Ten years ago, singer-songwriters Hilary Kaufmann and Robert Watts walked out of Mark Hallman’s Congress House Studio in Austin, Texas with the five-song EP These Fine Moments, named after a line in one of their songs.
Today, I am super excited to introduce this musical duo to you and let them tell you a bit of their story. Their music is fresh and creative and I haven’t found one song on their newly released album I didn’t like! Their harmony is perfection and the unique chord progressions kept me engaged! I think you’ll agree with me when you listen. But in the meantime, they have a story to share about how the Pandemic has affected their lives.
How has the pandemic affected us, both personally and as musicians? As far as the toll on us personally, we had already quit our jobs prior to the pandemic to tour more. So when everything shut down and little was expected of us, we stayed up late, slept late, developed our culinary skills, and drank entirely too much wine and Mescal. Hilary re-read all of the Harry Potter Books, and I read biographies and watched documentaries. We found common ground by re-watching all of the Marvel movies, the old Star Trek, Picard, and the new Star Trek Discovery series. But as the reality set in, we were left with a void, and asked ourselves “what are we going to do now?” So we opened up our garage doors and gave concerts for the neighbors, learned how to live-stream, and started recording the songs that are on our new self-titled record. Hilary was eventually able to go back to work part-time, and now she is around other people a lot. But I’m still home all day, and it’s hard on me being by myself so much of the time. I probably drive Hilary crazy when she is home since she’s the only one I have daily contact with. But if I’m driving her crazy, she hides it pretty well. From a musician’s standpoint, we don’t know what’s going to be left when the pandemic plays out, or what is our role is going to be. We’ve spent years making contacts and cultivating relationships with clubs and venues around the country, and most of those are probably not coming back. For now we’re just doing what we can, a little live-streaming and some zoom interviews to promote our record. Having more time on our hands has not automatically translated into more writing and rehearsing, so we really have to put forth an effort to be creative and to stay in shape mentally and physically. Being musical partners and being in a relationship has actually helped us get through the pandemic and brought us closer together, I can’t imagine trying to keep a band together during these times.
**I think a lot of us can relate to Robert’s words**
And now, here’s a snippet from their new album. Please leave a comment and let them know if you enjoy it!
I am super excited about this segment of #SundaySpotlight! I’ve been a died-in-the-wool Jamie Richards fan since I first heard him play at Tommy Alverson’s Family Gathering Music Festival in 2010.
So it is with great pleasure that I share with you his newest CD, The Real Deal!
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jamie to talk about the album and some of the specific songs on it.
Me: What inspired you to put out a new album in the midst of this pandemic?
Jamie: I try to put out an album every three years. I released a new album in 2001, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016. And then it’s been five years since I did one. I had some money put back and knew I had enough to cover it and keep putting out singles and play the game. I know it sounds kinda crazy to talk about investing in a new record when I can’t get out and promote it like I normally do. But the pandemic didn’t stop people from buying music. And what better thing to do, if you can’t go out and hear live music, than to listen to it at home? So, maybe in some ways it was the perfect time to put out a new record. My whole career has always been really crazy. When everybody else is doing really great, I’m not. And when everybody else is suffering, I’m doing great. It’s been the weirdest thing. I’ve seen it my whole life. I watched it in Nashville and I see it in Texas. When everybody is getting bookings, my phone ain’t ringing, and when everybody else isn’t working, I get more gigs than I can do. My career has always been backwards.
Me: One of the things I think makes you and your band unusual, is the longevity you’ve had. What do you attribute that to?
Jamie: Well, several things. I think personalities play a big part. The people in my band like what I write and what I do, and if the artist writes something they really enjoy playing then they’re going to stick around. Another thing that I think is really important, is I do exactly what I say I’m going to do every time. If I tell them something, they can bank on it. I never short them and I do exactly what I say I’m going to do. The check’s always going to be good.
Me: As an observer, I see that the band has a genuine respect for you and your art.
Jamie: I think that’s true. In my twenty years of playing music in Texas, I’ve played with a lot of musicians and there are very few that I didn’t get along with or ever had any trouble with. That’s because I treat everyone the way I want to be treated.
Me: And that right there puts you in the category of “The Real Deal.” There are several of the songs on the album that really stood out to me and I’d like to know the stories behind them. Tell me about “Someone Else’s Trouble Now.”
Jamie: It is one of my favorite songs on the record. Generally, you don’t write a country song that says anything negative about the woman. It’s always the man’s fault. There’s not hardly any songs that are negative toward women. This song comes from experiences I’ve been through and dealt with. When we cut it I said I wanted it to sound like it would be in a Tarantino movie. I wrote it with a guy named Bryan Martin, who has just signed a record deal with a major label. I also wrote “Seeing Me Like This” with Bryan.
Me: That was another one that I really liked. The lyrics are so positive. “I never thought I’d be seeing me like this. In the arms of an angel, sent from up above. After years and years of heartache, to now finding true love…”
Jamie: Bryan and I wrote both of those the same weekend out on the lake. That was a good weekend.
Me: “Playing Hard To Forget” was another heart-tugging song.
Jamie: Yeah, it’s kind of a play on words. The woman can play hard to get, but even harder to forget. I wrote that one with Mark Powell.
Me: I think there’s a good story behind “Lakeview Grocery Store.”
Jamie: That is an exact true story. That store was less than a mile from my childhood home. It was the first little bit of freedom I remember feeling when I was a twelve-year-old boy. Me and the neighbor kids would meet up at the store and smoke cigarettes and drink beer if we could get someone to buy us some. The first girl I ever kissed was at the Lakeview Grocery Store. I still remember her name. But the song is definitely a true story.
Me: “Up In Twang” surprised me.
Jamie: I wrote that song when I was in Nashville and it’s sort of a tribute song to the road warriors, to the bands that set up and play night after night. There’s a lot of truth in it. I tend to do more ballad type songs, and it’s fun to add in an up tempo one like this or, “Loose, Loud & Crazy” now and then.
Me: Every song on this album fills the promise of the title of the album, “The Real Deal.” And within a few hours after its release, on Friday, January 22nd, it shot up the charts.
Jamie: What happened was weird. The day this record came out, one of the songs on it, “I Want To With You” went to number one.
That song had been out since about a month or two before Christmas and just happened to hit number one the exact day my album came out. It was a big day for me. I was so proud of the iTunes charting position. It got up to number 12 and that’s across the world. There I was, with no record label behind me, no backing, me doing all the work, and it shot up the world-wide chart. It didn’t go any higher than 12, but I was thrilled.
On that note, I’m going to share with you the liner notes from Jamie’s album that says it all.
I’d like to thank my record label, my producer, my road manager, my booking agent, my guitar tech, and all of my roadies… Just kidding. I do all of that myself!!
Cody Jinks national recording artist put this post up on Facebook regarding Jamie’s new album:
So, if you are a fan of traditional country music, you can’t help but love every song on this new album from Jamie Richards! For your convenience, here is the purchase link from Amazon! THE REAL DEAL
Welcome to another SUNDAY SPOTLIGHT! Today’s feature is a no-holds barred rockin’ female artist with a sexy sultry voice that makes her a force to be reckoned with.
It is my pleasure to turn my blog over to Chaz Marie!
Thank you, Jan, for allowing me a space to share my music, my passion and my story!
In the early 2000’s, I cut a record with my sister Kessie, entitled the Marie Sisters. After being turned down by everyone on Music Row twice in a six year period, we moved back home to Dallas from Nashville, thinking that was it. Three months later, we secured a record deal with Universal Music Group New York. Things were amazing at the time. We toured with legends and newbies just like us. Our record was way before its time. (It’s still out there).
I was always told, “You’re too soulful for country music, pull it back.” But how do I change what I am? How do I change the voice that God gave me? I’m not good enough, I’m gonna ruin everything. Those were the thoughts going thru my young mind. What it came down to is a label who didn’t know what to do with us. It may sound crazy, but I’m grateful. We had a blast, we lived a dream not many get the chance to live. One day, we woke up to a hot fax (inside media news) that said we had been cut from the label. We were devastated. Life as we knew it was done…but you pick up the pieces and you move on. My sis and I decided to part ways musically, but we remain very close today.
I couldn’t let the fire, or the passion for music leave my life. It’s my first love. I tried a couple of different music projects, that led nowhere. So I decided to start a band in Dallas, Texas. I was tired of being the “female singer” in the band. I knew I could offer a great show and great music all by myself – a standalone, female fronted original artist. I started playing everywhere I could to promote myself. It started building, and I knew it was getting better everyday. I wanted so badly to record an original project. I made two attempts and the magic just wasn’t there. So, I kept booking and playing and have been consistently, for the last 15 years.
Fast forward….I had been trying to get Quinten Hope on a gig for a couple years, with no luck. Then one day, 30 mins before I called him, his gig canceled and he was able to play with me on May 2, 2015. That’s when everything just clicked. We got engaged in August and married in Sept. Fast track for sure. Lol! We started writing and working toward this project and well, here it is!
We got our friends Will Lee, Rob Arthur, Dan Wojciehowski, David Deshazo, Carson Wagner, Milo Deering, Paul Harrington and of course Quinten Hope to put their magic on it. We cut it all right there in Dallas, except for Will’s vocals. He cut those at his studio in NY and sent them over to us. It’s quite the mix, as far as sound. To be honest, I got tired of trying to release music under a specific genre. It’s hard to put creatives in a box….so I just recorded the music that was in me. I wrote what was in me – what I felt. That’s what this EP is. FINALLY a project, I had complete control over artistically. It feels good. Quentin and I are Independent Music Artists. We write, produce, record, finance, promote, book, etc… all on our own. It’s not easy sometimes, but if it’s your passion, it never feels like work. At least not to me.
Here’s a sample of what you’ll find on the EP we named, CHAZ MARIE!
Welcome to another Sunday Spotlight! I am super excited to introduce today’s artist! He has released two new albums in 2020 and the one I am going to let him tell you about today is Under A Texas Sky.
The album cover alone conjures up all sorts of musical visuals! But just wait until his voice and delivery of these tribute songs! I love to listen to couples make music together and Jarrod’s wife, Claire, can be heard on each of the songs along with him.
But I’ll let Jarrod tell you about it in his own words!
Texas. The word alone conjures up images of larger than life characters, and a vast and sprawling landscape. The lines between reality and myth are often blurred when it comes to The Lone Star State, and the truth is you can’t truly have one without the other. Texas is a world unto itself, and its inhabitants are as unique as the state they call home.
I grew up in a medium-sized city in Texas called Waco, which is situated equidistant between Dallas and Austin along Interstate 35. As a native Texan, I’ve always been aware of the rich musical heritage of my home state, but as one often does with the place they’re from, I took it for granted. It wasn’t really until I moved away from Texas that the music that grew out of that same soil from which I came truly started to grab a hold of me. For quite a while now I’ve wanted to pay tribute to the many great artists from The Lone Star State, and thus Under A Texas Sky was born.
Under A Texas Sky is a collection of songs by classic, fellow Texas-born artists that have inspired me and my own musical journey. Choosing just five artists from the state of Texas was a feat in itself, and one can’t even begin to scratch the surface of the incredible music that has come out of Texas in just five songs. That said, I wanted to show the diversity of the music that has come from my home state, and I wanted to choose artists and songs that maybe weren’t immediately obvious to the listener. With that in mind, this EP features my own renditions of songs by Roy Orbison, Esther Phillips, Willie Nelson, Doug Sahm and Guy Clark. Each of these artists, along with so many others, have made an enormous impact on my own musical path.
1. Uptown – (Roy Orbison)
Roy Orbison, born in Vernon, TX, is one of the early pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll, and the epitome of cool. He had an unmistakable sound and a golden, crooner-like voice that most singers would give their right arm for. With artists like Roy, I wanted to be careful not to choose a song that was too obvious, or too big a hit, but rather dig a little deeper into their catalogs to find hidden gems. ‘Uptown’ was originally released as a single by Roy Orbison in 1959, and later made another appearance on his ‘A Black & White Night’ concert special from 1988. The song itself is a straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll shuffle, with big, roomy drums by Josh Hunt, a driving bass line by Ted Pecchio and call-and-response backing vocals by Claire Dickenson and Stephanie Jean, who became affectionately known as “The Ward Sisters” during this session. This was the first song we recorded for the Under A Texas Sky project, and it set the mood for the rest of the session.
2. Try Me – (Esther Phillips)
When thinking of artists born in Texas, Esther Phillips is likely not one of the first names that would jump to mind, but this native of Galveston, TX was a powerhouse R&B singer who heavily influenced many artists who came after her. “Try Me” is a song written by Jimmy Radcliffe and Buddy Scott that she released as a single in 1966, and which featured the horn of King Curtis on the recording. Esther Phillips’ voice is haunting and full of yearning. This minor blues song knocked me off my feet the first time I heard it, and it has been a favorite of mine ever since. I wanted to try to capture the energy and longing and tension that her original version featured, while also putting my own spin on the tune. I played a warbling, staccato Leslie guitar part on this song that provided the bed that everything else sat atop. JP Ruggieri played a blistering guitar solo, while my wife Claire and Stephanie Jean, of the duo Ida Mae (known together as “The Ward Sisters”) provided hypnotizing backing vocals that glue the entire track together.
3. Seven Spanish Angels – (Willie Nelson + Ray Charles)
Any collection of Texas music, no matter how big or small, would be woefully incomplete without the inclusion of The Red Headed Stranger. Willie Nelson, born in Abbott, TX, has never been one to simply go with the grain, and do what’s expected. He has spent his entire career effortlessly weaving in and out of countless genres while always staying true to his unique voice and style. Willie was another artist with whom I was careful not to choose the most obvious song for this project. In fact, the song we recorded was originally a duet between Willie Nelson and Ray Charles for Ray’s 1984 album “Friendship”. Now, obviously Ray Charles was not born in Texas, so you may ask why he’s included in a collection of songs by Texas-born artists? To that I would say that Ray Charles is an American treasure who should be celebrated at every possible opportunity, and also that it’s my EP, so I make the rules! We wanted this song to be a big, gospel singalong, with foot stomps and hand claps and big Hammond organ swells. Chris Turpin, one half of the husband-wife duo Ida Mae, plays a beautifully musical resonator solo on this track, while Stephanie Jean, who makes up the other half of the bluesy duo holds down a throbbing Wurlitzer groove, and joins the chorus of voices.
4. I’m Glad For Your Sake (But Sorry For Mine) – (Doug Sahm)
Doug Sahm is hardly a household name these days, but those in the know are devout followers of this San Antonio native’s music. Sahm was a young musical prodigy, being offered a permanent spot on The Grand Ole Opry at the age of thirteen. Sahm, however, chose a different musical path, and with his bands The Sir Douglas Quintet and later the Texas Tornados, he became a trailblazer for what we now call “Americana music”. Sahm was one of the first to mix genres like Blues, Jazz, Country, Tejano and Rock ‘N’ Roll together to form an entirely new and unique sound. He was also among the first white artists to form a band with Hispanic musicians at a time when the American south was still a fairly segregated place. The song “I’m Glad For Your Sake” was originally recorded by Ray Charles in 1952, but it’s the Sir Douglas Quintet version from their 1968 Honkey Blues album that first really turned me on to the music of Doug Sahm. It had everything; Texas Blues at its finest. It swung, Sahm’s vocal was soulful and strong and the horns were out of this world. For our version, we didn’t have the brass, but we had a grooving rhythm section, a big Hammond organ and ‘50s Doo-Wop style backing vocals laid down by The Ward Sisters.
5. Dublin Blues – (Guy Clark)
When I had the initial idea of the Under A Texas Sky project, Guy Clark was the first artist that I knew I had to include. I discovered Guy’s music later than perhaps I should have since I grew up in Texas. It was until I had moved to Nashville (for the first time) in 2010 that my roommate at the time got me hip to his music. His songs stopped me in my tracks, much like John Steinbeck’s novels had stopped me in my tracks when I first discovered them. Guy Clark changed the way I thought about writing songs and telling stories. He was an absolute master of the craft, and remains a giant inspiration to me to this day. Clark grew up in Monahans, TX, which he described as being “between Pecos and nowhere”. His song “Dublin Blues” has been a song that my wife, Claire and I have sung together for several years now, and it’s always been a favorite in our live sets. This is the most stripped back song on the EP. We recorded it live, all in a circle with myself on acoustic guitar, Claire and I singing together, JP Ruggieri on pedal steel, Ted Pecchio on bass and Chris Turpin on his National resonator. It was a magical moment in the studio, and a fitting closer to the EP.
Under A Texas Sky was recorded live alongside good friends and musical cohorts in our current home of Nashville, TN at Johnny Duke’s Spirit Radio Studio. I tried to inject myself and put my own spin on these classic songs that have meant so much to me over the years. I hope you enjoy listening to these songs as much as I enjoyed recording them.
Hi, and welcome to another Sunday Spotlight! It is with great pleasure I introduce this artist to you. Will Carter came onto the Texas music scene inspired by artists such as Mark Chesnutt, John Michael Montgomery, and Garth Brooks, to name a few.
He released his sophomore album in April 2019, and it quickly climbed the T3R, CDX Traction – Texas, MusicRow and other charts. He was nominated for Male Artist of the Year and Songwriter of the Year by the Texas Country Music Association.
In 2020, he’s released a new single, “Fallin’ In Love.” The lyrics are poignant and the melody catchy.
You can find a lot of information about any artist on the internet, but I love to get something more personal to share that is not available anywhere else.
So I asked Will Carter this question, “What was your biggest inspiration or ‘nudge’ that let you know you wanted a career in making music?”
Will replied, “My parents put me in dance and gymnastics at the age of three to learn balance and agility during my early developing years. My father was 6’4” – 250lbs and thought I would grow up to be a football player. However, my mother is 5’3” – 100lbs. I landed somewhere in the middle. But I did not have the size to be a football player. My parents later realized that I had a talent for playing and performing music. My father was unbelievably supportive and despite our family struggling financially, he did everything he could to push my music career. When I was 13, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I had recorded a CD to sell and try to raise money for the family, once he could no longer work. He listened to that CD non-stop 24/7 for the last three months of his life. The CDs would constantly burn up, and I would have to give him another one. Seeing the way he believed in me, and had always supported me motivated me to pursue this dream no matter the cost.”
To think of a father being so invested in his son’s music, gave me goosebumps.
One of Will’s hit songs off his “Good Bad Idea” CD was “You Feel Like Home.” So, I want to share it here.
From the age of 3, Will Carter has been wowing audiences and gaining fans. COVID-19 put a halt to touring, but it didn’t stop Will from putting out new music.
Deep love of family combined with a regimen that included homeschooling, breaking horses, milking goats and tending to crops, provided Will with an ideal backdrop to pursue his musical dreams effectively. As a result, few performers in any genre can match Will Carter’s blend of native, talent, determination and drive.
Interested in learning more about Will Carter and his music?
I am SO excited to turn my blog site over to Hayley and Sara today, of the amazing duo, STEEL BLOSSOMS! I had the pleasure of hearing these girls live at Love & War in Texas when they were opening for the artist I went to see. I had never heard of them and they blew me away! So, I’ll turn it over to these multi-talented young ladies and let them tell you about themselves! Take it away, Sara and Hayley!
Hello! It’s nice to virtually meet all of you and I hope you’re surviving this strange time in the world. Let us first introduce ourselves. You’ll be hearing from us both, Hayley Amour and Sara Zebley, as we make up the female fronted, Nashville-based duo, Steel Blossoms.
A LITTLE BACKSTORY:
We met about 12 years ago at a music festival in Pittsburgh, PA near where both of us grew up, but it wasn’t until 3 years later when we joined a band together that we actually became friends and started singing full time with each other. It was instant chemistry on stage and off. We were both on the path to being elementary teachers for life when we convinced each other to give it all up to move to Nashville in 2014. It’s been a hell of a ride ever since.
Moving to Nashville was an opportunity to make music a full time career instead of a hobby and we quickly began performing regularly on Broadway 4 hours a day, 7 days a week. About a year in, we discovered that traveling the country was going to be key in expanding our following so we started performing “house concerts,” a unique experience that has gained us lifelong relationships with fans who have turned into friends. Seriously, you’ll question ever going to a regular concert again after attending an intimate house concert- it’s that fun!!
Fast forward a few years later… In January 2019, we signed a record deal with emerging Americana label, Billy Jam Records, under the direction of hit songwriter Jerry Salley. That was huge for us, as it gave us a boost in the industry and a team to rely on for some of the legwork it takes to promote an album. We’ve been so lucky to have since hired a band of phenomenal musicians (who are literally our best friends now), buy a van (her name is Blonde Betty White), and tour the country telling the stories behind our original songs.
AN EVEN BIGGER BREAK:
I remember us saying to each other “How in the world will 2020 ever top 2019? So many amazing things happened in 2019 and there’s no way we’ll outdo it!” And then we got a phone call that changed everything. We may have both blacked out during the conversation in disbelief, but at the end of that 5 minutes, we were the opening act for Alan Jackson’s 2020 tour. WHAT?! Crazy, right? We screamed, cried, called our families and swore them to secrecy, cried some more, questioned whether it was a dream, then got to work preparing for one of the biggest moments of our career.
OUR FIRST STADIUM/ARENA TOUR:
January 10 and 11, 2020 was the first weekend of the Alan Jackson tour and we were beyond excited that the very first show was in Cincinnati, OH, equal distance between our Nashville friends and our Pennsylvania friends and family. It was one of those surreal weekends that we struggle to put into words. Let’s try though.
First of all, we got to ride a tour bus for the very first time (not as glamorous as one would think- those bunks are tiny!!). We rode the bus with a lot of the sound engineers and techs from the show and that alone was such a neat experience to see what behind the scenes work goes into making the performance night run smoothly. Alan Jackson’s band was particularly welcoming and genuine, which was not taken for granted on our parts. We got to watch their sound check and hang out with some of the musicians throughout the evening. Alan’s fiddle player, Ryan, is from our hometown- small world! Hearing some of our favorite songs in person from AJ was also nothing short of amazing. Imagine hearing “Remember When” and “Little Bitty” from a few rows back in an empty arena before 13,000 people were on their way to fill the seats. PINCH ME MOMENT times infinity.
We had the honor of performing 5 songs to start the night off and saying we were terrified and filled with adrenaline would be the understatement of the year. We were all pleasantly surprised that the butts were in the seats so early on and we had over 10k people watching our performance. The most amazing part of this experience was realizing that we belonged on that stage. I know it sounds crazy considering we’ve been working our way up to this moment consistently for years, but we really weren’t sure before that first performance if our usual stage show was going to translate to such a large atmosphere. When it did and we proudly finished our last original song of the night “You’re the Reason I Drink” with the whole audience singing the hook, we realized we had caught the bug. Both of us cried, hugged our band members, and decided that we NEVER wanna not be doing shows like that. Honestly, after feeling what we felt on that stage, I’m not sure why musicians do drugs.
UNTIL NEXT TIME:
Thanks for getting to know us through these stories and we look forward to not only continuing the Alan Jackson tour once the world is in better shape, but we hope and pray that while you are reading this, you and your loved ones are safe, healthy and managing the uncertainty of these times.