Wilkes: From Cedartown, to Nashville,to The Voice, and Beyond

Recently, many North Georgia residents turned on The Voice, to hear a familiar name, “Jason Wilkes”.  What was even more exciting, was to watch the battle between Blake Shelton and Adam Levine, when both  mega stars, turned their chairs.  Ultimately, Wilkes chose Blake Shelton and went on to wow America to the Top 24.

Some see shows like, The Voice, as a quick path to fame, for Wilkes, this was far from instant success, without putting in the hard work.  The 33-year-old Cedartown native, has put years into honing his craft, working the small shows, and building a sound that is defined by the influences of Church, small town life, and dynamic story telling.  Wilkes, started in Freedom Baptist Church, a small church located in Cedartown, GA.  His grandfather was pastor of the church, and the Wilkes family provided the music.  By middle school, he started developing his own tastes and sound, and by high school, he joined a rock band with friends.

Asking Wilkes to define his current sound, he attributes it to being raised in a small town, being raised on Southern Gospel, country music, and having an unexpected 17 year career in rock.  Wilkes says his sound comes from “flying all over the map, as a typical 33-year-old, from a small town”.  The combined sounds, from playing all types of instruments, and meshing of genres, is the unique blend, that is now Wilkes.  Musical influences, that you can hear in his sound, would go from The Killers to Keith Urban to Dierks Bentley.

Wilkes has been writing music since he was 5 years old.  His process is self describe as “24 hours a day of banking ideas”.  He told me he had notebooks, voice memos, and recordings of melodies or lyrics.  He has been writing and working with a publishing house in Nashville, and even if a song doesn’t come “organically”, he has years of material to pull from.

Reluctant to do The Voice, Wilkes is now seeing the benefits from taking the leap, and keeping true to who he has worked hard to become.  He is still releasing the same material he would be releasing, but The Voice has given him a larger platform to share his music.  He is seeing a bigger number of downloads, newer faces at shows, and the ability to perfect some earlier released music.  Wilkes has released an original song, “Good To Be Us” and a cover of  No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak”.  The EP will be released soon, but his fans can start downloading songs now.

This Friday, June 8th, Wilkes will return “home” and headline the Rome River Jam Pre-Party.  Rome River Jam is one of the largest music festivals in the south and has seen headliners from Tracey Lawerence to Luke Bryan to Old Dominion, and this year’s headliner Kane Brown.  The Rome River Jam Pre-Party has become a must see show to kick off the weekend.  Wilkes is excited for his first, post The Voice, hometown show.  Wilkes will have a great opening act, Austin Jenckes (from Nashville and Season 8 The Voice contestant), and another unnamed opener.  Wilkes will take the stage at Rome City Brewing Company, located at 325 Broad Street in Downtown Rome, Ga.  Tickets are selling fast, so don’t miss out.  Doors will open at 7:00 pm and the show starts at 9:00 pm.  You can purchase tickets at Fresh Tix.

Be sure to download “Good To Be Us” from all of your favorite streaming sites, or from Good To Be Us ITunes.  You can learn all things Wilkes by visiting all of his social media sites. All the links are provided below!


Wilkes Facebook

Wilkes Instagram

Wilkes Twitter







Ben Haggard: Honoring His Father While Finding His Own Sound

On Tuesday, December 12, 2017, Ben Haggard along with his brother Noel, will play an acoustic show at Rome City Brewing Company and hosted by Bigfoot Music and Outdoors. The show is an all ages show and starts at 6:30 pm.  In preparing for the show, I was able to talk with Ben Haggard about what we can expect at the show, what we can expect from him over the next few years, and how he is finding the balance between honoring his father, the late great Merle Haggard, while finding his own sound.

Ben Haggard learned from the one of the best in country music, Merle Haggard, his father.  Ben said that it has been a journey for him that started when he was around 15 years old.  He told me that he had been playing his guitar in the garage and his mother heard him playing.  He jokes that she heard “a few things that were somewhat apparently sounding right”.  Ben remembers his mother telling his dad “Merle, you might want to listen to Ben play.  He is playing pretty good.”

Merle began to listen to Ben play and eventually graduated from the garage to the front room band.  Ben began jamming with the guys that came over to play.  Ben talked about beating on a box, playing drums, and helped him with his timing.

Working his way from playing with the artists like Chris and Taylor Malpass, to the playing as a member of The Strangers.  Ben embraced the opportunity to learn what the sound has been for many years.  Ben fondly calls this his school.  He was learning all he could from his father.  He said he was learning “his sound and that Bakersfield sound”.

While Ben had a front row seat to learn from his father, Ben takes the other influences of artists and genres he likes, as he is working to find his own sound.  Ben told me that he likes John Mayer, blues, and swing.  He talks about how all of these influences eventually come together and he is on the journey to find “the right sound and the right song”.

I asked Ben about trying to make his way in the music industry with the last name Haggard.  Ben talked about it being a blessing and somewhat a curse.  He said that “automatic reaction to being Merle Haggard’s son is that you have already made it.” Ben continued by talking about that being far from the truth.  “You almost have to work harder to even come close to what he (Merle) was good at.”  He tries to show that he can mirror the good that he learned from his father.

While Ben is working to record his own material, he still pays tribute to his father by singing Merle’s amazing list of songs.  Ben recalls his father telling him, not long before he died,  “don’t be afraid to sing my songs and don’t worry what someone might think, worry about what you think.”   Not only is Ben going out and playing his father’s songs, his older brother Noel is playing and singing with him.

Ben and Noel have been playing different venues while out touring.  The show they are bringing to Rome City Brewing Company on December 12, 2017, is the acoustic show.  Ben said that “these shows are more intimate and have a cool vibe”.  Then they are playing shows with the full band.  Ben and Noel are still going out to bigger venues and oversees with The Strangers.  He says they will continue to go out as long as they have places to go.  Ben talked about playing with Norm Hamlet, who is now 83 years old.  Ben feels that playing with guys, like Norm, allows him to continue to learn from the greats of the business..

As Ben and I were wrapping up our time together, I asked him what we could expect from the show, at the Rome City Brewing Company on Tuesday December 12, 2017.  Ben said that we can expect to hear them paying homage to their father “in a very respectful manner”.  We can also expect to hear some abstract Haggard cuts and some songs that are not Haggard songs.  Ben hopes to add some original aspects to the songs.

What can we expect from Ben Haggard in the coming years.  He has moved to Nashville and trying to see what might come from the move.  He is continuing to work on his craft.  He is looking to record original material, but he wants to put out quality music.  He hopes to be in the middle of an album for this time next year.

Ben Haggard is an amazing guy to speak with and you can hear the passion he feels in paying respect to his father’s music and his desire to put out quality music of his own.  You can learn about Ben, his music, the tour, and all other things, by visiting his website and social media.  I have included a few links below, including the link to purchase tickets for the show, in Rome at Rome City Brewing Company, on Tuesday December 12, 2017 brought to you by Bigfoot Music and Outdoors.  Ben and Noel Haggard will be in downtown Rome, bringing real country.  The show is an ALL AGES show.  There are a few opening acts, for this show, including Preston Summerville, Rickey Cole, Corey Alan Rose, and Lance Peace.  The tickets can be purchased in advance for $20 by visiting  Ben Haggard tickets. Tickets are SOLD OUT for the Meet and Greet.  If tickets remain, the day of the show, those can be purchased for $25.  The show begins at 6:30 pm.

Ben Haggard Website

Ben Haggard Facebook


Kirstie Lovelady: New Music, New Sound, And A New Kind Of Awesome

For the first time in over a year, powerhouse singer Kirstie Lovelady, released her new single and video “Cops ‘N Robbers” at midnight November 3, 2017.  The song is a play on the “define your relationship moment when you both are trying to figure out if your on the same page or somewhere different.” From the opening line of “We ain’t kids. This ain’t a game. Not just a place, to lay your blame” to strong chorus, featuring lines like: “Something about the way you keep accusing me.” and “Do you want to steal from me or be the shield for me?”, the song is packed with explosive vocals and clever lyrics.

Where has Kirstie been and where is the new sound coming from? I was able to speak to Kirstie earlier this week about all things new.  She talked about her recent break from constant performing as a need to heal her voice.  Kirstie also told me about taking time to reevaluate where she was going and what she wanted to say with her music.  With the new single “Cops ‘N Robbers”, you will hear a more edgy, grittier sound in her music.  She wants her fans and new listeners to have the same experience while listening at home to her music as they do during her live shows.  (For the record, if you have never seen Kirstie live, what are you waiting for?)

So we have a new single and video, what else can we expect from Kirstie? She is currently working on recording more new songs and getting back out performing.  I have heard previews of upcoming music from Kirstie and all I can say is buckle your seat-belts and get ready for an amazing ride.  “Cops and Robbers” is just the  beginning of a lot of great music to come.

You can download “Cops ‘N Robbers” on ITunes, Google Play, Spotify, and other online streaming services.  You can follow Kirstie Lovelady on her Facebook Page.

Adam Searan: Inspiring Music

Adam Searan grew up in Nashville and credits his accomplishments on hard work.  He grew up in and around music.  His mother, father, uncle and others in his life were always musical.  They were in and out of music industry most of Adam’s life. Adam shared that his father played at the Opry and for Johnny Paycheck.  His uncle was a session player and band leader for several big names in country music.  Adam began singing in the church and around 11 years old, Oasis inspired him to learn the guitar.  Music was part of his high school years.

Adam is now 33 years old and has music his career.  He has an unique sound and even a more impressive way to  create that sound.  Adam has played in bands and played acoustic.  When he played in bands, he found that the music he gravitated to was not always conducive to the band setting.  In cultivating his sound, he started experimenting with Loops and it became a way for him to translate his acoustic sound and connecting with his fan base.  It gave him an outlet to give his fans a better show.

Adam has many influences in his musical taste that span across the board.  “I just love to listen to great songs.  If it is a little weird, I tend to gravitate towards it.” Adam said.  David Grey is a huge influence in his musical tastes.  Adam also said “I have always loved Keith Urban.”.  I told Adam that we sounded like kindred spirits when began to list other influences such as BB King, Ryan Adams, and Eric Church.  Adam told me that he “could list at least 5 musicians from every genre, including Christian music.”  Growing up, he could only listen to Christian music or music from the Opry.  He is still a huge fan of Hank Williams Sr.  “I could put on one of his records and listen to it all day.” (I agree with that 100%.)

When bringing up the topic of “what genre would you put yourself in”, Adam said “he loves to hear interesting new sounds” and wants to put out something out there that isn’t already out.  Adam and I talked about every genre having sub-genres, that are always evolving.  Adam wants to be inspired by music, honor the musician, and stay away from covering them.  He is looking to create the next thing, the next step.  Adam is not looking to market to one specific crowd, but put something out there that both parents and kids can enjoy.

Adam’s writing style usually starts with music first and then a word will come to him.  He tries to listen to what the song is saying.  He tries to name that feeling that only music can make you feel.

We talked about the culture and state of music today.  Adam wants to stay unique and speak his message.  He wants to create new music and not cover singer.  The industry needs to give more credit to the content creator.  Adam’s mission as an artist is to inspire people to create and keep the artistry in music.

When Adam made music is full-time career, no one really got what he was doing.  He was either too heavy for one group or too country for the other.  Adam prevailed in his career by holding to his truth.  That has worked well him in the last 6 months.  For all of those that didn’t get, there were many others that did.  That was evident by Adam being in Country Weekly magazine and playing a show at the Ryman.

If Adam had one message to give to everyone, it would be “be different, be yourself, be weird, and do it with all of your heart.  Give it every ounce of everything you got.”.  This message is what Adam lives by and is why he is continuing to gain new fans ever day.  “The day someone can convince you to stop being yourself, is the day you will stop being successful.” Adam is such an inspiration of how to stay yourself and good things will come.  Adam concluded the interview with these quotes, “Play it.Sing It. Mean It.” and “Start looking at the universe and stop looking at the sky.”

Adam is currently touring on his “Last Call For Summer” Tour.  He will be making several stops in our area soon.  You can check out his website at .http://iamtheband.net/.   Adam will be at Rome City Brewing Company on September 8, 2017, as well as Rhino’s Smokehouse on September 21-22, 2017.  You can also catch him at Hopz and Haze in Summerville on September 23, 2017.  Click on this link for additional tour dates: Adam Searan Tour

Here is a link to Adam Seran’s video for “Last”: Last.


Matt Mason- Doing It His Way

Growing up in Indiana, in a great home, and finding a love for music in the Pentecostal church shaped Matt Mason into the person he is today.  Matt fell in love with Southern Baptist music and says that it has always moved him. (I am guessing from the red hymnals many  folks still use today.)  Matt use to crawl under the seats, during service, to play with cars.

Matt wanted a guitar.  He and his father were on the way to pick up his mom from the airport, one day, and his father stopped into Arthur’s Music Store to buy Matt his first guitar.  He took lessons from Carl Downy.  Carl would stay after church to teach Matt how to play.  At 11 and 12 years old, Matt played acoustic guitar at church.  He claims that because they didn’t plug-in to an amp, no one could hear how bad he was playing, but it gave him the confidence he needed to continue on.

Matt continued on and at 14-15 years old he went to an Open Mic at the American Legion.  His dad took him to the Open Mic and Matt played a couple of Merle Haggard songs.  The crowd responded to Matt’s performance.  It even led to him being booked for the Eastern States Exhibition in Massachusetts.  Matt went from playing an Open Mic Night at the American Legion, to opening for Charlie Daniels at age 16.  He remembers walking on stage and slipping due to the rain (and maybe a little case of the nerves).  He said, “I remember looking out and saying wow look at all the people. One foot took off and I caught it right before his pants split.”  After show, Charlie Daniel gave him his bow and ran back to his bus, looking at it with amazement, hoping he would sign his bow.  Charlie came out, after a little while, told the guy that opened the door for Matt “If anyone comes to my door like that, come get me.”, and took Matt on his bus.  Matt remembers Charlie taking the time to sign his bow, his cowboy hat, and talked to him for a second.  Matt knew that night that he got a taste of performing and that was the life he wanted to have.

Matt spent time playing fairs and festivals around Indiana, before moving out to Nashville.  A couple of weeks after moving to town, Matt got his first gig at Tootsie’s.  He had been standing outside because no one would let him after 6pm.  (He will still under age.)  Different guys would get him up to play throughout the day.  John Stone watched him stand outside during the day and finally asked him if he wanted to get up and sing a few songs.  Matt sang “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Are You Sure Hank Would Done It That Way?”.  He finished his set and looked at the crowd.  People were standing on each other shoulders.  Matt stood basking in what he thought was a kick ass performance, to only notice Hank Williams, Jr. standing in the back of the room.

The following 18 months, Matt continued to play in Nashville.  He learned what to do, how to stand in front of people. and say while on stage.  A friend, Berry Jeffrey, called and told him about a show to see if he would be interested in doing a show called “Nashville Star” and are you interested.  The auditions went well and Matt went on to place 4th in the competition.  Kacey Musgraves, Chris Young, and Miranda Lambert were a few notables that came from the show.

Matt left the show and did his thing until Barry called again with another opportunity from a CMT Relativity show called “CMT Next Superstar.  Matt was hesitant to do the show because he didn’t want to be “that guy”.   Matt was able to sign with Warner Brothers from appearing on the show and because a better writer.

Matt is now happy with his writing, guitar player, and being a better musician.  At the age of 31, Matt is learning this is a business.  If you are in it just to make money or just to have fun. you could fail.  Matt is in love with the music now after his journey.  He is excited that God has big plans.  If Matt’s music is helping folks and reach people, Matt says “It is awesome.” Matt finds himself just happy getting by and if more great things happen, he is content.  He feels he is in a good place and as long as the fans keep coming out, he will continue on.

I asked Matt about some of his influences and the list is long and distinguished.  Matt lists greats like Leon Russel, Kris Kristofferson, Roger Miller, Willie Nelson, and his all round favorites, Merle Haggard.

When it comes to song writing, Matt Mason has no process.  If you stick to a formula, you become stagnant.   Matt is not a fan of writing sessions.  He seems to be more of an organic song writer.  He has never tried to force a song.

I asked Matt Mason what genre to he would put his music in and the only genre he can come up with true life music.  Waylon once said that “Music should be classified at all.”  If I had to place Matt Mason in a “genre”, I would maybe place him in Americana.  Matt has never been a bar style band because he isn’t a karaoke band.  He likes to play his own music, staying true to who you are, your fan base will grow.  Matt has a few EP outs that are a must listen.

For information about Matt Mason, please click on Matt Mason.

I have linked some of Matt’s song and would like you guys to listen to them all.   I have my favorites like “E” and several others.  Matt Mason Music.








South of Heaven

South of Heaven
Always endin’ up
No matter how I try
I’m just south of Heaven
Don’t wanna’ think you can have it all
‘Cause all I need is just south of Heaven

South of Heaven, one of the up and coming bands in the Southern Rock genre, has been touring the south and will be performing back at home at River City Brewing Company (formerly The Brewhouse Music and Grille) on Saturday March 25, 2017.  I sat down a couple of months ago to talk with the band, what is coming up for them, and their out look on the music industry. Full disclosure, I have known some of the boys in the band for a long time. They were classmates with my daughter, but I promise, these boys kick some major ass.  It is like listening at young men with old souls. You might notice that I started the article with lyrics from the classic Lynyrd Skynyrd song”South of Heaven”.  This classic song, from one of the greatest Southern Rock bands of all time, was the inspiration for the name of the band.  South of Heaven is made up of these extremely talented musicians: TJ Lyle – Lead Vocals, Bristol Perry – Drums, Riley Couzourt – Lead Guitar, Zach Everett – Bass, Vocals, Logan Tolbert – Rythym Guitar, Vocals.  The band members are from Armuchee and Taylorsville, GA.

The band all came together from being friends and hanging out.  South of Heaven has been playing as a band for 3 or 4 years together but the line up changed recently with the additions of TJ as lead vocalist.  The band started playing one of the first gigs as a benefit for Erin Massey, as fellow classmate and cancer survivor.  South of Heaven were frequently featured at local restaurants around Rome including La Conquista, Schroeder’s, and WOW Cafe (a memorial concert for Colton Rood, who was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident).  The band has moved from the local restaurant scene and is now touring the south.

The band describes their sound as Southern Rock. I have spoken to one of our mutual friends, Them Dirty Roses, about the void of Southern Rock in the music world, so it was only fitting that I get South of Heaven’s take on that void.  It is rare when you find musicians as young as these guys to have such deep passion and a clear voice in a genre that seems, at times, long forgotten.  In the music world of overproduced, mass appeal,big production, it is refreshing to see a new generation that appreciates a genre of real, deep meaning music stands the test of time and not just music for the fad of the week. South of Heaven agrees that a lot of the music today is so much of the same and no one wants to make their path of originality.  They not only see but hear the void of raw talent, singing songs that tell the story of the everyday man.  These guys want to work hard to make their own path of music without the electronic, overproduced, sound the same as everyone else music that seems to be flooding the radio.

South of Heaven list their influences to include greats such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, Blackberry Smoke, Led Zeppelin, and CCR.  That is evident in the amazing sound that these guys are producing.

I asked the guys if they feel that with the new “easier” path to success with reality singing competition shows has hurt the music industry.  These guys feel that it has hurt with musicians working hard and has made music become a smaller market for orgianilty.  We talked about music in the 1970’s how Southern Rock had a market in some of the country stations but now with the rise of “Bro Country”, stations are not as willing to give anything that doesn’t fit that mold a chance at air play.

We turned our discussion to how the guys are evolving from being a “cover band” to writing more original material.  The guys are wanting to get a new album out with their new sound.  The guys write about real life, real feelings, that are relatable to all ages.  TJ writes a lot of the songs but they collabrate together. Relatability plays a huge factor as well as storytelling.

South of Heaven will be hitting the road, promoting their music, and doing music that comes from the soul without fitting into a mold.  I know these guys are going to do great things.  I have watched these guys continue to grow into even more amazing musicans.  In a world that is craving honest music, that doesn’t fit into a nice box, these guys are the real deal.  If you are in Rome,GA on March 25, 2017 come on out to River City Brewing Company at 10pm and see these guys!