Posted tagged ‘Artist Spotlight’

Artist Spotlight: Ryan Follese

October 26, 2016

As many of you know already, I’ve written about a lot of up-and-coming country music artists. Obviously, there are a lot of musicians out there trying to find their place in , but not everyone is destined for stardom. Today, you are in for a real treat.

I first came across Big Machine Label Group recording artist Ryan Follese (that’s “fall-uh-ZAY”) when I heard the folks at KRTY promoting that he would be opening for both Cassadee Pope and the Eli Young Band in San Jose in early November. I was lucky enough to be in California that week to catch both shows and let me tell you this: he is something special. When I talk about artists that you need to drop what you are doing immediately and take a listen to, Follese is one.

Ryan Follese Float Your Boat Single

As a bit of background, Ryan Follese  co-wrote each of the six tracks on his self-titled debut solo EP, including “Put A Label On It,” which hit country radio earlier this month as his first official single.

Additionally, SiriusXM kickstarted the launch this summer, selecting Follese as their “Highway Find” and spinning his summer vacation anthem “Float Your Boat.” Selling more than 40,000 downloads to date, and amassing nearly 2 million streams, the Ryan Follese EP was recorded with producers Dann Huff and Cameron Montgomery in Nashville. While the aforementioned songs might have received the notoriety to date, don’t miss other great tracks such as “Wilder“, “One Thing Right” and “Lose a Little Sleep“. “Wilder” might be my favorite of the bunch.

In speaking with The Boot, Follese described the EP as follows:

“It is definitely country. It is a look into my life over the last year, which, in my existence so far, has been the most real-life stuff that’s happened to me in the last year. You won’t get that all from the lyrics necessarily, but the meaning and how much heart and effort I put into this is a result of just coming of age, I guess.”

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Now you may not know this, but Follese originally hit it big on the pop scene. During his successful run fronting the band Hot Chelle Rae, Follese co-wrote their #1 hit “Tonight, Tonight” and toured around the globe, featuring arena dates with none other than Taylor Swift. You might not remember, but Follett performed on the 2012 CMT Music Awards with Lady Antebellum, secured a performance on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest and wrote“Thug Story” with Swift and T-Pain. Follese also earned the 2012 American Music Awards’ Best New Artist award. Not bad, right?

Recently, Follese refocused his songwriting, going back to his country roots to incorporate the storytelling lyrics and influences he was raised on. It doesn’t hurt that he grew up surrounded by the music of his songwriter parents, Keith and Adrienne. Not a bad household to grow up in! Their songwriting catalogue includes major hits for Tim McGraw (Something Like That), Faith Hill (The Way You Love Me), Little Texas (Life Goes On), Lonestar (Smile) and Martina McBride (I Love You). Currently previewing his new music nationwide, Follese has been tapped for Live Nation’s ‘Ones To Watch’ Tour with headliner (and one of my personal favorites) LOCASH.

What really stands out for me is how Follese has seamlessly transitioned from pop-rock to country music. I’ve seen a number of artists go the other direction, and a few that have tried to join the country ranks, but I have a feeling that we’ll look back in a few years and realize that Follese made the right decision. Granted, he has the advantage of some strong country music lineage, but he’s done this for himself.

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When speaking of his transition in an interview with Sounds Like Nashville, Follese said:

“It is coming back to my roots. I wish there was a better way to say it but it really, that’s what it is. I grew up surrounded in country and I feel like that’s what made me want to start a rock band to begin with. Just like, you revolt against your parents. Country music was the only thing I knew until I was a teenager and then I was like ‘oh, I want to be in a rock band!’”

Additionally, here’s what Follese had to say to The Boot:

“Country chose me. Everything I wrote for the last few years came out this way. I don’t know if it’s because I grew up in it; I don’t know if it’s because it comes more natural to me. That and the combination of, this is the way to tell the stories I want to tell. The things that I’m going through that I want to do, and being close to my family and being here in Nashville, this is the way to live for me, and that is something that I want to grow old in.”

If you haven’t checked out Ryan Follese before, make sure you check out his music on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon. Also, keep up with him via his website or follow him on Twitter at @RyanFollese and Facebook for his latest news and concert schedule.

I just included Follese as one of fifteen country music artists you need to have on your playlist, so make sure you go and give him a listen.

So what did I miss? Have you seen Ryan Follese live? What do you think of this guy?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

New Artist Spotlight: Blakemore

October 5, 2016

I’m gonna preface this post upfront: the tagline of this blog has always been “a little bit country and a little bit rock n roll”. Today, we see the rock n roll side of my musical taste. I don’t write about rock music as much as I do country music, and that’s a shame, but when I do, you had better take notice.

So where am I going with this?

Well, it’s simple. I was recently made aware of a group that needs some attention and that’s what I plan to bring you today. Just when you thought Carrie Underwood was the quintessential “American Idol”, here comes up-and-comers Blakemore to turn the term right on its head.

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As a bit of background, Blakemore is three piece rock band hailing from Nashville, Tennessee. Blakemore brings a rhythmic rock sound that is full of textures and unique sonic soundscapes that brings a fresh take to the modern musical mundane.

Blakemore brings a unique sound to the table which is achieved through an amazing use of manipulated guitar fx, rock steady rhythm and bass guitars and an awesome drum foundation. Check this out: there is no use of keyboards, synthesizers or the crutch of backing tracks used to achieve the sound of Blakemore…and i totally dig that!

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With looks right out of a Tim Burton nightmare, and a fresh rock sound, I have to say that the future is bright for Blakemore. I can’t put my finger on who exactly they remind me of, so I can’t give you a specific example (like I said, these guys are VERY unique in their appearance and sound) but here’s a few bands I’ll lump them in with: Our Lady Peace,  Incubus, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Deftones and in a way, the Goo Goo Dolls.

Does that help?

Anyways, onto more important things. As I alluded to earlier, Blakemore has just released their first single, #AmericanIdol, which certainly brought the group to my attention. Here’s the music video:

 

What did you think? Pretty cool, right?

I love the lyrics:

“You sign the line and light the big cigar. The shiny lights and all the fancy cars. But people really don’t know who you are.”

“What’s the hurry. Why you even worried man. We’re gonna make you be a big rock star.”

“What’s the worry. Lines are getting blurry man. We’re gonna make you into who you are.”

Sounds like how the music business works these days, right? Turning people into who they want them to be. Blakemore tackles this in #AmericanIdol and I won’t lie when I say that I’ve already got the chorus stuck in my head.

#AmericanIdol is available on all major download and streaming services. Check it out on iTunesReverbNation and Spotify.

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You’ll be hearing a lot more from Blakemore before the end of this year. The band is planning to release a new single on October 28 called “Pushing Daisies” and another single is in the pipeline to be released on December 16 called “Revelator”. I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes out for both! For now, go check out #AmericanIdol.

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For more information about Blakemore Music, be sure to visit their website and follow the band on Twitter at @BlakemoreMusic and on Facebook.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Artist Spotlight: Interstate 10

August 2, 2016

I’ve written about a lot of up-and-coming artists. Obviously, there are a lot out there trying to find their place in country music. But today, I’ve got a real treat for you. These guys are something special and a group that you need to take a listen to. The name? Interstate 10.

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As a bit of background, Interstate 10 is a country/pop duo headed by Army Rangers Justin Wright of Tallahassee, Florida, and Andrew Yacovone of Hollister, California.

I first had the opportunity to meet Yacovone two years ago at a concert put on by 101.9 The Wolf in Davis, California. The show was their annual Christmas concert featuring Steve Holy and Dustin Lynch. During the concert, Yacovone was invited up on stage to play a song. It was an amazing experience. Here was this guy, fresh out of the audience (and the military) with a guitar. Not sure what the crowd expected, but we were blown away. You could tell that the on air staff was into it too. How cool is that!

Anyways, back to the group.

According to their website:

Focusing on a mix of traditional country music with modern beats and story lines, Interstate 10’s recordings and performances display strong melodies and good-time listening. 

While deployed to Afghanistan in 2014, friends and active-duty officers, Wright and Yacovone, debuted their first YouTube hit together, “Hometown Hero.” Their first song about longing for one’s hometown proved a compelling start for the guitar-playing friends. Together they continued to write both passionate and party-style Country music abroad and after their return home in late 2014.

On post-deployment leave in Byron Bay, Australia, the pair performed live for the first time at an impromptu show for a crowd of 100+ at the Falls Music Festival. Impromptu performances are now a common occurrence for Interstate 10, including: performing for Sam Hunt’s management team at the Ogden theater in Denver, Colorado in March 2015, and later this year playing backstage for Chase Rice at a Professional Bull Riders event in May in Colorado Springs.

Two months later, the duo began recording their full-length EP at The Spot Studios in Lakewood, Colorado. During this time Interstate 10 actively continued for opportunities to showcase their sound in Nashville, Tennessee where they had the opportunity to play at six venues in five days.

Here’s a link to their most recent song, “I’m Gonna Miss You” which has seen nearly 340,000 views on YouTube to date. I absolutely love this song, and I’m sure that you will too.

Also, make sure you check out “Hometown Hero” which was written back in 2014 during the little downtime they had while deployed in Afghanistan, and “Yellow Lines“, a song about memories of the great times in the past and things they wished they were doing during the summer while stationed in Afghanistan. This includes long drives, summertime, romance, spontaneity, beaches, boats and, of course, a beautiful girl.

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In other band news, last month, Interstate 10 went live from Afghanistan and announced the release of “Let’s Ride,” as well as news of  their recent partnership with Grammy Award winning producer Nathan Chapman. Chapman is well known in the industry and has worked with a number of artists including: Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Charles Kelley, Rascal Flatts, and Darius Rucker.

When asked about Interstate’s upcoming release, “Let’s Ride,” Chapman stated:

“I think this song has some real possibilities starting to emerge. We’re about 3 steps away from it being a real competitive record.” 

Interstate 10 will be releasing a new song shortly titled “Let’s Ride”. After “I’m Gonna Miss You”, the group was overwhelmed to learn that so many people received their message. Now, they are excited that to announce that they have 8 songs fully recorded waiting to bring to the masses.

I’ll definitely be keeping a lookout for “Let’s Ride” when it debuts on August 5.

If you haven’t checked out Interstate 10 before, make sure you give them a look. Also, keep up with them via their website or follow them on Twitter at  @i10music and Facebook for their latest news and concert schedule.

So what did I miss? Have you seen Interstate 10 live? What do you think of the guys? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

Artist Spotlight: David Brookings

June 3, 2016

As anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis knows, I tend to focus my taste in music to the genres of country and rock. They’ve always been the cornerstone of what I choose to listen to, thanks in large part to an upbringing on Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Boston and the likes.

But sometimes, I have to go back to other areas that I also enjoy and as I’ve said many times, I’m a huge fan of all types of music. With a collection that ranges from Garth Brooks, to Metallica and Green Day, to They Might Be Giants, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, The Beatles and even Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, you might say that my love for music is a bit eclectic.

Yep. That’s how I roll!

So today, I’m going to dive into my bag of tricks. I want to bring you an artist I came across a few years ago (I’ll get to that later) and only reaquainted myself with over the past week. While he doesn’t fit in my traditional country and rock background, he’s still someone that you should take a listen to.

His name is David Brookings.

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First, a little background. Brookings grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and began his journey towards a career in music at the age of 9 when he started playing guitar and writing his own songs. By the age of 15, he was playing in local clubs with local bands. He released his first solo album, “Sounds Off” in 2000. A year later, he moved to Memphis, Tennessee, to continue his musical journey.

In 2004, Brookings released his sophomore album, “End of an Error”. During much of the decade, he worked as a tour guide at Sun Studio, where he recorded 3 more albums, bringing his total to five. Needless to say, Brookings is no newcomer to the business.

By 2009, it was time to head out to the west coast with a move to San Jose, California (my home for seven years) after a chance meeting with Apple CEO Steve Jobs. In 2013, Brookings released his sixth solo album, “The Maze”. It was at this time where I first came across his music.

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Actually, that’s not entirely true. “The Maze” was a great introduction to his own music, but where I truly know the name from is his INCREDIBLE project on The Beatles that he undertook in 2010 and 2011 to record 209 Beatles songs in 209 days. No seriously. He actually did it! More information can be found on the Facebook page set up for this project.

Now, back to the present. Brookings latest album is set for release on June 10, 2016 (hey…just one week from the time I’m writing this!). The album is titled “David Brookings and the Average Lookings” and I’m certainly looking forward to its release. Not just because I’m average looking myself, but because I know that it will be filled with some great music.

DB

Here’s a quick trailer for the album. Songs such as “Hearts”, “Time to Go”, “This is the Life” and “Place We Can Go” stand out for me.

As noted in the “Editor’s Notes” on iTunes:

A sugary blast of soaring hooks and clever lyrical turns, David Brookings’ whip-smart songwriting is a perfect match for the tight, guitar-driven backing of the Average Lookings. Songs like “Place We Can Go” and “This Is the Life” channel the fiery edge of Elvis Costello’s Attractions, where sweeter moments—like the lead-off track “Hearts” or the coy “I’m in Love with Your Wife”—are playful power pop with a well-polished, vintage luster.

If you’re reading this pre-June 10, don’t miss the official album release show which takes place that evening on Friday, June 10, 2016 at the Willow Den in San Jose, California. Should be a fun evening!

I know there’s more that I could talk about here, but I don’t want to bore you with my words. Instead, I’ll let you check out some more of his earlier music for yourself:

She’s Been Gone for Years

No Regrets

If I Don’t Make it Back

The Maze

The Dream is Over

Always be the Same

If you haven’t checked him out before, give him a look. Also, make sure you keep up with him via his website or follow him on Twitter at  @davidbrookings and Facebook for his latest news and concert schedule.

Don’t forget to check out “David Brookings and the Average Lookings” and purchase more of his music on iTunes or on his website.

So what did I miss? Have you seen David Brookings live? What do you think of him? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Artist Spotlight: Trailer Choir

May 31, 2016

Now here’s a blast from the past. Another country music group that I absolutely love. Heck, I’ve bought all their music. I’ve seen them in concert three times (here’s my review from a KRTY show in San Jose way back in 2009) and I’m absolutely stoked that they have some new music.

Ladies and gentlemen…I bring you Trailer Choir!

Trailer

As background, Trailer Choir is a duo composed of vocalists Marc Fortney and Vinny Hickerson, known by their respective stage names Butter and Big Vinny (also known as Bigg Vinny and Bigg Vinny the Mack). At one time, the group was a trio with Crystal Hoyt. They originally signed to Show Dog Nashville, a label owned by Toby Keith, back in 2007.

After recording “Off the Hillbilly Hook” for the soundtrack to Keith’s film Beer for My Horses, Trailer Choir charted the singles “What Would You Say“, “Rockin’ the Beer Gut” (the song that got me called into my son’s kindergarten class by his teacher because he was singing it during class!) and “Rollin’ Through the Sunshine” on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts. These singles were followed by an EP, Off the Hillbilly Hook, and their full-length album, Tailgate. Hoyt departed the group in February 2011.

In 2011, Hickerson entered the national spotlight when he participated on The Biggest Loser. While on the show he lost nearly 200 pounds, made the final four, and was the runner-up for the at-home prize. The show also aired his marriage proposal to girlfriend Lori Diaz, which took place at the Grand Ole Opry with none other than Thompson Square performing “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not”.

Vinny

Since his participation on The Biggest Loser, Hickerson has traveled around the country as a motivational speaker. In his own words, Hickerson said:

“That changed my life and also my music. Now I don’t run out of breath onstage. And guys and girls come up to me after each show and say, ‘You motivate me to realize I can go after the things I want, even though I’m big.’ Or we’ll do music at a school or a gym opening and I’ll talk the the students. I’ll tell them, ‘You have to believe in yourself how you are right now. You have to love yourself enough to realize that you’re worth all the work it’s gonna take to change.”

Now, let’s get onto the music!

Six years ago, I did an in depth review of “Tailgate”, which was one of my favorites of 2010. From the energetic “Shakin’ That Tailgate”, to classics such as “Rockin’ the Beer Gut”, “Off the Hillbilly Hook” and “Rollin’ Through the Sunshine”, the CD had that perfect mix of fun and sun!

Now, Trailer Choir is back and better than ever. As part of the Average Joes Entertainment family, the band is ready to climb back up the charts and share their music with country music fans everywhere. Certainly, big things lay ahead for the boys.

As Fortney states:

“Had we found real success earlier, I have a feeling that Vinny would be unhealthy, weighing 480 or 490 pounds. I might not have my wife and two little baby boys. Instead, by sliding back down the mountain and regrouping, we found ourselves. We needed some time to reflect. We’ve grown up a lot. Once we come back out, we just want to explode. We know that we’re going to be busier than we’ve ever been, going full throttle.”

IceCold

They are certainly taking that path with the release of their summer anthem “Ice Cold Summer“. Written by Hickerson, Fortney, Scott Martin Mills and Brandon Ray Tant, the songs tells the story of a hot summer day spent hanging out with friends, drinking some ice-cold beverages. Coca Cola, Dr. Pepper, MUG Root Beer and Lemonade I suppose, right?

The new song certainly focuses on the simple pleasures in our lives, that’s for sure!

I know there’s more that I could talk about here, but I don’t want to bore you with my words. Instead, I’ll let you check out some more of the band’s music for yourself.

Here’s a sample of their own songs, old and new, and one that you might recognize (hint: think the Steve Miller Band):

Can’t Drink All Day

Last Man Standing

Love Me First

The Joker

Better With a Beer

Homemade Mexico

In My Next 5 Beers

If you see Trailer Choir on the bill anytime soon, make sure you’re there early. You don’t want to miss your chance to see this band. I said it before and I’ll say it again: they have the type of show that will keep you on your feet from beginning to end!

Also, make sure that you check them out on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at @TrailerChoir. Upcoming tour dates can be found here.

Don’t forget to check out their music on iTunes.

So what did I miss? Have you seen Trailer Choir live? What do you think of them? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Artist Spotlight: Toree McGee

May 25, 2016

My 3 year old is currently in her room. Her music is turned up really loud and she’s dancing around to California Gurls by Katy Perry (yeah, I know. What’s up with that, right?).

But the song got me back to thinking about doing another spotlight on a California grown country artist. Or in this case, a “California Girl”. Let me introduce you to Toree McGee.

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Gifted with a rafter-reaching soprano range and a voice that brings out a true grit and fire, McGee describes her music as a blend of “Woodstock rock ‘n’ roll, and  sparkly country.” Interesting mix, but you’ll soon understand where she gets it from and why it works!

First a little background.

McGee’s grandparents were part of a traveling gospel quartet, and her father was a singer in what can only be described as a “garage rock band”. Her father can be credited with giving McGee her love of classic rock and her passion for music, while her mother gravitated toward classic country.

Not surprising that I enjoy her live shows (I’ve probably caught here 5-6 times now) with my professed love for classic rock and country music.

McGee has some of the strongest vocals I’ve heard in a long time. Her musical style embodies elements of her influences, ranging from the sounds of The Judds and LeAnn Rimes, to  Guns N’ Roses and Aerosmith. She also embodies the vocals of Janis Joplin.

In her own words:

“I was a really big fan of Janis Joplin for a long time. I loved her uniqueness and how you could feel her emotion when she sang. But the whole rock ‘n’ roll kind of jagged edge thing wasn’t really me all the way. I always had a sunshiny personality, and I wasn’t as hardened as the rock scene was. Country music always made me happy, and everything always brought me back to that.”

McGee had her first performance as an opening act with a 30 minute set for country music superstar, Clay Walker in San Jose at the Rodeo Club, followed by another opening slot for one of my favorites: A Thousand Horses.

While she throws a lot of great cover songs into her typical setlist, McGee has a few of her own including “Run Right Back to You” and her first single, “Amen”.

Amen

“Amen”, gained airplay on Northern California radio stations and climbed to the #1 slot on 95.3 KRTY’s ‘Hot 9 @ 9’ segment. It has also gained the attention of Sirius/XM radio, as well as local news stations. The aforementioned “Amen” was released on March 31, 2015 and her full EP was officially released in October 2015. I’ve got it. You should too!

In speaking of her EP, McGee says:

“I wanted to blend my love of hard rock and country together. I have this heavy-hitting, gravelly tone I can get in my voice, and I didn’t want to lose that side of me that played in bars and grew up in bars. But country has always been my favorite genre of music. That’s where I want to be, but I want to bring a bit of that old style of rock with me.”

I mentioned her live sets earlier. Now besides her own songs, she also loves to fill her set lists with a few cover songs. Here’s just a sample of a few that I enjoy:

My Church

Girl Crush

Someone Like You

Piece of my Heart

Stay

Son of a Preacher Man

But what I enjoy the most about McGee, is her happy go lucky personality and her passion for life and her music. Nothing sums this up better than the moment she first heard herself on the radio when Randy Jones played “Amen” for the first time on KRTY. This is what it’s all about!

If you haven’t checked her out before, do so now. Also, make sure you keep up with her via her website or follow her on Twitter at @ToreeMcGee and Facebook for her latest news and concert schedule.

Don’t forget to check out her music on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.

So what did I miss? Have you seen Toree McGee live? What do you think of her? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Artist Spotlight: McKenzies Mill

May 23, 2016

I’ve been on a major southern rock kick the past couple of days. Sometimes I find that I just need to step back from listening to new music and revert to the classics. Listening to some Lynyrd Skynyrd, Allman Brothers etc…

That’s probably how I stumbled across my latest Artist Spotlight: McKenzies Mill,  two brothers from North Carolina, now based in Nashville, Tennessee, that absolutely know how to rock!

Founded by Justin and Ryan Harris, and backed by the a few of the best musicians around, McKenzies Mill brings its audience what has been described as “Southern Fried Rock & Roll.”

From Ryan’s own words (via Wrangler Network):

“Southern Fried Rock-n-Roll” is definitely the way that we most often describe our music. For the people that see us live, I like to think that most of them walk away thinking, “man, those country boys can rock!” If they are, then we’re doing it right.”

There you have it! A little bit country, a little bit southern rock and a little bit rock and roll. Take three of my favorite genres, wrap them up in a package, and put them out on the road. Just what I love…and that’s what these brothers give you night in and night out!

While you might not be familiar with McKenzies Mill (yet), the duo is in no way a newcomer to the music scene. They’ve been featured at NASCAR’s Speed Street Fest in Charlotte, North Carolina, and at BayFest in Mobile, Alabama. They’ve also been featured alongside artists such as Brad Paisley and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

In terms of music, McKenzies Mill has released two albums, “One Hell of a Ride” and a self-titled album, “McKenzies Mill”. In 2014, they were named a Band to Watch by CMA Close-Up magazine back and the duo also won Bud Light’s National Battle of the Bands back in 2012.

In addition, last September, the duo released two new singles, “Middle of Nowhere” & “Willie“.

I know there’s more that I could talk about here, but I’ll let you check out the rest of the band’s music for yourself. Here’s a sample of their own songs, as well as a few great covers:

Fishin’ in the Dark

My Heaven is a Small Town

Dirty Things

Country Born & Raised

Yee Haw

If you see McKenzies Mill on the bill anytime soon, make sure you’re there early. You don’t want to miss your chance to see this band. I said it before and I’ll say it again: they can flat out rock.

Also, make sure that you check them out on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at @McKenziesMill. Upcoming tour dates can be found here.

Don’t forget to check out their music on iTunes.

So what did I miss? Have you seen McKenzies Mill live? What do you think of them? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.