Category Archives: country music

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



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.








Them Dirty Roses-Trouble

After two years from releasing their first EP, Them Dirty Roses released their second EP, Trouble.  It is a self funded project that tops the first EP by leaps and bounds. (If that is at all possible.) I have made no secret that these guys are one of my favorite bands out there today.  I call them Southern Soul with Gritty Rock and Roll.  I was fortunate to be one of the firsts to receive the new EP and I cannot begin to put into words how great this music is to roll your windows down and jam to.  I spoke to the guys a couple of months ago to talk about the new music and what is next for the Roses.

Fans have been waiting for two years for the new music and of course I had to ask, “Why did it take so long?”  The guys told me that they have been so busy on the road, spreading the name for the last 2 years, and self funded the EP.  They are so proud to do things on their own terms and put out quality music.  The writing on this EP was more personal.  Everyone would work together to get behind what was being written.

I have my favorite on the EP, which is “Fix You”, but of course I had to ask the guys which were their favorites.  “Back Home” and “Fix You” seem to be the common song among the guys.  Andrew and Ben told me that “when they laid it down in the studio, it surprised us.”  Frank told me that “Songs About You” was a fun song to play on drums, which I will say he does a phenomenal job on.  James said his favorite was “Fix You” because “that is the only song I wrote by myself and is more personal to me.” James also said that it turned out as close as it could to the way he heard it in his.  (I am glad that it was in his head, because the song kicks ass.)

I asked the guys to go through each song and the writing process.  James told me the inspiration for “Fix You” comes from having those people you have in your life and seeing the problems they have.  You beat yourself up because you can’t seem to make them happy and in hindsight as you get older, you realize it still isn’t you.

“Songs About You” was co-written by Brian Wesley as well as The Roses.  Andrew had the first line about the girl and the guys started throwing out things and changed it up to be about life.  So many songs are written about a girl and this one is for people who have that “southern belief” even if they are not from the south.

“Trouble” was written by a friend of theirs.  They listened to the song, tweaked it here and there and is about planning on doing the right thing but end up doing the wrong thing.  It is a song that anyone can relate too.

“Molly”, another one of my favorites, is an older song that was written a while back.  The idea of having a girl’s name, but didn’t want to use a name of a girl he knew.  (Please think back to “You’re So Vain”)  We can thank Molly, the Maltese puppy, for running into the room.

“Back Home” was written awhile back.  It deals with being away from home, not knowing anyone as well as contemplating the moves you made.  It is one of those homesick songs that make you think about life’s choices and decisions.

So what can we expect from Them Dirty Roses in the upcoming year? More touring, more songs.  The guys want to get better as writers and musicians.  They performed at Spring Jam in Panama City the early part of April with several big name artist.  The Roses are looking to get on XM and continue to expand the fan base.  The guys are always working in collaboration together trying to use everyone’s idea.  The Roses have seen the growth from the first EP to Trouble.  They are hearing a lot of feedback at how they have grown and want to always put out the best music for the fans.

I see the growth in the band.  I feel that being on the road together for the last 2 years has made the band a cohesive unit.  They have really gotten to know each other and helped with the growth.   In a world of cookie cutter, over produced music, people are starving for real meaningful music.  Them Dirty Roses is a band that is ready to bring back that music that has heart and soul.  They are bringing the music that makes you feel something and can I get a big “Amen” for bringing back songs with meaning.

If you haven’t checked out Them Dirty Roses, please visit their website, buy their EP, go to their shows.  I promise you this is one band that will not disappoint. I have played this EP on loop for a long time.  The music is well written, meaningful, gritty, true life Southern Rock. Trouble is a great representation of all that is Them Dirty Roses.

Lyrical Lists- “Head On” Video Review

So my two favorite music acts team up to produce one of the hottest videos I have seen in a long time.  The song co-written by Kirstie Lovelady and James Ford, from Them Dirty Roses, is proof once again, these musicians, are doing things on their own terms, in their own way.  Two unknown singers, team up to release a hot new video… “No one does that!” A female, trying to break into country music shoots a video in a boxing ring because that is how she sees the video…. “No one does that!”  Well whoever “no one” is has never met Kirstie Lovelady and Them Dirty Roses.  Just as the song’s message is about doing things, your way, not the way everyone else does it, this video follows that message.

When I talked to Kirstie yesterday, I told her “No one has done it this way, because they have been waiting on YOU to do it”.  This video was shot at GetFit615 and Music City Boxing and the locations could not tell the story any better than Kirstie and James do in the song writing.  The guys were lucky to have the video directed by Preston Leatherman who took the vision and brought it to life.

I cannot say enough good things about the first cut “Head On” from Kirstie Lovelady’s new EP “Weeds”.  The video is a clear portrayal of the fight to be your own artist, in your own way, in your own time, and feeling that strong about being you and not someone who the industry expects.

I hope that CMT and GAC will pick the video up and give their viewers the opportunity to see what a total badass, rocking lady looks like and how awesome Them Dirty Roses are and the void they will in fill in music today.

Give it a listen, call your radio stations, and music channels and let’s get this some airplay.  I love they did this their way.