How We Choose The Artists On The Southern Rock Cruise
As a co-producer and seeker of talent for the Southern Rock Cruise I have been asked to write a few words on how we find and decide which artists to book. The headliners like Skynyrd, Dickey Betts , Blackberry Smoke etc., of course are all obvious choices. Having been an artist manager for the last 30 plus years finding new talent has always been the best part of my job. I find the same passion in discovering and sharing the next round of bookings with our cruise family. They come from recommendations by a broad range of fan requests, other artist/manager recommendations, booking agency relationships, and stumbling across a cool video on the interweb.
I should tell you first one of my earliest introductions to this music was stumbling into the Monroe Louisiana Civic Center as an 18 year old in the mid 70’s and hearing Wet Willie. I did not have enough musical IQ to understand exactly what I was hearing but I knew it was incredible and life changing! A trip to the local record store the next day and a visit with the owner who had great taste continued my discovery. Being able to bring Wet Willie on the first SRC Cruise and have Jimmy back this year to perform and host was a full circle bucket list check off for me. Here are some of examples of the paths to a few of the artists that I hope you will come to love as much as I do.
A few months back I was emailed an invite from a publicist to see Kyle Daniel play a showcase in Nashville. If you are in the music biz you get tons of these and don’t make it to many. The Rolling Stone Magazine quote about this “artist you need to know” in the invite got my attention. I clicked the link to hear his new music. After the first track I stopped what I was doing and put on the headphones to listen to the whole project. That took me to the bio and the realization that Kyle had played in the Wet Willie Band with Jimmy on our first SRC cruise. I missed the showcase but called Jimmy to see how it went. Jimmy reported the club was packed, the band killed it and Kyle’s singing blew him away. When Jimmy Hall is complimenting a guy's singing that’s ‘nuff said. It was such success that The Basement booked him in their larger venue the next week. I made this one and all the hype on his talent was confirmed. If you like the country side of Dickey Betts, I think you are going to love seeing Kyle with his band. He will be back on stage backing Jimmy as well.
I have always been a big fan of the music from Muscle Shoals, Alabama. It was the first place I got to sit in on a big time recording session. Barry Beckett, the great piano player/producer and one of Skynyrd’s “Swampers” signed the first act I ever managed. This saved a young manager from washing out of the music business. If you have not seen the documentary “Muscle Shoals” check it out on a streaming service. I was Google searching some Shoals history and ran across Bishop Gunn. Muscle Shoals Sound Studio had been reopened and they had been one of the first acts back to record there. They had a great video about the making of their new music. After checking out the website I found they are a bunch of talented Natchez, MS guys and had a show coming up in my hometown of Franklin, TN. One of the heads of WME- the prestigious talent agency- had signed them and this was their Nashville showcase. The venue was sold out with half music business types and the rest a bunch of die hard raucous Mississippians. They had made their way up the Natchez Trace to support their band. These guys are rock stars. Excellent musicianship and a live show you will not want to miss. Check out the link to see the short clip I found them with. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEMFzHyGSJ4
The Steel Woods
A longtime agent friend of mine at CAA emailed me after we had all the talent booked for the first cruise about Steel Woods. After we got back from the sailing he must have emailed once a week saying I had to book these guys. This agent has much larger acts on the roster. When you see an agent paying this much attention to his developing artist you know there is some passion there. Before I got around to seeing their live performance I got an email from Skynyrd and Blackberry Smoke telling me how great they are as well. This band's career is on the rise. Go check them out online and you will see why.
The Cowboy Poets
Many of you “Simple Man Cruisers” were familiar with these guys way before me. I think I saw 50 fan requests for “Bone Pony” and knew of them from their previous band days. I could not find any current info on them but did find reference to a “Cowboy Poets” link. I had already decided a band called The Cowboy Poets could never play a Southern Rock Cruise but I clicked on a video link of them performing Maybelline anyway. These guys may be poets but I’ve never seen a cowboy play slide guitar like Nick. Fan favorites on the “Simple Man Cruises” as Bone Pony and now fan favorites on the SRC as The Cowboy Poets. Great to have these guys back again. Here is the link to the Maybelline video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYTJOnD0SqA
I did not have to work hard to find one of my favorite all time female vocalist. I’ve been watching Jonell since finding her playing the Nashville club scene when I first got to town in the early '80s. If you love blue-eyed rocking soul singers you will not want to miss any of her shows. Her vocals and energy on stage have often been compared to Janis Joplin but that is almost too easy of a reference. She can find a place in her voice for the most intimate lyrics of a Townes Van Zant song or raise the roof with those powerful vocal chops singings a Joplin cover. Heaven for me is Jonell on stage singing with Jimmy Hall. I’ll bet you a shot at the back pool bar that happens a couple of times during the week. I’ll bet you another shot you will tell your friends about her when you get home.
Mike Robertson, Music Consultant