Friday, August 16, 2013



When I got off work on Friday night and climbed in my car to head towards Louisburg, I had no idea the craziness that was ahead of me and when I say crazy, I mean full blown cray cray, y'all! I expected a great interview with Tate Stevens, winner of the X Factor (it's Tate, how can it not be a great time?) and expected your typical outdoor concert, no different than others I've covered before but someone had other plans for me, that's for sure! In a HUGE way!

I arrived into Wake Forest, NC on Friday night, had a great dinner, caught some zzz's, nothing different, same old blah blah. I roll out of bed around noon (yes, I said noon, stop judging me), put on the least amount of clothing I can wear without scaring anyone or showing too much of my too much so I settled on a pair of jean Capri's and a thin gauzy material blouse because it was a scorcher outside already. I went to enjoy a solo sushi lunch, solo because my photographer, Anthony, wasn't able to make it until later, if at all. Solo lunches suck, can I just tell you? You walk in, you're the only one in the entire restaurant and the host looks as you and says, "just one for lunch?". Yes, it's just me, thanks for the reminder. So I sit down in my lonely corner booth, take a sip of my lonely non-alcoholic drink and check my email like any loner does while having a solo lunch. WHAM! There it is, an email from Joe Diffie's management saying they can work out an interview after all! I think I nearly snorted my piece of sushi! After catching my breath, I realized HEY! You're gonna meet and get personal time with His Royal Diffie-ness, the Diffster! No, this isn't 1994 but the real Joe Diffie is gonna stand up and it's gonna be right next to me, in about 2 hours! WHAT? HUH? I check my drink, nope no alcohol so I'm perfectly lucid and read the email correctly. How in the heck am I gonna come up with a great interview in 2 hours? I guess I'll just be random and off the cuff as usual and hope he doesn't ask himself what he was thinking letting some random Southern blond sit down with him and yack his poor ears off. LOL! 

Fast forward an hour later ...

I'm driving down the road towards Norris Creek and notice that the sky isn't as Carolina blue as it was when I left, it's more like a gray impending cloud of death. This can't be good, should I head back home? Heck no! Tate Stevens AND Joe Diffie? Totally worth any amount of rain, thunderboomers and volts of electricity shooting from the sky! I'm not that weak! I can dodge the bolts! I am country invincible! I pull in, walk down the hill and see a great crowd building ...

but as soon as I get to the stage and stake out my spot to hang until interview time, BOOM! Thunder, the most lightning I've ever seen in a storm and blinding rain and that same crowd scattered like ants, leaving only a few brave (or crazy) people standing. Speaking of crazy, what do I do? I stand there holding a pocket sized umbrella with a metal rod attached which is basically a big sign saying "I'm here, hit me! Strike me!". Yeah, I'm not the brightest Crayola you'll ever meet. Even brighter than me, were the handful people that actually stayed sitting in the middle of this field in metal lawn chairs and covered themselves with plastic while bolts of cloud to ground lightning hit all around them yelling JOE DIFFIE!". Now that's wanting your country bad!

I made quick friends with the band guys, the roadies and that guy, you know the one, the one with SECURITY on his shirt. You'd think I'd feel SECURE with SECURITY, right? Here's a bit of the conversation as we huddled together underneath a blue tarp and watched the lightning strike everywhere around us and the cables surrounding us on the ground started to disappear in the deepening water ... Me: "I'm not cool with this, home girl doesn't play monsoon or tornadoes" ... Security dude: "Ya know, the last time I saw clouds like this, it really was a tornado" ... Me: "Ya know, I don't like you." ... Security dude: "No really, you see that cloud on the left, watch the direction it's moving. You see that cloud on the right, watch it, it's rotating towards the other cloud, that's a funnel cloud." ... Me: "You're not making me feel SECURE Mr. Security! I really am not your friend right now" ... Security dude: "Laughs (like this is really funny, right?) ... you see that huge rock? It's a conductor, gets hit every storm, you can feel it all over the field".... Me: "Ok, I hate you, I'm moving now."  ... as we're discussing our impending electrocutions, one of the guys on stage actually gets a hell of a shock when he grabs a cable, knocks him for a loop. I've got to say, these guys don't get nearly enough appreciation for what they do. Roadies, stagehands and security deserve hazard pay for sure! I have a whole new appreciation for them. They were also great guys, took awesome care of me and made sure I wasn't killed. Finally, at the worst of the storm, another security dude comes and takes me backstage, tells me to find a safe place out of the weather and takes me into a room which happens to be Tate's "green room". Well ok, I'm good with this. The door opens and in walks Tate. He's quite the good lookin' fella with a smile that hits ya right in the soft spot and causes your heart to just melt. I stretch out my hand and introduce myself, not even realizing I'm soaked to the skin in this smart choice of a thin shirt I'd worn and was chattering from freezing. He offers me something to drink and a bite to eat. What a gentleman! I guess I wasn't too bad appearance wise, he actually stayed and we had a great interview. (Excuse the background noise which is actually buckets of rain on the tin roof of the building we were in, it's hard to interview in a monsoon!) What a charming guy, so genuine and just honest in what he says, his passion for music, his deep love of his family and his appreciation for life in general is more than evident. He's probably one of the most personable and honest artists I've interviewed. We wrapped up the interview and I head out to shoot some pics from his meet and greet. These fans LOVE Tate, I mean LOVE Tate. I can't blame them, I'm one of them and love how just honestly refreshing he is.

So, after the meet and greet, Tate takes the stage and the only word I can say, which probably isn't even a real word, is WOWSA! His voice is so fluid, powerful and amazingly clear. He did not miss a note and when he holds a note, he holds that note with every bit of strength he has in him and his voice does not waiver or falter. He performed his hit single, "Power of a Love Song" and man did that song have exactly that, power. It had the power not only vocal wise but just in what the song says. I admit, it made me a little misty. He can belt a song and you know it's coming from a special place inside, a place that is reserved for his deep love of what he does, the depth of his soul. I know that sounds cheesy, but it's the honest truth and it's so evident when watching him how much he just loves music and make people happy and they were happy, trying to shake his hand, singing along to every word of songs like "Holler If You're With Me", "I Got This", "Sweet" and the song that started it all on The X Factor, his version of Randy Houser's "Anything Goes". I gotta say, he was such a nice change from the standard of today's modern country. He's not about drinking, he's not about partying, he's just about the music and I think he's what country's been missing and I think he's brought back a love of country that many of us, myself included, had long forgotten. Thank you for that, Tate.

I head back inside to get ready for the interview with Joe and as I come in the door, I look up and lock eyes with the Diffster! I think I swallowed my tongue. Growing up in the 80's and 90's, Joe Diffie is one of those responsible for starting my passion for country and I have so much appreciation for him. He was the absolute coolest guy I've ever met and SUCH a nice guy. What struck me first, aside from the prettiest eyes I've seen up close, was that he was wearing a Tate Stevens shirt and supporting his friend! How awesome is that! What other headliner have you ever seen wearing a shirt promoting his opener? The man is funny, love his sense of humor and how he just opens up. He's so real and down to earth, very humble. We just had a great conversation. I'm so thankful to him for taking the time to sit with a pitiful looking wet puppy dog of a girl who decided that he was totally worth a possible lightning strike. I think I have a slight crush on him. Shhhh ... he doesn't need to know.

When he came out to take the stage, I was standing by the fence at the stairs to the stage listening to the crowd, which has now filled out, yelling "DIFFIE! DIFFIE!". He walks by me and you know I have to say something, so I tell him "Go kick some country ass Diffie, show them what REAL country sounds like." He stops, walks over and gives me a huge bear hug. My night has just gotten better. He walked on stage, started off with "Third Rock from The Sun" and some other hits like "Honky Tonk Attitude", "John Deere Greene", his latest single "Girl Ridin' Shotgun" and he actually let a guy come on stage and live his dream of singing a duet with him. What a great moment. Security headed up and was waved off as Joe and his drunk protege belted out a song together. This is why fans love Joe, he's one of them, he is friendly and interacts with his fans, and treats them like friends. After all these years, he's still got it and I think he's even got more of it! He brought real, scuff your boots country back to everyone's mind for at least one night and we're thankful for it. 

What a great night, can't say I've ever  been to a more genuinely country show with just great music. Even the drunks calmed down and were well behaved, except for the jackass I belted in the jaw on the way out, but all in all, they were all there just to enjoy good times, classic country and two fantastic artists. Both Joe and Tate brought back that country feeling that I remember having when country was really getting started, the music made you pay attention and it wasn't all about filler and stage antics. Thank you America for choosing Tate as winner of the X Factor and giving him this chance he's earned and allowing the rest of the world to see this amazing talent and thank you to Thomas Rhett for writing the Jason Aldean hit, "1994" that made the real Joe Diffie stand up again. Joe Joe Joe Diffieeee!

And by the way, Norris Creek is a fantastic venue run by some great people. It's an outdoor entertainment complex with camping areas, a playground for the kids, a huge open field with a great stage set up and great acoustics. There is plenty of room for artist buses and crew vehicles, parking, vendors like Bojangles and others. I highly recommend catching a show there or if you're an artist or booking agent, performing there.

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