On my first two albums, I tried to cover all the music I enjoy,” says Jerrod Niemann. “This time, we mashed it all together and that’s what you do when you’re really attempting to create your own sound. And as it all gelled, I think it brought us into our own pure sound for the first time.”
On High Noon, Niemann continues to pursue the innovative sonic approach that has defined his identity in today’s country music, while bearing down even harder on the rock-solid songwriting that first brought him to Nashville’s attention. The immediate response to the album’s debut single, “Drink to That All Night,” proves that Niemann’s distinctive style still hits the mark. “My biggest obstacle,” he says, “was to make sure this sounded different from everything else out there right now.”
Jerrod Niemann exploded onto the scene with his chart-topping major-label debut, 2010’s Judge Jerrod & The Hung Jury. The album, on Sea Gayle/Arista Nashville records, included the Number One smash and RIAA-certified Platinum digital single, “Lover, Lover,” and the follow-up Top 5 single, “What Do You Want.” Niemann—who has also written songs for and with such artists as Garth Brooks, Blake Shelton, and Lee Brice—returned in 2012 with the acclaimed, musically adventurous release, Free the Music. All the while, he’s continued playing 200 shows a year on the road, year in and year out.
He credits the advances on High Noon to a new collaborator, producer Jimmie Lee Sloas—honored by the Academy of Country Music as Bass Player of the Year—who has worked with everyone from Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood to bluegrass bands and Megadeth. “We’ve been friends for years,” says Niemann, “and I knew he wanted to get into producing. I called him out of the blue, we had lunch a few times, and I told him I’d love to bring him in to work on this project. We went in and instantly had a great connection.”
Niemann also credits songwriter Lance Miller and engineer Corky (“Just call him Corky”) with playing vital roles in the album’s creation. “The magic came from those four minds—and those four livers! There was no ego, just pure fun. The friendships and feeding off of each others’ ideas really created the vibe, and the more experience I have, the more I learn it’s all about the vibe.”
Before even entering the studio, though, Niemann recorded all of his own demos at home as usual. “That’s where I go completely out of whack, take things to the furthest extreme,” he says. “Then after I lay down the structure, we take that and start to build around it. We take my unique sounds and then we mesh that with acoustic instruments to come up with an organic approach for the loops and beats. When it all comes to life, it just makes you want to tap your foot.”
The resulting thirteen songs on High Noon represent not just a musical blend of country, pop, and rock with splashes of electronic, forward-looking beats, but also a wide emotional spectrum. The album takes the listener on a journey from the opener—the yearning, atmospheric “Space”—to the sexy, slow-burn menace of the last track, “She’s Fine,” which features a guest vocal from Colt Ford. “Some songs have those haunting melodies and chords—something to scare the kids a little bit!” says Niemann. “That one made me think of songs by Chris Isaak or the Mavericks, or the True Blood theme song. In some ways, we’re all still a little feral and have those animal instincts.”
“The Real Thing” offers the panoramic feel of a pop ballad from the ‘60s, while “I Can’t Give in Anymore” takes a more traditional country approach, both in subject and style. “It’s about that moment when you realize you need to move on from something unless things are going to get better—that point in time to either say goodbye or fix it,” Niemann says. The arrangement features the old-school weeping of a pedal-steel guitar. “We had a guy in the band with a b-bender guitar, which can emulate that sound, but when I was listening to the real thing, I was like, ‘Of course I’m going to use that, ‘cause nobody else is doing it!’”
And then there’s “Donkey,” an uproarious, swaggering, double-entendre singalong about wrecking a truck and finding alternative, four-legged transportation to the local bar. “The first time I heard it, I thought, ‘Oh, goodness,’” Niemann says. “But then I went back and listened another five or six times and thought, ‘If I don’t record this, I’m gonna end up kicking myself!’ It’s hilarious to me—I was raised in a family that wasn’t afraid to laugh. Every time I played it on the bus, everybody stopped and asked, ‘What is that?!’ So I thought, I’m just gonna roll with it.”
But most of High Noon returns to a single theme: drinking, partying, having fun. “This is a record to get you in the mood before going out on Friday or Saturday night,” says Niemann. “I came up playing in bars, and that’s always going to peek through in my music. A lot of the people we play for have a beer in their hand, and my job is to get whatever’s on their mind off their mind. So always, at least half the songs are about partying—hey, it’s better than crying, right?”
Kansas-born Jerrod Niemann—who once lived in the actual Dodge City—explains that there are a number of meanings to the album’s title, but clearly, it stands as a challenge and a mission for his music. “High Noon represents taking chances,” he says. “We live in a society where a lot of times you’re forced to be the same—all copy-paste—and when you do something different, people dig in their heels.
“So High Noon means go out there and go for it. Get your game face on, walk ten steps, and pull the trigger. It’s the next step into facing the future.”
REEL BIG FISH
Reel Big Fish was one of the legions of Southern California ska-punk bands to edge into the mainstream following the mid-’90s success of No Doubt and Sublime. Like most of their peers, the band was distinguished by their hyperkinetic stage shows, juvenile humor, ironic covers of new wave pop songs, and metallic shards of ska. The group cultivated an underground following that broke into the mainstream in summer 1997, when their single “Sell Out” became a modern rock radio and MTV favorite. Their appearance in the movie “Baseketball” as the halftime band also gained them more fans and helped the bands popularity to grow. Still fronted by original lead singer and song writer Aaron Barrett, they continue releasing albums and touring relentlessly, playing more and more countries and bigger venues all over the world.
Reel Big Fish recorded its self-released debut album, “Everything Sucks”, in 1995. “Everything Sucks” became a word-of-mouth underground hit in ska-punk and college circles, which gave the band enough leverage to sign with the indie label Mojo Records. The label’s president, Jay Rifkin, and former Oingo Boingo bassist John Avila co-produced “Turn the Radio Off”, which marked Reel Big Fish’s first album for Mojo. “Turn the Radio Off” was unleashed in August 1996, and over the next year, the group continually toured in support of the album’s release, expanding their fan base all the while. In spring 1997, the single “Sell Out” began receiving heavy airplay from several influential modern rock stations in the U.S., which soon translated into MTV support for the song’s quirky video. By summer, the song had become a moderate modern rock hit, and the album had charted in the Top 100.
In 1998 the song “Take on Me” from the “Baseketball” motion picture soundtrack was released as the promotional single for the movie and once again found the band in regular rotation on rock radio and MTV in the USA.
The Album “Why Do They Rock So Hard” followed a year later, once again enlisting Oingo Boingo Bassist John Avila as producer. The album was not as commercially successful but is still regarded by many fans as the bands finest work. The band filmed a music video for “the Set up (You Need This)”, the only single released from this album.
The guys wound up on Jive Records in fall 2001 when their current label, Mojo, was bought by Jive’s parent label, Zomba. Reel Big Fish’s first release for Jive, a more rock-oriented record entitled “Cheer Up!”, appeared in mid-2002. This album was very successful in Europe with the video for the single “Where Have You Been” receiving heavy airplay on many music video channels.
Later that same year, RBF did a song for a Rice Krispies called “Snap, Krackle, Pop-punk” which was used in 3 separate commercials. Also that year, they recorded a cover of Toots and the Maytals “Monkey Man” for the Nickelodeon movie “The Wild Thornberrys.” The single for “Monkey Man” was also released in the UK and received heavy radio play as well as the music video being put on heavy rotation on Kerrang TV.
The band’s next album, the cynical yet catchy “We’re Not Happy ‘Til You’re Not Happy”, was issued in April 2005. Touring continued for the rest of the year, and Reel Big Fish happily parted ways with Jive in January 2006, having wished to be dropped from the label since the “Cheer Up!” release.
In August 2006, the group self-released a double-disc live CD (along with an accompanying DVD) titled “Our Live Album Is Better Than Your Live Album”.
Barrett said of this album “We finally captured the energy, excitement and humor of our live shows that we were previously unable to create in the recording studio environment. And it all sounds really good!”
This album is very popular with RBF fans and is sometimes referred to as “the Reel Big Fish Stand-up comedy album” because of all the silly stage banter.
The band returned with some new material in February 2007, splitting an EP “Duet All Night Long” with their friends in Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer. “Monkeys for Nothin’ and the Chimps for Free” followed several months later, marking Reel Big Fish’s first full-length studio release since leaving Jive’s roster, and 2009′s “Fame, Fortune and Fornication” found the band covering songs by the likes of Poison, the Eagles, and Tom Petty.
In 2010, the band released “A Best of Us for the Rest of Us”. It includes a 22 song disc of re-recorded hits and classic fan favorites as well as a bonus disc of 14 Acoustic or “SKAcoustic” versions.
On July 31st, 2012 Reel Big Fish released their 7th studio album, Candy Coated Fury (Rock Ridge Music), an inspired and infectiously catchy return to the hyperkinetic ska and biting wit of the band’s beloved early albums. “This album is a lot like our first two albums. It’s got a lot of the same intensity, frantic energy in the music, and the same sarcastic sense of humor. I think these are the fastest songs we’ve done since those albums,” Aaron Barrett, founding vocalist, guitarist, and principal songwriter says. “We’re finally just doing what Reel Big Fish does best, and that’s what we did on those first two albums.”
“Candy Coated Fury pretty much describes what Reel Big Fish does,” Barrett says of the significance of the new album’s title. “It’s hateful, mean, sarcastic, and, sometimes sad lyrics, over happy, wacky, silly, joyous, fast music that makes you want to dance. This album is mostly love songs, but bitter, angry, hateful love songs. Just about everybody knows what it’s like to be in a bad relationship. These songs could be sung by a 15 year old about his first love-gone-wrong, or by a 55 year old about a bitter divorce after 30 years. They’re bad-relationship songs that everybody can relate to.”
Candy Coated Fury is Reel Big Fish’s first album of newly recorded original material in five years. Overall, it’s the seventh in the band’s twenty year history, and it feels as vital and vitriolic as RBF’s foundational releases. The record opens with the huge sing-along vocal, balmy horns, and hyperactive ska groove of “Everyone Else Is An Asshole.” The track is an exceptional distillation of Reel Big Fish’s classic euphorically-juvenile ska punk. The stately arena riffs in “I Dare You To Break My Heart” reference cock rock, new wave, and soul without sacrificing one iota of RBF’s signature simmering skank. “I listen to the Darkness a lot; it was only a matter of time till I wrote a song like this! I can’t really sing as high as that guy so this song sounds more like Kiss, if Kiss was a Motown band that played ska,” Barrett says, detailing the song’s diverse stylistic touchstones. The anthemic “I Know You Too Well To Like You Anymore” features some of Barrett’s finest cutely cruel lyrics. “I think that is an amazing bad-relationship song,” he laughs. “I really captured the hateful love of two people who were once madly in love, but have been together so long, they can’t stand the sight of each other anymore but still say ‘they drive me crazy, and I hate this and this about them, but I love them.’” No RBF album would be complete without playfully irreverent 1980s covers. The band rounds things out ska-ifying the Wonderstuff’s “Don’t Let Me Down Gently” and When In Rome’s “The Promise.”
On December 12th, 2014 RBF released their first Christmas Album, A six song, digital only album entitled “Happy Skalidays”. This album includes 4 classic Christmas songs and 2 RBF originals.
Reel Big Fish continues to tour non-stop, playing over 250 shows a year to thousands of loyal fans all over the world, gaining more and more underground popularity as the Ska scene continues to flourish.
40 OZ TO FREEDOME – SUBLIME TRIBUTE BAND
Dane Scott - lead vocals / lead guitar. Dane is a 6-time San Diego Music Award nominee for his work with the band, Tubby, and with 40 Oz. 40 oz won the San Diego Music Award for best tribute band in 2010. Dane has toured the country with Tubby, The Fryday Band, Smooth Move, and now 40 Ounces to Freedom. His soulful voice and face melting guitar riffs contribute to an energetic show which leaves the audience craving more.
Jeremy Miller - Keys. Jeremy is a co-founder of 40 Oz to Freedom. He and Dane have been friends for over 12 years and have been playing music together just as long. Jeremy grew up in Southern Califrnia as well, and directly contributes to his playing vibe. His energetic stage presence and knowledge of the genre, makes him a great asset to the band.
Terry Davis - bass / vocals. Terry is a jack of all trades. He's an accomplished guitar player for the band, Egress, and he also plays bass for numerous side projects. Terry has been a fan, and a friend of music for many years.
Mark Leblanc - Drums / patches. Mark plays drums for Egress, Smooth Choppy, DJ Soulman and Idol Job. He has been playing since he was a little kid and has been rocking ever since.
Tom Burda - Bass / Vocals. Tom is a Berkley School of Music graduate, and currently resides in NYC, where he teaches guitar at The New York School of Guitar. His knowledge of music and melody make him an impressive addition to the band, whenever he's there.
Chad Cocuzza - Percussion. Chad is an accomplished drummer/percussionist for the band, Spoonfed Tribe. He has a great presence on stage and knows how to work the crowd.
With the fuel of both Southern rock and country music influences pumping through his veins, it’s no surprise that Sea Gayle Music’s CJ Solar is a natural at fusing the two worlds. Combine that with Delta blues, compliments of a childhood spent in Cajun country, and you’ve got one badass up-and-comer, with the pure musical talent and vocal chops to back him up. Already turning heads throughout Nashville, Baton Rouge and beyond, having been named one of the “Top New Artists You Need To Know” by Rolling Stone Country, CJ says the driving force behind his current success isn’t fame nor fortune – it’s just a diehard infatuation with the music he grew up on.
“I just want to write songs that say something that really means something. I want to ride around in a van, tour the country, and play songs with my buds. Everything I do in music, I want to do it for the love of the music and the sake of the song,” he adds.
It all started back in Baton Rouge where his family’s affinity for music struck a chord. “My grandparents loved country music. My dad was a big classic rock fan,” he said. “Dad kept a guitar in a closet, and I dug it out when I was seven and started making noise of my own with it,” Solar recalls. That so-called “noise” would sharpen quickly, through lessons at the young age of eight, to enrollment at Nashville’s Belmont University, to cuts on albums by Justin Moore and Jerrod Niemann, and, now, his own critically acclaimed solo EP that’s turning heads, Hard One to Turn Down.
And a Hard One To Turn Down, the EP is. Critics at The Daily Country write, “Solar injects a hefty (and welcome) dose of Southern rock into his country, which melds perfectly with his gravelly vocals.” Country Music Rocks was “immediately captivated by all five songs and hopes that [the EP] obtains the recognition it deserves.” The Rowdy found it “exactly what country fans are looking to savor.” And The Shotgun Seat welcomes Hard One to Turn Down as “the perfect pairing of country storytelling and rocking rhythms, married by his dynamic vocals.” And that’s only the beginning.
Flashback to Louisiana where CJ put a group together while in elementary school, recruiting his two brothers. They called themselves The Solar Heat, recollected by CJ as “the cheesiest band name of all time.” But the band built up a solid local fan base, and helped CJ hone his writing and performance skills. However, CJ knew he needed to be in Nashville where he attended Belmont and landed an exclusive publishing agreement before he had even graduated.
“I’d recorded some of my best songs in December of my senior year,” he says. “When I started interning at Sea Gayle Music in February, I played these and two other songs I hadn’t recorded for Mike Owens (VP Creative at Sea Gayle). A week later I had a publishing deal. I’m pretty sure that’s not the way it happens with most interns. I’m grateful for these opportunities, and I don’t plan on taking them for granted.”
The ink was still wet on Solar’s degree when artists all over town started putting the new Nashville songwriter’s self-penned songs on hold. “Blue Bandana,” which he’d written in January, was chosen by Jerrod Niemann and released as a single. Then, Solar began writing with Bob DiPiero and other members of Nashville’s songwriting elite.
Solar tracked and produced Hard One To Turn Down, alongside Sea Gayle’s Brent Anderson, (who’s producing and songwriting credits include Chris Janson, Blake Shelton and others), with established country hit-maker Jerrod Niemann joining in on one song as guest vocalist. Its lead single, a paean to the powers of sipping on a “Tall Boy,” dropped in mid-March and quickly garnered over 164,000 Spotify spins in its first month of release. The EP followed on April 15, in both digital and physical formats. In May, the music video for “Tall Boy,” directed by Marcel Chagnon, premiered on CMT. Tour dates from coast to coast include his own headlining dates and opening slots for The Cadillac Three, Old Dominion, Hank Williams, Jr., and the list goes on.
If it’s not obvious yet, Solar is on the fast track to success, with a solid team in Nashville to back him up. And he’s not going to leave any stones left unturned. As important as songwriting is and will always be to Solar, he is excited to be stepping into the spotlight as an artist. CJ is a powerful vocalist with his Southern, gravelly edge and he has the guitar chops to match. His live show puts it all together and willknock you off your feet.
Yet the pensive, bolero-brimmed, too-wise-for-his-age 23-year-old is riding his momentum thoughtfully, with the long haul in mind. “I’d love to tour the country and have a handful of hit songs,” he muses. “But I’m totally cool with living pretty normally as long as I need to. All that matters is that I keep doing what I love to do.”
THE SOUL SELECTOR FROM KDHX – TOM "PAPA" RAY
Whether he’s doing his legendary drive-time BLUES AND SOUL PATROL program Mondays on KDHX radio, or walking out on stage in London as special guest of the international Rock band Vintage Trouble, Tom ‘Papa’ Ray, aka THE SOUL SELECTOR, always takes care of musical business. Co-Founder/Owner of St. Louis’ foundation record store VINTAGE VINYL, musician/producer/promoter & vocalist, he has worked as a DJ in LA, NYC, New Orleans, Montreal, and was a hit in Great Britain, with England’s The National Rock Review saying:
“Papa Ray warmed up the audience and got the crowd dancing each night spinning a superb selection of rare vintage soul and blues…he delivered a set which would leave Manchester talking for a long time to come.”
This year he performed multiple DJ sets at California’s famed Sierra Nevada World Music Festival. Always spinning an all-vinyl mix of crucial tunes, for Taste Of St. Louis Papa Ray will be throwing down a Jamaican Rude Boy Anthem Reggae-Ska party set, with his long-time associate from Jamaica, PRINCE PHILLIP…The Soul Selector promises, This will be Murderation Style…
BRIAN BAX & MATT WYNN
Brian Bax & Matt Wynn are an original Country Rock show from St. Louis. Buckle up for an in-your-face stage show, three part harmonies, and melodies that will leave you humming for days. The quickly rising band has received radio play in several Midwest markets. Their catchy songs and reputation have opened doors to shows with national acts such as Chase Rice, Randy Houser, Scotty McCreery, Craig Campbell, Josh Turner, Diamond Rio, Clay Walking, Little River Band and many more. Available now online, their highly anticipated EP showcases a variety of style and influences. Be a part of the journey as they continue the chase.