I caught up with Kip Moore this past Friday before his performance at New York City’s 1st ever Farmborough Festival on Randall’s Island. He sat down with me and spoke about two of the tracks on his upcoming album, Wild Ones, to be released on August 21, 2015. Check out what to expect from the songs “Wild Ones” and “Comeback Kid”.
“I can’t wait for people to hear this. The intro is just super stripped and we geeked and geeked until we found the most killer drum tone for it. When people see what I’ve been up to behind the scenes with this song, people are going to flip. It’s just raw and has emotion behind it. I wrote it for my fans, but people are going to flip when hearing this and the rest of the album.”
Check out the intro and first verse of “Wild Ones” from the Farmborough Festival this past weekend:
“I have always felt like the underdog my entire life. I have always had to scrap and claw for every single inch. I think that has given me a chip on my shoulder for most of my life. When I have seen things handed to others, when I have had to work so hard for it. But for that, I have a different thankfulness than other people do and I have a sense of gratitude. But, I’ve always had a supreme confidence when other people have doubted me. I always think I am going to get where I am going to get. It’s like a thing of destiny, but you are the only one in on that thing so that no ones knows where you are going, but you. I think that song, man, it is just 100% me and its going to resonate with a lot of people not just here in America, but around the world. It’s for all the people who scrap and claw with every inch” – Kip Moore
A few months ago, I sat down with songwriter, Erik Dylan, who also discussed the song (see “Who’s Next: Erik Dylan”: http://millertimemusicspot.com/whos-next-erik-dylan/). He had the following to say about his relationship to “Comeback Kid”:
“I wrote a song called “Comeback Kid”. There are actually four writers that wrote it, Ross Copperman, Jeff Hyde, myself and Kip… It was written for Kip but each of the writers related to the song from a different place with what the song means… My wife worked a day job for seven years and as a songwriter there are times you question whether you are good enough or if it is all worth it. You need that someone there to support you. So the song in my mind was all about my wife because I was the Comeback Kid… Meanwhile, Kip is the Comeback Kid in a different way because he had his share of ups and downs and so many people told him he would not be a country music singer and look at him now.” – Erik Dylan
For the past year I have been doing a monthly segment which I’ve entitled “Who’s Next”. This month’s post is a bit different because its dedicated to an artist who I feel is going to break out as a solo artist, yet has seen various forms of success over the past decade. He has penned over 150 songs that have ended up on major artists’ albums, such as Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Dierks Bentley, Adele, Luke Bryan, Darius Rucker, and Gary Allan. He was the lead singer of the bluegrass band, The Steeldrivers, for a few years, and even founded a rock band called The Jompson Brothers.
However, on May 5, 2015, Stapleton released one of the most refreshing albums I’ve heard in years, entitled “Traveller”. The album has such an organic and traditional sound filled with songs that are edgy, dark, and moving. The present day’s climate of country music makes the genre seem more like pop music with many of the artists making songs that are shallow and meaningless. Yet, with “Traveller”, Stapleton wanted no part of the bro country phase and instead created a masterpiece from start to finish complete with songs with meaning.
I got to sit down with Stapleton for a few minutes while I was on official assignment for countrymusicislove.com before he performed at New York City’s 1st ever Farmborough Festival on Randall’s Island (you can see my recap of the Festival here: http://www.countrymusicislove.com/country-music-news/the-big-apple-goes-country-with-first-ever-farmborough-festival/). Check out my interview below:
MTMS: Do you take a different approach to songwriting when it comes to your solo career as compared to making a song for other artists?
Chris Stapleton: Not really, I just try to write the best song I can each day. That is unless I am writing with another artist specifically for a project. But, I do not sit down with any other intent than to write the best song I can write for that day. Some days you get lucky and make one that someone wants to cut or can be a hit. Other days I just take it as practice at writing a song.
MTMS: When did you start writing songs?
Chris Stapleton: I’ve been writing songs since I was teenager. Professionally, I got my first publishing deal when I was 23 in 2001.
MTMS: Have you recorded any of the first songs you ever wrote?
Chris Stapleton: You know, some of the songs that are fourteen, fifteen years old are on this record. “Fire Away” and “Might As Well Get Stoned” are in that range. I have songs that other people cut that I wrote before I even moved to town. Like “Nobody’s Fool” that Miranda Lambert cut, I wrote that when I was 18. Songs hang around and they will find a way if they can do the job.
MTMS: Did you expect the huge critical response you’ve received from “Traveller”?
Chris Stapleton: I don’t think you can ever expect anything like that. You just have to try to write the best songs you can and sometimes you get lucky. I will say this was a really wonderful and beautiful experience and probably the best one I’ve ever had. It all flowed together organically and if you step back and look at things, it all came together.
MTMS: Do you have a favorite song on the album?
Chris Stapleton: They are all my favorite songs because I don’t look at them as individually songs, I look at them as a body of work. They span such a long range of time so they are pieces of phases until they ended up on the record. I really can’t pick one because I think they flow together. I really like albums as a whole as much as I can appreciate individual songs, so these all tying together meant a lot to me.
Dierks Bentley – Sounds of Summer Tour – June 5, 2015 – Raleigh, NC
Guest Blog by Carrie Srebro (@corbers)
The summer concert season got off to a hot start (literally and figuratively) as Dierks Bentley kicked off his “Sounds of Summer” tour in Raleigh, NC on Friday, June 5, 2015. This is Dierks’ second year headlining the major amphitheaters across North America, and he, as always, gave fans a high energy show that packs a ton of punch!
Canaan Smith kicked the night off promptly at 7 pm with a 5-6 song set which included his current hit single “Love You Like That,” as well as “Two Lane Road” and a cover of Nick Jonas’ “Chains.” Canaan’s music isn’t really my cup of tea, but he put on an enthusiastic and energetic performance to get the night started. I met him before the show out at the box office, and he was very nice!
Maddie & Tae were up next, and delivered an energetic performance. I find these girls to be refreshing – their backing band includes a fiddler!, and they both played instruments including acoustic guitar and dobro through the performance. In fact, the only time they put the instruments down was for a rousing cover of Dolly Parton’s “9-5” which the crowd loved. The girls have tight harmonies and sounded great live, and never stopped smiling through their set. The set included songs that are on their current EP (“Fly,” and fan-favorite “Sierra”) as well as some new music that will be on their upcoming full-length August release. “Shut Up and Fish” is a cheeky song about dating a city boy who won’t – well – shut up and fish, and a lot of fun. And of course the crowd went crazy for the duo’s first #1 hit “Girl in a Country Song.”
Maddie & Tae Setlist:
Right Here Right
Now Shut Up and Fish
Waiting on a Plane
Girl in a Country Song
Promptly at 8:15, Kip Moore took the stage, opening with the rousing anthemic song “Wild Ones,” the title track off his upcoming album. He then threw it back, so to speak, to his debut album with “Crazy One More Time” and “Reckless” before getting the crowd worked up with his hit single “Beer Money,” followed by an awesome cover of Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle!” I’ve only seen Kip one other time, at the Grand Ole Opry for a 3-song set, and was really looking forward to this longer set. Kip didn’t disappoint – his gravelly vocals sounded fantastic on “Hey Pretty Girl” which he then blended into “Stand by Me”. New songs included were his current single “I’m to Blame,” (which feels even shorter in a live setting), “Come and Get It,” and “Magic.” The set closed with Kip’s quirky #1 hit “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck” (which coincidentally was Dierks’ walkout music for the Locked and Reloaded Tour in 2013!), which the crowd loved!
Kip Moore Setlist:
Crazy One More Time
The Middle (Jimmy Eat World cover)
I’m to Blame
Come and Get It
Hey Pretty Girl/Stand by Me
Somethin’ Bout a Truck
There had been a lot of press leading up to the kickoff of the tour this week, and the word of the week was “pyro” which admittedly had me a little worried. I’ve followed Dierks since his debut, and I’ve seen him over 35 times live, and I’ve just never felt like he ever needed to put on a big production to remain competitive in the live world. But, I guess they felt like it was time to pull out all of the stops this year! Thankfully, I didn’t really think anything was over the top, and even though the production is bigger, it still feels like a Dierks show – which means it’s super high on energy and crowd interaction. His 90-minute set kicked off with “Sideways,” “Am I The Only One,” and “5-1-5-0” and we got our first taste of fireworks at the end of “5-1-5-0” (the only time I felt like it was gratuitous, but I suppose in hindsight it was to close the big opening of the show). During the first three songs, Dierks was all over the stage, on the catwalk, giving high fives and fistbumps constantly, pointing out little white tank tops and pilot hats (obvious nods to his uber-popular “What Was I Thinkin” and “Drunk on a Plane”). He took a break to address the crowd leading into “I Hold On,” expressing his delight in opening the tour in Raleigh, commenting how far he’d come since 2005 when he played the 500-seat Lincoln Theatre, and mentioning his late father and telling the crowd “he’d get a kick out of this, y’all.”
He also made a point of calling out all of the faces he recognized down front, his long-time followers, and exclaimed “We did it!” “I Hold On” turned into a massive singalong, with the crowd positively screaming the song back to Dierks. The tour showcased the live debut of “Sounds of Summer” which included another singalong, with Dierks remarking that was his “favorite sound of summer.” Upcoming single “Riser” was absolutely a highlight of the evening, as Dierks was lifted into the air as part of the stage came up. His performance was strong, stirring, and triumphant.
On last summer’s “Riser” Tour, Dierks utilized a B-stage at the back of the reserved area, close to the lawn seats, and he continued that this year as well. Much to the delight of fans, he walks out to the B-stage taking selfies, giving high fives and hugs while singing the fan-favorite “Come a Little Closer” as he… comes a little closer. He sang the anthemic “Home,” and then the band joined him for a “banjo-fied” cover of Nick Jonas’ “Chains” (which sounds strange, but it works) – and he joked about Canaan singing the song earlier in his set, too – and “Settle For a Slowdown.” They then worked their way back up to the main stage for “Up on the Ridge” where they really turned up the heat – flames shot out of the back of the stage for the latter half of the song, and if you’re down front, be prepared for the warmth! It was a cool effect and I felt like it added to the spooky kind of bonfire-esque feel of the song. His “regular” set ended with his most recent #1 single “Say You Do.”
Of course that meant that he hadn’t done the two biggest songs of his career, and sure enough, a video started to play of he and band members Cassidy and Dan attempting to “hood slide like Bo Duke.” It was pretty hilarious, especially when the General Lee and “Bo Duke” himself showed up. Of course that meant that “What Was I Thinkin” was coming, and the crowd was whipped into a frenzy once again. But nothing could top the response to show closing “Drunk on a Plane.” It was one massive sing along, and ended with more fireworks.
Dierks said he wanted to make sure the “Sounds of Summer” Tour was the best tour of the summer, and I would say he’ll make good on that promise for many fans. He continues to put on a high energy show full of crowd interaction and look like he’s having the time of his life the entire time. He’s also good to his openers, inviting Kip Moore out during “Lot of Leavin’ Left to Do,” and Maddie & Tae and Canaan joined him for “Free & Easy.” All four acts seem to get along really well, and even on night one there was an ease among them. If you have the chance to catch this tour, I highly recommend it!
Zac Brown Band – Jekyll + Hyde Tour – June 6, 2015 – Hartford, CT
Guest Blog by Kellie Lambert (@kellie3lambert)
Throughout my entire life, I have been a rocker chick. My tastes may have drifted in and out of various genres, loving all types of music, by my heart lies in the sweet sounds of classic rock, of guitar-slinging musicians and poetic lyrics that far outweigh what is often offered on modern mainstream radio.
In the past year, I’ve delved much deeper in the county realm, as I discover how rock and roll it can be. And that’s how I discovered Zac Brown Band – a group that is as much rock as country, a musical chameleon that can change and morph into just about any style on stage. I became, shall we say, a little obsessed with how simple, yet how complicated, some of their songs were. Lyrics that seemed to be poignant and positive and accompanying layers of music with hooks that I could not shake from my head.
When the band put Hartford on its list of “Jekyll + Hyde” tour dates this summer, I knew I would beg, borrow or steal to land in that audience on June 6. Luckily, my writing gigs allow me the chance to see concerts – as I often review them – so I was lucky to be at the Xfinity Theatre on Saturday to check out what has become one of my all-time favorite bands.
When Zac and company took the stage and launched into “Homegrown,” off its new album, the audience was clearly ready to join in the musical adventure. The band – which features eight core musicians – was set up on a two-tiered stage set with a walkway jutting into the general admission pit. The percussion and horn section was not hidden in the back, as in a standard concert set-up, but showcased on a higher level to be seen in its full glory. By the impressive structure, and large video screens within it, fans in every corner of the arena could appreciate the visuals.
But beyond the flashy visuals was the completely organic, audio pleasure: Musical surprises tucked into the set list. Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” leading into Charlie Daniels Band’s “Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic,” a traditional mash-up with the band’s own “Free.” The Beatles’ “Let it Be,” performed in the vein it was intended. Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” an impressive undertaking yet the musicians’ paid homage to the classic. And The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under the Bridge,” an alternative throw-back that was unexpected to the audience. Zac Brown Band is, in my opinion, one of the world’s best rock cover bands. Except you still appreciate them for their own twist on each cover.
However, Zac Brown Band is not just about performing other’s classics: The group’s own music is just as notable. The band played a bunch of tracks from “Jekyll + Hyde,” including the breezy “Loving You Easy,” as well as “Bittersweet,” “Castaway” “Tomorrow Never Comes,” and “Dress Blues,” the Jason Isbell song honoring our military, which featured a poignant, patriotic moment where a U.S. Marine came out on stage to salute.
The encores lasted deep into the night, ending two and a half hours of tunes, as the band pulled out many of its greatest hits for a sing-a-long with thousands of fans reaching up onto the dark lawn. “Knee Deep,” with its happy summer lyrics, pleased the Parrottheads, but the band turned the mood on its side with the next track, one appealing to the rock contingent: the heavy-hitting “Heavy Is the Head,” the Chris Cornell duet on “Jekyll + Hyde,” which was a total treat since it had not appeared regularly on this tour’s set lists yet.
Confetti cannons filled the night air with paper snow as the band ended the concert with its classic hit “Chicken Fried,” the perfect finale choice with its simple, homegrown life lessons, quotable lines that remind us to appreciate our blessings – musical and otherwise – on this planet. It is funny how it’s the little things in life that mean the most, like a great concert by a talented band under the stars outside on a Saturday night.
The “Jekyll + Hyde” tour is in full swing this summer, and if you get a chance to grab a ticket, don’t hesitate. It’s worth every penny.
Devil Went Down to Georgia
Into the Mystic
Day For the Dead
Under the Bridge
Let It Be
Keep Me In Mind
Loving You Easy
Tomorrow Never Comes
Heavy Is The Head (ENCORE)
Chicken Fried (ENCORE)
Kellie Lambert is a freelance writer who has been published in numerous publications in print and online. She has been writing about the Connecticut music scene for more than two decades. She has a weekly music column in the Waterbury, Conn. newspaper, The Republican-American, and a weekly entertainment column in the Observer newspapers, in Bristol and Southington, Conn. She blogs about her life at thepeapodblog.wordpress.com, and can be found on Twitter @kellie3lambert.
Bergen Performing Arts Center- Englewood, NJ – June 3, 2015
Last night, Merle Haggard & The Strangers brought their legendary songs to the stage in the hometown I grew up in, Englewood, New Jersey. This show was the night after Merle released a new album with Willie Nelson, entitled “Django and Jimmie” which he later announced as his first #1 album in twenty eight years. His son, Noel, started things off with a short set as he sang some classic style country music that was easy listening without any spark. But, at approximately 8:45, The Hag took to the stage with a black hat, sunglasses, and electric guitar and the match was immediately lit.
Merle kicked things off with “Big City” and followed it up with Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” which had the sold out crowd stomping along right from the start. I had seen Merle live just once prior and he seemed to be much more animated this night, as he ripped into guitar solo’s, made jokes throughout the night (especially about hearing aids and marijuana), and even did some stationary dancing on stage.
I read some reviews of Merle’s recent shows and saw the setlists from those nights. I was expecting an identical setlist, but was very surprised and happy that it was not. He sang some of my personal favorites on this night, such as “The Bottle Let Me Down”, “Silver Wings”, “Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” and the legendary song “Pancho & Lefty”, originally recorded with Willie Nelson on their first duets album. He even sang a song, “Unfair Weather Friend” from the new Willie & Merle album, which he performed seamlessly. It was a dream setlist and Merle’s vocals were spot on all night.
Not to be forgotten was his impressive band, the Strangers, who had multiple chances to show off on their fiddles, steel guitars, saxophones, madolines, drums, bass, acoustic and electric guitars. His son, Ben Haggard, showcased one of the more impressive electric guitars I’ve seen in recent years. But when Merle pulled out a fiddle himself and ripped out a solo, everyone in the crowd got up and gave a standing ovation (see the video below thanks to Country 92.5’s Broadway of the Electric Barnyard, who was also in attendance at the show):
I have had the pleasure of seeing various artists live who have achieved legendary status, such as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson, Elton John, Carlos Santana, U2, Roger Waters, Jay-Z, and Paul McCartney. Merle’s performance and vocals stacked up to the best of the icons I have seen live. He finished the night off with the epic songs “Fighting Side of Me”, “Working Man Blues” and “Okie From Muskogee”. Everything Merle did that night was just that, in my eyes, perfection. And sitting in the 8th row in an intimate venue in my hometown, made me appreciate what he has done for music history, that much more.