Morgan Evans

First Published June 2022

“WHAT I DO THIS FOR”

Named one of Country Radio Seminar’s renowned New Faces of Country Music in 2020, Australian MORGAN EVANS has forged a path as one of the genre’s most promising stars. He has been named to People’s elite Ones To Watch list, MusicRow’s Next Big Thing list, and Bobby Bones Class of 2018, with additional recognition coming his way from CMT, SiriusXM, Pandora, Rolling Stone, Billboard, The Tennessean, and more. 

His latest EP, The Country And The Coast Side A, sees Evans set aside his signature loop pedal to collaborate with a band of musicians for the first time in his U.S. career. For the project’s current single, Country Outta My Girl, Evans teamed up with Rivers Cuomo of the iconic 90’s band Weezer who offered his own perspective on the track with a brand new verse. The EP builds outward and upward from the foundation Evans created with his debut album Things That We Drink To, which hit the Top 10 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart and features the Gold-certified No. 1 debut single Kiss Somebody. 

Evans’ recently wrapped a successful weekend at CMA Fest 2022 in Nashville, where he hosted an intimate Fan Party and played the highly coveted Riverfront Stage on Friday, June 10th. And next up, he’s on his way to Europe as the opening act for one of the undeniable greats of country music’s modern era, Brad Paisley. Morgan will be headlining a show at the Lafayette in London on July 14th before then joining Paisley to play two arena dates at the OVO Hydro in Glasgow on July 15th, and hitting our own 3Arena in Dublin the following day. As part of that same world tour, Morgan will also share the stage with Paisley in the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Australia, and New Zealand.

However, next month’s 3Arena show won’t be Morgan’s first time to land on Irish shores. He actually kicked off his 2019 World Tour at the Academy venue in Dublin, writing on his Instagram at the time that he couldn’t, “…remember a show where the crowd smiled so widely”. When I had the chance to sit down with him last week, I asked Morgan if he would mind taking us back to that night and sharing a little bit more about what it had meant to him…

“It was just so exciting. As you say, it was licking off the World Tour. And it was also in a part of the world where I had been before, but never spent enough time to feel like I knew my way around. It was a small, underground thing! And it just felt like that, like everyone was there because they really wanted to be there. There’s a level, I guess, of passion required for someone to show up to a show like that. They don’t just show up because they’ve heard one song on the radio or something, they show up because they maybe heard one song somewhere, BUT then they went and found the rest of it and fell in love with it. That kind of connection, I think that’s what I do this this for. It was such an enjoyable night, and it makes me really excited to get back.” 

Is Morgan looking forward to coming back to play in a venue like the fabulous 3Arena this time? 

“Oh yeah! Oh yeah! [Laughs]. That’s gonna be fun, man!” 

One of the most instantly endearing qualities Morgan has when you’re chatting in person, is the fact that he smiles broadly almost the whole way through, clearly genuinely excited and passionate about what he gets to do. And, no doubt, that’s one of the reasons why so many ‘big-name’ stars of country have brought him on-board for their tours as well, with the likes of Taylor Swift , Dan + Shay , Cole Swindell, Chris Young and more all having shown their faith in Morgan the same way Brad is now. 

So when it comes to opportunities like that, walking out in front of someone else’s audience – essentially getting to borrow them each night – what’s Morgan’s approach to making sure those fans go home with him on their mind?

“That’s a good question. Firstly, I think you have to, you have to prepare yourself because like you say, it’s not your own show, so maybe not everyone in there knows who you are. But that means it’s also a great opportunity to introduce yourself. And man, I always see like I’ve got a job to do too, which is to remind everyone that there’s a show on tonight and that they’re about to have a great time! And that that’s ok. I think coming out of the pandemic is an interesting experience because people maybe haven’t been to as many shows recently, so it’s a new experience again to be around so many people. So hopefully we can just go out there and have a great time, and help everyone have a great time as well, and get them ready for Brad‘s show.” 

Is it a bit of a balancing act, the fact that Morgan, as the opening act in these situations, obviously wants to show the best of himself, but he also needs to remind people of what’s coming next and who he’s there with? 

“Yeah, for sure. But I think what helps is that I’m stoked to be on the tour because I LOVE Brad Paisley too [laughs]. So we already have that in common. I mean, his early records – ‘Mud On The Tires’, ‘5th Gear’, particularly those two – I don’t know if they just found me at the right time, or if they were so ground-breaking at the time that they caught my ear – were part of the handful of records that turned my attention towards Nashville in the first place. So he’s been a huge influence on me, and I’m such a big fan. Having that in common with the audience when you go out to play definitely helps.” 

Sitting down with Morgan also gave us a chance to chat about his latest EP, last year’s The Country and the Coast Side A. Now the first thing I thought when I saw the title, was cool…this means we’re gonna get Side B too! Is that something that’s in the works? Or in the can already perhaps? 

“Good question, man. We just started recording it last week, actually. So it’s well on the way. And we’re gonna be playin’ some of the new songs for the first time on this tour. I’m gonna try and sneak one or two in every night! I get impatient! [Laughs]. I wrote these songs, and I love ’em, and I want to share ’em! [Laughs]. We’ll have more music before the end of the year, for sure. I can’t tell you a date, cos’ I’m not exactly sure yet, but it will definitely be before the end of the year.” 

There’s a track on Side A called Country Outta My Girl, and back in March of this year, Morgan dropped a version featuring none other than Weezer frontman, Rivers Cuomo. A really cool song to begin with, but then you add Rivers into the mix as well, and wow! I wondered how the world happened to bring Morgan and Rivers into the same orbit, and why they then decided that Country Outta My Girl was the song they wanted to work on together? 

“It’s funny, man, it’s still funny to me! [Laugh]. This makes me smile [laughs]. When I was off the road, I was doin’ a handful of cover videos on TikTok, and I did this loop set-up. We [Morgan and his wife, country superstar Kelsea Ballerini] came back from Australia at Christmas, and I heard that song, ‘Island In The Sun’ [by Weezer], a lot when I was there. That just reminded me how much I love it. So I made this loop video for TikTok, and Weezer commented on it, and I think they shared it. Then, they reached out through management, and Rivers apparently loved ‘Country Outta My Girl.’ And they sort of asked if I’d be interested in doing something. And I was like, well YES! [Laughs]. What do ya want to do, ya know? [Laughs]. At the same time, I already had this open-verse challenge out on TikTok as well. I just took the second verse out of ‘Country Outta My Girl’ and said hey, everyone write your own version of whatever that is for you and your relationship. And there were some awesome ones on there. But dude, as soon as I said yes [to Rivers], I got sent the finished vocals in an email! That’s like THE vocals that you hear [on the track]. He wrote all those lyrics, recorded his own vocal, sent it over, and we put it on the mix [laughs]. And, I mean, it was just too cool to not share with the world!” 

The Country and the Coast Side A is produced by Dann Huff, also a gifted songwriter and guitarist in his own right. In one way or another, the Nashvillian has worked with artists like Michael Jackson, Amy Grant, Whitesnake, Whitney Houston, Barbra Streisand, Faith Hill, Kenny Rogers, Lonestar, and Rascal Flatts…and that’s literally just scratching the surface! Before work got underway on his EP, Morgan and Dann got together to play some guitar, with Evans telling Huff, “Look, this is the guitar I write all this stuff on”, and pointing out how he wanted it up-front on the record, “leading the band like it will be when we go out on the road”. 

I asked Morgan if he wouldn’t mind explaining the importance for him – as a songwriter and an artist – of what he had asked for, and then, being able to work with someone of Huff’s status who could make that happen…

“I mean, firstly, Dann Huff is such a legend, for anyone who doesn’t know all the things he’s done. Even I don’t know all the things he’s done! [Laughs]. I keep finding out new amazing things he’s done every day! You know what I said about the Brad Paisley records, his production on those Keith Urban records at the time, those Rascal Flatts records at the time, and I think he did a couple of the Faith Hill ones too, the huge pop hits that crossed over in Australia, the sound of those records – plus Brad Paisley – is probably what made me move to America! Getting to work with a hero of mine like that was a big deal. But at the same time, he has produced, and is producing, a lot of records. So before we recorded I wanted to sort of get to know each other, and made sure that this record sounded like me, and not just a band with me singing on it. I mean, he is maybe my favourite guitar player of all time! To go and sit down with him and just kind of jam, was unreal. We wrote all these guitar parts, particularly that one in ‘Love Is Real’…I mean, there was a riff, and it was kind of like that, but that day it just got exponentially better! When we went into the tracking session with the band, it’s my favourite thing that happens here in Nashville. These musicians are so good, they can do literally anything. And this particular band we had that day was like all my favourite players, from all my favourite records [laughs]. I was like [to Dann], ‘Man, I really like that groove on ‘Born and Raised’, the John Mayer album’. And Dann would be like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s Aaron Sterling, we’ll get him’. Or I’d say. ‘I really love the bass on…blah, blah, blah’, and he’d be like, ‘Oh that’s Jimmy, we’ll get him’ [laughs]. And Tom Bukovac is in there, Jedd Hughes, it was just all my favourite players. So when we went into them, it was really nice to be able to say, ‘Hey, this is what we’re building the band around’. I think that just set us on a good path to make something that really sounded unique and in the spot that I wanted it to sound. I’m really happy with it. Thank you for asking that question.” 

I think my own personal favourite song Side A is definitely Beautiful Tonight. And I think the reason for that is in large part because Morgan has described it as being a continuation of his song Dance With Me, from his Things That We Drink To album. I love that he’s able to – and willing to – give listeners and fans a glimpse into his relationship with wife, Kelsea. And that led me onto a question about Morgan’s songwriting. It’s not uncommon to hear songwriters claim that they actually find it harder to write the happier they are. I wondered if there was anything that affected Morgan’s writing process in that way? Are there times, for instance, when he knows he just won’t be able to write? On the other hand, might there be times when he simply can’t stop? Or, by now, is it something that he’s learned to have full control over, more or less? 

“Man, it’s so funny. It’s so hard…like, I don’t know what it’s like for anyone else, but for me, it’s a combination of, like you said, you just have to sit down and do it. Otherwise, you’ll never do it! [Laughs]. Sometimes you sit down to do it, and it’s just awful. And you know it’s awful [laughs]. But sometimes you sit there when you don’t want to, and something happens! So that’s what you keep showing up for. Every day I get up and with my first cup of coffee, I just write and see what comes out. I try not to judge it. If something comes out, that’s great. Or if it makes me feel something. I appreciate what you said about that song, cos’ that might be my favourite one too. Love songs are so hard to write for me, I think. They’re easy to write, but they’re hard to make like the ones that you think are great. I think it’s because it’s easy to say stuff, but it’s hard to say stuff, AND make it feel good as well. And particularly with that song, I remember I had that melody and the chord changes for the hook – ‘You look beautiful tonight’ – and then we wrote the whole song. I loved the stories in the verses. The co-writers I was writing with were Jordan Reynolds and Parker Welling, two good friends of mine. I was like, ‘Hey, before we record this, let’s have another crack at the chorus, and just see what happens!’ So I started singing that melody, and we had a screen, and Parker just started re-writing the lyrics, tweaking them to fit with the melody. And she was writing the line as I was singing the line [laughs]. And we just sang the whole chorus down! Jordan was pointing up and down with melody. And we all just looked at each other! Writing that chorus is one of my favourite songwriting experiences ever, actually, for that reason. Because no-one knew where it came from. But we were in there, and we decided to have another crack at the chorus. So I guess just showing up is the thing to do, and then try and catch the magic if it’s there.” 

With Morgan being an Aussie, I couldn’t not ask him about the fact that he’s one of the two most famous Australians in American country music right now, the other, of course, being Keith Urban. Keith is someone who Morgan has referenced as being one of his biggest guitar influences (alongside Charlie Worsham). But how important was it for Morgan to see a fellow Australian proving that to be ‘country’ you didn’t have to be born-and-bred in Nashville, or even in America, for that matter? 

“Really important. And you know what, I probably don’t even know how important it was. When you put out your first country song in America, I don’t know what it’s like now, but when I did it sort of four or five years ago, you go around and you visit every country station in America. I mean, hundreds, right. It takes a long time. But every time, I got asked the question, ‘Oh, do you know Keith Urban?’ [Laughs]. Or, ‘Is Keith Urban your hero?’, or ‘Are you friends?’, all that kinda thing [laughs]. And I guess he might have been asked the question [when he was starting out], ‘Well, why is an Australian here?’ So I didn’t have to deal with any of that, which I’m sure is a result of him and his impact and success. I can also attribute a lot to him because my mum dragged me along to one of his shows in my hometown (Newcastle, New South Wales), and my hometown is not a usual stop on an international tour! [Laughs]. He was playing in a little club, with like a hundred people there. We were sitting at these long tables and he came out and played this show that just blew me away! Within a year, he was in the biggest places in Australia and America. But I remember that night as a night that was kind of like the lightbulb coming on. That was like all the old country music I grew up on, and all the rock ‘n’ roll I love, all put together for the first time. Yeah, I have a lot to sort of tip the hat to Keith for, for sure.” 

To end our chat, I wanted to go back to Morgan being on the road with artists like Brett Young, Rascal Flatts, Old Dominion, and the others we had already mentioned earlier in our conversation. I’m sure Morgan learned something different from each and every one, by watching how they conduct themselves and deal with different circumstances and situations. With the trajectory that his own career is on, it won’t be too long before he’s the one in a position to offer such important tour support slots to new and emerging artists, giving them the same kind of chances that Taylor, Dan + Shay and others passed his way. 

So, when that time comes, what two or three things would Morgan like those artists to learn from watching and being around him? 

“[Laughs] Good things! [Laughs]. I think one thing I’ve noticed, especially with the people who have been doing it for longest, is that they’re all extremely decent humans. They’re good to you, as an opening act. They’re good to their people. They’ve surrounded themselves with great people, people that want to be there, that love being there. I think THAT is the biggest thing I’ve learned, and the biggest thing I’ve tried to cultivate in my band and crew. Man, the first tour I did here, I went out completely solo, with no crew, nothing! [Laughs]. It was me, my loop-pedal in a Pelican case, and a backpack guitar-case, that was it. I rented a car, and I chased Cole Swindell [his tour-bus], three shows in a weekend! And remember, in America, they have tour-buses, right, because they drive through the night, covering crazy miles! So I was doing half of it after the show, in my rental car, and half of it the next morning. Cole came up to me at the end of the weekend, and he was like, ‘Man, are you chasing these buses around in a rental car? Why don’t you just jump on one of the buses?!’ [Laughs]. He literally invited me on one of his tour buses, and Chris Young did the same thing. Experiences like that have been everything. Because you hear all these other stories too, like, ‘Oh, the band wouldn’t let the opener use the full volume’, ya know, that kind of stuff. I haven’t seen any of that with any of the people that I really look up to. I just aspire to continue those good vibes wherever I can!” 

~ MORGAN EVANS opens for BRAD PAISLEY at the 3ARENA in Dublin on July 16th. Tickets available from www.ticketmaster.ie 

THE COUNTRY AND THE COAST SIDE A, the latest EP from Morgan Evans is OUT NOW. 

ENDS

Trudi Lalor

NEWS

Press Release via AS Written, June 2022

TRAILBLAZER TRUDI TULLAMORE BOUND

TRUDI (right) with MARGO at a REACH OUT RADIO event.

Country music trailblazer TRUDI LALOR is Tullamore bound. Trudi will join the legendary MARGO when ‘the Queen of Country and Irish’ brings her 70th Birthday Celebration Concert Tour to the Tullamore Court Hotel on July 20th. 

          For country fans in the midlands, the chance to see Margo return to the stage will certainly be one of the highlights of 2022. And with Trudi as one of the special guests on the bill (plus Mick Foster, Moyra Fraser, and Alex Roe), the night will be a magical and memorable experience for all in attendance.  

          Already a much loved and admired performing and recording artist, Trudi is regarded by many as having one of the most powerful and pristine voices ever to grace a country record – or the airwaves – in Ireland. But over the last few years, the Laois native has transformed herself into a veritable virtuoso of the country scene, becoming one of its most influential figures in the process. In fact, if Ireland can boast of anyone who comes even close to the phenomenon that is multi-talented American country star Reba McEntire, then Trudi has the strongest possible claim on that crown. And here’s why. 

          Not only has she maintained her recording career at a consistently stellar level, Trudi – already a noted radio presenter of long-standing as well – has also founded a brand new radio station. And, on top of that, she has been appointed editor of a groundbreaking magazine dedicated exclusively to the world of country music. However, despite having checked each box on that astounding list of achievements, it’s something much more down to earth – very like the lady herself –  that perhaps best highlights the heights she has soared to, and the affection in which she’s held by those on the country scene. 

          And it’s this one simple fact. Like Reba, like Margo, and indeed, like Dolly too, Trudi is known to one and all as just that: Trudi. One word says it all. 

          It’s often said that every major moment in history will somehow find or reveal the individuals capable of rising to the challenges those moments present. Well, when Covid slammed on the brakes of the ‘live’ music industry in 2020, it certainly found Trudi more than ready to meet that moment head on. With husband and manager Billy Morrissey, Trudi organised the Reach-Out project, connecting some of Irish country’s biggest names – including Nathan Carter, Mike Denver, and Cliona Hagan – with fans all around Ireland, and well beyond these shores as well. 

          During a time when all of the normal means of connecting with each other suddenly became impossible, Trudi and Billy’s Reach-Out project found a way to bring people back together. And for many fans, it was these special moments that helped them to hold everything else together too. 

          That initiative has since blossomed into Reach-Out Radio, a national and global online station fully dedicated to country music, both Irish and American, with a sprinkling of Irish ballads and folk music added in for good measure. As well as Trudi’s own self-titled show, the station features Billy Morrissey’s Ballads and Folk Show, The Nashville Connection with Max T. Barnes, Marc Roberts with Country Roads, and Kelly’s Country with host Paul Kelly. And the station is adding to its already impressive line-up of presenters all the time, with Tony Brook and Kerry Fearon also coming on board recently. 

          Sealing the deal on Trudi’s standing as a virtuoso beyond compare in Irish country, was her appointment to the role of Editor on the groundbreaking RSVP Country magazine, which has just celebrated its fourth edition. 

          Returning to Reba for those who may not know much about the Oklahoman, she is – without question – one of the biggest names of all time in American country music. She has been among its leading-lights for decades now, having signed her very first record contract way back in 1975. Since then, Reba has gone on to become one of the genre’s all-time greats with more than thirty studio albums to her name. But her natural creative talents, coupled with a sense of ambition, drive, and work-ethic that perhaps only Dolly could ever match, have also led to Reba becoming a familiar face on both ‘the silver screen’ and Broadway. 

          All in all, Reba has established herself as an artist, an innovator, an entrepreneur, and a businesswoman. And all the while, staying Reba. So as you can see, she and Trudi really do have a lot in common. Whether it’s Reba, or whether it’s Trudi, one word says it all. 

          For country fans who make it to the Tullamore Court Hotel to join Margo in her belated 70th birthday celebrations next month, the opportunity to also enjoy the company of Trudi Lalor will definitely be the icing on the cake! 

~ MARGO’S 70th BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION CONCERT TOUR comes to the Tullamore Court Hotel on July 20th, with Margo joined by very special guests TRUDI LALOR, MICK FOSTER, MOYRA FRASER, and ALEX ROE. Tickets are on sale now from hotel reception, or by calling 05793-46666. 

ENDS

American Young

First Published June 2022

AYII – THE SECOND GO-ROUND

As singer/songwriter duo AMERICAN YOUNGKristy Osmunson and Jon Stone have headlined shows in well over twenty different countries. The pair released their sophomore album – AYII – via MCC/Curb Records in November 2021. Featuring their latest single Country Girls, which was co-written and co-produced with label-mate, Lee Brice, the AYII long-player was crafted in the midst of personal transition and growth for both songwriters, with the result that either or both Osmunson and Stone are credited as co-writers on every track, save for their version of a John Anderson classic.

Kristy and Jon both found success in Nashville before joining forces in 2013. Prior to launching American Young, Osmunson – a fiddle player and former member of vocal group Bomshel – had songs recorded by Joey + Rory, among others; while Stone was an in-demand producer who had cuts recorded by Rascal Flatts , Kenny Chesney , Blake Shelton , and more. Following the release of their self-titled debut for Curb Records, featuring the singles Love Is War and Wasn’t Gonna Drink Tonight, American Young was nominated three years in a row for a British Country Music Association Touring Award, which they won in 2019 solidifying their place as global ambassadors of country music. The duo can also be seen on the first three seasons of the hit E! reality series Very Cavallari.

When we spoke, the pair were soon to be on their way back to the UK for some big dates, including a performance at the Buckles and Boots Festival on June 2nd…

JON

“Yeah, man, we’re lookin’ forward to ’em, we got to get another award too because on our way back last time we broke our award! And they only gave us one! [Laughs]. That was cold [laughs].”

I wondered if there might have been a little champagne involved in that tragedy? 

KRISTY

“[Laughs], No, it was just in luggage, I didn’t pack it right…apparently! [Laughs].” 

JON

“But yeah, we’re excited about it, we’ve got a lot of friends over there. It’s funny, cos’ our drummer, Chris, is actually here – he’s on the couch here behind us – he’s a Brit!” 

KRISTY to CHRIS

“Chris, where exactly is your home over there?” 

In the background, Chris waves at the laptop and responds to Kristy by confirming his hometown as Peterborough, prompting both Kristy and Jon to repeat it in their best British accents! 

JON

“Chris slept on my couch in a full suit last night! That’s the American way [laughs].” 

KRISTY

“This is really exciting for us, to be coming back over there. Our music over there is honestly a bit more understood than even in the US right now, which is interesting. So we’re doing an album release party in London. We actually got some vinyls pressed up, and that’s the first time I’ve ever been part of having a vinyl, so that’s exciting too.” 

JON

“This is the record right here [holds up a vinyl copy of AYII].” 

KRISTY

“So for anybody who likes to listen to actual albums…” 

JON

“I thought you were gonna say music! I was like, ‘That’s some egotistical sh*t! [laughs]. Anybody who actually likes music, we got ya, right here! [Laughs].” 

KRISTY

[Laughs] Yeah, so that’s exciting. And this was a really fun process. And we got to record a music video at a honky tonk, and we also did one here where the vinyl lab is, that was cool and really fun to be a part of!” 

I was one of the band’s many fans on this side of the world eagerly waiting for their AYII album to finally drop, and when it did, it didn’t disappoint! Jon and Kristy’s new single – Country Girls (co-written and co-produced by Lee Brice) – is, I think it’s fair to say, kind of a different song for American Young. Before getting onto the video that accompanies the single, the one filmed at a honky tonk as Kristy had just referenced, I asked the pair to tell me about the song itself and how it came to be…

KRISTY

“So, once upon a time, back in the 90s, there was a song that went, [sings], ‘Tonight will be the night that I will fall for you…’ Do you remember that song?” 

JON

“It’s [a band called] Secondhand Serenade, a guy called John Vesely …” 

KRISTY

“They were a huge emo band, maybe it was like the 2000s? Honestly, I think that dude launched MySpace!” 

JON

“Yeah, he was a MySpace artist, that’s how he blew up. So me, him, and Lee [Brice] got together one day, and I just had this groove on the bass and that’s how the whole thing started! Then Lee started goin’, ‘Livin’, workin’, drinkin’, shine sippin’/ Ain’t much to figure out / Quick-thinkin’, not blinkin’ /Knock you out…’, and I was thinkin’ whoa, that’s fun! [Laughs]. So we got through it, wrote a chorus, and Kristy was like, ‘I want to write a rap!’ I said, ‘Kristy, that’s crazy talk!’ And then she did! And I was like, ‘Well…that sounds awesome!’ 

KRISTY

There ya go!” 

JON

“And then we wrote this fiddle-line, and it all came alive in the studio. And it’s so much fun! It is different for us, but the ‘Love Is War’, and that real Americana sound that we cut our teeth on, is absolutely a part of our sound still, and will always be. But with everybody, there’s an evolution to it [the band’s sound]. We’re at the point in our lives, I think, where we’re wantin’ to have fun, ya know. Do groovy stuff! I just want to write some groovy stuff [laughs]. Stuff that’s fun ‘live’, have people dance, have a good time. This is not crazy, heavy, overly-thought country music, which I love…” 

KRISTY

“And seeing as how our world is at war, we probably don’t want to talk about it much, we want to sing. This is dancing music! [Laughs]. I don’t want to hear about any more bad stuff.” 

JON

“Yeah, so it’s just fun, ya know. I think ‘Country Girls’ will propel us into our next record, which is gonna be really fun. There’s gonna be splashes of that tight harmony thing that we do, we just love doin’ that. It comes so naturally. That’s always gonna be a part of our sound.” 

KRISTY

“And it was really fun to include John Vesely in the country music area. I was a huge fan of his back when I first started music, ya know, that was like the sad break-up music of my youth!”

JON

“It was like super-emo, cry… [laughs].” 

KRISTY

Yes! And then his wife is [now] one of my dear friends, and she’s about to have a baby.” 

JON

“Chris is our baby! [Laughs]. We’re blocking the doorway so that he can’t leave! [Laughs].” 

KRISTY

“We’re stealing one of yours [laughs].” 

I gently pointed out that I was actually Irish, but reassured Kristy that I knew what she meant and we’d be happy to offer Chris refuge, if need be! 

JON

“Well, he kind of is [one of yours], cos’ he’s not an American citizen [laughs]. He’s on a visa, but we may keep him [laughs].” 

KRISTY

“I’m introducing him to all of my friends, so hopefully he’ll find a wife over here!” 

JON

“She’s tryin’ to make everybody have babies!” 

KRISTY

[Laughs] I just had my second and it’s my favourite thing in life! I highly recommend it, it’s the best part about life. Go get yourself a couple! [Laughs].” 

JON

“I’m sorry, Anthony!”

KRISTY

“[Laughs]” 

The video for Country Girls is a real tip-of-the-hat to 90s country, in the most good-humoured and good-natured way. If the video was anything as much fun to make as it is to watch, then I had probably already answered my next question! But the fun element aside – and possibly the retro vibe around 90s country at the moment – what inspired Kristy and Jon to take the video in this direction? 

JON

“Well, it’s crazy, but I had a dream about this. You remember that, Kristy? I was forcing this down everybody’s throat for soooo long!” 

KRISTY

“Yep, Jon had a vision on this one!” 

JON

“I was like, I need to have a mullet, like an Alan Jackson type mullet! And they fought me on it. And I really wanted a moustache!” 

KRISTY

“We hired the girl who does Ronnie Dunn’s hair, Ronnie from Brooks & Dunn! [Laughs].” 

JON

“Yeah! And it just kind of came together the way it did. We met in the middle a lot. It would have been a little more whacky in my brain! But I’ll tell ya…I was sweating like a stuck hog!” 

KRISTY

“It was HOT!” 

JON

“Cos’ I was movin’ so much! And I’m old! [Laughs].”

KRISTY

“There were these amazing TikTok dancers that they got for this video, and they were helping us out. And it was so crazy, because all of a sudden we were like halfway through the day, and we sit down for lunch and I start talking to these kids, and all of a sudden I’m realising that these are the same people I watch on TikTok! And they were actually in OUR video. I didn’t even realise it. People in real-life are so different than when they’re on a little, tiny screen, right? Anyway, it was incredible the amount of talent that lended their talent for this video. I mean, there were dancers from Florida, LA, from everywhere! They were all helping us and having a great time. And the girl who choreographed the dance, she’s been amazing because I feel like line-dancing is such a pivotal part of country music…” 

JON

“It’s a very linear thing… [laughs]” 

KRISTY

“[Laughs] But it is! [Laughs]. It’s a very pivotal part of this industry, and for… God, I don’t know how many years… it’s been out of it! We haven’t had line-dancing…” 

JON

“Oh yeah, they have. All over the country except for Nashville.” 

KRISTY

“Yeah! It’s crazy.” 

JON

“In England, and the UK, it’s probably a new thing over there, huh?” 

Actually, it had been huge here, in Ireland, that is – and to the best of my knowledge, it had been in the UK too – for a long time, especially back in the 90s and early 2000s. But it’s something that kind of fell away…

KRISTY

“It’s fun to see that, like, New Zealand has their version of it, and all over the world people have their ways of doing things. I think, down here, it’s really interesting that in the fraternities they have different line-dances and cultural ideas that they’ll do. Hillbillies and rednecks up here in Nashville, we always enjoy adding our spin to it. So ‘Country Girls’ was our statement on that [laughs].” 

JON

“And you know what? The record sounded so good. John Vesely, and all of us…” 

KRISTY

“Lee [Brice] is such a freakin’ genuis! And John, both of ’em! It was great to be a student, literally, it was great.” 

JON

“The record sounds great, just the sonic sound of the record, there was some special things that I tried on that record. Like, I’m playin’ bass on ‘Country Girls’…” 

KRISTY

“He’s my favourite bass player in this town!” 

JON

“That’s not true. She doesn’t know any bass players! [Laughs].” 

Jon and Kristy are co-writers on every track of AYII, except for their version of John Anderson‘s beautiful 1992 song, Seminole Wind. With both Jon and Kristy being such cool writers themselves, and given that there are just so many gorgeous songs out there from other writers, past and present, I was curious to know what had earned Seminole Wind its spot on this collection…

JON

“Well, I mean it still has the same relevance.” 

Seminole Wind has been described as having naturalist overtones, lamenting the destruction of the environment by humans for economic gain. 

Deborah Evans Price, reviewing the song for Billboard magazine after its release in 1992, called it a “vividly imagistic song”, also saying that it “conveys feelings of urgency and great loss without being self-righteous or preachy.”

KRISTY

Going into Disney World, for me – as a human – driving into Disney World…” 

JON

“As opposed to a cat driving into Disney World…!” 

KRISTY

[Laughs] But they’ve taken all this marsh-land and just turned it into pavement! You know what I mean? Parking lots. It’s really crazy to see the environmental impact that we’re having as America, as we’re developing. I think we need to be environmentally conscious.” 

JON

“And we just like the song, ya know. We love the song. That’s really the short answer. A friend of ours said, ‘You should really do this’, and we were like, ‘Wow! That’s a great idea! Then we worked it out. And that fiddle part, and I had to work out that piano part on the guitar, and it just happened to sound good!” 

KRISTY

“And we got to record it in the original space that John Anderson recorded it, which was really cool. We were listening to the stories of the people who had worked on the original record, it was fun.” 

JON

“And it’s funny, because on every record…well, on all our TWO records [laughs]… it seems like we enjoy tipping our hat to country music by doin’ a cover, ya know. And it’s brought us an audience too.” 

KRISTY

“And I will say, I didn’t know ‘Piece of My Heart’ until Faith Hill did it!” 

JON

“Oh my God! Well that’s just embarrassing! [Laughs].” 

KRISTY

“But it’s a generational thing. I was born before the internet, you guys! [Laughs].” 

With our allotted time just about to run out – and trust me, I could have stayed talking to these guys all day long, they’re so cool and so lovely – I wondered if they each had a favourite song on the new album? 

JON

“Ya know, that changes. I love ‘Country Girls’, but I’d say ‘Let You Down’. 

KRISTY

Yeah, ‘Let You Down’ is my favourite.” 

JON

“It’s just one I keep goin’ back to. That chorus just slams, and Victor Wooten playin’ bass…it’s crazy!” 

KRISTY

“Halleujah!” 

AYII, the brand new album from AMERICAN YOUNG, is OUT NOW. 

ENDS

Margo

NEWS

Press Release via AS Written, June 2022

MARGO READY TO MEET MIDLANDS FRIENDS AGAIN

MARGO, the ‘Queen of Country and Irish’

For country music fans in the midlands, one of the biggest nights of the year – and one of the most eagerly anticipated as well – is now only weeks away as the legendary MARGO prepares to return to Tullamore next month. 

          Margo, whose place in Irish entertainment history is already eternally enshrined, will perform at the Tullamore Court Hotel on July 20th as one of the stops on her 70th Birthday Celebration Concert Tour

          Known affectionately within the country scene as the ‘Queen of Country and Irish’, Margo‘s honesty about her life and times – both onstage and off – has endeared ‘the girl from Donegal’ to fans for decades now, including many for whom country music might otherwise have held less appeal. 

         

Speaking a few years back, on the occasion of a special tour to celebrate her fifty-five years in music, Margo talked about returning to touring after being off the road for a while. In what offered a good indication of how she probably feels about hitting the road again after the music industry’s Covid lay-off, Margo made her love for her fans – and indeed, her acknowledgement of their love for her – very clear…

          “You know the thing I would miss most – cos’ I’d always still sing away – but the thing I’d miss most is not being out there and touring, being with the people. I really missed that contact. My audience are very loving, they’re very caring people who come to see me. And I sort of know a lot of them on a personal basis, they’re more than fans to me. They’re really friends that I’ve got to know on the road to where I am today.” 

          At that time, Margo also went on to say, “I suppose when I look back, I can remember the very beginning [of my career], and it doesn’t seem that long ago, even though it’s fifty-five years. It’s kind of unreal. When I started out, I never, ever thought that I would still be singing the way I am this far down the line.” 

         

With this tour celebrating her 70th birthday (she was born on February 6th, 1951, but the original dates on this tour were postponed due to Covid), no-one can doubt Margo’s love of performing for her many friends and fans all around Ireland is still as strong as ever.

To help her celebrate her big night in Tullamore, Margo will be joined by some dear friends who are also stars of the Irish country scene. Namely Reach Out radio co-founder TRUDI LALOR, and MICK FOSTER of Foster & Allen, with Mick being joined by his true ‘better-half’, his wife, MOYRA FRASER. Young star ALEX ROE – whom Trudi mentored all the way to the final of TG4’s Glór Tíre in 2020 – is also expected to make an appearance on the night. 

~ MARGO performs at the TULLAMORE COURT HOTEL on her 70th BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION CONCERT TOUR, on JULY 20th. Tickets are ON-SALE NOW from hotel reception, or by calling 05793-46666

ENDS

Dave McCune

NEWS

Press Release via AS Written, June 2022

DAVE AND FRIENDS ‘LAMENT FOR UKRAINE’

MENTOR HAZIRI and DAVE McCUNE on stage in Albania

While most of us watch helplessly as the brave people of Ukraine battle Russian aggression, six musicians have decided to remain helpless no more. And, as a result, they collected a special award at the Albanian Video Music Awards in Montenegro on May 27th. 

          These musicians have reacted to this still unfolding tragedy by pouring their hearts into their craft and creating a stunning portrait of the pain of war. Their song, LAMENT FOR UKRAINE – which features the Albanian popstar Mentor Haziri – is their version of the Ukrainian folk song Verbovaya Doschechka, The Willow Board.

          

“In the early weeks of the Ukrainian war”, recalls DAVE McCUNE, one of those Irish musicians involved, “myself and my partner, Joey Moore, heard the harrowing news reports of women and children leaving Ukraine, leaving behind their husbands, their fathers, their sons…  to fight. And not knowing if they would ever see them again. Those reports left their mark on both of us. We felt helpless, but wanted to do something.”

          Dave revealed that he had first heard the Ukrainian folk song Verbovaya Doschechka when he saw the YouTube video Violinists Across the World Play for Ukraine. In that video, a lone violinist in his basement shelter in Ukraine plays a haunting melody, and is then joined virtually by a host of violinists from all over the world in an act of support and defiance. One of those violinists was Irish musician Lynda O’Connor. 

          Lynda is a wonderful violinist, and we work together regularly”, Dave continued. “Lynda shared their version of ‘Verbovaya Doschechka’ featuring Ukrainian violinist Illia Bondarenko and musicians from all across the world. That was the first time I’d heard ‘Verbovaya Doschechka’, and when we decided to record our version, Lynda was happy to take part. Joey and I wrote the English lyrics for ‘Lament for Ukraine’ and the second verse, sung by Mentor, is the original Ukrainian lyric.”

          

“Mentor”, revealed Dave, “was a teenager during the Kosovo War and literally fled for his life. Even though he was safely evacuated, he helped Kosovo refugees in Macedonia. He went from there to Australia as a refugee, and later returned to Kosovo to find his family alive. When I visited him in Kosovo in 2018, we passed one village in particular, Racak, the scene of a massacre which was the tipping point for NATO becoming involved”

        Also featured on Lament for Ukraine is Sharon Gaynor, a freelance singer who regularly appears with the RTE Concert Orchestra. In keeping with the personal nature of this project, Sharon’s husband, Eric Campbell, shot the video footage of Sharon here in Ireland.

          Session guitarist Dave Molloy, played electric guitar – featured on the track’s extended instrumental ending – and Albanian musician Keli Guga played the haunting Persian bamboo flute, the ‘Duduk’, with Dave McCune himself producing Lament for Ukraine, and also playing percussion, drums and bass guitar.

          With the project’s main intention being to further highlight the heart-breaking pain Ukraine is currently suffering, Mentor and Dave had the chance to do exactly that on the international stage on May 27th. They were invited to perform Lament for Ukraine at the Albanian Music Video Awards in Ulcinj, Montenegro, where they also received a special award for the song. 

~ You can view the official LAMENT FOR UKRAINE video by searching Lament For Ukraine (Verbovaya Doschechka) on YouTube.

ENDS