While country-rock fans are singing and dancing along to “Whatever Floats Your Boat,” the infectious, freewheeling first single from Shane Martin’s new EP Til The Wheels Fall Off, the Minnesota based singer/songwriter saves his most heartfelt, soul-bearing moments for the two tracks that bookend the recording and double as the artist’s ongoing spiritual and musical mission statements. On the high energy opener “I Am What I Am,” he sings, “Music has been my life since I can remember when…That spirit is living out of my control.” On the closing title song, he looks toward the future: “What lies ahead’s wide open like a picture that never stops/I’m gonna ride this life, til the wheels fall off.”
Considering the journey Martin has been on these past years, and the dynamic relationship he’s developed with his ever-expanding fan base, who can fault him for being so excited and inspired? A Top 5 Finalist in the 2012 Texaco Country Showdown where he competed for “Best New Act in Country Music” at Nashville’s legendary Ryman Auditorium (hosted by LeAnn Rimes), Martin is now up to a breakneck pace of 175 regional shows per year. Martin’s live band is a group of talented veteran musicians that has performed at some of the top country music festivals in the country, including Moondance Country Jam, Rockwoods Jamfest and Winstock. The group has shared the stage with a wide variety of top artists, including Ronnie Dunn, Joe Nichols , Jerrod Niemann, David Nail, Josh Thompson, Easton Corbin, Greg Bates and Black Hawk.
When he’s not out performing with his full ensemble - the usual setup for the annual summer whirlwind of outdoor country festivals, street dances and fairs – Martin is taking care of business on his own, earning his amazing longtime rep as the “One Man Band.” Performing acoustic guitar driven versions of his eclectic mix of country/rock/pop tunes, high octane rockers and soulful ballads, he uses his feet to play bass pedals and tambourine. In recent years, he’s also added a loop pedal to add extra rhythm via an additional acoustic guitar line. He also plays harmonica and auxiliary bongos. – with nothing pre-recorded!
“The great things about the one man band option are the uniqueness of it, and the opportunity it allows for intimacy with the crowd,” says Martin, who estimates he plays 60% of his shows this way. “The set list is also more open, so people can request the songs they like. I also have fun playing in and out of tunes and twisting them up. The coolest thing is when people come up to me during the break and say when they came in, they thought a four piece band was playing. They didn’t realize I was just one person up there. But I also love playing with my band because I’m able to move around with my guitars onstage and be more energetic. I’m able to focus a lot on my showmanship.
“Whether I’m jamming with my band or presenting the music in this unique solo setting, I truly enjoy singing, performing, entertaining crowds and connecting with an audience,” he adds. “Connecting with people is what songs and live music are all about. There’s nothing like the feeling of watching as a crowd sings along to your songs. There’s an infectious energy that pours from the stage to the audience and back to the stage again. Music is in my heart and soul and I honestly love sharing it.”
Martin launched his solo recording career with several well received self-produced projects. The first was Moody Waters, a six song acoustic EP whose track “She Could Cry in Heaven” appeared on TV’s The Young and the Restless. The singer’s follow-up Thread was co-produced and recorded with Levi Seacer from Prince’s New Power Generation and included the song “White Fences” that was featured on the soundtrack to a Michael Wilson documentary. While developing his solo career, the singer also fronted the band Faith Nation.
Martin’s evolution into the trailblazing country rocker he is today began with a 2009 trip to Nashville, where he enrolled in a songwriting seminar and struck up a powerful friendship and creative partnership with Emmy winning recording engineer and producer Kenny Royster. Royster, whose Direct Image Studio is home to some of the world’s most innovative artists, musicians, songwriters and record labels, perfectly sums up Martin’s vibe: “Shane is a great singer/songwriter on the teetering edge of country, pop and rock, where it’s just dangerous enough to be fun.”
The two began working together on Rewind (2010) and Light It Up (2012), which Royster produced. With Rewind, Martin says, “I finally found my sound and writing style and started to dig deep into my songs, getting back to my small town roots and experiences. It felt natural to write from more of a storytelling aspect and modern country style.” After writing Rewind by himself, Martin took a new approach and began collaborating with other writers, including several in the Nashville area – a powerful transition that has taken his songwriting and vibe as an artist to an exciting new level. While staying at the helm behind the boards, Royster began co-writing with the singer on Til The Wheels Fall Off.
“To me, the process of recording a CD in a studio is one of the most exciting parts about being an artist, just being part of songs coming alive in ways I could never have imagined when I first wrote them,” Martin says. “That’s what feeds the fire. Til The Wheels Fall Off includes some of the best songs and recordings I’ve released so far. I can feel and hear the growth from previous recordings. I’ve never been more confident in my voice and performing, and my band is kickin’ ass better than ever.”
Growing up in the small town of Albertville, Minnesota (30 miles Northwest of Minneapolis), Martin learned early on the meaning of hard work and family and spent his summers helping out at his uncle's on the Martin family farm. While learning to play piano at a young age, he also found himself singing along to songs by everyone from Bryan Adams and Bon Jovi to Led Zeppelin. Even before he started playing (by ear) the electric guitar his brother got one year for Christmas, he remembers biking up to a friend’s house and singing with his friend’s brother’s rock band. By necessity, he also learned to play bass. Martin soon found himself starting a rock band with friends from school and practicing to play a few club shows and house parties. His passion began shifting from rock into country rock when he heard the way superstars like Garth Brooks and Keith Urban fused the two genres to create their trademark sounds.
Martin’s skills as a songwriter developed naturally. “I would hear melodies, choruses, and song inspirations in my head,” he says. “I then felt compelled to create and put my thoughts and sounds into a song format. I always gravitated toward great songs and melodies, no matter what style. Country music is all about great songs and stories within them - and who doesn't love a good story? My music taste and style developed over the years through performing, and I came to find my voice in country while incorporating my rock influences.
“Country music feels right at home for me,” Martin adds. “I grew up in a small town, lived on a dirt road and worked summers at the Martin family farm. I don't sport a cowboy hat, but I'm a country boy at heart. My music is as real and honest as I am as a person, and I’m driven by my passion to write and sing songs from the heart that move people. I live and breathe to perform and entertain with authentic good vibe energy and I strive to leave a crowd wanting more. As I’m basically saying in the song ‘Til The Wheels Fall Off,’ I’ll keep singing and performing until my voice is fried out and my hands can’t strum a guitar chord. And even then I’m sure I’ll find a way to keep making music.”
Continuing to express his freewheeling musical creativity in FrazierBand, John Frazier’s first ensemble to feature a drum groove since his teens, the multi-talented singer/songwriter and mandolin, guitar and fiddle master spent a whirlwind two years and 125-dates on the road in 2013-14 with acoustic and electric banjo players Matt Menefee and Kyle Tuttle and drummer Jim Kittleman.
While solidifying their inventive mix of rock and Newgrass via the infectious hook driven pop tunes from FrazierBand’s critically acclaimed 2012 self titled debut, the group also experimented sonically, adding textures from a variety of influences, including jazz and psychedelic jam/rock. After sharing a glimpse of their explosive, evolving live sound on their 2014 release Live at The Five Spot, FrazierBand got back to work in their home base of East Nashville, vibing with engineer Daniel Rice (Cadillac Sky) to create a follow-up studio album reflecting a solid ensemble sound that Frazier could have only dreamed of when he launched FrazierBand in 2010.
After extensive touring that resulted in developing a huge following throughout the Southeast, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region and beyond, Frazier brings to the new album a completely different mindset than he had when they recorded their debut. “This project builds on and solidifies what we started with and truly congeals a full band sound,” he says. “When I did the first album, I thought it might be about me as individual artist with a solo project and a great team of musicians helping me present my songs. But I quickly realized I wanted a more unified ensemble sound, and two years of touring that album and recording the concert project really made that a reality. Matt and Kyle’s banjo solos and the strong bass and drum driven parts were as much a part of our success as my strings. So going into the studio this time, we now have a true band identity. We’ve all evolved together and the songs, production and presentation are much more concise.”
The Philly area native brings a powerful, eclectic history as an acoustic and bluegrass performer, sideman, producer and record producer into his leadership of FrazierBand. Moving to Nashville in the winter of 2006/2007, the veteran musician – fresh from his longtime stint as mandolin and fiddle player and lead and harmony vocalist for the acclaimed Colorado string band Hit & Run Bluegrass – quickly established himself among Music City’s elite acoustic performers.
While scoring plum spots in Newgrass ensemble John Cowan Band and Grammy winning Jim Lauderdale Bluegrass Band, he toured and performed with bluegrass legends Del McCoury, Tony Rice and JD Crowe, Newgrass pioneers Sam Bush and Bela Fleck and everyone from John Prine to country star Dierks Bentley. In 2009, Frazier toured, played and sang with Grammy and Emmy winning actor, comedian and banjo player Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers. During the tour, Frazier, Martin, and the Rangers co-wrote the song “Go Away, Stop, Turn Around, Come Back,” recorded on Martin’s next release, Rare Bird Alert.
Frazier, who grew up listening to everything from Brubeck to Bach and James Taylor and got into bluegrass through The Grateful Dead, Dave Grisman and later greats like Bela Fleck, has recorded and produced nine studio albums, has fifty songwriting credits and has performed at venues all across the U.S. and overseas. These include the Grande Ole Opry, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Telluride Bluegrass Festival (four times), Merlefest, Bill Monroe Memorial Bluegrass Festival (Bean Blossom), Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, High Sierra Music Festival, The “World Famous” Station Inn, Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Royal Festival Hall in London. He has also appeared on “Later with Jools Holland” and PBS.
Frazier’s earlier group Hit & Run Bluegrass made history as the first band to win both prestigious band competitions at Rockygrass (2002) and Telluride Bluegrass Festival (2003). One of the state’s most electrifying acoustic touring acts, the group brought its all-string, “authentic yet modern” bluegrass throughout the U.S. and Canada, including top festivals like Grey Fox and High Sierra. In 2005, they also won first place at the SPBGMA Band Championship in Nashville and showcased at the International Bluegrass Music Association’s annual conference. Hit & Run Bluegrass released two bestselling indie albums, Beauty Fades and Without Maps or Charts. Frazier joined them as a mandolin and fiddle player and lead and harmony singer and later took a more prominent role as a songwriter.
While continuing to showcase Frazier’s wide ranging skills as a vocalist and on mandolin, guitar and fiddle, the new FrazierBand album also features some of his most compelling original tunes ever. He penned the spirited, uptempo “The Rod & The Cane” as a song of encouragement to a friend going through some intense life struggles, but it ended up being a personally cathartic journey for him on a personal level as well. Sometimes, as he says, you just need a break from all the wild ambition. The set also includes the lilting, folk-flavored introspection of “Moving Along The Water”; the rollicking foot-stomping fun of “Still” (featuring some wild solo string work); the wistful and romantic reflection “On That Day”; the high energy fiddle and banjo jam story song “Been Around This World”; and the edgy, hypnotic and delightfully jazzy ode to the art of “Chillin’”. FrazierBand also create an exciting country groove shuffle behind a heartfelt strum through The Beatles’ White Album gem “Mother Nature’s Son.”
Expounding on his unique songwriting process, Frazier says, “Most of these new tunes were written since completing the first FrazierBand album, and some began as seeds of ideas even before that. Usually the way I write is by filling a journal of ideas, some complete, some incomplete, and I carry those seeds with me to work on from time to time. Songs come to me in all different shapes and forms, sometimes just popping into my head and other times through a more laborious process where I have to force myself to finish them. I’ve learned to be less self critical and that allows me to share my feelings in songs in as unfiltered a way as possible. Most of my songs are snapshots of what I’m thinking and feeling about a particular subject or experience. Sometimes they’re happy, other times brooding and contemplative, but the key is always figuring out a way to balance the edges and get all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed.”
Building on the momentum of the multiple stints of 2013-14, Frazier looks forward to hitting the road for an extended tour in support of the new album later in 2015. “Whether I’ve been a sideman or a leader, I have always loved performing onstage,” he says. “I enjoy the newness of each experience and every crowd and that one person whose life is affected by the music I am helping create. There’s always an opportunity to touch people’s lives in exciting ways. My drummer Jim Kittleman said it best when he compared a band going on tour in support of an album to an artist who has done a painting and is attempting to recreate it in front of an audience every single night. Mostly we’ll do it similarly, but there will always be fun ways to experiment to make things different. Touring has a way of keeping the music fresh.
“As leader of FrazierBand,” Frazier adds, “I’m always thinking about how a song will sound and making sure the rhythm section will interact perfectly with the lead instruments. Sometimes this leaves me inclined to step out and solo less, but then my band mates push me to get out front and show them what I love to do best.”
LEGENDARY COUNTRY SONGWRITER/PRODUCER DAVID
MALLOY SIGNS ON TO WORK WITH “THE VOICE” SEASON
EIGHT CONTESTANT KELSIE MAY ON HER UPCOMING
FULL LENGTH DEBUT ALBUM
Gearing Up To Perform Numerous Shows This Summer,
The Fast Emerging, Kentucky Based 16-Year-Old Singer/Songwriter
Is Signed To PCG Nashville, The Nation’s Leading
Artist Development Company
Fresh off her successful run on Season Eight of “The Voice,” fast emerging 16 year old country singer/songwriter Kelsie May (www.kelsiemay.com) – part of Team Blake, under the guidance of country superstar Blake Shelton – is gearing up for an exciting series of performances this summer at regional fairs, festivals and special events this summer.
The Eastern Kentucky raised and based singer, who released her debut self-titled EP in 2013 at the age of 14 - has joined forces with legendary country music songwriter and producer David Malloy to work on developing her upcoming label debut. Malloy, who has 41 #1 hits to his credit, has worked with everyone from Tim McGraw, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire to Julianne Hough and Billy Gilman.
“Every once in a while, I have the wonderful opportunity to meet and work with an extraordinary young artist whose voice shows great maturity,” says Malloy. “Kelsie’s voice comes booming out, but it’s not just about power. Her tone is well rounded on the high end as well as the bottom, and there’s a natural authenticity where she sings in the same unique accent she speaks in.
“Some young artists try to act country, but she’s the real deal – and with the genre’s younger artists like Taylor Swift and Hunter Hayes in their 20s, and most of the core artists in their 30s and 40s, the time is right for the genre and country radio to embrace a new younger generation and bring fresh teen artists into the fold. Kelsey is that next generation. She’s not just using country as a platform to become a rock star. She’s country through and through.”
Malloy was introduced to Kelsie through her booking agent, industry veteran Bob Kinkead, CEO of the Bob Kinkead Entertainment Agency, who has worked with Malloy on the producer’s new artist online platform Teen Hoot. It is a social media community that offers quarterly worldwide streaming video broadcasts of young musicians; its videos are viewed over 50,000 times a month in over 150 countries.
Kinkead says, “When I first saw Kelsie on :”The Voice,” I was extremely impressed with her style, vocal ability and her persona and in the end I truly believe she will leave her mark in the country music industry as one of the great traditional artist in our genre. The Kinkead Entertainment Agency welcomes Kelsie May to the roster!”
Kelsie is signed to PCG Nashville, the nation’s leading artist development company. PCG Nashville President Bernard Porter is assembling a powerhouse team to help take Kelsie’s career and artistry to the next level, met her through a local talent agent. “Kelsie is an incredibly gifted artist with an equally beautiful spirit,” he says. “She's learned from some of the greatest artists in the world and incorporated a piece of each one into her own unique sound and style. The combination is stunning. We feel very privileged to work with her and help hone her God-given talent. She defines something true that speaks to her generation.
“The region of Kentucky she hails from has produced many of country’s greatest songwriters and artists, and she is primed to carry on that exciting tradition,” Porter adds. “The key to success in this genre is being authentic to who an artist is. We like to use the term ‘It Factor,’ but it’s only something we know when we see it. It’s a magic combination of presence, voice, song and character. Kelsie is that rare artist who has all of those. We at PCG Nashville are excited to put together the right components to help nourish her and help her grow into the artist we know she can be.”
Since signing with PCG Nashville, Kelsie has trained with the best in the business and performed all across her region and beyond, including the Renfroe Valley Entertainment Center in Renfroe Valley, Kentucky, which is broadcast world-wide online; the historic Wheeling Jamboree in Wheeling, West Virginia; and the Highway 23 Museum in Paintsville, Kentucky, where she performs regularly.
Having firsthand experience with the isolation and pain of bullying, Kelsie was especially honored when asked to sing and launch the music video for her original song, “Young Love” as the opening act for the “Be A Buddy Not A Bully” campaign in Huntington, West Virginia. She has also opened for country music pros, Marty Stuart, John Michael Montgomery, Morgan Frazier, Eric Paslay and Bucky Covington.
Kelsie’s performance of her idol, and now fan, Loretta Lynn’s “You’re Looking At Country” on the Blind Auditions segment of “The Voice” March 2 earned the praises of Shelton, Pharrell Williams and Christina Aguilera. As part of Team Blake, she won The Battles segment March 16 and gave her final performance in the Knockout Round March 30 singing Taylor Swift’s “Tim McGraw.”
The plan for Kelsie’s upcoming debut album is to include potential hit songs penned by some of Music Row’s finest songwriters in addition to showcasing Kelsie’s own developing talents as a songwriter.
“I was raised in Kentucky and country is who I am both as a person and artist,” she says. “I have a lot of traditional and contemporary influences, including my hero Loretta Lynn, and the truth is it makes me happy to express myself in this genre. This is a very exciting time for me, and I’m so honored that David is producing my album. He’s worked with so many artists I love and is truly the best at what he does. My dream is coming true right before my very eyes. With “The Voice,” a summer of upcoming shows and the new album, there’s so much to take in at once, but I’m loving every second of the journey.”