February 22, 2008
KEY WEST BIOS: 2008 Key West Performer Guide
2008 Key West Songwriters Festival Performer Guide
Robert Earl Keen
Robert Earl Keen’s transformation from rowdy crowd-pleaser to one of contemporary music’s finest poet laureates of the everyman may appear evolutionary or a reinvention of sorts to unfamiliar eyes. But the truth is much simpler: Robert Earl Keen has always been great. His meticulously crafted tunes provoke tears, new philosophies and belly laughs – occasionally in the same verse. Folk, blues, jazz and hardcore country emerge throughout his compositions, as Keen weaves his peerless stories with wry excellence. His live performances build bridges between old favorites and progressive new compositions, including “The Front Porch Song,” “The Road Goes On Forever,” “Gringo Honeymoon,” “Dreadful Selfish Crime,” “Feelin’ Good Again,” “The Great Hank,” and “Long Chain.”
Raul Malo has always crossed cultures and blurred musical boundaries, breaking new ground with his distinctive balance of vintage sound and contemporary attitude. Born in Miami of Cuban parents, Raul is best known as the founder and former frontman of groundbreaking, multi-platinum and Grammy award-winning band the Mavericks. Malo’s live show delivers an eclectic mix of personal and fan favorites, beautifully performed and extremely diverse. The set includes stunning acoustic renditions of several of the best-loved songs from the Mavericks’ catalog—his signature hits “What A Crying Shame,” “Dance The Night Away,” “Here Comes The Rain,” and “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down.” Staggeringly powerful live, Raul is just as likely to break into Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual,” as the Cuban standards “Guantanamera” and “Siboney”, then follow with Merle Haggard’s “Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down” or Rodgers and Hart’s “Blue Moon.”
A vein of lightheartedness and fun weaves throughout most of Casey Beathard’s hits, and that, according to the songwriter himself, is the reason for much of his success. However, his most recent No. 1, Kenny Chesney’s “Don’t Blink,” strikes a slightly serious, proverbial chord, further emphasizing Beathard’s versatility. His pen is also responsible for smashes including Chesney’s signature song “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems,” Gary Allan’s “Right Where I Need to Be,” Trace Adkins’ “Hot Mama,” and Tracy Byrd’s “Ten Rounds with Jose Cuervo” & “Drinkin’ Bone.” Beathard also won BMI Country Awards in 2006 and 2007 for Tim McGraw’s “Do You Want Fries with That” and rising star Jake Owen’s “Yee Haw,” respectively.
Standing out in Nashville’s overwhelmingly talented community can’t possibly be as easy as 2007 and 2003 BMI Country Songwriter of the Year Jeffrey Steele makes it look. Rascal Flatts (“What Hurts the Most,” “Me and My Gang,” “My Wish” & more), LeAnn Rimes (“Big Deal”), Montgomery Gentry (“Gone,” “My Town,” “Hell Yeah” & more), Tim McGraw (“Cowboy In Me”) and numerous others have all turned to Steele for a hit or two; the list covers a virtual who’s who of contemporary country’s elite—top sellers who have wisely come to trust the energetic songwriter with the easy, infectious grin. Steele’s own impassioned performances make him a constant favorite at songwriter festivals and his full band gigs, where his rugged, boisterous vocals breathe new life both into songs made famous by the stars and other tunes that are patently his.
Adroit guitarist and singer/songwriter Scotty Emerick is perhaps best known for his popular collaborations with country superstar Toby Keith. Tongue firmly in cheek, Emerick helped Toby Keith create smashes including no. 1 hits “I’m Just Talkin’ About Tonight,” the Willie Nelson duet “Beer For My Horses,” “I Love This Bar,” “Whiskey Girl,” and “As Good As I Once Was.” Emerick also co-wrote nine songs on Keith’s 2005 album Honkytonk University, along with ten of the twelve tracks on Keith’s 2006 effort White Trash with Money, including the singles “Get Drunk and Be Somebody” and “A Little Too Late.” Legend Willie Nelson, Country Music Hall of Famer George Strait, and the band Sawyer Brown have also recorded the Florida native’s wry tunes. In addition to winning numerous BMI Country and Million-Air awards, Emerick was named the 2004 Songwriter of the Year by the Nashville Songwriters Association International.
Hits including Rascal Flatts’ “I Melt” and “Fast Cars and Freedom,” along with Kenny Chesney’s “How Forever Feels,” merely skim the surface of Wendell Mobley’s catalog. Few songwriters experience the thrill of penning a number one hit — Wendell’s hits have roosted atop the charts for a staggering two months at a time. Trace Adkins, Pat Green, Carrie Underwood, Lonestar, Andy Griggs, Joe Diffie, John Michael Montgomery, Mark Chesnut, Tracy Byrd, the legendary Kenny Rogers, and Edwin McCain have all recorded Wendell’s songs. Along with playing guitar for Country Hall of Famers Alabama, Mobley also sang harmony vocals for Lynard Skynard. Mobley’s “Take Me There” recently hit No. 1 for Kenny Chesney.
Award-winning songwriter Rodney Clawson is a Texas native and preordained farmer by birth, but he moved to Nashville and picked up a guitar instead. Clawson co-penned No. 1 hits “Why” by Jason Aldean and 2007 CMA Song of the Year nominee “Lost in this Moment” by Big & Rich, along with 2007 ACM Song of the Year nominee “Amarillo Sky” (Jason Aldean) and Faith Hill’s “Sunshine and Summertime.” Definitely a songwriter with an escalating profile, Rodney Clawson has also had tunes cut by George Strait, Bon Jovi, Gary Allan, Phil Vassar and Buddy Jewell.
John Scott Sherrill
John Scott Sherrill has carved out a huge niche for himself on Music Row with hits including John Anderson’s “Wild And Blue,” Johnny Lee’s “When You Fall In Love,” Steve Wariner’s “Some Fools Never Learn,” Neal McCoy’s “No Doubt About It,” Patty Loveless’s “Nothin’ But The Wheel,” Alison Krauss’s “If I Didn’t Know Any Better” and Brooks and Dunn’s “How Long Gone,” while Josh Turner’s “Would You Go With Me” is Sherrill’s latest no. 1 hit. A product of an intensely literate and enviably well-traveled childhood, John Scott was raised in Mt. Kisco, N.Y., Uganda and Bolivia, by parents who wrote successful books and magazine articles on religious subjects. A precious Music Row stalwart whose stories are as entertaining as his songs, Sherrill poignantly documents life’s intimate moments.
Versatile songwriter and musician Steve Bogard started early. 19 years-old and living in Memphis, he penned James Carr’s top 20 R&B hit “Freedom Train.” Etta James recorded his scorching “Damn Your Eyes,” while Rita Coolidge also performed his work. While in Memphis, Bogard played guitar, provided background vocals, and toured extensively with legends Charlie Rich and Jerry Lee Lewis. His first Nashville hit, “Touch Me with Magic” became a BMI award-winning top ten single for Marty Robbins. A diverse slew of artists have recorded Bogard’s songs, including Conway Twitty, Waylon Jennings, The Four Tops and Sinead O’Conner; the Grammy-nominated songwriter’s contemporary country hits include George Strait’s “Carried Away” and “Carrying Your Love with Me,” Rascal Flatts’ career breaker, “Prayin’ For Daylight,” and the first no. 1 for Jack Ingram, “Wherever You Are,” along with Grammy nominee for Country Song of the Year, Dierks Bentley’s “Every Mile A Memory.”
Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Bobby Pinson was born in Tulsa but raised in a string of small towns in the Texas Panhandle. The son of a high-school football coach and an elementary school teacher, he moved to Nashville in 1996 hoping to break into the music scene, but ended up taking whatever odd jobs he could find to survive. Pinson’s songs began showing up on albums by Marty Stuart, Blake Shelton, LeAnn Rimes, Tracy Lawrence, and other country acts. A gritty and unique vocalist, Pinson recorded a solo album in 2005 entitled Man Like Me, featuring the hit “Don’t Ask Me How I Know.” Other smashes penned by Pinson include Trent Tomlinson’s “One Wing in the Fire” and Sugarland’s “Want To.”
In 2007, songwriter Wil Nance jumped to the top of R&R & Billboard with his Brad Paisley smash “She’s Everything,” which roosted at no. 1 for three weeks. Wil has also received BMI Country Awards for “Round About Way,” a no. 1 hit for George Strait, and Joe Nichols’ “Cool to be a Fool.” Artists including Tracy Lawrence, Rhonda Vincent, John Michael Montgomery, Neal McCoy, Diamond Rio and Craig Morgan have all recorded Nance’s tunes.
Born and raised in Nashville, producer, musician and songwriter Nathan Chapman began playing drums and guitar at age three, sang his first commercial album by age six, and was recording music by the time he turned fourteen. Gifted but green, he assumed the production helm for the debut album of teenage singer/songwriter Taylor Swift; her multi-platinum eponymous debut broke records, and Chapman found his enviable niche. His earnest ear and innate ability to build and nurture projects embolden and capture each artist’s definitive quirks and fortes. Additional production duties include hit songwriter Stephanie Chapman’s solo album, the debut project for new Big Machine Records artist Fischer Stevenson and the highly-anticipated sophomore effort from Swift.
Stephanie Chapman’s music happily falls into the ambiguous but elite category which houses many of Nashville’s most talented misfits. An artist and a songwriter whose songs have proven their adaptability by finding homes with artists including Bonnie Raitt and Trisha Yearwood, Stephanie thrives in the borderless territory of the true singer/songwriter. In 2008 Stephanie will release an independent album produced by her husband, Nathan Chapman [Taylor Swift] and critically acclaimed Ray Kennedy [Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle]. Look for her album This Song Is To You in late spring, and listen for her latest cuts on albums by hip, new Arista group JYPSI and Capitol Record’s Eric Church.
Australian Kylie Sackley grew up performing music. After years touring throughout Australia and earning the Aussie CMA ‘Horizon Award’ crown, Kylie decided to focus on her songwriting. At the age of 20, she said goodbye to friends and family, and boarded a plane to Nashville, TN. With two Top 5 singles on the US charts to date – BMI Million-Air winner “Nothin’ ‘Bout Love Makes Sense” by LeAnn Rimes and Faith Hill’s “Sunshine and Summertime” – Sackley’s brave move has proven to be the right one.
Curb songwriter/recording artist Lee Brice began entertaining at the age of seven. He made the move to Nashville in 2001 and spent the last 5 years honing his songwriting skills. Along with Kyle Jacobs and Billy Montana, Brice penned Garth Brooks’ latest hit “More Than A Memory,” which made history when it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Chart in September of 2007. Brice has also had cuts by rock group Sister Hazel, Keith Gattis, Tim McGraw and Jason Aldean. Lee’s major label debut is slated for release this year.
Singer/songwriter Randy Houser has spent the past few years in Nashville honing his songwriting; when Trace Adkins put “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” on his album Songs About Me, the song turned into a phenomenon and scored Houser his first number one hit and BMI Country Award. Randy’s live performances have earned him a reputation as a jaw-dropping singer who infuses blues, soul and traditional country into his powerful vocals.
Jamey Johnson is an artist and songwriter rapidly gaining attention for both his timeless voice and unique songwriting style. He made the move to Nashville in 2000, and in time, Jamey started singing at songwriter nights and met other songwriters. When those writers got publishing deals, they hired Johnson to sing demos (his first one was a duet with Gretchen Wilson, also a demo singer at the time). One of those writers, Randy Hardison, praised his talent to producer Buddy Cannon. They decided to co-produce some demos for Johnson, but Hardison was murdered in 2002. The sudden loss brought Johnson and Cannon closer together. Proceeding with their goals, Cannon produced some demos for Johnson and helped secure him a publishing deal. Jamey co-wrote the Trace Adkins hit, “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” and “Ladies Love Country Boys,” along with ACM and CMA Song of the Year, George Strait’s no. 1 hit “Give It Away.” A strong country vocalist, Johnson released his debut album, The Dollar, in 2006.
Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Heather Morgan honed her singing and songwriting skills by playing clubs and venues throughout the Lone Star State. She released an independent album in 2002 entitled Six Strings & Slow Backroads, and in 2003, she earned the “Best Female Singer/Songwriter” crown at the Fort Worth Weekly Awards. After graduating from Texas Christian University, she packed her bags and headed north to Nashville. Disarmingly candid and self-deprecatingly funny, Heather’s quiet confidence and appealing humility have earned fans both inside the music industry and beyond it. Her songs have been recorded by recording artists Sara Evans, Ashley Ray and The Randy Rogers Band.
Singer, songwriter and musician Nicole Witt wields a fiddle and turns a phrase with the skill and passion of a true artist. The Springfield, Missouri native moved to Nashville in 1998 to focus on a career as a songwriter, and her bourgeoning success proves her ambitious decision more than 10 years ago was the right one. Contemporary country music’s best-selling artists including Terri Clark, Vince Gill, Diamond Rio, Rodney Atkins and George Strait have all recorded Witt’s tunes. A Curb recording artist, Witt’s major label debut is slated for release this year.
Singer/songwriter Nicolle Galyon’s effervescent personality and diligent approach to songwriting saturate her listeners with infectious optimism. Her sweet country vocals wrap snugly around homespun stories. Universally accessible and down home comfortable, she represents the promising new crop of Nashville talent.
Broadcast Music, Inc.® (BMI) is an American performing right organization that represents more than 350,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers in all genres of music and more than 6.5 million works. BMI’s most recent financial results, $839 million in performing right collections for its fiscal year ending June 30, 2007, were the highest for any copyright organization in the world. BMI has represented the most popular and beloved music from around the world for over 65 years. The non-profit-making U.S. corporation collects license fees from businesses that use music, which it then distributes as royalties to the musical creators and copyright owners it represents.