She spent her childhood traveling the country with her school teacher parents. He was the son of a Baptist preacher who attended 18 schools. They both spent their formative years constantly meeting new people and seeing new places. In 1990 she was a college sophomore and he an aspiring musician. They found each other and ran away together to seek their fortune. Today Steve is the singer/songwriter for Nashville recording artists Hillbilly Vegas and Monica teaches 1st grade. These are their travel adventures.
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The weather is FINALLY getting right…our album is FINALLY finished and should be back from the FINAL process this week…the mastering. We’re rehearsed and ready to hit a stage anywhere they tell us to go!
Let’s talk about Ringo Manor for a bit. Here are the songs that made the record and a little info about each cut.
Shake it Like a Hillbilly – This song wasn’t a song when we went to Nashville to do the record. It was created out of failure. The original version was our oldest song and to be honest we really had outgrown that sound and era of the band. Of course as I’ve written in earlier blogs…we needed a lot of material for the record so we gave it a shot. We figured who knows maybe Richie hears it a different way then us and it works? It didn’t. Anyway, it was pretty clear it wasn’t on par with the other stuff and wasn’t going to make the album. We were way ahead of schedule and on Thanksgiving Day Richie asked if we were interested in an experiment. We said yes…and before we knew it through some really masterful editing Richie had turned that tired old song in to a bright and fun sounding new piece…all it needed was a new lyric. I think it took me literally about 15 minutes to write the lyrics…and a new song was born! We ended up with a fun dance song that we had a GREAT time creating with Richie.
Oklahoma 3.2 – Since March of 2009 this song has been the key to every door we’ve unlocked. For this version of 3.2 John played the resonator for the first time. It was really cool to watch John get a crash course from Richie and then turn that quickie lesson in to a great track. John really hit a homerun on this one. Mitch added his usual HUGE guitar riff and licks and magic happened again. There’s just something about OK 3.2 that sings to people. Thank God! We’ve taken a few liberties with the new version and revved it up a little…but it’s still got ‘it’…whatever ‘it’ is.
Little Miss Rough and Tumble – This is a very special song. I wrote the lyric about having a daughter and watching her grow up too fast. John then gave it life with one of his finest pieces of music. From the first moment we began putting the song together we knew we had something. Every live performance has brought tears, laughter and an overwhelming reaction. We spent some time trying to get this one right in studio…we think we did. We added the amazing piano and organ work of Paul Hollowell. Paul has a long and prestigious resume. From Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire and Lee Ann Womack to Leon Russell just to name a very few. He’s been one of the very top piano guys in Nashville for almost 35 years. If that’s not enough we brought in Dolly and Wynonna’s personal background vocalists to do a big choir vocal on this one. This trio is just out of this world. They have their voices on millions of albums sold over the years. What a joy and honor it was to have them on our song.
Helluva Night –The story goes like this. We were trying to get our material together and finished about 2 weeks before our recording session was to begin. I proclaimed…’I want to stop writing for the record right now…everything I come up with sounds like the last thing I came up with. So no more, we’re done, I’m fried!” John smiled and started playing some cool riff and about 30 minutes later we’d written Helluva Night. There ya go…its a little Rockabilly and a little old fashioned Honky Tonk. We didn’t church this one up…it’s just us in the room bangin’ it out!
Broken - A song that almost wasn’t. This is the oldest HBV song to make the record. We have loved this song for a long time…but just didn’t ever get it right. Our first experience in Nashville in 2009 recording this song was a disaster and almost killed it from ever getting recorded again. We felt strongly enough to give it one more shot and we’re so happy we did. Again, we asked Paul Hollowell to work his piano magic here too…and WOW! It’s perfect…we are thrilled and can’t wait for you to hear the new ‘fixed’ Broken! So out on tour this summer you’ll get to see John playing piano.
Grits n Gravy – “It was 3 a.m. in Nashville,Tennessee….” By now if you know us you know this song and the crazy story. We love performing this song and it always brings laughs and good times with it when we do! We added a little twist this time…John hillbilly’d it up a bit more with his amazin’ banjo skills. Can you say…’instant classic!’
Wrong Side of Goodbye – From the minute we came up with the hook for this song in the summer of 2009, it’s been a staple of our set. It’s just one of those songs people relate to. Everyone has been on the wrong side of a goodbye at some point in their life. Richie added some really cool steel guitar and arrangement changes to make this one really cool in our opinion.
Faces Change – Every song has a story…some are just better then others. This song’s story started a few years ago actually. On my son’s birthday I wrote him a letter. It was sort of a poem. I talked about never wishing your life away. That it was important to enjoy every part of your life…even the small and boring parts. Then last July (3 years later) while I was on a family vacation in Florida the boys were back home rehearsing. John had just spent a week at Woodyfest and came home inspired. They demo’d some music John came up with on his trip and emailed it to me…ahh the beauty of technology. I was able to plug that song in and listen and write the lyric while driving home from my vacation. I was inspired by John’s inspiration and the continuation of the poem I’d written for Cam 3 years earlier. It’s just an observation that I hope he’ll someday appreciate. One of the lines in the song says…’the faces change, the songs, the names but the feelings…they’ve always been the same.’ It’s just letting him know that we all go through the same things in life and we’re not alone. When parents speak it’s from experience…it’s hard to imagine your parents as goofy kids but they were.
I Already Know – We are so proud of this song. It’s a special song to us because it was the first song written after some early turmoil within the band. We’d parted ways with some of our formers and were struggling to find our identity. Through that turmoil we came together and bonded like we’d never bonded before. We talked to each other and listened to each other and toughened up. I wrote this lyric about a painful part of John’s life. It was closure in a way for John and a new beginning for the band all in one song. Who hasn’t said…’yeah, I already know.’
From an Empty Room – This song has an element of Pure Prairie League, The Eagles and many of the early 70’s country rock songs. John does some really great mandolin work on this cut and it’s just one of those throw back type of sounds. Plus…just to be mindful of all of our influences we’ve added a touch of the Beatles in the opening chord.
Mason Jars and Moonlight – It’s funny how some things happen. We had this song lying around for almost a year. It was sort of in a state of limbo. Kinda finished, but it wasn’t really a whole song. We never performed it live and really didn’t give it much thought. None of you have ever heard it…we’ve NEVER taken it out for a test drive. In the course of emptying the cupboards and making sure we didn’t leave anything out we brought this song to Nashville. The recording went ok but we actually didn’t spend a whole lot of time tracking it. We pretty much did it live in studio. Richie brought in a fiddle player to give it some ‘oomph’ after we left Nashville. None of us really thought much of it and didn’t seriously consider it for the record. It wasn’t until last week that I called our manager and said…”hey I never actually heard what Mason Jars ended up sounding like.” I just wanted to hear it because that was the only thing we’d done that I hadn’t heard. I was just curious. He said he’d call Richie and as usual Slim was on the spot and sent me a copy the next morning. I was stunned. It was good! Really good! I immediately passed it on to Mitch and he had the same reaction. John next, then Robbo and Troy. Our management was equally as impressed. Richie called me and said..’what do you wanna do?’ I said…’let’s put it on the record.’ He got to work on it ASAP. The rest of the record had already been sent off to be mastered but luckily there was still time to include number ELEVEN! I can’t imagine Ringo Manor without Mason Jars and Moonlight now!
In football they say…you never hear an offensive lineman’s name unless he’s done something wrong. When they’re doing their job nobody notices them. But without those guys blocking up front Sam Bradford doesn’t win the Heisman and Adrian Peterson doesn’t set college football and the NFL a blaze.
In a band the rhythm section is the offensive line. We don’t say much about them usually and in our band they don’t care…they know it comes with the territory. But nobody went to Nashville with more pressure on them then Troy and Robbo. They both knew going in that there were professional session players waiting in the wings if either one of them should falter. It’s just a reality…time is money as they say and a bad rhythm section can cost a project a fortune and blow a budget quicker then anything. Troy and Robbo worked so hard on this record. Not just in the studio but in the weeks of pre-production before we went to Nashville. I can’t say enough about our rhythm section. It was because they did their jobs so efficiently that we were able to have the time to create Shake it Like a Hillbilly on Thanksgiving Day. I’ll put our guys up next to anyone in the business, any day of the week! Hillbilly Vegas has an all pro O-Line baby!
Just in case you haven’t figured it out…we’re excited and can’t wait for all of you to hear what we’ve done. We hope you’ll enjoy listening as much as we enjoyed creating.
See ya soon,