Lakeview Fuse Hardcore Riffs With Nashville Songwriting, and They Want You to Stage Dive to It (Exclusive)

The first and most important thing you need to know about Lakeview is that they want crowds to stage-dive at their shows. Once you know that, everything else about this country rock band makes sense. Hailing from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and currently based in Nashville, Tennessee, Jesse Denaro and Luke Healy are taking their passions for metal and Americana into an emerging genre that really doesn’t have a name. “Blue-collar County Metal,” “Yallternative,” or “whatever your flavor is,” these guys just want to annihilate stages with their heavy country jams just like their idols in bands like Hatebreed and The Acacia Strain.

“People are saying that we make heavy country music,” Denaro told via Zoom. “We just write what we feel like writing. Sometimes it’s not very heavy, sometimes it is.” With decades in the hardcore and metal scene between them, the pair connected and began writing music together, with their sound eventually evolving into some guitar-heavy country songs. “It’s just a byproduct of us,” Denaro said. “It wasn’t one day we were like, ‘Hey, we should make a heavy song.’ It was just kind of as we started to write more songs with each other. If you listen to the songs we’ve put out, it’s almost like a roadmap of just an exponential growth of me and Luke both finally finding where we fit the most comfortable.”

“This all started with us just kind of screwing around writing songs anyway,” he continued. “It wasn’t like, ‘Let’s go be musicians and be famous.’ We were like, ‘Hey, I want to write these songs,’ and ‘Yeah, let’s try it.'” Healy adds, “We were like completely not touring. We were like, ‘Yo, we’ve already lost everything to music in our lives. And we’re old and men now, and we’re still just now starting after all these years.'”

With the prospect of getting “real jobs” and a looming future where they’d each “settle down,” they guys realized they “had to scratch the itch” and see where it led them. “We were just writing country songs together,” Healy recalled, “and like Jesse was saying it just kind of progressed from that point on. Heavy songs, doing the heavier stuff. It was kind of like a riff idea comes along and we’re like, ‘Yeah, we can make that work. We like this stuff.’

“It comes a lot more natural when we write,” he went on to say, then noting another heavy metal musician they often work with, “like with Cody Quistad from Wage War, and he’s always bringing some really good a— beaters to the forefront. And we’re like, ‘Yo, no matter what, we’re going to find an idea in our notes somewhere that is going to work for this type of song.’ And that’s how ‘Loser’ came about.” 

The song Healy mentions, “Loser,” is a 2021 single that Lakeview released. Lyrically it’s the story of a guy who has to face the fact that his girlfriend has come to the realization that she is out of his league, which is something he seems to have known all along. Musically, the song is structurally similar to many of the songs played on mainstream country radio, only with the added element of a heavy metalcore-esque guitar riff that perfectly compliments the song’s rhythm.

“Come coming out of the label, too, helped a lot,” Healy confessed about how their band sound’s has evolved after they got out from under label representation. “I’m not saying the label completely dictated everything that we were allowed to release or not release, but…” Healy and Denaro then noted that both “Loser” and its follow-up “Song of A” were both older songs they had written that never got released.

“We truly get to do whatever we want now,” Denaro said. “And I think I’m grateful for people understanding what we’re doing. I think it helps that it’s just kind of a natural thing that’s happening for us as far as this is just the music we make. It’s not like we saw somebody do it and we’re trying to recreate it. It’s just like, we don’t really know what else to do, and this is the stuff we make.”

“I think we’ve been blessed for people to actually connect with it,” he added. “Some people don’t understand it, which I’m not confused about that at all. It makes sense to me… It’s been a cool six or seven months of me and Luke just kind of doing whatever we want, writing whatever we want, and we’re really excited.”

Healy then noted that one crucial factor in the evolution of Lakeview has been performing for audiences and seeing crowd reactions. “Playing live, really a lot of that guided that,” he said. “Finally, after COVID ended and everything was kind of opening back up, with being out on the road a lot more often, it was like, ‘Okay, these songs are fun to play. This is what we grew up playing, this type of vibe and doing this stuff. And then these other songs are still really great because we love songwriting.'”

He added, “We love the sadder songs. We like the more chilled stuff, too, just as much. But playing it live, it’s just like we’re not used to going out in front of a whole bunch of people and they’re just kind of sitting there or just standing there. It’s kind of like, ‘Yo, what are we doing?’ And everybody still loves it, but we don’t love that. We don’t like that.

Denaro then noted that Instagram and TikTok have been helpful for Lakeview to figure out what fans are enjoying, saying they basically use the social media sites “as market research” for their music. “When we go play shows, there’s certain songs that we’re really stoked on, and then we play them live and we’re like, ‘Oh, this is something that we’ll just put on an album and maybe not highlight very much.’ And it’s a really cool song, but it’s not something that these people are connecting with.”


We are THE masters of 2nd verse chugs. “BY NOW” PRESAVE IN BIO #countryrock #countrymusic #rockmusic #foryou #fyp

♬ original sound – lakeview

He continued, “At the end of the day, we don’t really care who here, ‘the important person here in Nashville,’ if they like it or not, because the actual people that listen, buy the music, support you, they’re in the middle of Kansas and Arkansas and wherever.” Healy chimed in, “The real-life people, the real-life folks that are out doing what we’re doing. You know what I mean? We still wake up at 5:30 and go out and work a full day… Every single day. We’re hoping that will change at some point. But this is what we write the music for. It’s the regular Middle America folks out there that are fighting to survive every single day working their asses off this. That’s what Lakeview’s for, not to cater to Nashville.”

As we’ve established, Lakeview doesn’t put too much stock into labels, but they did note “Blue-collar country metal” as something that they feel could accurately sum up who they are. This is something that Healy believes is strongly represented in working-class culture among music fans. “I always said, [fans at] a Lamb of God show, they’re at Jason Aldeen the next weekend wearing different shirts. I’ve always said that. I’ve said that my whole life because it’s so true. Because I’m that same dude.”

Noting the crossover fanbase for both country music and rock music, Healy added, “It’s like, ‘This is good. And also this is really good. This is all so good.’ And you can’t put yourself in a box. If you put yourself in a box, as even just a consumer, not just a creator, dude, you’re just missing out. You’re missing out on good times on both of those spectrums. Both of those spectrums bring a completely different atmosphere. And we’re kind of trying to blur those lines. We’re like the Hatebreed of the country community.” Denaro then quipped, “Hatebreed country.”

Healy continued, “We’re like those dudes who, are at a show. And it’s like, yeah, we’re kind of like that of this genre right now. It’s like, yo, we are not doing the whole standing around thing anymore at country shows. And it’s working. It’s fun…Our generation comes from that and they want that. They always wanted the stage dive out at a country show. They just know that it was never a socially acceptable thing. Well, guess what? Now that’s changed.” He added “We want to let them know that that’s allowed… that is more than welcome at any Lakeview show. That and beyond.”

With a wealth of experience behind them, and an unwritten future ahead, Lakeview is only worrying about grabbing the bull by the horns and living in the moment. On Friday, they dropped their new single, “By Now.” Speaking about the new track, Denaro shared, “We wrote that with one of our best friends, Quin, who also wrote songs like, ‘Hits Different’ [and] ‘In Case You’ve Forgotten.’ Almost everything we write with him.”

He continued, “It just comes from an idea of basically in the chorus, we say, ‘By now going out on the town, she’ll be looking like around with a girl I just met.’ And that just means I should be over this person by now. I should not be picking up that phone call when I get that phone call. And I think we’ve all been through a relationship or a hookup or whatever with somebody, and your conscious brain is like, ‘This is bad.’ But what you do is not that. You’re like, ‘I’ll just say hey,’ or ‘I’ll respond back,’ or ‘I’ll pick up the phone, meet him out for a one drink,’ and it always turns into something more. It’s just about that, about that whole situation.

Healy offered, “It’s a hitting it without quitting it, even though you should have quit it. It’s that. And it’s very frustrating… Coming from a man, it’s like we all know that women totally have control of us… And that song is about that type of frustration, that relationship you have with somebody that you just know, ‘Crap. Soon as they hit me up, it’s the game over. I’m definitely going to end up back at your place because I can’t say bye. I can’t.'”

The band has lots more on the horizon, as Denaro revealed, “We got more singles coming out. We got a bunch of festivals, a bunch of just our own headlining shows. It’s hard being in the genre and being so, I guess left of center.” He added, “It is that it hard for us to get those nice opening tour opportunities. We’re basically just like… We tested it out in California where we flew all the way out to California, played three shows, and we ended up selling some of them out. People came, it was shocking to us. I was like, ‘Oh, people actually want to see us play.'”

Denaro continued, “So we’re just basically going to test that throughout the whole country. Hit markets that we’ve never been to, and just go to your hometown and play a headlining show and, hopefully, people will show up.” They also have a few really exciting festival slots lined up, playing alongside some big-name bands and artists. “We got some really cool festivals like ‘Tailgates and Tall Boys’ where we’re playing with Nickelback and which is a dream… and playing with Colt Ford and some other folks like that. I think it’s going to be a really, really fun, eventful summer and the rest of the year for us for sure.”

Fans can check out more of Lakeview’s music by clicking here. The band’s official website also offers more info about what they’re up to and where they’ll be playing soon. Keep it locked to Pop for more exciting country music news, reviews, and interviews!

Retired Country Music Radio DJ Eric ‘Bubba Bo’ Boulanger Enters Hospice Care

Retired country music radio DJ Eric “Bubba Bo” Boulanger has entered hospice care after being diagnosed with cancer. On Tuesday, NPR affiliate WVXU reported that the retired DJ was placed in hospice care around the end of December. He has been fighting glioblastoma, a very aggressive form of brain cancer, which has required surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments.

Boulanger was a staple of Greater Cincinnati’s radio industry for four decades. In March 2021, he retired from Eagle Country 99.3, where he’d been doing radio for more than 15 years. He then began a new show, WLW-AM American Truckers’ Network, from a home studio. The fan-favorite DJ had been planning to spend the winter in Florida, after ending his new show in early 2022, however, he fell ill and had to be rushed into medical care. “He was healthy as an ox,” said Boulanger’s longtime friend and former traffic reporter Mary Kuzan-McConnell. “It was all very sudden. It was really a shock. It’s so sad.” She added, “As soon as he was diagnosed, he was told that his chances of living for more than a year were slim to none.”

Back in 2021, while discussing his career through the lens of deciding to retire, Boulanger said on his Eagle Country morning show, “I’ve been running for 40 years plus in this business and I’ve gotten to do a lot of cool things and meet a lot of cool people and I’ve made pretty good money as money goes in this business anymore, but it’s time to ease up some and enjoy life.”

“I just really enjoy always talking to people,” he later added. “I enjoy the ones that do call in somewhat regularly with a traffic report or a family update or like that. It is like a little family, a little community that we developed. Will I miss getting up at 2:30 in the morning, no. Will I missing driving 30 or 35 minutes in the pitch dark in the middle of the night, no. I’ve been doing that for 40 years. I’ve done it for all but about 18 months of my career and I’m done.”

Boulanger later concluded, “I started working in radio at 21, and from there its been the radio life no doubt about it but I don’t regret it a damn bit. I had a lot of fun. I got to do a lot of cool things and go a lot of cool places, but it’s time to bring it to an end.”

Country music festival coming to Cochise County this March

COCHISE COUNTY, Ariz. (KGUN) — As soon as Del Thola bought his Benson ranch back in December, he knew he was going to bring a music festival to Cochise County.

The 20-acre land was home to livestock, which is evident through the various stalls and barns on the property. Come the middle of March, Thola and his family will have a large open piece of land specifically for country music fans to gather and have a good time.

“I grew up on country music,” he shared. “I wanted something to do for Cochise County and the Benson area, but the response has been phenomenal and I was not expecting that at all.”

The Cochise Country Music Festival is scheduled to take place Friday, March 17 to Sunday, March 19 and will feature one headliner per day.

Joe Nichols will perform Friday; Sawyer Brown plans to headline on Saturday and Clay Walker is scheduled for Sunday evening.

Thola said he worked with agencies out of Tucson to help find artists to come for the festival. While the event is called a country music festival, the lineup includes blue grass artists too.

“I think it’s more of a down-home festival,” Thola said. “We’re trying to keep it low key. I want everyone to come, relax and have a good time.”

Although public knowledge of the event is fairly new, the community is already welcoming it.

“I didn’t think the response would be as good as it was,” Thola said. “It’s kind of gone a little bit bigger than I was planning actually.”

He has a maximum of 10,000 tickets for sale and is expecting the festival to near capacity all three days.

Thola also plans on setting up vendors and food trucks on the property throughout the weekend.

For more information, please visit their website.

Alexis Ramanjulu is a reporter in Cochise County for KGUN 9. She began her journalism career reporting for the Herald/Review in Sierra Vista, which she also calls home. Share your story ideas with Alexis by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, or Twitter.

Brisbane buskers came to Tamworth Country Music Festival for success but left with trophy and love

Every January, hundreds of artists set up their guitars and microphones to sing among 50,000 punters at the Tamworth Country Music Festival in central New South Wales.

This year, Queenslanders Tyla Rodrigues and Jarrad Wrigley were among them.

They met at last year’s festival, held in April due to the pandemic, and came home with a trophy and the beginnings of a musical relationship.

It was the first time the musicians had attended the Tamworth Country Music Festival. They each arrived with the goal to enjoy the atmosphere and perform for anyone willing to listen.

With a few gigs lined up the pair planned to make the most of the six-day event, shortened due to the COVID pandemic.

After one of Wrigley’s performances, while packing away his guitar, he looked up, and Rodrigues was standing there asking about his guitar.

They exchanged socials and the next day sang a song together, and it felt right.

Rodrigues recalls what drew her to listening to Wrigley on the stage that first day:

“He was playing all my favourite songs,” she said.

“When you can respect another musician and make something more beautiful together, it just works.”

Within days the musicians decided to try their luck at the Battle of the Buskers, singing an original song of Wrigley’s called Cover Me.

The chemistry was instant.

Wrigley said they made a connection from the first minute of performing together.

“You get this thing as a musician; you just start talking without saying anything to each other on stage,” he said.

Jarrad Wrigley (fifth from right) and Tyla Rodrigues (fourth from right) with the 2022 top 10 buskers.(Facebook: Tamworth Country Music Festival)

A winning duo

Placing third in the competition was proof Rodrigues and Wrigley needed to continue music together in whatever capacity they could.

That chance came when Rodrigues needed a guitarist and knew Wrigley who would fit with her style perfectly.

After months of travel together and gigging, Wrigley says there was one moment in Mount Isa when he knew he was in love.

“The first dance was it. I’ll leave that to peoples imaginations,” he said.

Rodrigues agreed the dance was a special moment.

But she admits, jokingly, that she has loved being able to spend so much time together and not hate each other thanks to living apart.

Living just one hour away from each other in Greater Brisbane, they have a golden rule of a weekly date night with no music talk.

But both admit it doesn’t last long into their dates before they start discussing gigs and songs.

Jarrad and Tyla busking on Peel street, Tamworth.(Supplied)

Just nine months after they meet, the couple is back where it all began in Tamworth for this year’s Country Music Festival.

They have 10 shows lined up and are playing at the very venue they first played together just last year.

What’s next for the young artists?

“[Music] started as something we both just loved,” Rodrigues said.

“Whatever happens in the future, it’s just about doing what I love and continuing to enjoy it.”

The Oak Ridge Boys Early Connection To The Atomic Bomb, More

The Oak Ridge Boys were formed in 1943, originally as Wally Fowler And The Georgia Clodhoppers, later renamed the Oak Ridge Quartet, a Gospel outfit out of, you guessed it, Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Never heard of Oak Ridge? The town was critical to the development of the first atomic bomb. The labs there enriched uranium for the Manhattan Project, which, headed by physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, produced the nuclear device that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan. During WWII, members of the Oak Ridge group often sang for the restricted families of government staff at the top-secret facility.

After another name change, to the Oak Ridge Boys, the group broadened its gospel roots to include country and crossover music. In 1981, it had its biggest hit, “Elvira,” which climbed to No. 1 on the Cash Box Top 100 chart. The group has also recorded with Paul Simon, most notably background vocals on the hit “Slip Slidin’ Away,” and worked with other famous musicians, including Johnny Cash.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Oak Ridge Boys’ current lineup of Joe Bonsall, Richard Sterban, Duane Allen and William Lee Golden. I traveled to Nashville over the holidays to attend the group’s Christmas special at Gaylord Opryland Resort. Before the show, I sat down with Allen, 79, for a chat. He is a classically trained vocalist and a member of The Country Music Hall Of Fame since 2015. Allen is unassuming, soft-spoken and spiritual. Following are edited excerpts from a longer conversation.

Jim Clash: Talk a bit about how Oak Ridge Boys have evolved musically over the decades.

Duane Allen: We haven’t really changed that much. Our music has just spilled over, been accepted by a broader group, depending upon the style of song we cut. In our shows today, we still do some basic gospel songs, some country songs. A few of our songs have mass appeal that cross over into the Top 40, like “Elvira,” “Bobby Sue” and “Heart Of Mine.”

Clash: When you first heard yourself on the radio, what was that like?

Allen: That goes way back to high school, even before. When I was seven, I sang on local radio. I had on a Cowboys suit. I wasn’t professional yet, but thought I was [laughs]. I can tell you where we were when we heard our first country song, “Y’all Come Back Saloon.” I had been with Oak Ridge Boys for 11 years without a hit. We had been singing gospel, and when we tried to make our music more commercial, more country, we got a negative rub from people who didn’t want that to happen.

We recorded “Ya’ll Come Back Saloon” in 1977. We had just done a concert in Houston [Texas], and were on our way to Dallas. The song had been released to juke boxes before the radio stations. We thought that if we pulled into a truck stop, there was maybe, just maybe, a chance that the song would be there. And it was! We fed quarters in until the truckers had heard enough to get sick of it, I think [laughs]. The song ended up reaching No. 2 on the country charts, just behind the Kendalls’ “Heaven Is Just A Sin Away.’’

Clash: You did work with the great Paul Simon on one of his songs, “Slip Slidin’ Away,” correct?

Allen: Yes. He was one of the nicest people you would ever want to meet. We also did a TV special [All-Star Gospel Session] he had put together in California, with the Mighty Clouds Of Joy and other groups. Paul Simon is into all kinds of music. He went to Africa to make albums with tribes with all different rhythmic chants. On “Slip Slidin’ Away,” Phil Ramone was the engineer. It took us two days. Earlier, Paul had had us do a session with The Roches, “If You Empty Out All Your Pockets, You Could Not Make Change.” He was probably checking us out for “Slip Slidin’ Away.”

Clash: You’ve met so many people during your six decades in the music business. Is there one you haven’t met that you particularly would like to meet?

Allen: I’ve never met Paul McCartney, but I would like to, just sit down and talk music with him, or talk anything. He’s a fascinating person, brilliant. I’d ask him if maybe he could write something, or produce something, for us. That would be an honor.

Clash: Have you ever played in a communist country, like say, China or Russia? I just wonder if closed societies like that would ever have heard of country music.

Allen: We went to the [former] Soviet Union in 1976 for three weeks with Roy Clark under a Cultural Exchange Program. We worked in what was once Leningrad [now St. Petersburg], then took trains to Riga in the Baltic area, and to Moscow. Every show was sold out!

Clash: The Oak Ridge Boys have been together for so long. Still friends?

Allen: Sure. I’m constantly pulling practical jokes on Joe [Bonsall] in the tour bus. I bought a big, remote-controlled black spider. Joe is scared of spiders. I put it over the top of his bunk, then, in the dark, set it off from across the aisle. It’s got two big red eyes that light up [laughs]. We have things like that going on all of the time.

(Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 of a multi-part interview series with Oak Ridge Boys member Duane Allen.)

Luke Grimes Is Officially a Country Music Star Now

Yellowstone actor Luke Grimes has made the leap from the screen to the recording studio and is officially a country music star now. On Friday, Dec. 15, Grimes — who portrays Kayce Dutton on Yellowstone — released his very first single, “No Horse to Ride.” Over on Instagram, Grimes shared a post to let his fans and followers know about the new song, revealing that it’s from his forthcoming debut album.

“My first song from my upcoming album releases today on all platforms,” Grimes wrote in his post, which included a photo of him and his guitar, as well the cover artwork for his song. “Music has always helped me find meaning. Hopefully this song means something to some folks out there, that would sure mean a lot to me. Much love, more soon…” Grimes has received a lot of positive responses to his new tune, with fellow Yellowstone actor Dave Annable writing, “Holy S—!!!! Those pipes?!? Well done brother! Stop being so damn good at everything please.”

Grimes is not Yellowstone’s first musician, as series star Kevin Costner — John Dutton — is also well-known for his country rock band, Kevin Costner & Modern West. The show also has Oscar-winning singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham among its ranks, playing Walker, a Dutton ranchhand. Earlier this year, had a chance to speak with Bingham about the show, specifically regarding the chances that he could leave and head over to one of the forthcoming Yellowstone spinoffs.

Walker previously worked at the 6666 ranch in Texas, and his friend Jimmy left the Dutton ranch to go work there in Season 4. Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan has reportedly been working on a new spinoff based around the 6666 ranch. This has led to fan theories that Walker might join Jimmy. 

While speaking to Pop Culture about his new partnership with the Lone River Beverage Co. for their Ranch Rita hard seltzer, Bingham was asked whether or not he thinks Walker would abandon the Dutton’s to go back to 6666, Bingham replied, “I really don’t know. I think he’s been running from a lot of things in his past and not sure if he’d want to go back to where he just came from. So, I don’t know.” He then said with a smirk, “I guess it would have to just depend on the incentives.” Yellowstone airs Sunday nights on Paramount+.

Country Music Albums We Can’t Wait for in 2023

As 2022 comes to a close, we’re looking forward to all the new music 2023 has in store.

And it’s already looking like a promising year for country music, as several artists have announced their upcoming albums.

Here are six of the most highly-anticipated country albums of the new year so far.


Hardy, best known for songs like “Rednecker” and “wait in the truck,” is promoting his sophomore album, The Mockingbird & the Crow, which will be released on Jan. 20, 2023.

Per his Instagram post, fans can listen to the title track and two other new songs everywhere now, while also pre-saving or pre-ordering the album.

Elle King

The singer made a splash in the pop world, but she’s ready to claim the country genre as her own as she gears up for her most country-inspired album yet. Come Get Your Wife is available for pre-order now and is set to arrive on Jan. 27, 2023.

When announcing the album on Instagram, she explained: “Remember that one time I was beating some asshole at a game and he yelled, “Come get your wife!” to my partner!?!? And I’m not even married! Lol. Thanks for the album title, babe Each track comes from influences of all genres, and I now know country music is where I belong.”

Tyler Hubbard

Tyler Hubbard is an established name in country music as one-half of Florida Georgia Line, alongside Brian Kelley, but he’s hoping to stand as a solo artist with his debut album, which will be available Jan. 27, 2023 and is available for pre-order now.

“For me to be releasing my first album as a solo artist, it means everything. I feel really proud of this music and how special it is to have the opportunity to share my personal story. Hopefully it makes you want to come to a show and hang out because most of these songs were created to play live. I can’t wait for you to hear it, I hope y’all get to know me on a deeper level, and I’m so grateful to have you all with me on this incredible journey,” he noted in the album announcement on Instagram.

Shania Twain

2022 was a good year for Shania Twain, but 2023 is going to be even better as she has already announced her Queen of Me album, her first studio album since 2017. It’s expected to arrive on Feb. 3, 2023, ahead of her “Queen of Me Tour,” which will begin in the spring. Fans can pre-order the album now and snag tickets to the tour.

“These days, I’m feeling very comfortable in my own skin – and I think this album reflects that musically. Life is short and I want to be uplifted, colorful, unapologetic and empowered. I want to carry a clear message, particularly as a woman, to always remember my power and I hope the songs are a reminder to you, of that same power inside you!” she explained of the album in a recent caption on Instagram.

Chase Rice

The country crooner is making his comeback on Feb. 10, 2023, with his “first full album since 2017,” titled I Hate Cowboys & All Dogs Go To Hell.

He took to Instagram to pen an emotional note for fans, stating that for “10 years, I’ve put out glimpses of who I truly am in my music, but I’ve never been able to piece it all together.” He explains that he finally deals with the loss of his dad in the album, which is one he “would have been proud of.”

He also announced his upcoming tour, writing, “Gonna be playin almost the whole “I Hate Cowboys & All Dogs Go To Hell” album, Eyes On You, Drinkin’ Beer, all the good stuff. Lemme know any other songs y’all wanna hear below. Tickets on sale now let’s gettttt it”

Jordan Davis

The country hitmaker is gearing up for the release of his second album, Bluebird Days, on Feb. 17, 2023.

“pumped to share new music with y’all next year,” he wrote on Instagram, along with info on how to pre-order exclusive merch bundles.

The album will include Davis’ chart-topping hit “Buy Dirt” with featured artist Luke Bryan, which was co-written by the artist with his brother Jacob, along with Matt and Josh Jenkins.

Since it’s still so early in the game, plenty of other well-known country stars, along with rising newcomers, will likely announce albums, but this is a promising start and leaves us excited for the upcoming year in country music. 

Rhett Walker: Christian Country singer loves his family, Jesus and music | Sunday Best

A love of Jesus, his music and family.

That’s Rhett Walker, a country-Christian and Grammy nominated artist who has returned to his roots in the CSRA.

Walker was born in North Carolina, but raised in the North Augusta/Aiken area. He attended Silver Bluff High School before attending South Gate Christian School.

“I lived a lot of life in my teenage years,” Walker said. “My dad’s a pastor at Heights Church and he was preaching on Sunday mornings all these things about grace and redemption, and I was living very selfishly. Got kicked out of high school for fighting and just being a dummy. I was never mean, I was just dumb, I was a teenager.”

But everything changed when he was 17 because that’s when his girlfriend – now wife – April got pregnant. He started homeschooling so he could work to pay for expenses needed for a baby. 

“I graduated with my high school diploma and we got married immediately when we were 17,” Walker said. “We had dated for about two or three months and got married. Now we have been married for 18 years and have four beautiful kids (Rileigh, 17, Jett, 15, Autumn, 10, and Cash, 4).”

Because his dad was a pastor, Walker was on the praise team and said he would fill in when someone wouldn’t show up. That meant he would sometimes play different instruments, including the bass and drums, the latter of which he ended up loving. But one day they pulled him off drums to sing “Grace Like Rain” by Todd Agnew and he kept singing.

“I don’t know if that means it was horrible and I was still better than I was at drums or what. I’ve been afraid to ask that question. But I never stopped singing there,” Walker said.

When he found out his wife was pregnant he thought his music dreams weren’t possible anymore, so Walker got a job working for the city of North Augusta. He did landscaping and anything that would help  pay for diapers, formula and food.

Then a man from Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, asked Walker to help lead worship services at colleges. So the family moved to Raleigh, North Carolina.

“Jett had just had his two month check-up, so I was 19 and moved about six hours away from all family,” Walker said. “But honestly it was the best thing that could’ve happened to us because we didn’t have my mom and dad or my in-laws, we didn’t have them to rely on so we had to figure this thing out.”

While in North Carolina Walker focused on his music, and after some praying, felt the calling to move to Nashville. But they were hesitant because they had already moved a lot. 

“We were praying about it and my mom was like, ‘If you want to be a surfer, you would move to the ocean,'” Walker said. “Alright there’s confirmation, we moved.”

Two years after moving Walker signed a record deal with Sony Records and released his first single, “When Mercy Found Me.” That song was nominated for a Grammy and everything took off from here.

“We didn’t slow down down for years,” Walker said. “This year marks 10 years for me being signed and putting out music full time, it’s kind of a cool year.”

Over his 10 year career Walker has released three albums and 2 EP’s. The music he has released has been both Christian and country, he said.

“We’ve played, we did a headlined spring tour and brought only Christian artists this year, but then all the festivals we did this year were country festivals,” Walker said. “We did the Opry 15 times now … we just kind of, whatever door God opens honestly. I’ve from the South and from the Carolinas and living in Georgia, so I’m not hiding it. I’m not going to be able to. I talk the way I talk, and that’s the way it is.”

Walker said he became more serious with his faith after he found out he and April were expecting because he needed it. He’s not going to put Jesus into a song to get it on the radio.  

“I want to talk about Jesus to where people go, ‘<an I needed that, I needed that hope today, I needed that peace to say and the only place I can find it is in Jesus.’ But I’m also a family man. I love to go mudding and get dirty and play outside, so I’m going to sing songs about my wife, my kids and love of life. However the music comes across, I mean there’s a lot of people that call me a country artist, a lot of people that call me a Christian artist, I just make music.”

As for what his favorite songs that he’s written is, Walker said it’s “When Mercy Found Me” because it was his first song and he put his testimony into that song.

“When you put out music you don’t know if the only person who buys it is your mom and dad; it’s subjective, it’s art,” Walker said. “To have it nominated for a Grammy on my first single and be able to make it was just a cool reminder that I’m doing what I’m suppose to be doing.”

As for how he would describe his 10 year career, Walker had one word: “wild.”

“Honestly it’s like a roller coaster where we jump on and we hold on and at some points our hands are in the air going ‘woo-hoo’ and other parts we’re going ‘oh, crap,’” Walker said. “The music industry is fixable, it’s weird. People come and go … But it’s cool to look and go all those times it felt scary or felt like the mountain top incredible, looking back you are able to compartmentalize a little bit more and it’s like man that really wasn’t that big of a deal. It felt like it at the time, that was something I need to remember and celebrate.”

When he looks back on his career, Walker looks with happiness and joy that he is still able to perform. But he’s also curious about what he future holds and what door will open next.

“In today’s world you’re one tweet away from some celebrity that found your music and all of a sudden this new song that wasn’t a single is on fire,” Walker said. “I hold on for dear life and go as long as my wife’s happy, as long as my kids are eating, I’m good.”

Walker and his family moved back to the CSRA in October 2019 right before the COVID pandemic hit because they wanted to be closer to family.

“My grandparents are here, my aunt and uncle are here, my sister and her husband. April’s whole family is here, so the fact that we were here before everything shut down, we would’ve been in Nashville by ourselves like, ‘oh, this sucks,’” Walker said.

Moving back to the CSRA was the right decision for the family because it’s slower paced and Walker said has helped him stay grounded.

“(In) Nashville I felt like I was always one call away if management or the label needed something or they wanted to shoot a video, whatever it is,” Walker said. “Now when I go up for a write, it’s very proactive: here’s the times we’re writing, here’s who we’re writing with, I’m able to then collect my stories from the CSRA when I’m out and about and go in with a very purposeful this is what we’re writing about.”

During the pandemic Walker was able to lead worship at his dad’s church and help out when they held services in the parking lot. 

“I wouldn’t have gotten to do that if I hadn’t moved back here. A lot of cool little seasons since moving back,” Walker said.

Walker and his family attend Stevens Creek Church where he helps lead worship and write some music, said Todd Sturgell, the executive pastor of experiences.

“Rhett is a super down to earth guy, very humble, super funny,” Sturgell said. “One of those people that (is) easy to be around. Sometimes when people have a little bit of success they can turn into a different person, but he’s super down to Earth … has really fit into our team really, really well. I love having him on the team, I love when he serves and helps us out.”

Walker is always willing to help out and Sturgell said when his brother was diagnosed with ALS eight months ago he wanted to do a benefit concert and asked Walker if he wanted to be involved. He said Walker jumped in and donated his time and was part of the concert. He added that April also helped with the benefit because “that’s the kind of people they are.”

“(He) loves Jesus, loves his family, loves music. That’s Rhett,” Sturgell said.

When he’s not working, Walker likes to be outside.

“If there’s not something to paint or fix or keep me busy I’ll sit out on the back porch,” Walker said. “Every night I light a fire on the back porch and sit out there. I just prefer to be outdoors whether it’s hunting, fishing, sitting riding four-wheelers, playing golf, me and my son, we, my 15-year-old Jett, he went with me to the driving … he’s starting to get into golf too. This time of year it’s easy to get stir crazy. The weather is still nice, and you want to get outside before we get a month of cold.”

To keep up with what Walker is doing, visit his website,, or follow him on Facebook, Youtube, Instagram and Twitter.

Country music highlights quiet Waco-area weekend

Christmas weekend finds a quieter local music scene than previous December weekends, with a Nashville singer-songwriter, a Texas bluegrass trio and a multi-performer night the highlights for country music fans.

The weekend offers local followers of Nashville country singer-songwriter Kristen Kelly another chance to see the Lorena native perform for the home folks.

Kelly, whose sister Kimberly also is a country singer-songwriter, will play a solo show at 8 p.m. Friday at Bull Hide Creek Sports Tavern, 7589 Golinda Drive in Golinda. In addition to the live music, the evening will feature a catered taco bar and full bar service.

“It’s my last hometown show of the year. It’s always fun to come back and play for the hometown,” she said in a phone interview earlier this week.

Kelly returns to Central Texas a month after her latest single release, “Smoke,” which had a double tribute to her parents: Its release date of Nov. 10 fell on her mother Cindy Laughlin’s birthday and the image of a cigarette-filled ashtray that accompanied “Smoke” was the ashtray of her father Danny Kelly, who died last January.

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“Both parents were super, super supportive, encouraging my sister and I both to keep writing and playing shows,” she said.

These days, Kelly finds herself drawing from her early days as a performer with local rock cover band Big Dave and the Freaks and, working with co-writer Bridgette Tatum (“She’s Country”), has been blending rootsy rock with country.

Kelly’s most recent release, her first project in six years, is a two-part EP, “Something Worth Saying,” whose second part arrived early last year. Kelly, tabbed as one of CMT’s Next Women of Country, also has opened for such Nashville stars as Brad Paisley, Montgomery Gentry, Rascal Flatts and Gary Allan.

The year ahead will find Kelly releasing more new music, playing solo gigs and moving into podcasting with “Something Worth Saying,” adapted from the monthly songwriters’ round she’s hosted in Nashville. She’ll take that podcast on the road, in a “Nashville writers’ round-style show coming to a city near you,” she said.

Bluegrass band

Cold may send the music inside at the debut of the McGregor Country Christmas festival Thursday and Friday when bluegrass band the Purple Hulls is scheduled to play.

The Hulls, anchored by twins Katy Lou Clark and Penny Lea Clark Gimble, with bassist Sarah Birkeland rounding out the trio will perform at 6 p.m. Thursday and 7:15 p.m. Friday on the festival’s outdoor stage.

The Clarks grew up in a musical farming family near Kilgore — yes, their name comes from the purple hull peas the family grew — and took their talents to Nashville after graduating from South Plains College in Levelland, where they studied music and played basketball. For five years, they did studio recordings, worked for the Grand Ole Opry and wrote songs for the Sony/ATV music publishing company. They returned to their family farm in Texas about 12 years ago and continue to perform. Penny Lea Clark married McLennan County District Clerk Jon Gimble earlier this year.

Not goodbye

It’s not a goodbye that Axtell country musician Michael Saldana will make with six friends at The Backyard on Friday, but more like a — well, the informal title says it best: “Slow Down Saldana.”

Saldana, a frequent performer at area bars, clubs and other live music venues, is cutting back on performing next year to try and heal his vocal nodes.

“Singing five nights a week, sometimes four hours a night — I pushed it too hard,” he admitted recently. Told by a doctor to slow down or risk permanent damage to his voice, he’s opting for the former after 16 years as a performer.

Waco country performer Michael Saldana will have a half dozen local players join him Friday in a “Slow Down Saldana” show Friday at The Backyard.

He’s got six musical friends lined up to perform at Friday’s “Slow Down” show. In light of the low temperatures forecast for Friday night, the event will be inside rather than on The Backyard’s outdoor stage. “I’m not going to torture my friends,” he laughed.

Planning to play are Chris Low, Larissa Boyd, Lauren January, J.C. Pringle, Towne Adams and Lucas Jones.

Doors open at 6 p.m. with the music starting at around 7 p.m. Each of those performing will have solo time onstage, but it’s more like an open jam, and other musicians are encouraged to show up with their guitars.

“It’s one big blowout with all my friends,” Saldana said. “We’re playing for fun.”

Country artist Riley Green joins lineup for Wildwood’s Barefoot Country Music Fest

WILDWOOD — Riley Green has joined the roster of artists scheduled to perform at the third annual Barefoot Country Music Fest in June.

Green is the 2020 Academy of Country Music award recipient for New Male Artist of the Year. He performed last summer at the TidalWave Music Festival on the beach in Atlantic City.

He will join country music stars like Blake Shelton, Kid Rock, Darius Rucker and more than 40 other artists on the beach June 15 to 18.

For more information about the festival and to purchase tickets, visit