parmalee was born.

Their road led eventually to Nashville — specifically, to a parking lot on Demonbreun Street, where they lived in their RV for a month of intensive writing and demo recording. Even the 2010 flood didn’t stop them, but a bullet almost did: After a North Carolina show in September 2010, Scott suffered a near-fatal wound during a robbery attempt. (He did, however, kill one of his assailants with his own legal weapon.) Ten days in a coma and 35 days of hospitalization were his first steps toward recovery, which culminated in his rejoining the band to audition successfully for Stoney Creek Records.

Produced by the New Voice team, released in December, Feels Like Carolina loosely tells the band’s story through rock-solid vocals, tightly crafted tunes and a few discreet synthesizer effects — just enough to add a distinctive edge while keeping it Country.

For more on Parmalee, visit www.CMACloseUp.com.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS

SONG YOU’D LOVE TO COVER

Knox: “Rockwell’s ‘Somebody’s Watching Me’.”

McSwain: “‘And Justice for All,’ bluegrass style.”

Scott Thomas: “‘My Hero,’ by Foo Fighters.”

ALBUM TOPPING YOUR PLAYLIST

Knox: “Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle.”

Matt Thomas:Unorthodox Jukebox, by Bruno Mars.”

DREAM DUET PARTNER

Knox: “P!nk.”

McSwain: “Carrie Underwood.”

Matt Thomas: “Katy Perry.”

SONG YOU WISH YOU HAD WRITTEN

Knox & McSwain: “‘Live Like You Were Dying.’”

Scott Thomas: “‘Happy Birthday.’”

FAVORITE MODE OF TRANSPORTATION

Knox: “Scooter.”

McSwain: “Harley Davidson.”

Matt Thomas: “My Jeep CJ.”

Scott Thomas: “Truck.”

MOMENT YOU’D LIKE TO RELIVE

Knox: “12th grade.”

McSwain: “My wedding in Mexico.”

Matt Thomas: “Any of the shows I played with my dad.”

Scott Thomas: “High school football championship.”

On the Web: www.Parmalee.com

On Twitter: @Parmalee

 

By Bob Doerschuk

© 2014 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

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Eric Church – New Artist Spotlight – CMA Closeup Interview

Eric Church

Eric ChurchEric Church Looks Inside The Outsiders

Eric Church has spent nearly two hours in an old church-turned-recording studio in East Nashville, playing his new album, The Outsiders, for a group of Nashville media reps gathered to hear his latest offering. And when the listening session ends, the sense of satisfaction and, yes, pride that Church exudes as he answers questions about the project is undeniable. And justified.

The album, Church’s fifth (four studio and one live), is ambitious in its musical and lyrical scope and fearless in continuing the mission of Church and his producer Jay Joyce to push the boundaries of Country Music. Whether by adding a 90-second instrumental section to the end of the title cut and first single (written by Church and Casey Beathard), cleverly reflecting the lyrics in the melody of “Roller Coaster Ride” (Church, Jeff Hyde and Ryan Tyndell), pulling no punches in describing a passionate reunion with his wife after a long road trip in “Like A Wrecking Ball” (Church and Beathard) or including a powerful three-and-a-half-minute spoken word section during what he describes as “the trilogy” near the end of the record, the album is unpredictable.

“For this record, we did ‘A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young’ (Church and Jeremy Spillman) first,” said Church, speaking later during a quiet moment on his bus. “Then we did ‘The Outsiders.’ And I’m looking at these two very different things, thinking, ‘What is this? Where are we going?’ I hate to use the word ‘artistic,’ but it was just so damn artistic, I couldn’t wait to see where it was going from there.”

“(The project) is a whole entity,” producer Joyce explained. “But we’ll sit back and think, ‘What is this little family (of songs) missing?’ And we’re smart enough to stand back and let the record reveal itself. Sure, you’ve got to show up and do the work. But Eric came into the studio with three new tunes this time, so you’ve got to allow for a great song at the last minute. On the last record, I think it was ‘Springsteen’ (Church, Jeff Hyde and Ryan Tyndell) that came in at the last minute. This time it was ‘Wrecking Ball.’”

Joyce knows to expect these last-minute arrivals because he understands Church’s work ethic. The man and his co-writers wrote an astonishing 121 songs in preparation for The Outsiders. Other than family time spent with his wife Katherine and their 2-year-old son Boone, or cutting and splitting wood on the 800 acres they own west of Nashville, writing and otherwise making music is Church’s life — so much so that while he’s involved in suggesting and approving marketing strategies to promote the music, he abstains from another key marketing activity: social media.

“I’ve always kept it about the music,” he said. “I’ve always kept it about ‘this is what I’m good at.’ But it’s allowed our fans to empower themselves. Instead of me tweeting or me getting on Facebook, they do it. Then the next person does it and it spiderwebs. Some people have dogged me for not being on Twitter or Facebook, but we have the same impact. The people are doing that for us. They have a sense of ownership.”

Church’s manager, John Peets, couldn’t agree more. “We have always come from the perspective that music is for people,” he said. “Eric has always written and played for the people in the room. Once you release a record, the music is theirs. We respect them and count on them to spread the word.”

Church even made consideration of his Church Choir fan base a factor in releasing the title cut as the album’s debut single. “Could we have come first with another song off this record that might have been a big hit? Sure. But we didn’t, because I wanted to make a statement that that’s not what this is about. It’s about making sure that we’re pushing boundaries and honoring where we come from. I wanted to make sure that the people who built this foundation hear this record and go, ‘This is the one we’ve been waiting on. This is when they were fully in the screws,’” Church noted, using the golf term that means hitting in the sweet spot of the club.

“I believe with any artist, there’s that moment when you’re writing your best, singing your best and playing your best,” he continued. “The producer’s producing his best and playing his best. There’s that ‘in the screws’ moment. I think we started to hit it with Chief. And I think we hit it on this one.”

“When I make albums, I want to lay my head on the pillow 20 years from now and not regret one thing,” he noted. “I want to have stayed true to my musical and moral compass, because that’s what I trust, regardless of what’s popular or whether you get rich or famous. It’s about looking back and being proud of the work you’ve left behind.

“I may be the most rock ‘n’ roll-influenced artist in the format,” Church concluded. “I’ll admit I love to listen to Pantera. But I revere Country Music. I don’t just do it. I revere it. And I want to make albums to put up on the Country Music shelf with all the Country records I revere and go, ‘This is what we did.’”

More on Church and The Outsiders can be found at www.CMACloseUp.com.

On the Web: www.EricChurch.com

On Twitter: @EricChurch

By David Scarlett

© 2014 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

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Eric Paslay – New Artist Spotlight – CMA Close Up Interview

Eric Paslay

Photographer: Eric Adkins

Eric Paslay

Eric Paslay’s story is familiar, from his upbringing in Waco and Temple through his gigs on the Lone Star circuit and inevitable move to Nashville.

Eventually hired by Cal IV Publishing, the tall Texas redhead penned several hits. He won CMA’s coveted Triple Play Award for writing or co-writing three songs that hit No. 1 in 2012: “Angel Eyes,” “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” and “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” which also was honored as ASCAP’s Country Song of the Year. Impressive, but not unique … yet.

The epiphany comes with his self-titled inaugural album, released Feb. 4 on EMI Records Nashville. Produced by Marshall Altman and Daniel Hill/Billy Lynn, its 11 tracks reflect the strength of this young artist’s work. Compositionally, he cultivates simplicity. Many of his verses cycle just three or even two chords. “Country Side of Heaven” (Paslay, Dylan Altman and Shane McAnally) hangs entirely on the I and V. But on that track, Paslay’s organic dynamics, his inspiring vocals and especially his ability to conjure compelling images enrich both his sound and his story.

Though all his songs are beautifully crafted, one may qualify as a masterpiece. Caressed by a sensitive arrangement, Paslay’s aching vocal and evocative lyrics on “She Don’t Love You” (Paslay and Jennifer Wayne) build on the title (“… she’s just lonely”) to cast a spell that doesn’t resolve until literally the last word. This is supreme writing and execution, by any measure.

For more on Eric Paslay, visit www.CMACloseUp.com.

IN HIS OWN WORDS

DREAM DUET PARTNER

“I’ve had the wild fortune of singing with some awesome icons so far (Sheryl Crow, Amy Grant). I’d love to sing with Dolly, Emmylou and Bono … the list could keep growing!”

BOOK ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND

“The Bible.”

ALBUMS IN YOUR PLAYLIST

“U2’s Greatest Hits, Kenny Rogers’ You Can’t Make Old Friends, Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto and Emmylou Harris’s Wrecking Ball.”

SONG YOU WISH YOU’D WRITTEN

“‘What a Wonderful World.’”

MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE YOU’D LIKE TO RELIVE

“Christmas with my whole family as a child.”

FAVORITE FOOD ON THE ROAD

“Catering, because it’s free!”

FAVORITE MODE OF TRANSPORTATION

“Teleportation.”

On the Web: www.EricPaslay.com

On Twitter: @EricPaslay

 

NEW ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Eric Paslay

By Bob Doerschuk

© 2014 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

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Logan Brill – New Artist Spotlight – CMA Close Up Interview

Logan Brill

Logan BrillLogan Brill releases “Walking Wires”

If we were to judge Logan Brill by the lyrics on her debut album, Walking Wires, we might feel a little worried. After all, she sings about being haunted by a lost relationship on “No Such Thing As Ghosts” (written by Chris Stapleton), the consequences of staying with a stranger in a hotel room on “Month of Bad Habits” (Andrew Combs and Doug Johnson), forlornly “going from bar to bar” on “Rewind” (Paolo Nutini), being “too tired to swim, too weak to crawl” on “Seven Year Rain” (Heather Little and Travis Meadows) …

But don’t call for an intervention. Instead, marvel at how this upbeat, positive 22-year-old brings a sad story to life. Brill was born with a strong, assertive voice, which she has sculpted into an expressive instrument. When she interprets Patty Griffin’s “Nobody’s Crying,” she animates the melody with tasteful filigrees, and on key words she subtly hardens her timbre to more vividly convey anger. Yet she also maintains a conversational quality — no easy feat.

Raised in Knoxville, Tenn., Brill enrolled in Nashville’s Belmont University in 2009 as a vocal performance major. Location and talent combined to connect her to Carnival Music, which released Walking Wires on Oct. 15. Produced by Matthew Miller and Oran Thornton, the album is also a sonic triumph. Layered guitars, meaty organs and, on Audra Mae’s “Ne’er Do Wells,” some imaginative voice processing combine with Brill’s delivery to create a winning combination.

Hear “Scars” NOW!

IN HER OWN WORDS

ALBUM ON YOUR PLAYLIST

“Dawes, Stories Don’t End. I’ve been wearing that album out the past few months.”

DREAM DUET PARTNER

“If I could go back in time, my dream duet partner would be Ray Charles and we would sing ‘Georgia on My Mind.’”

BOOK ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND

“A collection of love poems. It has everything from Shakespeare to Emily Dickinson.”

LUCKY CHARM

“Before I play a show, my two main men are Van Morrison and Jack Daniels.”

FAVORITE FOOD ON THE ROAD

The veggie burger at Burger King with a large fry and some zesty sauce. Delicious and easy to eat on the go.”

SOMETHING WE’D NEVER GUESS ABOUT YOU

“I have a degree in French.”

On the Web: www.LoganBrill.com

On Twitter: @LoganBrillMusic

 

© 2014 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

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Jon Pardi – New Artist Spotlight – CMA Closeup Interview

Jon Pardi

Jon PardiJon Pardi is the “Life Of The Pardi”

Saloon pianos clink, guitars crunch and fiddles, well, they fiddle throughout Write You a Song, Jon Pardi’s debut album on Capitol Records Nashville. And it fits together into a package that practically dares you not to get up and dance.
A lot of Pardi’s energy stems from days on the road and long nights on stages throughout his home state of California. He was already absorbing the spirit of real-world Country when he performed “Friends in Low Places” at age 7 for his father’s 30th birthday party. His first songs came at 12, his first band debuted two years later. The move to Nashville followed two restless years at Butte Junior College.

Apparently his experiences left Pardi unscarred. While there are no tears-in-my-beer blues here, that’s not to say he avoids introspective material. But even on the down-tempo “Love Hangs Around” (written by Pardi, Treat Summar and Odie Blackmon), you sense that it’s just a matter of time before the lyric’s two long-distance lovers enjoy a happy reunion.

Similarly, the rockin’ numbers have dimension. You’ll hear hardly a mention of trucks or cut-off jeans; instead, actual stories inhabit his down-home grooves. The title cut (Pardi, Bart Butler and Davy Ulbrich), as well as “Up All Night” (Pardi, Butler and Brett Beavers), showcase his fondness for melodies built on tight, repetitive motifs. The guy just sounds like he’s having a ball, and with his amiable drawl he’s inviting us all to join him.

IN HIS OWN WORDS

MUSICAL HERO

“There are so many, I don’t know where to start. Elvis was pretty awesome, though.”

ALBUM ON YOUR PLAYLIST

Bakersfield, by Vince Gill and Paul Franklin.”

DREAM DUET PARTNER

“Willie Nelson. Willie just takes a song up to a whole new level.”

PET PEEVE

“People who eat really loud.”

TITLE OF YOUR AUTOBIOGRAPHY

Life of the Pardi.”

On the Web: www.JonPardi.com

On Twitter: @JonPardi

 

© 2014 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

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Kayla Calabrese – New Artist Spotlight – CMA Close Up interview

kayla calabrese

Kayla CalabreseYou can thank the CVS drugstore chain for getting Kayla Calabrese excited about Country Music. After all, she was born in Pine Beach, N.J., far from the nearest ranch or honky-tonk. Her family is pure Italian-American. Though she definitely enjoyed singing, Calabrese grew up dreaming more of being a doctor than a Country crooner.

All of that changed when she and her mother took part in a scavenger hunt for tickets to a Martina McBride concert in Reading, Pa. Amazingly, they beat everyone else to the CVS pharmacy where the prize was hidden behind some greeting cards. With that, a new dream took shape.

At 17, Calabrese made the pilgrimage to Nashville. There, she earned a nursing degree from Belmont University, worked at Baptist Hospital and taught gymnastics. She also met Kent Wells, who mentored her as she began writing songs and produced her as she recorded her debut EP.

The self-titled results were released digitally by Go Time Records in September. As co-writer on all six tracks, Calabrese shows that she knows how to come up with a hook and, as a singer, drive it home. With McBride and Carrie Underwood evident among her influences, she shines against powerful instrumental backdrops.

On the power ballad “Kiss Me,” which she wrote with Tami Hinesh, the message rolls out over muscular guitar arpeggios. It’s Calabrese’s buoyant delivery that bats this single all the way from the Jersey shore into the heart of Country.

kayla calabreseIN HER OWN WORDS

MUSICAL HERO

“Martina McBride.”

ALBUM ON YOUR PLAYLIST

“Right now, it’s Sara Bareilles, The Blessed Unrest.”

DREAM DUET PARTNERS

“Martina McBride and Idina Menzel.”

MOMENT YOU WISH YOU COULD RELIVE

“I don’t really believe in regrets. Everything happens for a reason. I am where I am today because of the decisions I have made.”

TITLE OF YOUR AUTOBIOGRAPHY

Believe. It’s my favorite word.”

On the Web: www.KaylaCalabrese.com

On Twitter: @KaylaCalabrese

 

By Bob Doerschuk

© 2014 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

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