As The Country Throwdown tour makes its way up the east coast, each stop continues to serve up memorable performances and behind the scenes action with country’s hottest stars.
North Carolina stops included Charlotte and Raleigh, where I got to hang with Little Big Town and hear all about how much fun they are having with their “Little White Church” Country Throwdown weddings. Getting to know these four and their adorable families, who are out on the road with them, has been a tour highlight!
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was a hot one! In between sets, artists could be found hitting golf balls into a lake behind the amphitheater. Nice swing, Little Big Towners!
My favorite stop of the week was Saratoga Springs, New York. Not only was the venue beautiful, the musical collaborations were epic. That’s a fancy word, but it was a fancy day at The Country Throwdown, people.
I always try to catch Jonathan Singleton & The Grove’s set because I need my daily dose of Mississippi soul….and because it is never the same! This particular day the band was joined by hit maker Dave Pahanish, an artist in the Bluebird Singer Songwriter tent and one of the most genuine and entertaining characters I know. The crowd was treated to Dave’s version of his hit song “American Ride,” recorded by Toby Keith. Rock n’ roll Throwdown, it was.
Another musician on the brink is Capitol recording artist, Walker Hayes. He keeps everyone laughing constantly, whether he’s serenading us with Disney songs or singing his own witty tunes like “Pants” or “Mama’s Hot.” So when I heard a familiar Heather Morgan tune with a beat-boxing twist, I had a pretty good idea who was behind the mic.
I’ve heard fans refer to him as “Country Music’s Jason Mraz, “ while his Bluebird Café busmates call him “Nashville’s Matthew McConaughey.” Either way, people can’t stop talking about Walker Hayes. Keep your ears open for “Wax Paper Cups” this summer!
Later that night our regular post-show BBQ was especially star-studded. The usual songbirds — Sarah Buxton, Emily West, Dave Pahanish, and Brad Tursi — entranced us with their vocal magic, along with Jedd Hughes, who always seems to appear out of nowhere with an electric guitar, perfectly timed and tuned. Creepy, man.
That night we also had Tyler Reeve, Jonathan Singleton and Heidi Newfield grace the small stage, though Heidi didn’t crowd surf like she had earlier that day. Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry also gave us rare individual performances. Didn’t I say it was epic?
I remember shutting my eyes in the bunk and falling asleep to the sound of music still being played outside.
Our Memorial Day stop was in Gilford, New Hampshire. One of the many unique aspects of this tour is that most of the crew also works on punk/rock super tours like Warped Tour and Mayhem, also produced by Country Throwdown creator Kevin Lyman. Needless to say, this country music stuff has been new territory for those guys!
We are one big happy and diverse family. Unanimously, everyone’s favorite part of that family is our beloved caterers, Tada Catering, who don’t get to hear any of the performances because they are making the meals that keep everyone going. To show their appreciation, the nine Bluebird Café singer songwriters stormed their bus one night for a private acoustic show where they each sang one of their original songs. According to our meal-makers, this was an incredibly moving gesture that meant so much to them.
That was a sweet way to begin our three days off!
I spent a lot of time with the lovely Emily West, who can often be seen sporting the t-shirts of other artists. We did some vintage shopping in Philly, where our cab driver said we looked like Scandinavian sisters. He was disappointed to find out that we lived in Nashville, until he remembered that the “King of Leon” [sic] is from there.
We also sampled cheesesteaks with Dave Pahanish and his wife Kristen Lee, who has joined him onstage at occasional Throwdown stops.
The next day Bluebird Café tent singer songwriters Troy Olsen, Brad Tursi and I visited Virginia Beach’s 97.3 The Eagle radio station for a show and interview. Troy, an EMI Nashville recording artist, is promoting his song “Summer Thing,” which is currently climbing the Billboard chart. After getting to know each other on the tour, Troy asked Brad to play guitar and sing with him this summer and this was their first gig together.
The fun continues as we head into the second half of our Country Throwdown adventures. I can’t wait to see the collaborations that will unfold throughout the rest of the tour!
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