Kinda Dig The Railers.

Railers_CoverImage

You’ll kinda dig The Railers after you hear their music. Comprised of band members, Jonathan, Cassandra, Jordan and Tyler – the Railers bring a fun eccentric vibe with their music to fans. They’ve toured and played with Sara Evans, Justin Moore, Hunter Hayes and will no doubt continue to gain popularity among the masses.

The Railers debuted their EP, The Geraldine Sessions, last August and then released their single Kinda Dig the Feeling in September. I spoke with Cassandra Lawson, one fourth of The Railers and asked her how the two back to back releases by Warner Nashville has launched them out in front of country music fans. She said, “Warner Nashville has been so good about keeping the pace. We really like the run and stay super busy, so they’ve been great partners for us to have to connect us with music fans from all over the nation. Keeping that kind of schedule keeps us creative and right there with the fans. I don’t think we could have it any other way.”

In the Beginning

The Railers average about 150 to 200 shows a year, and enjoy staying super busy. They originally started out playing in random places including coffee shops and Irish pubs and have progressed into playing arenas with the likes of Hunter Hayes. But, how did they get their start? Well Sara Evans is actually the one to gave them their first start by letting them open up for her for two tours, after they all quit their real jobs. (Jonathan worked for Sara Evans, Jordan had a gig with Josh Turner, Tyler played drums with several artists and Cassandra worked for a publishing house)

Cassandra said they’ve been able to run the gamut of size of venues and says performing is really about the fans and connections they’ve had. “We’ve had some of the best shows with 20 people crammed into a living room and then we’ve gone and watched the entire arena light up and come to life with the Hunter Hayes tour. It really is about the response of the fans,” said Cassandra.

On Songwriting

In their songwriting, The Railers do things a little backwards than what is normal in the music industry. They write their songs for performances and then record them. Cassandra said what is so fun about what they do and the way they do it is because it keeps their music fresh and when they come into the studio, all they are really trying to capture is the last challenge.

“Which is why that EP (The Geraldine Sessions) is like if we were in someone’s living room. We just wanted it to be super organic and have people feel really connected to it,” said Cassandra. “I think it’s a really good exercise for us. We just want to make sure that the music that we play on the road everyday is something that someone can put into their car, or CD player or online and listen to it and feel like they are at a show.”

Shake and Bake!

Their single, Kinda Dig the Feeling is almost like an anthem to dance. It’s a fun song and rumor has it it’s been called their “Shake and Bake” song. The reason? Well, Cassandra plays a shaker on that song, and she’s admitted to breaking three or four shakers while playing that song. Joking around one day, someone yelled “Shake and Bake” and it stuck. She’s not quite sure if it’s a blessing or a curse – but if she’s playing that hard, she must be doing something right! She said, “We just kind of named it after that, because it’s reckless, crazy and super fun and you want to go wild on it when you listen to it.”

Shaky Boots Music Festival

The Railers are performing on Saturday, May 16 at 1:15 p.m. at the Shaky Boots Music Festival just outside of Atlanta, Ga. There is a full line up of powerhouse artists including Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley, The Band Perry, Justin Moore, Eli Young Band, Sara Evans and more.

Cassandra said that they are hoping to run into Sara Evans while at the festival. “To able to read the lineup for Shaky Boots is just so surreal and cool. We’re getting these really great shows and beginning to feel like peers. Because when you first start out as a band, you have all these hopes and dreams and then when you actually let that start happening and then you see your name next to someone like Dierks, it’s ridiculous.”

The Railers are excited about coming to Shaky Boot in its first year. Cassandra said, “There is so much heart behind the planning, the excitement and all the details. Everyone wants the first year to go so well, so to be able to be on the rooster for the first year is killer and it’s going to be so much fun!”

Debut Album?

Currently out is their EP, The Geraldine Sessions and their single, Kinda Dig the Feeling and soon there will be a full debut album from The Railers. Cassandra said about the album, “It’s all locked and loaded and ready to go. It’s been a two and a half year process just to really start honing in on our songs, writing and trying to really find the heart of what our sound is and what we want to say as artists and how we want to connect with our fans.”

The next single will come out in the near future and then after the single, the album should be released. If you’re itching for new music, check out their Pandora station. There are two or three unreleased songs on that channel including one called Mug Shots. “Fans have really started latching onto those songs and we’re trying to get them familiar with the music so when the album comes out everyone can just sing along in their car and at the shows. We’re trying to give out teasers,” she said.

Picking Favorites

The album will have 11 songs on it but they will have recorded 18 or maybe even 20 songs by the time it’s done. They’ll still have to narrow down the record to 11 songs by picking their favorites. She said she’s sure there will be some arm-wrestling over certain songs, but it’s almost completed and said it’s fun to have that much material to work with.

“For the first record, we really wanted to let the best song win and whether that’s something that we’ve written or from another writer,” she said. “We really don’t have any rules at this point because we just really want to be able to give our fans a solid album and something that they don’t press fast forward on and that’s a fun challenge for us.”

The Great Thing About Country Music

My favorite quote from Cassandra, “That’s what so great about country music is that writing a song is still the heart of our genre. To be able to be able to focus on that in country music is great.” Preach it, sister!

Don’t miss The Railers at Shaky Boots Music Festival this weekend in Kennesaw, Ga.

Shaky Boots Festival.

New kids on the block…well, almost. The producers of Shaky Knees Festival are proud to announce a hard-hitting country music lineup for its debut Shaky Boots Festival. The festival is brand new, but the producers definitely know what they are doing. The festival takes place, May 16-17 at the KSU Sports and Entertainment Park in Kennesaw, GA just north of Atlanta. The lineup includes Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley, Rascal Flatts, The Band Perry, Kristian Bush, Eli Young Band, and more!

Shaky Boots will be the first top tier multiple day country music event to be held in Georgia, and is the sister event to Atlanta’s popular rock festival Shaky Knees (May 8-10, 2015). “Country music has such a rich history in the South,” says Shaky Boots co-founder Tim Sweetwood, “and I was surprised that Georgia doesn’t have a first-class festival dedicated to the genre. Music is my absolute passion, and with the overwhelmingly positive response to Shaky Knees in three short years, it just felt like the right time to launch Shaky Boots.”

When deciding what festival is worth your money, what festival is worth traveling to, and where you’ll get the best experience, I’m expecting big things from the inaugural Shaky Boots Festival. Often new festivals are still trying to find their place by promotion, working out production kinks and luring fans to the festival site and town. The Shaky Boots team already has worked on a festival similar, but a different genre in the past. They will have a run-through the week before with their Shaky Knees festival and be prepared for snafus. Shaky Boots has a hard hitting, top artist lineup, now all it needs is you! It’s next weekend, still plenty of time to make hotel reservations and get to the festival!

ShakyBoots_11x17_Poster1-01

Two-day weekend passes are currently for sale at $169 with day passes at $95. Want to head to the fest VIP style? TIckest are $350 for single day VIP and $499 for 20day VIP.

VIP Ticket packages include access to exclusive lounges and viewing areas; catered lunches and dinners; complimentary beer; and access to private restrooms and cash liquor bars. Exclusive luxury suites are also available, a contact form is available on the website for pricing and details. For more information, visit shakyboots.com/tickets.

Saturday, May 16, 2015 – Blake Shelton, Dierks Bentley, The Band Perry, Dwight Yoakam, Jason Isbell, Kip Moore, Joe Nichols, Jana Kramer, Josh Thompson, The Whiskey Gentry, Kristian Bush, Craig Wayne Boyd, Amanda Shires, The Railers, Brooke Eden

Sunday, May 17, 2015 – Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Justin Moore, Old Crow Medicine Show, Sara Evans, Rodney Atkins, Eli Young Band, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, The Devil Makes Three, The Cadillac Three, Cracker, Drake White & The Big Fire, Clare Dunn, John & Jacob, Jim White vs The Packway Handle Band

WHAT: Shaky Boots Music Festival
WHEN: Saturday, May 16 – Sunday, May 17, 2015
WHERE: KSU Sports and Entertainment Park, Kennesaw, GA
TICKETS: $95 Single Day GA/ $169 2-Day GA Pass/ $350 Single Day VIP Pass/ $499 2-Day VIP Pass
TICKETS AVAILABLE ATshakyboots.com/ticket-details/
FESTIVAL WEBSITE: shakyboots.com

 

Surprise Acoustic Set By Thomspon Square.

The pretty cool thing about living in Pensacola is that many celebrities vacation in the area. Some are smart enough to invest in a house or condo. Keifer and Shawna from Thompson Square happen to already be from the area and live about an hour or so from Pensacola.

Our local radio station, Cat Country 98.7 decided to host their morning show at the Pensacola Crawfish Festival. So at 3 a.m. they set up shop on the entertainment stage at the festival and hosted their show that morning. But that’s not all because that morning they announced a surprise acoustic set. Thompson Square was on their way to a performance in Live Oak, Florida. They would have already been passing through the area and decided to stop and play a short set. Keifer rode his motorcycle to Pensacola with the bus. I believe Shawna and Keifer were both going to ride their bikes to Live Oak.

They sang their hits Everything I Shouldn’t Be Thinking About, If I Didn’t Have You and Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not. With coffee in hand, they chatted with Brent and Candy, listeners and genuinely had a nice time in a relaxed environment. After their acoustic set, Shawna and Keifer stayed and took photos with everyone on stage and in front of the Cat Country 98.7 backdrop.

image3

This photo courtesy of Julio Diaz with GoPensacola.com

image1(2)

image2(1)

635660914682926074-thompson0020

image4

Shawna borrowed Candy’s sunglasses for the photos!

11209684_1088804137802500_902247687160471263_n

Keifer taking selfies!

A fun, wet and wild Toadlick Music Fest.

Toadlick Music Festival is a three-day music festival in Dothan, Alabama. In its fourth consecutive year, it continues to grow and improve each year. I’ve been attending Toadlick since its inception four years ago. As you know from following my blog or me, I love festivals and I love country music. My friends and I laugh at the fact that I have to turn off my “festival brain” when attending events so that I can enjoy the actual event. Over the past few years, it has progressively become easier. This year was no different as people would ask me things and I was able to steal a term that my friend Beej introduced me to – “not my circus, not my monkeys.” However, I wanted to include a recap of Toadlick 2015!

Friends and I started talking about attending Toadlick together a few months ago. Normally, we stay at a hotel just a few miles away from the National Peanut Festival Fairgrounds, but friends offered to host at their family house just a few more miles away. A perfect option for hanging out before and after the festival.

Thursday, April 27

IMG_1575

Dothan is about two and a half hours from Pensacola, Florida, but an easy interstate drive to the east through Florida and then just a little north. We ended up leaving a little later in the afternoon and drove straight to the house to drop off our stuff and jump in the car to get there before Bret Michaels and Lee Brice perform. We made it just in time to see Bret Michaels hit the stage, he didn’t disappoint by singing his hit songs, entertaining the crowd and even taking selfies with fans. A short break and I ended up with a Lee Brice meet and greet, thanks to WONDERFUL friends! Lee ended up being so nice, he talked to me for a while, took photos with me and friends and I completely forgot to get an autograph! His performance to close out the night did not disappoint as he sang I Don’t Dance, Parking Lot Party, Hard to Love, A Woman Like You and Drinking Class. The next night, Drinking Class became the #1 song in the country.

Acts that we missed: Craig Wayne Boyd, Natalie Reynolds Band and Brooke Danielle Band.

What we should have done: Stayed for the after party. After Toadlick officially finishes the main stage music, there is an after party in the barn. Yep, a big covered pole barn at the back of the festival. Anthony Orio was set to perform that night and Lee Brice and Craig Wayne Boyd decided to show up, crash the party and sing on stage. We missed it. This isn’t the first time a Toadlick headliner has crashed the after party, I should have known.

This was the biggest Thursday night for Toadlick! You’ll see a pattern with this.

Friday, April 28

11169882_10100486152748292_4411543396729851432_n

IMG_1634

On Friday, there was one objective: to see JJ Grey and Mofro. Over the years, Toadlick has had a variety of artists booked that aren’t necessary county, including Three Doors Down a few years back. This year, it was JJ Grey and Mofro. One of the girls LOVES JJ Grey and Mofro so we got there early and worked our way close to the stage for their concert. He put on a fantastic show, the crowd was standing up out of their chairs and jamming with the band. After their concert, JJ Grey did a meet and greet. It was a total fan girl moment for one of my friends who is a huge fan. I was most excited because he had on a Florida Gator shirt, but he said he likes the Gators and FSU and he supports whichever team sucks that year. Sad face.

JJGrey

After JJ Grey and Mofro, closing the night out was Blackberry Smoke, STYX, and Hank Williams, Jr. I’ve seen Blackberry Smoke many of times because the guitarist, Paul Jackson, is from Pensacola and they have played many times in and around Pensacola. They put on a great southern/rock vibe with their long hair, unruly beards and raspy vocals. In February 2015, Blackberry Smoke released a new album, Holding All The Roses, and played songs from their album.

11169892_10100486152798192_4946331838751853853_n

Hank Williams, Jr. was one of my first concerts as a kid and I knew he wouldn’t disappoint. Rumor had it around Toadlick there would be a special guest coming on stage with Hank, Jr. but no one knew who. Toward the end of Hank’s set, Kid Rock worked his way to the stage signing Sweet Home Alabama and Family Tradition with Hank, Jr. during two separate portions of the show. The crowd went wild. It was a complete and total surprise to the audience and an awesome way to end Friday night at Toadlick.

Who we missed:The Vegabonds and Eli performing earlier in the day.

What we should have done: Nothing different! It was a great day for Toadlick!

The biggest Friday night for Toadlick! See the pattern continue?

Saturday, April 29

IMG_1638

Saturday was on track to be the biggest day…… We knew it was going to rain on Saturday. We prepared before we left the house that morning and opted for my cowboy boots and brought my rain boots with me. We brought our rain jackets, we had chairs that we were prepared to get wet and clothes we knew would be soaked at some point. The day started off with cancellations. A band I was looking forward to seeing was Anthony Orio. I was able to interview Anthony and wrote a blog for Toadlick, Anthony Orio & The Goodfellers coming to Toadlick 2015. Since it poured throughout the night and that morning, some of the equipment was still being set up so the first two acts were canceled. They knew weather was going to come in about 4 p.m., and Craig Campbell was scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Toadlick moved Craig’s scheduled time an hour ahead to 2:30 p.m. to get him in before the storm hit. I’ve never seen Craig perform before but I loved it. He’s a true country artist performing his hits Outta My Head, Keep Them Kisses Comin’, Family Man and his fun cheeky song, Fish. Sporting his cowboy hat the entire performance, Craig was an act not to miss.

CraigCampbellToadlick

After Craig’s performance, we went on a rain delay because the producers knew the rain was coming in from the West. It already hit Pensacola and was headed our way. Once they knew how strong the storm was, they went into a storm survival mode, covering everything they could, taking down high tents, bringing down the lights, speakers, monitors, etc. and warning all attendees to get to shelter. Everyone that was attending the festival could fit in the barns at the back of the property and some buildings around the property.

IMG_1646

It was a scary situation with many in their campers, some attendees in their cars headed back to hotels and homes nearby. The storm was quick but rough. With winds as strong at 45 mph registered on festival grounds, it was something no one could really be prepared to just pop up during the middle of the day. After the “all clear” was given, we trickled out to find every single vendor tent ruined. The ATMs were turned on their sides, tents were completely missing in action and others were bent beyond repair. Thank goodness there were no injuries on the festival grounds that I knew of. Everyone was safe. But the sound equipment was a different story. 11164103_10152916946671909_738089359_n

It was somber news when we made our way to the stage to find out that all the equipment was completely ruined and useless. You could see the owner standing on the stage, he couldn’t even use a microphone to tell attendees the sound was gone. His family was in tears backstage, knowing they had to cancel the rest of the festival. There was nothing left. It was heartbreaking.

IMG_1670

After a few discussions, the team quickly got to work to run a new line, set up one microphone, a small speaker and a wedge so they could maybe get an acoustic performance. That’s exactly what they could make work. Since the sound wasn’t loud, the owner opened the VIP section to everyone at the festival so you could get close enough to hear an acoustic performance. Randy Houser was set to perform next and that’s exactly what he did. He came out with his guitar, sangs his hit songs and entertained the crowd because he wanted to give his fans something. He was upset he couldn’t use all of his equipment either, but he knew the fans wanted to see him. The perfect ending, with his hit How Country Feels in the middle of Alabama in a field. See Taste of Country’s article about it here. While he was performing, you could see the producers and managers talking back and forth, and who comes to the stage, but a showered and changed, Craig Campbell. He already performed earlier in the day, but wanted to come back out on stage and perform again for the fans acoustically. Wow. What a class act. Craig Campbell didn’t have to come back on stage, he was done and paid. But he knew the devastation that the festival went through and wanted to do what he could. He sang until eventually the sun went down. I will forever be a fan. After Craig, the main stage music came to an end. The owner stood on stage in tears because he was disappointed as well. They did the best they could, made the right decisions for the safety of attendees and tried to salvage what they had left. KUDOS to Toadlick. It was a round day. Without the storm, Toadlick would have had it’s biggest year EVER! That’s something to be proud of.

Oh wait, the fun is not over. Since the music portion of the festival was shut down and there is now a lot of mud because of all of the rain, add in some rednecks that have been having some fun during the day and what do you get? Muddin down the small hill, belly flop style! What a way to make a bad situation into a fun one! The guys had an audience and people started clapping and cheering them on. Loved that they made everyone laugh. Video is in the link.

Muddin at Toadlick

toadlickmud

Who we missed: Ronnie Milsap (he left before the storm), Sam Hunt (wouldn’t get off his bus to perform acoustically), Alabama (never made it to the festival)

What we should have done: brought phone chargers. With my phone at 13 percent during the storm, I had to go into airplane mode to salvage what little battery I had.

When we left the festival grounds, I hope most had a complete understanding on why the sound was ruined. A few miles back to the house and everything was blacked out. Walmart had no power, all of the street lights were out, billboards were twisted on the side of the road, trees uprooted and cops were directing traffic all the way back. Dothan had 30,000 that lost power from that storm. Thankfully everyone was safe. The metal barn behind our house ended up in the middle of the main highway, with an uprooted tree and the carport on top of cars at the house next door. What an eventful day.

Toadlick was still successful for me. We will be back. Our group had some newbies and they said they had such a good time, they will be back in 2016. Toadlick, thank you for a wonderful weekend!

Toadlick Music Festival.

Toadlick-WindCreek-White-NoBG

It’s that time of year again where we load up the car with the hole dang caboodle and head to Dothan, Alabama for the annual Toadlick Music Festival. We just gave away a pair of tickets to the festival on our new Facebook page, Southern Sparkplug. Are you headed to the festival? Whether you’re a festival novice or a newbie, it’s always good to have a reminder about the type of things you need to remember to bring. Toadlick Music Festival’s blog features “11 Must Haves for Toadlick Music Festival” on their site here.