Since moving to Birmingham from Point Washington, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many of the soulful musicians in Birmingham and feel fortunate to have played with some of them. I lucked up moving in next door to a good friend of Oteil Burbridge’s (Allman Brothers Band, Oteil & the Peacemakers), and soon after met Peacemakers keyboard player Matt Slocumm (Susan Tedeschi, James Hunter, Rich Robinson).
Ultimately, Matt moved in across the street and now plays with my band every now and then when he’s in town. I had a chance to do some shows playing guitar for Taylor Hicks in 2015 opening for the Roots and Macy Gray. I was also able to re-connect with some of my mentors in Nashville—Mark Selby, Greg Barnhill and Lee Roy Parnell, who has become a genuine friend.
My thought in moving to Birmingham from the beach was that I could reconnect with people in Nashville where I grew up, but still be close enough to play down here and keep in touch with some of the best friends I’ve ever made.
Living in South Walton and playing hundreds of four-hour shows in 90 degree weather was my most formative musical time. I learned how to play guitar in Nashville, but performing and writing truly became second nature down here.
Long after I moved, I still performed in this area on a regular basis. In 2010, through various introductions, I started working with JAB Wilson (harmonica) and Larry Couch (guitar, bass, vocals). I kind of stumbled into the best beach combo I’ve ever had. JAB gives everything I do a wonderful organic vibe, He keeps the electric guitar from being too brittle or boring, and adds great melodies. Larry is one of the finest musicians I’ve ever listened to, and we quickly started to create a sound and have been recording at JAB’s studio in Destin and in Birmingham.
Every year has been different. In 2016, JAB and I played a lot in Birmingham and Florence, Alabama as a duo. We started feeling validated as a duo by the response we were getting at V-Seagrove in 2012. People from all walks of life were going out of their way to let us know they enjoyed our music. That’s what keeps me playing music.
I’m happy to say JAB and I are playing again this year at the 30A Songwriters Festival. I’m honored that I have been able to perform at every 30A Fest since the first year, especially when it has evolved to the point where they have so many great writers with amazing music of all genres and many with smash hits.
Talk about reconnecting… this year at the 30A Fest, I really want to catch Derek George. He played with a group called Pearl River when I was touring with John Berry (both on the same label), and we did some shows together back in the day when it was all new and exciting. Derek always pulled you in to what he was playing, and it seems he’s only gotten better with time.
I also definitely want to see Brian Collins, a strong new artist that I was introduced to by another of my mentors, engineer and producer Jim McKell. I hope to catch sets by some of the real artists that are emerging from the local Walton-Okaloosa music family like Chris Alvarado, Kelsey Waters, Reed Waddle and Kyle LaMonica.
Through the last seven years, being part of the 30A Songwriters festival, I have become a fan of many artists and bands I knew nothing about. Like Seth Walker, Amy LaVere, Phil Madeira, Griffin House—and the list goes on. That may be the best part of the 30A Fest—the fact that you can easily be exposed to all kinds of new music. You may find your “new favorite” that you have never heard of.
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