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?