Official Site: Whiskey Myers Website | @whiskeymyers
Cody Cannon - Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Cody Tate - Lead Guitar, Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
John Jeffers - Rhythm & Lead Guitar, Vocals
Gary Brown - Bass
Jeff Hogg- Drums
One moment, Whiskey Myers is cooking along on a blues/rock groove and you figure you have this East Texas band’s musical ambitions pegged. And for that moment, you do.
But out of nowhere, the quintet slides into some hard-rock chords and arena-ready guitar solos, and you realize that no, this is what Whiskey Myers is. And in that instant, you’re right again.
But not for long. Suddenly, the band falls back into a country-rock beat that carries just a tinge of Gram Parsons undercurrent. Aaah, this is what the Tyler-based act is about. For that little period of time, once again, it’s true.
Ultimately, the bigger truth is that Whiskey Myers is sort of inexplicable. With its superb twin-lead guitars, Cody Cannon’s rough-cut lead vocals and a solid, uncluttered rhythm section, the band typically winds around a Lynyrd Skynyrd/Led Zeppelin-centered foundation, veering off in spokes of grunge, psychedelia, harmony-laden pop-rock and rockabilly. It’s a Southern-rock band with jam-band tendencies. Maybe.
“I don’t really know how to explain it,” drummer Jeff Hogg shrugs.
That is the essence of Whiskey Myers. It’s a creative, moving target, built around a hunger for music, a passion for new sounds and textures. What they are is not what they were. And what they are is certainly not what they will be.
That’s true from minute to minute in their unpredictable shows, fueled with the same intense flow as a well-played basketball game. If you step away just long enough for a bathroom break, you’ll have no idea how they got to the sounds they’re making once you return.
But those ever-changing sonics are also a part of the over-arching story. The nine songs Whiskey Myers put up on its MySpace page in April 2007 have all the grit and sweaty honesty of a typical red-dirt Texas band.
Three years later, the boys had built a show that took a more adventurous approach to that sound, steeped in swagger, technical proficiency and untethered creative juice.
Whiskey Myers is loud, raucous, proud and not really certain what comes next. Because they never have really known what’s around the corner. None of them had ever played in an organized group before they started bashing out songs together in a big, unkempt band house in Tyler, Texas. And the current vision of Whiskey Myers—an act that strings together shifting time signatures and multiple threads of genres and subgenres—is a far cry from the uncertain, inexperienced group of rag-tag players that started working together simply as a hobby.
They’ve come a long way, though how they arrived at this enticingly nebulous spot remains elusive.
“I don’t really know how to explain it,” bass player Gary Brown says of their progression.
That’s part of the real attraction of Whiskey Myers. The band coalesced for the right reasons—the guys simply loved music and had to be a part of it—and it’s propelled by an internal competitive gene that requires every member to evolve into a better player, and a better musical partner.
“You gotta keep gettin’ better,” Cannon insists. “If you don’t feel like you can get better, then you need to quit.”
Whiskey Myers’ roots extend back to two previous generations. Cannon and John Jeffers played baseball together in Elkhart, Texas, where Cannon dropped hints as a youngster that he wanted to play guitar. His grandfather—“one of those wild-ass biker dudes,” Cannon says—spent much of his life on the road, but he casually left an acoustic guitar at the house for a then-16 Cody to learn on.
Jeffers’ father, who was known to engage his sons in classic-rock trivia contests, taught both John and his pal Cody their first guitar chords, and the boys quickly became obsessed with making music. Cannon worked in a sporting-goods store, where he met Cody Tate, destined to take one of the lead-guitar roles in Whiskey Myers.
“The reason they hired me is Cody and his boss, they played guitar every once in a while, and the only job I’d had before that was teaching guitar lessons, so I put that down on the application,” Tate laughs. “They were like, ‘Hey, this guy taught guitar lessons. Let’s hire him!’ So we started all playin’ together.”
The two Codys began writing music together and quickly added Jeffers into the mix under the working name Lucky Southern.
The trio moved to Tyler, where drummer Jeff Hogg—who was slaving away at a job painting railroad cars—saw them play an acoustic set that cried out for someone to sit in on percussion. Needing only a bass player to fill out a band roster, Cannon enlisted his cousin, Gary Brown, a real-estate appraiser and ex-jock who’d never played bass before.
“Me and John had to teach Gary how to play the bass—and we didn’t even know how to play the bass,” Tate recalls. “We’re guitar players teaching him root notes and stuff like that, little bitty scales, and he took it from there. Now he’s writin’ his own bass lines.”
The five band members changed their band name (if there’s a story, they ain’t tellin’ it) and all shared a big house that quickly became party central for college students and 20-somethings looking for a place to hang.
Since each member of the entourage had never been in a band before, none of the guys fully understood how they were supposed to function. So they wrote their own rules and bonded around their love for the music. The people who drifted in and out of their pad became a willing audience, and when Whiskey Myers gave its first official performance in Montalba, Texas, the band simply plowed into the set list, practically making it up on the spot in front of 400 people.
“It was kind of nerve-racking to get out there, get on stage and not know really what I’m doin’, playin’ a borrowed bass on a borrowed amp,” Brown remembers. “They’re talkin’ about ‘What do you want in your monitor mix?’ I’m like ‘What’s a monitor?’ I had no idea what was goin’ on.”
Brown did discover, though, that he liked the experience. As did his Whiskey cohorts, who were emboldened by the opportunity. They got an opening slot for a Roger Creager show in Gun Barrel City, and that date went over so well that the club owner booked them to open the next weekend for the Eli Young Band. In short order, Whiskey Myers was the hot new thing in the Lonestar State, sharing the bill with the Marshall Tucker Band, Reckless Kelly, the Randy Rogers Band and Cross Canadian Ragweed.
Cannon drew frequent comparisons to Black Crowes vocalist Chris Robinson. Brown and Hogg laid down a solid, uncluttered backbeat that left plenty of space in the music, which Jeffers and Tate filled with lengthy, proficient guitar solos that writhed and twisted and challenged the duo—and their bandmates—to hold it together. Every solo was different, every set list and song structure changed from night to night as they continually pushed their limits as musicians. By stretching their muscles, the band became stronger and more flexible, adding countless nuances and stylistic influences without knowing why the hodge podge worked.
“I can’t really explain it,” Jeffers maintains.
Whiskey Myers’ songs came together in the same unpredictable manner. Cannon, Tate and Jeffers formed the songwriting core, sometimes building the material as a team, sometimes on their own. Occasionally, the results resemble Paul McCartney’s “Band On The Run”—mosaics of short, seemingly unrelated melodies that fit together like a well-planned jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes, once the extended solos and drifting genres all got interlocked, they discovered the songs might stretch out like a Dave Matthews Band or Widespread Panic epic.
“When we timed it we found out it was 10 minutes long,” Brown says. “Ten minutes! But that’s the song, so that’s what it’s gonna be.”
Why those songs work and how they get assembled remains a hazy, mysterious process even for the band. But they definitely work. Whiskey Myers’ debut album, Road Of Life, established the guys as a worthy heir to Skynyrd’s blue-collar tradition. The sinewy sound and intense musical interplay worked well in concert, and dates began piling up in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. By September 2009, every member of Whiskey Myers had made the band his full-time job. In summer 2010, the group is ready to hit the studio for a sophomore project that will document its current incarnation.
How long the new album remains representative is perhaps the ultimate question for the band. As a moving, creative target, it will be just a matter of time before Whiskey Myers finds yet another way to hone, twist or completely upend its hard-to-define, off-the-cuff amalgamations. It’s part of what their growing fan base likes about them—and definitely what motivates Whiskey Myers.
“Five years down the road,” Tate suggests, “we’ll be a completely different band than we are right now.”
CHASE RICE BIO 2013
“On a scale of 1 to 10, be an 11.”
Singer/songwriter Chase Rice has applied the words of his high school football coach, Bobby Poss, in a series of accomplishments that others merely contemplate – he’s been the starting linebacker for the University of North Carolina; a member of a NASCAR pit crew; a touring artist who sold out strings of venues across the country without a record company, a manager or a song on the radio; and a co-writer of a record-setting, many-times multi-platinum single, Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise.” There are few Nashville artists who can match Rice for his drive, his relentless energy and his confidence. And even fewer who are positioned as well to succeed.
After moving to Music City in late 2010, Rice recorded an album, Dirt Road Communion, on his own Dack Janiel’s label and quickly beat the odds. He landed it on the Billboard Country Album chart, and launched one of his singles, “How She Rolls,” onto Hot Country Songs. In a world dominated by corporations, that’s no small feat for an artist working on his own.
“Cruise,” meanwhile, is a certified “11,” a song that literally re-wrote the country music history books, setting an all-time record by spending more weeks at #1 on the country singles chart than any other song. It generated a second life when a remix featuring rapper Nelly landed in the Top 5 on the pop chart. “Cruise” sold more than 5 million copies through mid-2013, though Rice – in diehard “11” fashion – refuses to rest on that accomplishment. Or to let it define him.
“It’s not normal what it’s done,” Rice says. “I understand that. But I want it to be a song of the past for me as a writer. ‘Cruise’ is a once-in-a-lifetime song for most writers. I am very appreciative of it, but I’m about a lot more than just one song.”
“Cruise” did, though, draw more attention to Rice’s own artistic career, which is already on a fast track. In conjunction with Dirt Road Communion, he hit the road on a heavy touring schedule, playing more than 150 dates annually, building a fan base and honing his skills. He sold out a dozen venues from Florida to Illinois, even while operating without a formal record company and without radio play.
His latest set of tracks, recorded with producer/engineers Chris Destefano, Scott Cooke, and Chad Carlson demonstrates how deep the foundation runs. Rice owns a sandy resonance and a Southern-bred masculine quality that bears some resemblance to country stalwart Tim McGraw. But he also has a penchant for edgy musical adventure. “Party Up” applies compact banjo riffs and jangly guitar to build a laidback anthem. “Look At My Truck” blends small-town images – a Bible, a shotgun and Goodyear tires – with an intricate acoustic guitar and a signature hip-hop influenced synth line. And “Ready Set Roll” manages to balance mainstream country with a quirky electronica that owes a debt to M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes.”
That non-traditional mix of sound and style is intentional for Rice, as he daringly dials his brand of country to 11.
Southeastern is not a record Jason has made before, and not simply because the glorious storm and drama of his band, the 400 Unit, is absent. They will tour together; it’s not a break-up record, not an album of dissolving, but, rather, songs of discovery. And not at all afraid, not even amid the tears.
Which is to say that he has grown up.
That it has been a dozen years since he showed up at a party and left in the Drive-By Truckers’ van with two travel days to learn their songs. And then taught them some of his songs in the bargain.
Jason Isbell’s solo career has seemed equally effortless, from Sirens of the Ditch (2007) to Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit (2009), through Here We Rest (2011) and last year’s Live From Alabama. Loud records, unrepentantly southern, resplendent with careful songwriting. Songs which inspire and intimidate other musicians, and critics. “
A heart on the run / keeps a hand on the gun / can’t trust anyone,” Jason sings just now, his words brushing gently atop an acoustic guitar figure “Cover Me Up,” the song with which he has chosen to open Southeastern. Such tenderness. An act of contrition, an affirmation of need, his voice straining not to break: “Girl leave your boots by the bed / We ain’t leaving this room / Till someone needs medical help / Or the magnolias bloom.”
He sighs into the phone, considering what he’s done, and why. “I’m really purposefully ignorant of any sort of sales consideration, or radio considerations, or anything like that,” Jason says. “Before I’d felt like, this song needs to be this length, or this song needs to be mastered in this way, or this song needs to have drums on it, or this song needs a bigger hook. I just completely did away with all those considerations for this record. And made it as if I were really just making it for me, and for people like me who listen to entire albums.”
Raw, open, and reflective. Sobriety can be like that. Jason’s made it past his first year, which is rather more than a promise and will always be far from a guarantee.
Treatment programs teach that one should let go, easier said than done. Perhaps that’s why
Isbell was willing to trust his songs to David Cobb. Cobb has produced Shooter Jennings and Jamey Johnson and the Secret Sisters, but it was a Squidbillies’ session with George Jones which finally brought his work to Jason’s attention. “The song that he did with George Jones was a minute and a half, two minutes long,” Jason says, But the production of it was perfect because he nailed every single era of George’s career, and that really impressed me. A lot.”
Jason Isbell chooses his words carefully and speaks them softly, only the gentle lilt of south Alabama left for shading. “A lot of my favorite songwriters and recording artists are afraid,” he says. “Afraid to turn anything over to a producer, so they continue to make the same record over and over and over and over. More often than not, really. It’s really frustrating for me.”
There had been other plans for the album, as there always are, and for the first time Jason had the songs done well before production commenced. In the inevitable way of things, it all came together in a rush. They finished recording at midnight on a Thursday. Friday he and Amanda Shires went to their rehearsal dinner, got married Saturday, and had to wait until they returned from their honeymoon to approve the mastered album.
It is Amanda’s voice and violin joining with Jason on “Traveling Alone,” as evocative a song of a loneliness as anyone’s written since “Running On Empty.” A promise.
The songs are invested with Jason’s particular, personal truths, but they’re not about him. Or, rather, the emotional truths are probably about the songwriter, but not the stories he’s telling. “Live Oak” opens with an a cappella verse: “There’s a man who walks beside me / He is who I used to be / I wonder if she sees him / And confuses him with me?” It is the kind of question a man asks as he readies to marry a woman who met him and knew him and loved him before sobriety stuck (and a question a singer might well ask his audience under the same circumstances), though the story is about a roving criminal in either the 18th or 20th centuries.
It is not, to be clear, an acoustic album. “Flying Over Water” and “Super 8” have more than the requisite amount of guitar squawl to propel them. But it is the quite, contemplative songs that lure you in out of the rain, and those songs especially that draw one into the arc of the entire album. To the elegance of “Songs That She Sings in the Shower”: “With a stake / Held to my eye / I had to summon the confidence needed/To hear her good-bye.”
“I’ve done my part,” Jason says, his dry chuckle trailing off. “I make things and other people try to sell those things. I try not to mix the two together. I think that’s just a better way to make more quality things.”
He is, of course, right.