Season 5 Artists

Season 5 Artists

Hunter Hayes

Read Bio

Listen closely to Hunter Hayes as he talks, that million-mile-an-hour voice, all rapid-fire energy and bustling passion. Not long ago he released his second album, the country chart-topping Storyline. But the 22-year-old, mind always churning, ideas jettisoning from brain to hand and voice, can’t help but wonder what lies ahead. “I’m on an unending search to find what it is that I love and how it is that I will do it,” he says of the wide-open, all-options future for a four-time GRAMMY nominee, CMA New Artist of the Year and youngest male act ever to top the Billboard Hot Country song chart. “How am I going to achieve getting the sounds that I love? What is it that I can’t resist?”

The wonder of a talent like Hayes is that even when he has a rare moment of reprieve from the mayhem of touring the world on a solo jaunt, breaking the Guinness Book of World Records’ mark for most concerts in a 24-hour period or, say, performing at the GRAMMY Awards, he’s focused on his craft. “I should be fatigued of writing,” he admits. “But I have written easily a third of whatever my next project is. It’s more of a daily circle now,” he explains of his omnipresent muse. “Maybe the next record will have no delays, no reverb, no big drum sound, and no stacked overdubbed guitar sound? Maybe it’s just me with a Telecaster? Maybe I get rid of all my other guitars, hide them so I’m not tempted to try them, and I just have to make it work with this one guitar? Maybe that’s what I’m looking for?”

If anything, Hayes has learned to let go. He’s still, as he says, “wound really tight,” but as the multi-instrumentalist’s journey – and outsize popularity – has exploded since his wise-beyondhis-years 2011 self-titled debut album, the Breaux Bridge, Louisiana-native has steadily been on a quest to self-evolve alongside his artistic output. Why be in the business of creation, he believes, if you, the person people are eager to know and love, is hiding in plain sight?

“I’ve been shy. I’ve been quiet,” he admits. “I’ve kept to myself. Because in a lot of ways, that’s who I am. I can talk about anything as long as I feel like I’m comfortable. If I’m nervous in any way, shape or form, I’m very careful. That’s something that has actually hurt me more than helped me. Because the less I talk, the less people know who I am, the more I sort of hide. I’ve just been afraid of saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing or leaving the wrong impression. But what I’ve realized is not leaving an impression at all is worse. It’s even less productive.”

Change for Hayes isn’t easy. He’s admittedly longed for control in his day-to-day life – whether that includes crafting a new album, dreaming up new melodies, or simply making sure he finds time to snag groceries in between vinyl and mandolin shopping. Hayes is learning to fly by the seat of his pants.

“I’ve had to let go of being a routine person,” he continues. “We have this saying in the band, ‘Do it Live.’ It’s how we live our lives: you do it live, you figure it out. I have to be brave enough as a person to live the way I make my music.”

It’s easy to look at Hayes and marvel at his oft-recounted successes: receiving his first guitar from actor Robert Duvall at age six; performing for the President the following year; signing with Atlantic Nashville Records at age 18; touring as a support act for Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood not long after. It’s all there for the world to see. Hayes wanted more.

“Dude, I had it good!” he says of opening for the two female country superstars. “I could not sit here and think that happens every day by any means. Trust me, I thank my lucky stars! But it said a lot about my heart when, even with all that, I was still pounding on the table fighting to get more than 40 minutes and a backdrop. I wanted to put on a show.”

Hayes’ hardscrabble mentality translated into this past year’s monumental “We’re Not Invisible” headlining tour, a dream realized for a musician whose concept for the massive live outing was utterly visceral.

“I wanted production. I didn’t want just lights and a video screen,” he explains, his voice speeding up with excitement as he recalls his vision for a live show. “I wanted more than that. I wanted my fans to experience more of a show. I wanted new arrangements; I wanted surprises. I wanted stuff that just catches everybody by surprise. I wanted a part of the show to be unplanned. I wanted energy. I wanted to be able to run around a stage, jumping up and down. I wanted to be a mix between Chris Martin, Garth Brooks and Michael Bublé.”

If Hayes’ live show is a wild, no-holds-barred vision put into action, Storyline is its logical predecessor. Expertly crafted yet cut with a free-flowing spirit where all ideas are worth exploring, the 14-track affair showcases Hayes’ diversity and unerring commitment to not staying the course. When posited against his debut album, Hayes views Storyline as the “person your parents saw coming home from college after a year.”

“My only agenda was just to make sure I wasn’t bound by repeating history, that I wasn’t locked into doing what I’ve already done,” he says. “I wanted a record that was diverse and different and had a little bit of everything.”

And so on an album as equally influenced by Fleetwood Mac as Nickel Creek, there’s the harmony-drenched, whiplash “Tattoo” and the foot-stomping “Wild Card” sharing space with more tender offerings like “Invisible” and “Still Fallin.” It’s his duty, Hayes says, to continue to make music he’s proud of.

“My job is to find my sound based on the things that inspire me,” he says. “It’s not about intentionally having this or that or the other. My job is to find my own sound and bring my love for country music and country songwriting and storytelling and musically introduce it in a way that sounds like me.

“I just want people to know me,” Hayes says, taking a deep breath as he looks into the crystal ball he calls his unpredictable life. “Having someone care about what you’re saying is a groundbreaking feeling. That is a beautiful, life-changing experience every time. You don’t get used to that.”

Martina McBride

Read Bio

What Martina McBride intended her latest album to be was a simple gift, but what she wound up with is a timeless treasure.

The multi-million selling vocalist gathered a group of enduring musical chestnuts and assembled a small band to record them live in the studio. The result, a collection titled Everlasting, is a stunning listening experience, with McBride finding fresh nuances in familiar lyrics and working within beautifully crafted new arrangements of cherished melodies.

She breathes new life into ballads like “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” and “Do Right Woman” by digging into the deeper meaning of their messages. McBride is equally refreshing on such tempo tunes as “Wild Night” and “Suspicious Minds.”

Motown gets some new twists in her versions of “Come See About Me” and “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted.” The 1967 Linda Ronstadt ballad “Little Bit of Rain” becomes a standout moment on McBride’s new record. So is the reworking of the 1966 Etta James/Sugar Pie DeSanto romp “In the Basement,” where McBride is joined by pop star Kelly Clarkson. Soulful Gavin DeGraw is her duet partner on the revival of the 1962 Sam Cooke classic “Bring It on Home to Me.”

“I just meant this album to be like a gift,” says Martina McBride. “I wanted to do something different. What I love about this record is that you can just relax with it. I wanted to make an album that you could put on when you’re cooking or when you have friends over. It is like comfort food.”

Everlasting is a departure for Martina McBride in several respects. The pop repertoire and her blue-eyed soul musical approach are certainly new for her. This is also the first collection on her own label. And it marks her first album collaboration with superstar producer Don Was, famed for his work with The Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, John Mayer, Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker, Bette Midler, Carly Simon, The B-52s, Ringo Starr and more.

“I had worked with him once before, a long time ago, on a duet with Bob Seger for the Hope Floats movie soundtrack [in 1998],” McBride recalls. “And I have run into him a few times since then. I’ve always wanted to work with him. I just instinctively knew he was the right choice for this record. He loves havin the band all together recording in one room, so that’s what we did. The musicians were very excited to work with him as well.

“Don is very ‘in the moment’ and focused. When you have his attention, you have ALL of his attention. I loved working with him. He’s so laid back, so sweet and so funny. He has this vibe that just puts everybody at ease and his approach is very musical and organic.

“I’d taken a lot of time and given a lot of thought about what kind of record I wanted to make and what direction I wanted to go in. Choosing the songs was like going on a big treasure hunt. It really just came down to what I felt most comfortable singing and the songs I was drawn to.

“Then I thought, ‘How do I approach this?’ Don said, ‘Your voice is the common thread. You might be singing songs that are different from what you normally do, but people just want to hear you sing.’ Then I relaxed about it and realized, ‘I don’t have to try to be something else. I’m just going to be me.’ If Elton John made a country record, you wouldn’t want him to put on a fake Southern accent. You’d want to hear Elton John.”

When Martina McBride made Timeless, her Platinum-selling, 2005 collection of revived country classics, she stuck close to the songs’ original arrangements. For Everlasting, the band instead settled into various blue-eyed soul grooves and provided her with new approaches to the oldies.

“On each song, we wanted to pay tribute to the original, but also make it our own. I tried to refocus on the lyrics. I couldn’t find a female version of ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now,’ and all of the male versions were kind of angry and accusing. I realized that the song is actually really sad, so I feel like this version is emotionally different than every other one.

“Dan Penn co-wrote ‘Do Right Woman,’ and he was there the day we recorded it. He told me that the actual lyric he wrote was, ‘If you want a do-right, home-days woman, you gotta be a do-right, home-nights man.’ So I sang it that way. I think that’s sweeter.

“’What Becomes of the Broken Hearted’ is kind of sad and hopeless for most of the song. But there’s a glimmer of hope at the end, and I wanted to bring that out. I tried to bring some tenderness to it.

“We approached ‘Come See About Me’ a little differently than The Supremes record and gave it a little heavier groove so that it fit the rest of the album. I based my version of ‘Suspicious Minds’ more on the Dee Dee Warwick version of the song, rather than rely too much on Elvis, even though I love the Elvis record of it. It’s the one I grew up with and it was one of the first songs on my list of choices. I chose ‘In the Basement’ for me and Kelly because I think people would have expected some big ballad from us, and I like the fact that it’s just fun and a little unexpected.

“I wanted to do a Van Morrison song, and I love ‘Into the Mystic’ and ‘Crazy Love.’ Don said, ‘What about “Wild Night?”’ And that turned out to be so much fun and one of my favorite cuts. It came together very quickly in the studio.

“That’s how we worked. A four-piece band, working together and playing off each other. The musicians loved it, and Don loved working with them. We added horns and background vocals later. And that’s really it. It was so easy.

“Putting Everlasting out on my own label also felt easy, to be honest. I’ve always had great relationships with the labels I’ve been on so making the change was not about that. It is a lot of responsibilty but exciting at the same time to just be doing things a bit differently. We put together a great team.

She looks at this new chapter in her life as one more adventure. Martina McBride grew up singing country music in rural Kansas, accompanied by her father’s band. She went off to the big city of Wichita, then married John McBride in 1988. The couple moved to Nashville in 1990. He became the city’s most successful and respected recording studio owner. She became a country star.

She first made the country charts in 1992. Her hit records since then have included such enduring classics as “Wild Angels,” “Safe in the Arms of Love,” “Wrong Again,” “Blessed,” “My Baby Loves Me,” “Life #9,” “Love’s the Only House,” “Whatever You Say,” “Where Would You Be,” “In My Daughter’s Eyes,” “When God Fearin’ Women Get the Blues” and “A Broken Wing.”

She is known for singing lyrics of substance and songs that challenge listeners. Martina has addressed domestic violence in “Independence Day,” female empowerment in “This One’s for the Girls,” child abuse in “Concrete Angel,” alcoholism in “Cheap Whiskey,” poverty in “God’s Will” and cancer in “I’m Gonna Love You Through It.”

To date, she has had 20 top-10 hits and six No. 1 smashes. As a result, Martina McBride is ranked as the most played woman vocalist on country radio between 1999 and 2010, She was honored with induction into the cast of the Grand Ole Opry in 1995.

Martina McBride has been awarded 14 Gold Records, nine Platinum honors, three Double Platinum Records and two Triple Platinum awards and been recognized for selling over 18 million units. The Country Music Association has named her its Female Vocalist of the Year four times. The Academy of Country Music has presented her with its Top Female honor three times. The Recording Academy has nominated her for 14 Grammy Awards.

The release of Everlasting comes during a time of several other career highlights for her. During the first weeks of 2014, Martina performed at all-star salutes to Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame members Greg Allman and Carole King and was a presenter at the Grammy Awards. She joins Country Music Hall of Fame member George Strait on his farewell tour in the spring. She also has her first book, published by Harper Collins and titled Around The Table, due out this fall. It is a book about entertaining at home complete with recipes, decorating tips, and personal stories, and highlights her passion for food and celebrating life with friends and family.

The Rides

Read Bio

Separated in age by a musical generation but bonded by a mutual love of classic cars and the blues, two time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Stephen Stills and five-time Grammy nominated singer, guitarist and songwriter Kenny Wayne Shepherd draw fire from their extraordinary collective histories–and join forces with famed Chicago rock/blues keyboardist Barry Goldberg–to blaze a fresh trail for the historical American art form in the 21st Century.

Launching an exciting new chapter in each of their storied careers, the trio’s new band The Rides— which Stills dubs “the blues band of my dreams,” built to last beyond the concept of a one time all-star gathering—is further powered by the explosive rhythm section of bassist Kevin McCormick and Shepherd’s longtime drummer Chris Layton (also a veteran of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble). Their 429 Records debut Can’t Get Enough, helmed by longtime Shepherd producer Jerry Harrison, is a fascinating historical sweep, featuring a hard hitting mix of Stills-Goldberg-Shepherd penned blues/rock originals, classic blues tunes by Muddy Waters (“Honey Bee”) and Elmore James (“Talk To Me Baby”) and blistering twists on Stills’ favorite Neil Young anthem “Rockin’ In The Free World” and the Iggy Pop & The Stooges’ early 70s classic “Search and Destroy.”

For each principal, the inexplicable, free flowing chemistry and collective energy they shared during that high octane week of mostly first and second takes recorded at EastWest Studios on Sunset Blvd. took their creative A-games to transcendent places. “Barry and I got rid of everything we have learned over the past 40 years about how to screw up a record,” says Stills, who launched his career with Buffalo Springfield in the mid 60s, penning the generation defining “For What It’s Worth” before cementing his legend with Crosby, Stills & Nash (and among many classic hits, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” “Dark Star,” “Southern Cross” and “Love The One You’re With”) over the ensuing decades. “In the spirit of that simple, raw authentic 40s and 50s blues music the three of us love, we got in there and boom! A few takes and we were done. The songs have muscle, they don’t sound dated or contrived, they’re very natural and organic. It’s been the most magical experience of my life and I can’t wait to tour with these guys and start recording again!”

“The Rides are a perfect mix of generations, where three musicians who love and play the blues collide and create music together that go beyond all our other life experiences and career achievements,” says the 35 year old Shepherd, whose accolades in the rock and blues realms since signing his first record deal with Giant Records at 16 include two Billboard Music Awards, two Orville H. Gibson Awards, the Blues Foundation’s Keeping The Blues Alive Awards, two Blues Music Awards and six #1 blues albums. “This is a whole new kind of ensemble for me. I built my own band, which includes Chris Layton, from the ground up, and at the end of the day I’m calling all the shots. But working with Stephen and Barry in The Rides is the first time I’ve been a member of a band where everyone contributes equally to the songwriting and creative and business decisions. It’s something I have wanted to do for a long time.”

Barry Goldberg’s decades of contributions to the blues and rock realms are formidable. As a teenager in his native Chicago, he sat in with Muddy Waters, Otis Rush and Howlin’ Wolf. He played keyboards for Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival, formed The Electric Flag with Mike Bloomfield and later helmed the Barry Goldberg Reunion. Goldberg’s songs (some co-written with Gerry Goffin) have been recorded by everyone from Rod Stewart, Gladys Knight and Joe Cocker to Steve Miller, Percy Sledge, Gram Parsons and B.J. Thomas. He has also received a Grammy nomination for producing and playing on Percy Sledge’s Blue Night. More recently, he has been touring with the Chicago Blues Reunion Band and produced “Born in Chicago,” a documentary about the city’s younger musicians creating a blues/rock explosion from what they learned from the bluesmen who migrated there from the Delta. The film recently premiered at the 2013 South By Southwest Conference.

“Just hanging out and working with masters like Stephen and Kenny was one of the most soulful times I can ever remember having in the studio,” says Goldberg. “Working as a film and TV composer for many years, I had taken way too long a hiatus from my first love, the blues, until a few years ago. What they brought back to me is immeasurable, just reconnecting with the reason I started playing in the first place. I liked working for other people, but I had missed this kind of collaboration and the spontaneity that comes from this kind of immediate interaction and live playing. It’s really a full circle thing for me, and I’m enjoying playing as much as I did when I started in the 60s. As proud as we are of Can’t Get Enough, fans are going to see something even more exciting from us when we start getting out there and playing these songs live.”

Decades before Stills and Goldberg’s mutual manager Elliot Roberts—who has worked with Stills since his Buffalo Springfield days—planted the seeds for Can’t Get Enough with his suggestion that they hook up and start writing together, the two veteran musicians appeared on separate sides of the 1968 seminal jam album Super Session, conceived by Blood, Sweat & Tears founder Al Kooper. (Side 1 featured Mike Bloomfield on guitar, with Goldberg on two cuts, while Side 2 featured Stills). Stills says, “I’m not sure how or why I didn’t meet Barry when we both contributed to that recording, but despite being raised in different regions, him from Chicago and me the Southern white kid, we got together and discovered a mutual love for Little Walter, Elmore James, Ray Charles and all the great blues players of the 40s and 50s. That’s also the common thread Barry and I share with Kenny Wayne, despite being from different generations.”

Goldberg adds, “When I first went over to Stephen’s house to start writing, it was like finding a long lost soul brother. We connected on so many things and started jamming and soon had written our first song for the project, from which we got the album title.”

Roberts’ idea to reach out to Shepherd about bringing him into the project was ironic because of a unique musical connection that Stills and Shepherd had – a night jamming at a private party before the 2007 Super Bowl, hosted by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay. As Shepherd recalls the night, he took the stage with Mike Mills from REM, John Mellencamp and drummer Kenny Aranoff and halfway through the second song, Stills jumped up and started jamming with them for the next few hours. Looking back, Stills finds it hilarious that the combination of his hearing loss and Aranoff’s drumming power overwhelmed his ability to hear Shepherd’s guitar. Though he and Shepherd hung out and interacted casually at other Colts games over the years, when Roberts suggested Shepherd for the project, Stills at first didn’t realize this was the guy he had shared the stage with that night. This unique background story brought irony and humor into their dynamic and spontaneous musical mix, which Stills compares to the otherworldly excitement he experienced jamming with Jimi Hendrix at their respective studios in the wake of the legendary Monterey International Pop Music Festival in 1967.

“Long story short, Kenny Wayne got together with me and Barry, we started working on some songs and everything happened very quickly, like Kenny Wayne and I were cousins or something,” Stills says. “I love him, he’s a great guitar player and one of the nicest people I know. All the great blues musicians I wanted to play with over the years had their own bands and because I was always busy with my harmony group, I never had time to find the right combination of people. As good as I think The Rides are now, I can’t wait till we get some live gigs under our belt.”

When Shepherd entered the picture, Stills and Goldberg had three songs that were close to being finished, which the guitarist later contributed to; they then began writing more songs and later chose a unique array of cover tunes. Their original collaborations include the heartfelt ballad “Only Teardrops Fall,” the searing and emotional “Can’t Get Enough,” the brooding, image rich “RoadHouse” and the reflective plea “Don’t Want Lies.” “Word Game” is a socially conscious song about the hypocrisy of the world which Stills wrote several decades ago but never recorded. The lead vocals are almost evenly split with Stills taking six and Shepherd taking four of the cover songs, “That’s A Pretty Good Love,” “Talk To Me Baby,” “Search and Destroy” and “Honey Bee.”

“From our initial songwriting session to our sessions at East West, everything happened effortlessly, and the creative process was invigorating,” says Shepherd. “We wrote the songs in a week and did the recording in a week. Can’t Get Enough has honest performances recorded the way old albums were made, using analog 2 inch tape with everyone playing in the same room together. When established musicians get together the way we did, everyone’s bringing different experience and musical contributions to the table, and you never know what it’s going to be like. But despite the so called ‘star power,’ we really didn’t have big expectations. We just wanted to have fun and play music together, with nothing contrived. The first day we started writing together, we became aware that this was a special chemistry and what began as a cool concept for the three of us to work together evolved naturally into a real working band that is creating and developing its own sound.”

Echoing his partner, Stills adds, “I’m absolutely dedicated to this group, including the rhythm section combination of Kevin McCormick and Chris Layton, who keeps a pocket on the drums that no one else can. We’re joined at the hip and nothing’s going to change that. These are the guys I’ve been waiting for to play the blues with.”

Bob DiPiero

Read Bio

Since his first #1 in 1983, Hall of Fame Songwriter Bob DiPiero has been responsible for an uninterrupted string of country music hits. One of Nashville’s most prolific and consistent songwriters,Bob possesses a humble drive to keep learning and stay relevant.He has had over 1,000 songs recorded by other artists, countless hitsingles, and an astounding 15 #1 hits. His songs have been featuredin TV shows, commercials and movies. In 2011 his song “ComingHome” from the Country Strong movie soundtrack was nominatedfor both an Oscar and Golden Globe Award for “Best OriginalSong in a Motion Picture.” Among his other countless awards are50 BMI Million-Air honors, multiple Songwriter of the Yearawards and 2 consecutive Triple Play awards for 3 #1 songs withina 12 month period. Bob is the originator of the CMA SongwritersSeries and has served as its Host for 10 years, bringing Nashville’sfinest songwriters and artists throughout the United States andoverseas to Belfast, Dublin, London and Paris. In 2007, he wasinducted into the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fameand Nashville’s Walk of Fame where his star is located betweenJimi Hendrix and Barbara Mandrell. Bob quotes, “The location ofmy star pretty much says it all!” In 2014 Bob was invitedby The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to perform atthe prestigious, “Poets and Prophets Series” as a “Salute to BobDiPiero.” Most recently the CMA presented Bob with their CMAChairman’s Award in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the music industry and songwriting community.

Little Big Town

Read Bio

“Hot on the heels of their wildly successful album Tornado, Little Big Town’s prescription for continued success and creative drive is in their sixth album, Pain Killer.

The two years since Tornado’s release have proven to be the most formative and motivational for the inspired family of artists, together since 1998. In the short time since Tornado, Little Big Town earned two number one radio hits with Tornado and Pontoon, a Grammy, two ACM and three CMA awards and an Emmy. They also found time to headline a sold-out tour, join Keith Urban across North America and host the CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock twice.

These hard-earned accolades and new opportunities provided a steady dose of inspiration at every turn, leading them to a fresh and very intentional approach to their latest studio album. They co-wrote most of Tornado’s songs as a group and knocked out production in a matter of weeks, whereas the road to Pain Killer was significantly longer in the making, and much more calculated.

LBT intentionally began writing and curating their songs early in their tour for Tornado in May 2013. They followed the creative energy wherever it flowed by splitting into different writing combinations.

“We decided not to lock ourselves into writing as a group. We wanted a more relaxed and free approach,” says Karen Fairchild. “There was no pressure to write as certain groups at certain times. We followed the inspiration instead of forcing it.”

“I don’t know that we would have written Tumble and Fall if the boys had been in the room,” she continues. “The writing process on that song was very therapeutic for all of us girls. Just as Faster Gun is a guy’s song, it probably wouldn’t have turned out the same way had the girls been in the room.”

New voices, including Ryan Tyndell, Blair Daly, Jeremy Spillman and Shane McAnally, joined long-term LBT collaborators, such as Hillary Lindsey, Liz Rose, Lori McKenna, Jedd Hughes and Natalie Hemby.

As a result, Pain Killer covers all new territory for LBT. The band and its writing and production partners favored multi-layered effects. They drew from a mix of influences including vintage 50’s country, 70’s country, funk, groove, a cappella, bluegrass and straight up rock n’ roll.

This evolution of LBT’s sound is the outcome of their free reign to write and craft as they chose, making Pain Killer as uninhibited as their creative process. “We don’t think about boundaries anymore. We let go of that because it doesn’t work for us. We do better when we’re freed up,” Karen says.

Phillip Sweet offers an enlightened perspective on songwriting. “You chase whatever idea starts the creative process. It might be a lyric. It might be a melody. Sometimes a song unloads on you and you have to catch it and hang on for dear life. [Writing Pain Killer] was a healthy competition and motivating. The best songs won. There was no ego involved in that.”

Pain Killer proves LBT has a strong command on the courage it takes to create. “We have learned to trust ourselves. It’s confidence and experience. We’re braver than we’ve ever been on this record,” explains Kimberly Schlapman.

LBT recorded 23 songs for Pain Killer, ultimately narrowing the album to 13. “The creative process is such a living thing,” says Jimi Westbook. “We’ve become good at acknowledging when it’s not working. It’s easy to try to force it, but we’ve grown to understand when to move on. There came a point when the song selection came together and felt right. It had a great personality.”

The bonds LBT and producer, songwriter and musician extraordinaire Jay Joyce formed when producing Tornado carried over seamlessly into the creation of Pain Killer. This relationship, combined with the unstructured writing process and the use of their road band in the studio, gave way to a new adventure in experimenting with sound.

Jimi makes an astute observation of Joyce, “He is such an amazing, creative person and fun to work with. He takes you places you don’t expect to go; and that’s exciting, musically. You feel a lot of freedom in that.”

“Jay is like a mad scientist. He uses our voices as instruments. Literally!” Phillip exclaims. “It was a deliberate choice to use our voices in ways we hadn’t before. It was exhilarating.”

Today’s recording standards are streamlined and corrected, manipulated and often times overpolished. Joyce makes music very differently, as found throughout critically acclaimed partnerships with artists such as Cage the Elephant, Amos Lee, Eric Church and Emmy Lou Harris.

“Jay doesn’t believe in a cleaned up, pristine track,” adds Karen. “Sometimes you don’t even know what layers exist. He will wake up in the middle of the night and go lay down some great, totally unexpected elements.”

Kimberly also enjoys Joyce’s creative drive. “He is very spontaneous when recording. He leaves a lot in. That’s good for us!”

One sign of a successful collaboration is simple: LBT still listens to Pain Killer and hears sounds and effects they never noticed before, an experience musical craftsmen the world over are sure to envy.

“Pain Killer has a lot of different sounds without sounding unorganized,” says Joyce. “It’s a more artistic album than LBT has done before. It has a lot of integrity.”

The provocative album has something for everyone: A treatment for the broken heart or the shattered spirit, a rally cry for those exhausted by love yet still inspired by it, a testament to the enduring hope of a long relationship, a promise of perseverance and a shot of good, old-fashioned fun.

Pain Killer leads off with “Quit Breaking Up with Me,” a power pop anthem for those infamous on-again / off-again relationships that are plagued with drama and indecision. “It has so much attitude!” says Jimi. Written by Busbee, Natalie Hemby and Shane McAnally, it’s laced with punk, a shot of rock and rolls with LBT’s characteristic country sass.

“Day Drinking” was the first song LBT wrote as a group for Pain Killer, along with Troy Verges and Barry Dean, and is the album’s first single. Its fanciful marching band and quirky whistles work together brilliantly to create a playful song of summer. “People are genuinely happy when they hear it,” adds Phillip. “Day Drinking” set the tone for the album, motivating LBT to innovate with each new song. Recently selected as “Song of the Week” by USA Today, this first single continues to climb the charts.

“Tumble and Fall,” written by the ladies of LBT and Lori McKenna, Liz Rose and Hillary Lindsey, is a promise to persevere in a relationship despite the challenges and offenses that naturally arise. “It’s a reminder to be humble. Be vulnerable. It’s a peaceful song,” Kimberly adds. Featuring Jimi’s vocals and Kimberly’s soaring harmonies, “Tumble and Fall” is both heartfelt and delightful.

LBT knew early on in song selection that “Pain Killer” would be the title track. “Music, like medicine, can be a vice, a drug, a muse. But in this case, “Pain Killer” refers to the love drug,” says Karen. It is the magic potion made real, solving all problems with one fell swoop and intoxicating in the best way. Written by Karen, Jimi, Blair Daly and Lindsey, it is an upbeat, reggae-tinged tune perfect for a road trip, best enjoyed while riding with one hand out the window or on the back of a lover’s neck.

Perhaps the most affecting, jaw-dropping track is the down-tempo “Girl Crush.” This attention-grabber is stripped down to a power vocal with sparse backing. Karen’s soulful voice finds a fitting showcase against a retro beat, echoing the sounds of Patsy Cline and her contemporaries. Written by McKenna, Rose and Lindsey, it is one of the few songs to which every woman can relate. “’Girl Crush’ is one of the most brilliant lyrics I’ve ever heard. It takes a modern phrase and turns it at the hook. And it’s empty in the right places. It gives me chills every time I listen to it because the raw emotion really comes through,” Jimi explains.

One of the more cinematic and barrier-breaking tracks is “Faster Gun,” written by Jeremy Spillman, Ryan Tyndell, Jimi and Phillip while in “dude mode” in the perfect place for men to be men – a man cave, conveniently located at the studio. “Faster Gun” is one of the best examples of new sounds and layers for LBT. It sounds like a Tarantino flick – raw and liberated. “I could see it playing in my head like a trippy, acid western. It’s completely different than anything we’ve done before,” Phillip says. “Faster Gun” is the track that showcases LBT in a totally new light.

“Good People” is a musical high five to partners in crime and is the glue binding all of the tracks together. “We fell in love with it the minute we heard it. It felt great and we needed a moment like this on the record. It brought it to life,” Phillip says. Joyce, Hemby and Spillman wrote the song which spotlights Kimberly’s pure-tone soprano. This track is a gift to any friend who not only knows where the secrets are buried, but helped bury them.

“Stay All Night” is upbeat, totally rockin’ and full of life. “I love the groove. The phrasing is rapid fire and very rhythmic. It’s funky cool!” explains Jimi. “I’m so excited it made the record. The girls have lungs for days!” Written by Jimi, Phillip, Brent Cobb and Jason Saenz, “Stay All Night” is the party song fitting for a no-holdsbarred night out. Jimi’s vocals cranked the dial to 11 while Joyce tuned guitar strings to one chord and used the entire instrument as a horn. Full of personality, “Stay All Night” is a shining example of sonic details masterfully woven.

Another powerful showcase of Kimberly’s full and lively vocals is “Save Your Sin.” It was written by McKenna, Rose and Lindsey as a swift kick in the behind to someone less than worthy of another’s heart. The upbeat and pulsing track is just what Pain Killer needs. “Kimberly freaking killed it,” Jimi says. “It’s like the Foo Fighters meets country with a big screaming vocal.”

Written on the road in a dressing room by the whole band with Spillman and Tyndell, “Live Forever” features the traditional harmonies that first attracted fans and critics to LBT. “It is the epic love song,” says Phillip. “Live Forever” is a master class in harmonies. It is the beautiful and profound track that anchors the album and expands on the talent the world has come to expect from Little Big Town.

In contrast to the classic LBT song that is laced with romance and sweeping vocal harmonies, “Things You Don’t Think About” is “total sassville,” says Kimberly. Written by Hemby, McAnally and Ross Copperman, it begins with a sparse groove followed by a chilling down beat. “You feel this arresting, visceral energy the moment it comes on. It’s a killer song about not taking someone for granted,” Phillip adds.

Little Big Town deeply understands and respects the creative process. They know the challenges a creative spirit faces in an unforgiving music industry. With this is in mind, they set out with Spillman, Hemby and Joyce to write a wake up call, “Turn the Lights On.” This hard-driving, rock n’ roll hymn is especially for those brilliant minds that have to continually hear “no” before they ever hear the “yes” that changes everything. It’s an inspiring and over-the-top reminder to anyone to get up off the mat and keep going. “Standing up for yourself as an artist is the hardest lesson to learn. Artists aren’t always nurtured once they become part of the business machine. It’s a lot harder for solo artists, but we have each other for the gut check,” says Karen.

The album’s coda, “Silver and Gold,” is a poetic, quiet song starring the characteristic LBT harmonies that have never been lost or lessened by time or circumstance. Karen, Kimberly, Joyce and Jedd Hughes penned it under the stained glass in Joyce’s church-turned-studio. Kimberly says, “Jedd Hughes is a poet and inspiration.” A simple, sonic masterpiece backed by a solo acoustic guitar, “Silver and Gold” is an encouraging reminder for a heavy heart that good still lives inside. “The vocals just wash over you,” says Phillip.

When reflecting on the entirety of Pain Killer, Jimi sums it up well. “Being in a studio, creating music and a moment that means something to people is magic. We love this record. The creative part of us is satisfied.”

With a keen focus on different vocal and writing configurations, LBT again astounds its fans and critics alike with harmonies that are typically found among voices sharing the same DNA. Their strengthening relationships and maturity earned over 15 years together all come together in this masterful production.

A remedy for everything that ails any listener, Pain Killer is an antidote of anthems and inspiration to heal even the most tortured heart. It is one big love letter to Little Big Town’s fans.

Trey Anastasio

Read Bio

Sometimes it’s tempting to reflect on the road not taken. But while most of us regard a fork in the road as an either/or proposition – left or right? – Trey Anastasio instead sees a convergence of opportunities. Traveler, the new solo album that he co-produced with Peter Katis (The National, Interpol, Jónsi), marks the coalescence of the many roads Anastasio has taken in his remarkable career and caps off a year that he characterizes as one of his busiest, most creatively fulfilling yet.

In the past 12 months, he’s toured the U.S. in three separate configurations: playing arenas with his band mates in the GRAMMY®-nominated, genre-busting band Phish, concert halls in a series of orchestral evenings conducted by the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Scott Dunn, and intimate clubs with his septet, Trey Anastasio Band. He also found time to co-write the music for Hands On A Hardbody with Amanda Green (High Fidelity). Penned by Pulitzer Prize winner Doug Wright, the musical premiered at Southern California’s La Jolla Playhouse in May 2012 and opened on Broadway in March 2013.

“I really enjoy the give and take, the push and pull, the team work,” says Anastasio. “It’s one of the things I’ve always liked about Phish – the unified work together toward a goal. It’s so deeply satisfying. I felt that way as I made Traveler, working with Peter and all these new musicians, like we were sculpting something. And working on the play, Hands On A Hardbody, was very similar.”

In the fall of 2012 Trey’s touring band, Trey Anastasio Band, returned to the road in support of Traveler, which also features many members of the band. From its beginnings in 1998 the band has included original members Russ Lawton (drums), and Tony Markellis (bass), and over the years has added Cyro Baptista (percussion), Ray Paczkowski (keys), Jennifer Hartswick (trumpet, vocals), Natalie Cressman (trombone, vocals). The latest tour featured new-comer James Casey (saxophones, vocals).

for KING & COUNTRY

Read Bio

They’re twins! No, not Joel and Luke Smallbone, the Australian brothers who are at the core of the band for KING & COUNTRY. We’re talking about the dual Grammy trophies that the band took home in February 2015, triumphing in both of their nominated categories with their sophomore album, Run Wild. Live Free. Run Strong. “When we won those awards, it was obviously shocking,” says Luke Smallbone, noting the better-established acts they were up against. “The songs from the album are very personal and maybe the Grammy voters could sense that?” Naturally, the guys in for KING & COUNTRY weren’t actually doing it for glory or Grammy, but if their candor happens to be validated with kudos, they’ll take it.

The awards came at the peak of a heady season for the brothers, who first caught the attention of the mainstream in America around the time that Billboard magazine named them one of the publication’s “New Artists to Watch for 2012.” They made good on that prophecy with a debut album, Crave that made them not just a blip on the radar, but put for KING & COUNTRY on the map with 410,000 track sales and 9.5 million streams. Two years later, Run Wild. Live Free. Run Strong. celebrated an even stronger start out of the gate. The sophomore effort debuted at No. 13 on the Billboard Top 200 and No. 2 on iTunes; the lead single, “Fix My Eyes,” reached the top spot on several radio formats and landed the band on The Today Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live. But when they won those Grammys, they were humbled… and not just in the 21st-century, figurative sense of the word.

“That week was one of the biggest of our career,” says Luke. “We had just finished filming a concert in New York City for Public Television’s Front and Center, performing on the Today show, playing the Georgia Dome and Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, and then winning two Grammys. It was surreal.”

They certainly come by a sense of high stakes, not just in their themes, but in their Cinemascope-sized musical influences. “We love classic U2 or Tears for Fears — big-sounding bands,” says Joel. “But when I want to unwind, I actually pull up film scores – the most recent Tron film, (Daft Punk) or James Horner or Hans Zimmer with the Batman series.” You can also hear that mixture of cinematic grandeur and human-sized emotion in their new single, “Fix My Eyes,” which begins with a theatrical drum-line before settling into a sound that some have described as “Australia’s answer to Coldplay.”

 

However accurate the Chris Martin comparison, the Australian part is a little off, or at least begs a geographic qualifier since the family moved to Nashville to set up shop in the U.S. when Joel and Luke were just boys. And therein lie some tales.

 

“Our family was the Australian version of the Von Trapp family singers,” Joel laughs. “We probably toured together on and off for a decade.” And all that, mind you, was before for KING & COUNTRY was even formed.” But let’s backtrack still further. Their father was a concert promoter in Australia, who’d bring the children down to the halls to watch the bands. But after he lost his shirt on a tour, it was time for the family to sell everything they owned as dad took a job in America… an offer of employment that evaporated as soon as they arrived in Nashville. All but penniless, the family took to sleeping on beds of clothes, raking leaves, and scrounging for quarters in pay phones to survive, even as the kindness of strangers became something the itinerant family found themselves able to rely upon.

But then came a break even bigger than landing lawn-care assignments: the brothers’ big sister, who’d professionally redubbed herself Rebecca St. James, got a record deal and quickly turned a couple of gold records. Suddenly, as they spent most of the year on the road, everyone in the family had a job in the business. Luke ran the lights and Joel was not only the stage manager, but a background vocalist. “I daresay it’s a much more sophisticated version of the Von Trapp family now,” Joel says. “Our brother Ben produces all of our videos, while the brother above him, Daniel, has gone on to have his own lighting firm. Dad still manages us and our mom and elder sister are the cheerleaders who guide from the sidelines.”

The two brothers were rivals in their teen years. Joel keen on being a solo artist and Luke planning on pursuing football… until he suffered an injury that put the kibosh on those plans. At that point Joel, who was already more musically inclined, suggested that maybe they could try singing together, while Luke’s knee healed. Out of that came the kind of harmonies that only close blood relatives can produce. Rather than compete for lead vocals, they settled into a complementary approach that echoed their off-stage personalities. Luke, a little more laid-back, has a voice that is particularly rich in the highest and lowest ranges so he tends to sing lead on verses. Conversely Joel, who is a bit more aggressive, is at his best in a blustery middle range that is perfect for getting loud on what they jokingly call the “Shouty” and anthemic choruses.

For a long time they went nowhere, “Five years after we started, nothing was happening. But when we look back now, we realize that we were both waiting for the other to give up,” Luke admits. Even the inability to settle on a name seemed to symbolize their floundering. But finally, their persistence paid off. Their 2012 debut, Crave, induced a craving among listeners to the tune of 410,000 track sales and over 9 million streams. But before they could get to their even more acclaimed sophomore effort, there would be more tough personal roads to hoe.

Says Joel, “We began working on the record around the same time that I got married. It was a polarizing moment because I was away on my honeymoon and unbeknownst to us Luke’s health took a turn for the worse. (He had earlier been diagnosed with a digestive disorder). The album has that contrast. On one hand, it’s full of the excitement and joy that new love can bring, and on the other, the kind of trauma and fear that a life-threatening sickness carries with it.”

Luke’s illness left Joel touring alone for a while between records. “It goes without saying that it was hard, as a brother and a partner, for me to see him in that state and to be reminded every night of his absence. We wrote on the new record about how he stared full-face at mortality. ‘Shoulders’ is a very spiritual song that was directly written about that, as was ‘Without You’, which is just as direct, though it deals more with the effect that an illness has on loved ones.”

“Fix My Eyes” feels more celebrative, but came out at a time when the brothers were cataloguing their personal failures as well as feeling aspirational. “When we wrote ‘Fix My Eyes,’ we started with a list of sorts: ‘to love life without fear, to give when it’s not fair’ — kind of all these things that we hoped we would be known for, yet, in the midst of how tired and exhausted we were, we weren’t really sure if that was honestly who we were.”

“We write music about the human experience, plain and simple,” Joel says. “Some of the songs are spiritually inclined. Some of the songs are romantically inclined. Some of the songs are about struggle. We want to include everyone who’s felt these things in the story of each song. I do believe that, in being honest in the arts particularly with where we’re coming from and where we’re going, we’re able to spur each other on. And then the beauty of music is that it has the ability to bypass the head and go straight to the heart.” For king, country, and a spot deep in the chest cavity it is, then.

Sara Evans

Read Bio

Confidence is sexy and creativity is empowering. Rarely have those qualities merged into a more potent package than Sara Evans’ new album Slow Me Down. From the simmering title track, which provided her biggest first week ever at country radio, to the life-affirming message of the album’s closing song, “Revival,” Evans has crafted a compelling body of work filled with the kind of slice-of-life vignettes that fans expect from the award-winning vocalist.

Slow Me Down is Evans’ seventh album for RCA Nashville Records and never has she sounded more self-assured and in control of her artistry. “I have a lot of strong opinions because I’ve been doing this my whole life and I know what I want,” says Evans, who coproduced the album with Mark Bright, who helmed her platinum Real Fine Place album and is also known for his work with Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts and Reba McEntire. “I just love him. I really wanted Mark’s type of personality and production on this. He’s always so bright and chipper and is there to give support, direction and his expertise. Plus he’s such a great song guy.”

On Slow Me Down, Evans has delivered an album that reveals a vibrant tapestry of emotion from the truthful resignation of “Good Love is Hard to Find” to her autobiographical ode to contentment “Sweet Spot.” “You Never Know” is a cautionary tale about the fragility of relationships. Love, joy, heartache and desire swirl throughout the album. “That’s intentional and it’s pretty typical for me,” says Evans, who co-wrote three of the 11 songs on the album. “I try to give my fans a little bit of everything that I am and everything that I like. Nothing is ever contrived about my music. I record the songs that I love.”

In serving up this emotional tour de force, the Missouri native enlists a diverse line-up of special guests including The Fray’s Isaac Slade, who duets with Evans on “Can’t Stop Loving You” and Gavin DeGraw who joins Evans on her cover of his pop hit “Not Over You.” Longtime pal Vince Gill lends his voice to the stone cold country “Better Off,” which Evans describes as the most country song she’s ever recorded.

“Slow Me Down” was named one of Billboard’s “10 Best Singles of 2013” and has been buoyed by a video featuring NASCAR driver Carl Edwards. “It’s got a great lyric. It’s got a fabulous melody and they set the tempo to it just perfectly,” Evans says of the song, which was penned by Marv Green, Jimmy Robbins and Heather Morgan. “It’s one of those songs that’s just undeniable and I love what its saying. ‘Hurry up and slow me down’ is obviously a great play on words, but it means so much more than that. She is basically saying, ‘I’m leaving you and I need you know that I’m willing to give this relationship a chance, but if you don’t change your ways, I’m leaving. But when I’m walking away, I want you to hurry up and slow me down. I want you to pursue me.’”

Over the years, Evans has developed a reputation for delivering thoroughly satisfying albums full of great songs brought to life by her distinctive voice. She has that heart-inthe-throat quality that turned Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn into legends coupled with an edgy contemporary sensibility that keeps her at the vanguard of today’s successful country performers. She’s sold nearly six million records and her last four albums have been certified Gold, Platinum or multi-Platinum. She’s scored five No. 1 hits, among them “Suds in the Bucket,” “A Real Fine Place to Start,” “No Place That Far” and “A Little Bit Stronger,” the title track of her chart-topping 2011 album Stronger. The single was No. 1 for two weeks and was certified platinum by the R.I.A.A. Evans has amassed an impressive collection of awards, including female vocalist from the Academy of Country Music and video of the year from the Country Music Association for her ground breaking clip “Born to Fly.”

At the root of all those accolades is a God-given talent fueled by an impressive Midwestern work ethic instilled by her parents. She grew up singing in her family’s band and then moved to Nashville looking for a record deal. Legendary songwriter Harlan Howard heard her on a demo and helped open a door for her at RCA Records where she’s been ever since. “I’ve always felt like I’m a very lucky person,” says Evans. “To be given a gift to sing, I don’t know why the Lord has blessed me with this talent, but it has always made me feel lucky. I always appreciate those special moments like having a No. 1 record or doing a great show. At the end of the show I feel like, ‘This is exactly why I’m doing this!’

Seven albums into an already impressive career and Evans has never been more excited about the music she’s making. “I do feel like I sang with a ton of confidence this time around,” she says. “You always want to get better with your craft and your art. I’m always striving to sing better, write better, and perform better because I’m just very competitive with myself.”

After enduring a messy public divorce, Evans rebounded personally and professionally. She and her three children are now settled in Birmingham with former pro quarterbackturned-sportscaster Jay Barker, whom she married in 2008. “Everything in my professional life is a reflection of my personal life and so I feel very confident. I feel happy and settled,” she says of life in Alabama with the blended family that includes her three children and Barker’s four. “I’m secure in who I am and where I’m going in life. I’m just so obviously in love with Jay and just love being a mom and watching my children come into their teenage years. Avery is 14. Olivia is 11. Audrey is 9. We’re in such a good place right now and I think that I always do better in my career when life is not stressful.”

In addition to her music, Evans is an accomplished author of three books with co-writer Rachel Hauck and writes a lifestyle blog, “A Real Fine Place,” with her sister-in-law Kaelin “K.K” Evans where they share their passion for fashion, beauty, travel and food. She was the first country artist to compete on ABC’s popular “Dancing with the Stars” and she’s been named one of People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People.” A tireless philanthropist, Evans is involved in several charitable endeavors and has been awarded the Crystal Cross by the American Red Cross. Last year she and Barker launched Rock the South. The festival attracted 50,000 country music fans and raised money for the Children’s Hospital of Birmingham and Alabama Forever, a charity formed to help rebuild the areas in Alabama that were struck by devastating tornados.

Though her new album is titled Slow Me Down its obvious Sara Evans isn’t even taking her foot off the gas these days. “I knew that when I started to make this record that I wanted to go further than I had ever gone before with my music,” she says. “Vocally I wanted to challenge myself and in choosing the songs and writing the songs, I wanted to be more of a perfectionist than I have ever been before. I’m super happy with the outcome. Sonically it sounds different. It sounds bigger than anything I’ve ever done.”

Zakk Wylde

Read Bio

Quick, name the guitarist whose previous albums have sold more than Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and AC/DC combined. Hint: It’s not Zakk Wylde.

“Let’s just tell everyone that anyway,” says the guitarist, before launching into a long conversation about other small white lies he’d like stated as fact (including his bench press and a certain anatomy size).

Zakk’s one funny dude, but take the guy seriously: he’s also a phenomenally successful musician and a certified metal deity (see below). For over 20 years he served as Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist, a collaboration that produced a string of multi-platinum albums, including Osbourne’s biggest selling album No More Tears (Wylde wrote all of the music) and Ozzmosis. He has won nearly every guitar award imaginable, and is a major influence on a new battalion of rock guitarists currently popular today. And hey, Wylde’s even got his own custom guitar lines for Gibson and Epiphone, which includes the signature Gibson Les Paul with a bulls-eye graphic that you may have seen used recently by none other than…Justin Bieber guitarist Dan Kanter*.

That’s an impressive resume right there, whether it includes out-selling Zeppelin and the Stones or not (note: it doesn’t). The back story to that is even nuttier – and the stuff of heavy metal legend. Born and raised in New Jersey, Wylde picked up the guitar at 14 and started playing in a few local bands during and after high school, earning his stripes in a group called Zyris and making ends meet in a series of menial jobs (including gas station attendant). A fortuitous run-in with a rock photographer helped land Wylde an audition with Ozzy Osbourne, who was looking for a new guitarist. Wylde couldn’t believe he got the gig; the 20-year old soon found out he was joining the ranks of Tony Iommi, Randy Rhoads and Jake E. Lee as Ozzy’s right hand man.

Several gigantic albums and multiple stadium tours followed. During his off-time, Wylde completed a solo record, an album under the name Pride & Glory, and, in 1998, formed the now legendary Black Label Society (BLS), which went on to earn its own fervent fan base (known as the Berzerkers).

This, you pretty much know. But the last few years have seen Wylde’s life radically altered. First, doctors discovered blood clots in his leg. “The doc was like, ‘you have, what, a drink a day? Six? 12? A case?’ I’m like, ‘It’s a liquid diet,’” says Wylde, laughing. “I mean, I’d drink beer while lifting weights. That’s Black Label Society style for you right there. But the doc told me if I kept this up, I’d be dead by the time I was 50. So I stopped drinking. No big deal.”

Then, the second bomb dropped. Osbourne, Wylde’s boss and mentor since 1988, announced he was looking for a new guitarist. “I heard that, and to me, hey, the glass was half-full,” he says. “It’s like, thanks for letting me be there for 23 years! I’ll always cherish that. What more could Ozzy do for me at this point? I look at it this way: instead of 24-7, Black Label Society is now my life 25-8,” he says.

On March 6, 2013, Black Label Society played a one night only concert at Club Nokia in Los Angeles. Titled Unblackened, the show featured intimate versions of some of the band’s most popular songs, as well as songs from Wylde’s best-selling solo album Book of Shadows and Southern rock band Pride & Glory. Wylde played guitar and piano alongside the members of Black Label Society, accompanied by Derek Sherinian on keyboards and organ, and Gregg Locascio on vocals. The concert was broadcast live exclusively on AXS TV and a CD/DVD will be released later this year.

Previously, Black Label Society released their eighth studio album, Order Of The Black (2010), which featured two singles, “Parade Of The Dead” and “Crazy Horse” and entered the Billboard 200 at No. 4. The band then released their ninth studio album, The Song Remains Not The Same (2011), which was a compilation album featuring new, acoustic versions of songs originally released on Order Of The Black. The album reached No. 41 on the Billboard 200.

In addition to the 9 studio albums, Black Label Society has released one live album, two compilation albums, one EP, and three video albums. Black Label Society is comprised of Zakk Wylde (lead guitar, lead vocals), Nick Catanese (rhythm guitar), John DeServio (bass), and Chad Szeliga (drums).

* FYI, Wylde only has admiration for Bieber and his guitarist, Dan Kanter. “Right now, I think a bunch of people see me on stage and think I’m playing a Dan Kanter guitar,” he says, laughing. “All I know is, right after that photo came out of him with that guitar, our Twitter feed went from 20,000 to like 18 million. We’re bringing a lot of young chicks into the dark side.”

Train

Read Bio

For Pat Monahan, crafting songs that have elevated pop radio and uniquely crystalized audiences’ shuffling inner-life has placed him on coveted songwriting ground. Add the fact that he fronts a band with a twenty year arsenal of enigmatic, signature hits – including “Meet Virginia,” “Drops Of Jupiter (Tell Me),” “Calling All Angels,” “Hey Soul Sister,” “Marry Me,” and “Drive By,” among others – and you begin to understand why their 7th studio album, Bulletproof Picasso, rings so damned true.

The songs are congruent with who he is.

They always have been. “I have got to believe what I’m saying when I’m writing,” he says. “Maybe that’s why this album was more difficult to make. I can’t bullshit my way through.”

He refers to the title track, “Bulletproof Picasso” as a ‘kind of ‘Born To Run’ song – another Monahangut-check – “you know…before we head out again we better find out who we are,” he says; A subconscious ‘selfie’ from an artist whose taken his share of shrapnel through the years: “Nobody’s been able to shoot me down yet,” he laughs. Other songs include the Otis Redding-influenced “Just A Memory,” “Cadillac Cadillac,” “I’d Give It All,” and the album’s first single “Angel In Blue Jeans,” among others. Pat and guitarist Jimmy Stafford stand tall as the two remaining original members ( drummer Scott Underwood parted amiably this past spring) “We’re aligned in our vision,” says Pat. “Jimmy and I are very like-minded; We share a similar view of life and we’ve become pretty close friends through the years.”

They’ve successfully traveled the nearly-unnavigable path of a contemporary, hit-making rock band, and kept their heads. “I did get a bit sad the other day thinking people might know our songs more than the group,” said Pat. “But then I started thinking about it. Some artists release songs and they start at the top of iTunes because of name recognition. We always start at the bottom and work our way to the top. I became happy about that, because it means it’s based on the power of the song. Every song has to earn it’s spot when it comes to us, and there’s something very righteous and noble about that.”

The steep learning curve began in San Francisco in 1994. The original 5-member band tenaciously built a loyal following, leading up to their own self-titled debut album, released by Columbia in 1998. The tumbling wordplay of “Meet Virginia” gave them their first unlikely radio hit, with 2001’s Drops Of Jupiter garnering multi-platinum status thanks to the double-Grammy winning title song that spent 10 months in the Top 40. In their typical ‘you-gotta’-nail-it-down-motherfucker’ style, the quixotic song snared the Best Rock Song trophy by beating out Coldplay and two U2 songs.

The group won another Grammy in 2011 for their global hit “Hey Soul Sister,” the #1 best-selling smash and most downloaded single of 2010, from their multi-platinum album Save Me, San Francisco. Their most recent album, 2012’s California 37 launched the hit “Drive By,” which reached the Top 10 in 13 countries. They’ve sold more than 10 million albums worldwide, more than 30 million tracks, with multiple platinum/gold citations, including 3 Grammy Awards, 2 Billboard Music Awards and dozens of other honors.

But the band has had their share of growing pains, including a parting of ways with other original members along the journey. The group also weathered what Pat calls their ‘jackass’ phase in 2006- 2007, taking a 3 year hiatus before recording their seminal 2009 album, (and what Pat has referred to as “their plea for forgiveness”) Save Me, San Francisco.

“You can’t do this as long as we have and not go through changes,” says Pat. The current lineup reflects what he says is a “full band of 7,” including Pat, Jimmy Stafford (guitar), Jerry Becker (keyboards, guitar), Hector Maldonado (bass guitar), Drew Shoals (drums), Sakai Smith (background vocals) and Nikita Houston (background vocals).

Pat also enlisted previous collaborators Butch Walker (producer) and Jake Sinclair (engineer) for the new album. But their stewardship was by no means intended as a default comfort zone. “Butch and Jake are very instrumental in creating the sound for this record,” he says. “This one was more difficult for me than other albums. I did more writing revisions than I ever did before. I wanted to get a real soul aspect on this album. To me someone like Johnny Cash has a certain soul. Stevie Wonder has the kind of soul I’m talking about. Real stuff, nothing quirky here. I needed Butch and Jake to dig in even more than they have on other records. They took the songwriting and helped bring some sonic changes that were really necessary.”

Other influential traces can be heard throughout: Shards of The Police smartly reverberating on “Cadillac Cadillac.” A nod to Frank Ocean on “I’d Give It All.” “I just feel I can express that part of me now,” says Pat. “It’s always been there. I also credit my managers with knowing how to get the best out of me on this one. They said to me ‘you’ve been on the radio for almost two decades now. You’ve already won. But if you write great songs for people to listen to as a collection, think about what that could do for you.’ It made a huge difference for me. Writing songs not so much to get on the radio, but writing to get into people’s lives.”

The group’s parameters have also become less defined. “Even when we were 3 original members there was something false about not acknowledging there were other people making a contribution,” Pat says, noting that the band’s name even started out as a ‘working title. “The enthusiasm of this band and our singers reminds me to enjoy what I’m doing in the moment, and not get caught up in all the stressful things about this business.”

Through it all, the one constant remains Monahan’s indelible songwriting. Music sites brim with critic and fan testimonials marveling at his ability to pack ‘emotionally complicated’ themes into the four minute pop song structure. The Erie, PA native gratefully ponders the strange, intangible nature of song-making. “I’m definitely part of the tradition of wanting to emotionally connect with people through the songs,” he says. “But I don’t know quite where they come from. When I used to paint houses I could always step back when I was finished and say ‘That looks great. Let’s go to the next house.’ With a song, I’ll often look back and not remember doing it; Sometimes they’re almost channeled through you. The more of ‘you’ you turn off, the more of ‘it’ you get. You’ll walk away and say ‘ I don’t know what that is,’ and then it turns out to be ‘Drops Of Jupiter.’ It’s a weird process. You don’t quite ever know why some things make a connection, but it’s never what you’d expect.”

He also relishes the opportunity to be still be working with longtime bandmate Jimmy Stafford. “For me it was never about the dough,” he says of his legendary work ethic. “I want the ‘ring.’ A chance to excel. Jimmy and I are very excited about the new album; Excited about where this is all heading. We still feel we have a few more places to go creatively. No free lunch for us. Nothing can ever douse the fire of me wanting to do my best work.”

Warren Haynes

Read Bio

Visionary Grammy® Award-winning artist Warren Haynes is a true American treasure and a member of three of the greatest live groups in rock history: his own Gov’t Mule, the Dead and The Allman Brothers Band (which recently played their last shows together as a band – Warren was a band member for 25 years). Haynes, named in Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” and lauded as one of the most formidable guitarists and vocalists of the modern era, effortlessly cross-pollinates genres and unfurls solos that broil with passion in his distinctive, signature style. He is a beacon of creativity and excellence that inspires fans as well as fellow musicians, evidenced by the diverse array of artists that he has performed and recorded with. His legendary Christmas Jam benefit concert, which is celebrating its 27th Anniversary in 2015, benefits the Asheville Area Habitat of Humanity in Warren’s hometown of Asheville, NC. In 2014 Warren handed over a record-breaking half million dollars in Christmas Jam proceeds to the organization. The Christmas Jam is known as one of the longest running and most celebrated live benefit concerts in the U.S.

His band Gov’t Mule is known for their consistently honest, organic and daring music. The enduring, globally revered group, has showcased its virtuosity, intelligence and breadth over the course of 15 studio and live albums, millions of album and track sales and thousands of performances. The flexible interplay in the studio and on stage amongst Haynes, drummer Matt Abts, keyboardist Danny Louis and bassist Jorgen Carlsson provides the band’s sonic foundation and makes them a true living, breathing ensemble. 20 years strong, Gov’t Mule has become a human encyclopedia of great American music while adding to that cannon with their signature sound.