VENUE: Marine Cadillac Chevy - Jacksonville, NC
REVEIWER: Jennifer Smith
Follow Jenn on Twitter at @lovinlyrics
When we arrived, we immediately noticed this was going to be a more intimate event with maybe 100 people or less. YES! Intimate shows are the best shows ever! We took our seats just about the time the artists took the stage and for a small intimate crowd, they were a loud one. Now if you've never been to a writer's round, they're different than your typical show. The writers all sit on stage together, and they go down the line, telling the story behind the song, performing that song and then the next artist does the same thing and it keeps rotating until the end of the show.
One thing about songwriter's rounds, sometimes even though the songs are wonderful, the writers aren't always the best vocalists. This was not the case here. All of the artists were fantastic.
David Kroll, a singer/songwriter born in Iowa and transplanted to Nashville, is known for his 2012 appearance on "The X Factor" TV show. He made it through the auditions and performed his song, "Little Soldiers" for the celebrity judges, including Simon Cowell. He was a hit with all judges (even got a smile instead of the well known scowl from Simon) and got a standing ovation for his performance. He's written songs for many artists, including hits for Easton Corbin, Billy Currington and Mark Wills.
David performed some great music, what a great voice and he's very personable. There were 2 songs that really stood out to me, the first one being his signature "Little Soldiers", which really hit home being that this event was honoring our military and the crowd was probably 90% military families. There were quite a few tears. The second song was "Something in My Pocket". This song was awesome! It started out telling the story of a couple on a date, he's dressed up and telling his date how special she is, how he had something in his pocket that was gonna make her cry and how he considered himself the happiest guy in Tennessee and assures her she's never gonna forget tonight. She stops him in mid-sentence and says if it's a ring, the answer is an emphatic hell no, telling him he can't provide the material things she needs. She's not interested, doesn't want it, and is just mean about it. He continues the story to let her know that he appreciates her honesty, but what's in his pocket isn't a ring but a multi-million dollar winning lottery ticket. He's still the luckiest man in Tennesse and what was in his pocket was still gonna make her cry as he waved bye bye. GREAT SONG! I really wish this one was available on iTunes.
Doug Johnson is a well known, prolific Nashville songwriter, musician, producer and engineer. He has worked with the biggest names in the business including Ricky Skaggs, Dolly Parton, Joe Diffie, Collin Raye and others. He was signed by Mike Curb at the age of 16 as a songwriter and his career took off from there and has made him one of the most respected names in the business. His hits include "Three Wooden Crosses" (Randy Travis), "She Won't Be Lonely Long" (Clay Walker), "Love Like Crazy" (Lee Brice) and one of his most meaningful, "Til the Last Shot's Fired" which was recorded by Trace Adkins and is the song used by the Wounded Warrior Project in it's commercials. Doug is currently the head of A&R at Black River Records and is working with Kelsea Ballerini, John King, and Kellie Pickler to name a few. This guy's resume is more than impressive, it's historical. He received an extended standing ovation when he performed "Til the Last Shot's Fired" which made a big impact with the military families in attendance. There was complete silence during the entire song. To quote Jennifer Lopez, it gave me "goosies".
Tommy Garrett, who also happens to be the WRNS program director / "head honcho" / "man with the plan", is also a songwriter, recently signed to Blue Guitar Music Publishing. His song, "Don't Give Up On Me" was written with Stokes Nielson of the Lost Trailers and was released by the band in January 2013. The song comes from a personal experience in Tommy's life, a near fatal car accident that left him hospitalized and in a coma for over a month. He recalls the emotional toll it took on his family, especially his wife and says he simply asked one thing of her, to not give up on him because he would be back to normal soon.. She didn't give up and Tommy didn't give up and he took that experience and put it to song. He also performed a song with his daughter about their connection since the day she was born and the history they would build through the years together. His wife and daughter are also musically inclined and provided vocal harmonies on a couple of songs. He's got mad keyboard skills too.
The crowd was especially enthusiastic to see Steve Holy, who has taken intermittent time off over the past few years to raise his daughters and spend time with his family. His voice has been missing from country music for awhile now and it was obvious by the level of applause and 3 standing ovations that fans want him back. He opened his set with a song that is personally one of my favorites, it's one that shows his personality in a HUGE way and coined the term "Pucker Punch" - "Hauled Off and Kissed Me". The crowd loved it. I gotta tell you, his is a voice that you have to really hear live to truly appreciate how strong and clear it is. I knew he was great but he blew me away. My mom looked at me with her mouth hanging open and said "now THAT is the good stuff." She's hooked. His longtime band mates, Adam Ricker and James Watkins, are not only fantastic musicians, their harmonies are tighter than Luke Bryan's skinny jeans. Next up was one of the most played songs on country radio, his #1 hit, "Good Morning Beautiful" and this was the first of his 3 standing ovations. He broke out a new emotional tune called "Mama", which is basically a phone call between a son and his mother put to music. The song will tug at your heartstrings as you listen to the story, asking yourself if you've thanked your mother enough for all she's done for you. I cried. This song has HUGE potential. I posted the video on my Facebook page and it's gotten nothing but positive response. I hope to see this one released as a single in the future. This was his second standing ovation of the night. Then, the crazy happened. Now Steve and I met through social media about 3 years ago when I helped him do some promoting for "Hauled Off" and this working relationship turned into over 300 conversations and a close personal friendship that I am so thankful for every day. So, back to the crazy ... not only was this the first time I'd heard him perform live, it was also the first time we'd met in person so it was already an emotional night for me. He knows that "Love Don't Run" has a special place in my heart and has changed me as a person for the better. He decided at the last minute to change up the set list and play that for me. Uh oh. I knew this couldn't end well for makeup. Not only did he decide to play it, he also decided to tell the room how we met and that I was in the crowd and made me stand up! Homegirl gets totally embarrassed in situations like this, I mean I turn every shade of red imaginable and can't breathe. I stood up and got through it without bursting out in a nervous fit of 9 year old little girl giggles. Thank God! So he sang the song, I cried my eyes out and stood up along with everyone else in the room in applause. He rounded out his set with a song that his label didn't want to cut, they didn't like it but he went ahead and released it based on his faith in the song and that song, "Brand New Girlfriend" went straight to #1, proving that fact that the professionals don't always get it right. And that was ovation #3.
What a fantastic night, much better than any arena show I could ever go to because it had meaning, it gave life to the songs by those who created them. It made me realize just how much love I have for music and just how powerful it can be. I have such a respect for the people that write and play these songs that make up the day to day soundtrack of my own personal life and don't think they get nearly enough credit. Thank you WRNS for bringing it all back home for me.
Find out more about each artist online:
David Kroll - http://davidkrollmusic.com/
Twitter - @David_Kroll
Facebook - www.facebook.com/KrollPatrol
Tommy Garrett - http://www.wrns.com/page.php?page_id=107
Steve Holy - www.steveholy.com
Twitter - @steveholy
Facebook - www.facebook.com/steveholy
Tune into WRNS 95.1 FM in eastern NC or online at www.wrns.com