Thursday, November 13, 2014

favorite things || november

Happy Thursday! I hope y'all are all hanging on and ready for a fun weekend. Isn't it funny how fast life happens once you're a grown up? I remember being 5 and thinking Christmas would never come. Now, Christmas is in like 7 weeks and it seems like this year has FLOWN by. Southern Samplings has had such a fun year so far and I've had experiences that I never would've thought I would ever get before this year. It really is funny how this blank space of a post page ends up by viewed by people who have become friends. The internet is definitely a tricky, slippery surface most of the time BUT I'm thankful for all the good it has brought me.

Recently, one of my friends who is interning for Lauren Conrad and E! sent some really fun opportunities my way. I'm a guest blogger at Lucky Magazine for their website now as well. Each month there is different content that the magazine researches that is gathered from what people our age are googling. One suggestion was a "my favorites" post. You can learn a lot about a person by simply reading about their favorite things, people, music, ideas and places. As part of different blogging communities, I'll be doing a monthly "my favorite" posts. This is different from the typical pleading with girls to be nice posts and country music posts BUT this favorites post will still include a lot of those things because, hey, they're my favorite.
1. Taylor Swift

If you've known me for awhile, feel free to judge me for this one. I was a total Taylor fan and then went through a fan of "I'm a Taylor music fan but not a fan of Taylor if she keeps winning country awards." That's the completely wrong mindset to have. Now that I've been on both sides of the music industry for a while, I've realized how critically rooted country music is in story telling and whether Taylor says her music is country or not isn't the issue at hand anymore. Taylor Swift is a genius. She's 24. She's in charge of her life. She's never had a melt down and she's single handedly built an empire. And at the same time, I'm pretty sure she has spend the night parties and makes cookies like me. My super cool Nashville bestie, Michelle, sent me this video and this just solidifies my love for the girl. Rock on, Taylor. Rock on.


2. Incipio iPhone 6 Cases
I loathe phone cases. I just like the freeness of the naked iPhone. But, alas, my clumsy fingers don't understand that and I've dropped my iPhone 6 twice. It's survived with no injuries but when I was shopping today and my sister pointed this case out to me, I couldn't NOT buy it. It's slim and doesn't add any bulk to my phone. It's the best. Now, run out and buy one.

Incipio EDGE: Picture 1 regular
3. Foxes
Yes, the animals. If it's on a coffee mug or a rug or PJ's--I want them. I don't know why I love them so much but I do. I even made a Pinterest board devoted to the furry guys if you want a lot more inspiration than what is pictured below (available at Target).
4. Peppermint Chocolate Bark
A staple in the Carter household every winter is the Ghirardelli version of this little snack. I never really got into them for whatever reason but I ate one last Sunday and it changed my life for the better. Seriously, who knew one little square could bring so much happiness.
5. The Lookout Duo
Tyler and John are two voices in Nashville that I really think a lot of people should hear. Actually, I think that every person should listen to them. Not following any path paved by a "country" duo before them is part of their recipe for success. They can sing, really well. And, their lyrics are fun, intriguing and honest. They are incredible musicians and people as well. So incredible, in fact, that their mixtape is up for F R E E on their website. I will also mail you a copy for F R E E if you are computer illiterate (and hey, that's okay, I am, too). Click on the picture below to arrive at their website and stay for a while.
6. Alex and Ani
I've never been a huge jewelry fanatic. I recently was introduced to the brand Alex and Ani and cannot get enough. Normally in the winter (even in the South), scarves are a staple and normally necklaces get lost in the scarve-ness that is happening to us girls. Alex and Ani bangle sets are the perfect accessories. I was gifted with a set by the company and College Candy earlier this fall and have worn them more than any other piece since. The bangle set I have is a "college memory" set. They have charms for your sororities (go phi mu!) as well as colored bead bangles for your school (go Montevallo!). They are durable and adorable.
7. Girls empowering girls
I have no picture to accompany this one because there are too many pictures I would want to include. But, I'll say that there is definitely an appreciation between the women in my life right now that is empowering. I've been praying for a really long time that women would build each other up and not tear each other down. And, I'm so thankful that I have the best group of women (bloggers, friends, nurses, teachers, WOMEN) who encourage and support me and my goals in life. You all rock and if I tried to name them all I would miss one but please know how much this is one of my favorite things. Keep encouraging and empowering, ladies!
8. Sugar Paper Planners
These are available at (shocker) TARJAY (aka Target). They are affordable and adorable and I already have two for 2015.
9. Alabama Football
I've been saying "Roll Tide" since I could say "momma" and I don't think I'll be slowing down any time soon. NOTHING beats a Saturday in Tuscaloosa in Bryant Denny seeing a team of incredibly talented boys playing football and playing it well. And Lane Kiffin isn't so bad on the eyes, either. RTR.
10. Sam Hunt
Album of the Year? Hands down. Should you buy it? Yes. Why? Well, why not?

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Interview || Chancie Neal

If there is anything more country than a Georgia boy it would have to be a Louisiana girl. If there is anything more fun than opening for Luke Bryan it would be getting advice from him. And, if there is anything more neat than watching Duck Dynasty it would be writing a song for the family that ended up on a Christmas album. Well, today I am absolutely joyed to introduce to you a young lady who is in fact a Louisiana girl that has received some pretty neat advice from Luke Bryan and has had a song cut on the Robertson family's Christmas album.
I would like y'all to meet Chancie Neal.
Chancie Neal is a singer/songwriter living in Nashville. She has opened for Luke Bryan on his annual "Farm Tour" for five years now. I've been fortunate enough to see her perform for the past three years and she is definitely one of my favorite up and coming female country artists. She is sort of a hidden gem in the country world but I know for a fact about 15,000 people who were impressed with her performance Thursday night in Auburn, Alabama. She was gracious enough to talk to me for a few minutes at the show and I'm so excited for y'all to discover her.
-Tell us a little background information about yourself if you will.
"My name is Chancie Neal. I'm 19 so I'm the baby of the tour. I'm from Calhoun, Louisiana which is right up the road from West Monroe (aka Duck Dynasty land)."
-Do you write your own songs?
"I do. Writing is definitely a passion of mine. I love doing it a little every day."
-Which aspect of music do you enjoy more--songwriting or performing?
"Performing. There is just nothing like being on stage. They kind of go hand in hand with me, though. I get the benefit of singing the songs I write on stage. Performing is just a league of its own.
-Who is your musical inspiration?
"Definitely Luke (Bryan) through and through. As far as female artists go, I've always loved Shania Twain, The Dixie Chicks and Lee Ann Womack. I could listen to Lee Ann for days. I love her."
-What is your favorite song that is on the radio currently?
"The Maroon 5 record is amazing. And the Ariana Grande album is good, too. I performed an Ariana Grande song tonight. Her album is just incredible. I like to listen to an album from front to end to just try to get the story they are trying to tell."
-If you could write with any artist, who would it be and why?
"Lee Ann Womack. Definitely."
-What is your definition of country music?
"Jeff Stevens told me something one time and it's always stuck with me. He said 'Country music, regardless of what genre it sounds like, if it is on country radio, then it's country music.' I do think that country music is more real than most genres."
-What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
"Luke actually told me something a few weeks ago. He said 'being an artist is very hard and you have to be on stage and you have to love it so much to be able to do it every night.' That has really helped me. Even today, I was thinking I really do love being on stage."
-Where can new fans of your music find more of your music?
"I'm on Spotify. I put a lot of new songs on Sound Cloud and Reverb Nation. I'll switch out the ones I post every now and then. I have CD's at my shows and on Itunes, too."
-If you were going on a cross country road trip, what is one album that you could listen to the whole way?
"I love listening to vinyl records. I know you can't listen to vinyl records in the car but I love old country. I'm from Louisiana so it's an 8 hour drive to Nashville and I've just listened to a bunch of stuff that was released even before I was born. It changes but one The Wreckers album is good. I learned to play a lot of those songs on the guitar."
-What's in store for 2015?
"I'm ready for 2015. I've been writing every for a few years so I have a lot of songs. Hopefully, of course, still out on the road and singing at shows. We may do an EP. Maybe play little bars and places like that. I've been spoiled with Farm Tour but I love performing at any level."
I know how extremely busy and hectic Thursday night was so a sincere THANK YOU to Chancie for taking some time to talk with me. And another special thank you to Jacoby Knott for arranging everything.
Make sure y'all start following Chancie on her social media sites and listen to some of her tunes. I feel confident you'll be wanting an album ASAP like I do!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Interview || Faren Rachels

Happy Monday! 
I am so excited to introduce y'all to a very special lady today on Southern Samplings. I LOVE country music and I love introducing people to new artists. I've been very fortunate to connect with some incredibly talented people over the past year and Faren Rachels is one of those people. I first heard of Faren through a song writer I was following named Cole Taylor. I started following along and getting to know her and I was able to hear some of her music earlier in July. Y'all--you know the struggle of finding talented, country FEMALE artists that as girls we can relate to but that is exactly who Faren is. Her songs have been part of my go to female artist playlist since she was sweet enough to share them with me. Faren has an EP that is coming out tonight at midnight on I-Tunes. Although we all know how I-Tunes releases new music early so if you're up late enough tonight, you'll be able to download it then. 
Faren was so kind to take time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for me. I strongly suggest you download this EP tonight. After getting to know a little more about her, I am sure you will feel the same way!

1. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions for me! I know that you are from Georgia, but can you give us a little more background information? When did you first know music was what you wanted to pursue as a career? What made you decide that you wanted to move in Nashville, and when did you move?

"Thank YOU for taking the time to include me in your blog! I am from a little town in Georgia called Sparta. I graduated from high school with twelve people and had to drive 30 minutes to get to the closest Walmart, haha! I grew up singing  in church, at local events, and on my "at-home" karaoke machine. :)  
I have wanted to be a country music artist for as long as I can remember but my mom REALLY wanted me to be the first person in my family to get a college degree and pursue a “real job,"  ha! So, I went to the University of Georgia where I continued to sing but mainly focused on school. I moved to Atlanta and got that “real job” for a a little while, but I was pretty miserable. 
My husband and his family were the ones who encouraged me to make the move to Nashville. My father in law loves music and played in bands his whole life but never got to do it professionally. One day in May of 2012, he told me I did not want to get to be his age and look back and regret not going after what I have really always wanted. After that conversation, my husband and I prayed about it and made the move (without either of us having real jobs up here, ha!). It was pretty scary, but eventually everything fell into place!"

2. Who were your musical inspirations growing up? 
"Mostly the awesome women of 90’s country music! Trisha Yearwood, Sara Evans, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Lee Ann Womack, Shania Twain and Patty Loveless. I could go on and on."

3.  If you could record a duet or collaboration with any artist, who would you choose and why?
 "Any of the women I grew up listening to would be a huge honor, but if I had to pick just one, I would probably say Trisha Yearwood. Her voice is simply perfection to me. (However, I’d probably wet my pants when she walked into the room)."

4. What was the first song you ever wrote? 
"It was called “My Last Name,” and it was pretty awful… next question, ha."

5. What is your favorite song that you have ever written? 
"My favorite song I have ever written is called “We Got It Made." It is basically the story of our move to Nashville. We lived in a really crappy attic that had been converted into an apartment and we did not have a lot of money (well, we still do not, ha!). But I was finally in Nashville getting to pursue my dream.  I married the sweetest, most supportive man I know so I decided to write a song about how blessed I was— not with monetary things, but with the things that matter. To this day, it is one of my favorites because every single lyric was so real at the time. It did not make my EP, but it is on my Reverbnation page if you want to check it out."

6. I am so excited that you are releasing this EP because country music is heavily populated with male artists and it's nice to hear a woman's side of the stories. Do you think that there is a certain female "country" stereotype and if so, do you agree that it is fair that women are portrayed that way by the male artists? 
"I guess there is no denying that there is a certain female “country” stereotype right now if you listen to the radio but it does not really bother me. Maybe I just do not take life seriously enough to be offended by songs on the radio. I guess my opinion is if you do not like what you hear, do not listen :) What does bother me is the lack of new female country artists out there, though. I have heard so many talented girls in this town. It is crazy that there are so few of us actually getting heard. I am going to bust my tail to change that, though!"
7. Your EP comes out tonight at midnight. How many songs will be on the track list? Did you write all of the songs on it? 
"There are six songs on the EP and I wrote on all of them with some crazy talented friends of mine- Thomas Archer, Jordan Rager, Cole Taylor and Chancie Neal.  I am extremely proud of how all the songs turned out."
8. Which ones mean the most to you, and why?
"Gosh, it is really hard to say which ones mean the most--I love “Holding Down Sunshine,” because I have wanted to write a song like that for so long. You rarely get to hear the girls version of a party song and we like to party too, ya know! :) I love “Get On With It” just as much, though, because I know way too many girls who put up with way too much bull crap from losers! Honestly I could really talk about each song--they all mean something to me in a different way." 

 9. As a singer/songwriter, what part of the process of writing and then recording the songs is your favorite? 
 "I think the most exciting part of the songwriting process is when you get into the studio to record it and get to hear the song come to life. Todd Lombardo, who produced my EP, is one of the most talented people I have ever met. I was not blessed with the mind of a producer, so he blows me away with what he can bring to a song."

 10. If you were driving across the country and you could only bring one album, which one would you choose? 
"This is probably the hardest question I’ve ever been asked! There are so many albums I have been obsessed with that its hard to choose just one. Off the top of my head, one album that I know I could never get tired of is The Dixie Chicks’ first album. So good."

So, as y'all can tell, Faren Rachels is a superstar in the making. Each one of the songs on the EP are songs that come from a real place. I am so excited to be able to pay for some music from Faren now! It makes me so happy to see a female country artist singing such fun and meaningful songs. Make sure that you follow her on her social media sites below. And, of course, check out her website. Most importantly, BUY her EP when it is out tonight!! Thank you, again, Faren! This is only the beginning!! 
ITunes (This one may not work until Tuesday! :) )


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Interview: Chris Burkmenn

Happy Wednesday y'all! Today is a special treat with an interview with Chris Burkmenn. Chris is the founder and host of the Chris Burkmenn Experience. I connected with Chris earlier this year from twitter and I've had so much fun watching his endeavors over the past few months. Here's a little bit more information about the Chris Burkmenn Experience taken from his website and then make sure to get to know him a little better below.
The Chris Burkmenn Experience website features online webisodes, where the host, Chris Burkmenn, interviews musical artists. Along with the interviews, Chris adds inspirational messages to the website. The CBE is expanding online, and the brand is receiving national recognition and sponsorship. Taking it further into becoming a self-sustaining endeavor and business is the future hope of CBE.
The CBE mission is to treat others with the same level of respect and love that he or she would enjoy himself or herself. CBE aims to support talent that is often overlooked. The brand enjoys connecting with    passion-driven people and creating an encouraging environment. Our goal is to empower the artist.



 1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born and raised in the metro area of St. Louis. I had a passion
for music and that influence came from my father. He would blare music
in the car when I was a child. We would play Jesse's Girl by Rick
Springfield over and over again. We also really liked the song
"Everybody Wants to be a Cat" from the Aristocrats, Favorite memory.
My father was a big fan of Hall and Oates, and passed on that love to
me. I can also when I was a kid I enjoyed doing things most people
wouldn't have been interested in. I would pretend I was Carson Daly
hosting TRL. I would tape every episode of that show when I was a teen
and watch it when I got home from school.

2. How did you end up in Nashville?
I actually ended up in Nashville as a back up plan to Los Angeles. As
a kid/teenager I thought the road was going to lead me to LA. I had
such a passion for acting and all things entertainment. I wanted to be
on Nickelodeon's Kenan and Kel as well as All That more than anything.
When I approached my parents with the reality of me wanting to move to
Nashville, they expressed concern for me being so far away. My friend
moved to Nashville in 2007, and I visited her several times and felt
called to this city. At the time I wasn't 100% of why I needed to be
here, but just really believing God was leading me here.

3. Who/what is your biggest inspiration in life?
My biggest inspirations would be Jesus first and foremost. Since
moving here the Lord and I have truly grown in so many ways. It has
been a constant process of strengthening my faith and learning. My
church has played such a big part in who I am today as well.

Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who
understands obtain guidance,
Proverbs 1:5

My Dad is also a huge inspiration he is one of the hardest working
people I have met in my life. He has taught me the true meaning in
diligence and never giving up, my father is a Warrior.

My boss in Aud CO Nashville, Suzzane Skinner(Mama Sue) is a mentor to
me. She has given me so much wisdom in the entertainment industry. I
have notebooks full of lessons she has taught me, and I believe that
is so important in growing and walking closer to your goals.

4. Where did you get the idea for the CBEX?
CBEX was actually my co workers idea at the Audience Company I work
for in Nashville. We worked for CMT Hot 20 Countdown at the time and
we casting audience, needing a higher attendance. We thought it would
be great to bring in a local performer to provide entertainment to the
audience during their lunch break on the show. We though about a
performance as well as an interview would be great. We tapped the
first 2 episodes with CMT Hot 20, and then continued without the show.

The show's direction changed and became more about empowering the
artist and giving them a format to showcase their talents as well as
learning about them. We had a completely new format and I felt there
was nothing like it on the web.

5. What is your favorite part of CBEX?
My favorite part of CBEX is learning about the artist just as much as
the viewers are. Since I have such a great interest in music I get
excited to learn about them. Learning about the process and the
challenges they are and still overcoming. I feel that many places
forget about the new artist and focus on these large artists, that
don't really need the exposure. We focus on empowering the new artist
and don't really look to the bigger artists, because they don't need
to be empowered (they already are.)

6. Who has been your favorite artist to interview and why?
This may sound like a very generic answer, but it is the truth. I have
enjoyed each artists in different ways. They are all my favorite
because I only interviews artists that I believe in. For me to
interview I am putting the stamp of approval over each of them. It
brings me such excitement when viewers connect with these artists for
the first time, and that's when I feel as though we are really doing
our job. Many of the artists on in the past and I have become good
friends, Jenn Bostic, Ainsley Britain, Evan Gibb, Carly Pearce,
Elizabeth Lyons, and Kamber Cain I talk to them very regularly.
Chris w/ Carly Pearce
Chris w/ 2Steel Girls

7. How do you get these artists on your show?
We actually use several venues, I have use PR firms, friends, and
artist requests. My favorite way has been social media, when fans tell
us who they want on the show. We have booked several of our new
episodes that way. It has been really cool to see our friends(viewers)
get more involved.

8. Does CBEX strictly focus on country artists or do you find up and coming
artists from all genres?
We actually interview all genres. I want to meet every artist that has
a message to share and has the talent to back it up. I have
interviewed a lot of Country artists because selfishly it is my
favorite genre, but we really do want EVERY genre to be on this show.
We are focused on being a mouthpiece for these artists.

9. What is one piece of advice you would give to young people who hope to
host their own show like CBEX one day?
My advice to someone wanting to start something new and possibly
uncharted waters, NEVER GIVE UP. Never allow anyone to tell you that
you are crazy because they are the crazy ones. It's tough and there
will be times that you want to quit, but never allow yourself to. One
of the quotes that I feel God gave me was:

"If you can remember why you started, then you will know why you must continue."

Also another thing I have learned is that as you moved forward with
you vision, things will change and even you will and that is ok. It's
a part of learning and growing.

10.  Do you have any secret talents?
Secret talents, well I'd say I am not the best at athletics, but my
secret talent is that I give my all in every sport and whatever I do.
My determination compensates what I lack in skill. I love being
active, and having a good time with my friends. I am active in serving
the youth at my church, and they keep me young.

11.  Where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years I hope that is a place where people go to find
out what is new and upcoming in music. Personally I hope to be a go to
host in Nashville in live events and other areas that I am passionate
about. I am a very goal oriented person and believe that doors will
continue to open for the team and I.

12. How are you able to continually provide quality episodes?
CBEX has such a great team in place they continually blow me away with
their amazing talents, Andy Burchett, Alison Goedde, Kourtney Roman,
Lauryn Blakkolb, and Diane Guy are very instrumental in what CBEX
Thank you SO much Chris for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with me for a bit!! And, make sure y'all are following him on twitter: @chrisburkmenn

Monday, August 18, 2014

Interview w/ TJ Hamilton

Finding a new artist to listen to is like driving into Nashville for the first time. Your heart beats a little faster and you always leave already planning your next trip. That same feeling goes for the first time you hear certain artists. You know that they will be an artist that you follow for the rest of your life. And, even more fun than finding these types of artists is learning more about them.
This is TJ Hamilton's cue to enter. I first heard some of TJ's music through a mutual friend on Twitter a few months ago. Recently I was able to connect with him and listen to several new songs that he is recording and they are amazing. Think Dan and Shay meets Sam Hunt with his own unique twist. That is who TJ Hamilton is. He's cool country with a sound and vibe that will make you want to turn the "repeat" option on ITunes for.
He's newest single, "17 Again" comes out at midnight tonight. TJ Hamilton is a very busy guy but took some time to answer some questions for Southern Samplings.



1. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview! First off, tell us a little about yourself!
"I'm from the teeny, tiny town of Mounds, Oklahoma. The population is just over 800 people. I'm 27 years old. I moved to Nashville last July but I have been in Dallas, Texas working with world renowned producer, Jay Oliver, on my new album. I am a former college football player for the Oklahoma Sooners. My faith and family are the two most important things in my life. I am very into fitness and the lifestyle that comes with being healthy but my weakness is ice cream. I grew up living in the loft of a barn with my brother and sister and mother and father (yes, a barn!). My family is my everything. I have a HUGE love for people and love seeing other people chase their dreams and succeed."
2.When did you decide that music was want you wanted to pursue? Was there a specific reason you chose country music as the genre to pursue? 
"I did not decide to pursue music until 3 years ago. I was an athlete all my life. Singing and playing an instrument took a backseat to athletics. I have had a passion for music since I was a little boy. I grew up listening to Elvis Presley records on my mom's old record player. God has a plan for my life and I believe music is a part of the plan."
3. Do you play any instrument?
" Yes! I play acoustic guitar!"
4. Did you write your new single, "17 Again"? If so, what is the story behind the song? 
"I did write the new single. I wrote it with my roommate in Nashville, Andy Albert. Andy is now a well known songwriter and one of the most talented people I personally know in the music industry. The story behind the song goes like this: growing up, my childhood crush was Kelly Kapowski from "Saved by the Bell" and I was extremely ornery (like Zack Morris). I really felt like Zack ad Kelly's love story was the first real love story I witnessed and could remember on network television. I wanted to write something that would take people back to the time when they, too, remembered Zack and Kelly and just paint the same picture that one day that is the love story I too would love to have."
5. If you could collaborate with any artist, who would you choose and why?
"My two closest friends in the music industry are Sam Hunt and Dan and Shay. Either one of those two would be great. Actually, a few weeks ago this same question was asked to Dan and Shay on Twitter and they said that they would pick me to collaborate with. I was honored to hear that. My relationship with Sam actually started on the basketball court at The Downtown YMCA in Nashville and has grown ever since. I love what Sam is doing and really support his movement. If people like his vibe, then they'll love mine also. Our music is extremely similar. Maybe before the year is out, Sam and I can do some type of collaboration together."
6. Who are your musical influences?
"Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, John Mayer and Gavin Degraw."
7. When you aren't busy writing and/or recording, what is something you like to do for fun?
"I LOVE playing golf and pick up basketball anywhere I can find a court and a ball. When I am not in the studio, I am being active- either in the gym, outside or watching my little brother play quarterback for Pittsburgh State. You only live once, but if you do it right once is enough."
8. Where/When will we be able to hear more music from you?
"Soon after "17 again" drops, I will be releasing either an EP or a full album. The decision is being made in the next couple of weeks. Once my website is up to date I will be doing some cover videos and acoustic videos of the new music."
9. Do you any plans to start touring any time soon?
"I do! Actually some members of Leann Rimes old band is now my new band and we are meeting with my booking agent next week to put together a late fall tour. Hopefully a city near you is on the map!"
10.  If you had to define what country music is (to you), what would your definition be?
 "Country music to me is like Elvis Presley- easy to listen to and there will ever be anything that will ever compare to it. God definitely has a plan for my life and I cant wait for the world to hear my type of country music."

Make sure y'all download his new single "17 Again." I've heard it already and it's definitely on my playlist of songs I listen to every day. Also, make sure you follow TJ on all his social media outlets:
Thank you TJ for taking the time to answer these questions! I'm so excited for everything that is happening for you right now!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Flora Bama Jama (feat. Kenny Chesney)

Kenny Chesney is a legend. A legend I'm quite embarrassed to say I waited 24 years to experience.
Kenny Chesney is the artist that a lot of people my age grew up listening to. This is true for me, too. Right beside the Garth and George albums, there were the Kenny albums. Many of my summers were characterized by certain Kenny songs and every beach trip was only complete when Kenny blasted on the beach all. day. long.
Kenny Chesney is a common answer for lots of up and coming artists in response to questions like "who was a big influence on you, musically, growing up" or "what was the first song you learned to play." Kenny Chesney has been around. And around, again and again. He's country royalty with the personality of a guy who lives on the beach year round. His happy go lucky persona paired with his infectious smile made him shoot very quickly and highly on my list of country entertainers.
(photo above belongs to Kenny Chesney)
Kenny Chesney held his first annual "Flora Bama Jama" concert at the Flora Bama on Saturday and I'm 100% positive it will not be the last. Flora Bama is located directly on the Florida/Alabama line and it's a beachy honky tonk to the max. You could walk up to anyone in Alabama and more than likely, they'll have a memory at the Flora Bama from some summer in their life. It's the perfect location for a concert of this magnitude. This stretch of beach easily contains some of the whitest sand I've ever seen and with over 40,000 estimated in attendance, it's pretty safe to assume others agree. My sister and I went and met up with my good friend, Jenny!! SO good to see you girl (even though we didn't get a pic!) There were SO many people and hundreds of boats in attendance. It was a beautiful day and night even though it was miserably hot. There were people EVERYWHERE. They were on the balconies of every room at every condo for miles down the beach. There was a parking deck next to the Flora Bama that had so many people standing inside that you couldn't count.
For this to be the first year that the Flora Bama hosted the "Flora Bama Jama," it went remarkably smooth. About a month ago, Kenny Chesney made an announcement about the event and how you could "win" tickets. That is probably the first thing that made this experience memorable, the ticket was FREE. All you had to do was be quick with a keyboard. I was lucky enough to score a couple and counted down the days until it happened. There was no parking available anywhere near the Flora Bama unless you were staying near the honkey tonk. Flora Bama Jama set up shuttle locations in both Alabama and Florida and it was a 25 dollar fee to ride to and from. It was definitely worth every penny. The shuttles were extremely nice and COOL and there was hardly any wait time or traffic before or after it was over. If this event happens again and I don't stay near the venue, I would happily pay the 25 dollars again. You got a band to get into the event and a band for the shuttle.
You weren't allowed to bring in coolers or food which was fine. This was a free event so you should expect to pay money for food and drinks. Water and gatorade were a reasonable three dollars compared to the way some venues raise prices. You were allowed to bring in pre packaged snacks which we didn't do because we simply didn't plan well but next year we will definitely load up with snacks. And UMBRELLAS. That's my only regret. It was easily 99 degrees all day long. After the gates opened at 10 AM, you were on the beach with NO shade until you left for the day. There were a lot of people who brought said umbrellas and they looked more comfortable than I did. Ha! It wasn't jammed packed because people used beach towels to claim spots. It was actually the easiest concert to get out of to get a drink and come back. You just needed patience and manners and it was relatively a breeze. I got sunburned so there's another thing to work on next year. Ha. And definitely just wear your swim suit and a cover up. There was NO need for blue jeans or cowboy boots at this event. I cried a little on the inside for the girls with a full face of makeup and cowboy boots on. That must've been miserable. Shout out to the Flora Bama for having watering stations so people could fill up their water bottles for FREE. I do think a few gatorades are necessary in that sort of heat and that is another thing I learned.
It was a very fun event. I think I'm going to have to put Kenny Chesney at number one for stamina on stage. I've never seen an artist run and jump and sweat and keep a smile like Kenny did. You can tell he genuinely LOVES his life and his fans. I said it on twitter but Kenny said thank you so many times I lost count. He sang some new songs from his upcoming album that you can (and should) pre order on ITunes so you should hop on over there and do just that!
He also released a single titled "Flora Bama" which is how he opened the show. The lyrics to this song are so relatable and everyone was singing along.

 That's enough to read about the event. I hope the pictures do it justice. I would it all over again in a heartbeat with a few more gatorades, a bag of goldfish and a big ole umbrella.
Thanks for an amazing day, Kenny. Same time and place next year?



Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sam Hunt Interview

If I were to say the name Sam Hunt a year ago you may not have the slightest clue to who I was referring to. Fast forward 12 months and if you are a fan of country music, I'd be willing to bet you've at least heard the name.
Sam Hunt is a singer songwriter that was born in Cedartown, Georgia and grew up playing sports. Sam was a college quarterback that went on to move to Nashville a few years ago. In the past few years, Sam has spent most of his time in small, dark rooms creating brilliant songs that some well established artists have picked up and recorded and put on their own albums. All three of these songs have done exceptionally well and they include Kenny Chesney's "Come Over," Keith Urban's "Cop Car," and most recently Billy Currington's "We are Tonight."

photo credit: facebook
Sam put a free mixtape up on his website last summer and since then has signed a major recording deal with Universal Records in Nashville. Sam's debut single from the upcoming album is "Leave the Night On." This single was released to country radio 6 weeks ago and as of today, it's sitting at number 7 on ITunes.
I've been a fan of Sam Hunt since he released the mixtape "Between the Pines" last summer. From seeing him perform with 100 people in the crowd to seeing over a hundred people waiting outside bars to get inside to hear him, I can honestly say that I've never met a more determined, deserving and dedicated artist.

Sam was kind enough to sit down with me for a few minutes before his performance at Bragg Jam last night.
1. A lot of people say that there is no connection between athletics and music. With your background as an athlete for most of your life before pursuing music, do you agree with this statement?
"I do disagree with the disconnect between athletics and music. I do think that there is a subculture that starts early on with the youth of America that starts to separate the two in a way that isn't necessarily fair in the long run. I think a balance of athletics and music is an important thing in any culture. That's sort of a philosophy that I actually read one time that I believe was from Aristotle. He talked about building a society of people that is in harmony and it talks about educating a balance of the two. If you're too strong on the arts, then you have a weak people. If you're too strong on the athletics, then you have a violent group of people. I think a balance of the two is something that is fundamentally important to balance a society. I know that's a little off topic but I do think that country music is the genre that has closely tied the two. It is still an interesting path to have gone from athletics to music the way that I did but it's worked out so far for me. I enjoy both."
2. When did you first start playing an instrument and which instrument was that?
"The guitar. I started out on an acoustic guitar and still haven't branched out much further than that. I learned to play the harmonica a little bit in college and then I bought a little keyboard just a few years ago. I've gotten to where I can play a few chords on the piano. Piano is probably still my favorite instrument so I'd like to continue to learn and get better at the piano."
3. What made you want to cross over from songwriter to singer/songwriter?
"I think the singing aspect of song writing is an important tool that I've tapped into. As a songwriter, you're combining music, instrumentation, melody, vocal and a lyric. So, to me, singing has been an important part of the melody aspect of creating for me. If I didn't sing at all, it would be tough to come up with the melodies. You don't necessarily have to be a singer to come up with lyrics. Fortunately, I've been able to use the singing element to come up with melodies that will help produce lyrics. I think the two (writing and singing) have always been connected in my approach.
4. What is one song that you wish you would have recorded?
"It's hard to say because recording a song, to me, is an 'in the moment' kind of thing. The song would have to relate to my life at that moment for me to be as passionate about songs as I have been in the past. Then, as I close that chapter and move into a new season, those songs that I was passionate about don't relate as much so it's hard to say. A couple of years ago a song that Miranda Lambert put out called "The House That Built Me" was a song that really hit home with me. I really love those earthy, singer-songwriter songs that come out every so often that someone like Miranda Lambert takes a chance on and puts out to radio. Then, those types of songs become hits. They are the underdog in 'commercial radio music potential' a lot of the times when you look at it from a business stand point. But, musically, if an artist can break through with songs like that, it just shows how great songs truly rise to the top."
5. What inspires you to write music?

"For inspiration, I typically have to relate to the emotion that I'm trying to express in a song. But, as a human being and as someone who lives a life a lot like the lives that a lot of other people are living, there's certain emotions and feelings that we all experience. Relationships are a big part of that. I tend to be inspired by ideas or emotions that I have lived out. Especially from a relationship standpoint at my age now. I'm sure as I get older and start to relate to different things as an adult, I'll write about those things. But, in the last few years, the songs that I've written have been mostly about relationship experiences because that's just the most emotional part of my life."

6. What's your favorite song that you've ever written?

"That's another thing that changes. I would have to answer that question in this moment and that may change in a week. Right now, the song that I really like performing and the same song that is going to be on the album is a song called "Break Up in a Small Town." I really worked hard on this song and spent a lot of time on the little nuances of that lyric."
7. What is one piece of advice that you would tell young artists to remember?
"I would tell those artists to write music that makes them feel something. Don't pay attention to genre boundaries. Don't pay attention to what other artists are writing. Don't pay attention to what any other songwriter has said before or think they might say. Just think about what makes you feel and say what you want to say. Sing in a way that makes you feel something and then see what comes out on the other side. Let yourself be vulnerable and hope that other people feel the same way that you feel about it."
8. What is an item on your bucket list as an artist that would mean a lot for you to be able to scratch off?
"I would say to make a record of songs that I'm proud of and that I didn't hold back on. A record that I sunk my heart and soul into and that's the position I'm in right now. I'm working on that record and I'm almost finished with it. That's still a milestone, probably the biggest one, for me, as of now. Until I do that, I can't really look past to what the next thing would be."
9. What's one thing you do before every show?
"I don't have any rituals that are consistent or are a necessity other than something like getting dressed."
10. What's the most memorable moment you've experienced so far as an artist?
"As a pursuer of a career in music, the most notable thing that has happened to me is having a song recorded by Kenny Chesney called "Come Over." That's the first time I had a song of mine reach the radio and the radio is such a pinnacle in the career I'm involved in now. That was such a huge thing and a big leap forward in my project."
11. You've toured with a variety of artists. What's one thing that you've learned from them?
"I think the biggest thing has been the hospitality and the appreciation that they have shown me as an opener. Now, knowing how that feels and what that meant to me, I want to always be able to express that to anyone in the future who might be coming out on the road with me as an opener or as a fellow tour mate. I always want to express my appreciation to anyone who is willing to share the stage with me."
12. Who were your favorite artists to listen to growing up?
"The only outlet I really had to listen to music growing up was the radio and it was always 90's country. So, I could probably sing word for word every song that was on country radio in the 90's. I could make a long list but just to name a few: Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt, Garth Brooks, Randy Travis, and Kenny Chesney. I was more a fan of the song rather than the artist so I'm just a really big fan of 90's country."
13. Your album is set for a fall release date. Will there be any songs on the album that were also on the mixtape?
"I have a few songs that deserved more of a life than just having been put on the mixtape. I'll put those songs on the album and there's six or seven from the mixtape that will be cut for the album. Of course, they'll be fully produced versions."
14. "Leave the Night On" has been on country radio for 5 weeks now and has already broken top 25. Did you expect the single to do this well, this quickly?
"No, not at all. You can only try to make predictions based on the past. I've followed country radio and new artists and sort of educated myself on how the charts work for a while. I'd never seen anything like that before so my expectation was not that high. I am proud to have a song on the radio no matter how many times it is spinning. To have it moving that fast is pretty insane to me. I don't get caught up in those things as much as I do focus on how many people are coming out to see us play. I look at how passionate they are singing the songs back to us and how many people are buying the song. Radio is huge but I didn't really know how to go about convincing them to play our music. Fortunately, the music spoke for itself. The only way I knew to get people to come to our shows was to give them music and that's why I put out that free mixtape and they spread the word which has been a huge testament to what we are doing. It's really meant a lot to me. It's cool because the radio helps us reach more people and that's a circle that keeps going and helps us out."
FAN QUESTION -I asked y'all on twitter and facebook one question you wanted Sam to answer and the number one response (by far) was the following:
15. How many pairs of shoes and hats do you have?
"I've loved shoes since the first time I saw a pair of LA Lights and my mom wouldn't let me get them because they were too expensive and the first time I saw a pair of Jordan's and my mom wouldn't let me get them because they were also too expensive. Since then, I've loved shoes. No matter what I have on, I like to have a good pair of shoes. I have a big industrial rack that is full of shoes and I don't really know how many pairs are up there. I'm ashamed to say but I definitely collect shoes. And the hat rack is right above it and it's loaded down, too."
As you can see from these answers, there's much more to Sam Hunt than being the new "it" guy in country radio right now. I'm so thankful to Sam and his entire band and team for always being so nice and welcoming at shows. I've never been more proud or honored to support an artist and I hope y'all will start to and/or continue to do the same. The crazy thing is, I have a feeling this is JUST the beginning for Sam Hunt.
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