Georgia-Country.com Artist of the Month

On a monthly basis, Georgia-Country.com spotlights a Georgia artist that we feel is furthering their career in country music. Below is our current artist of the month. We hope you enjoy reading their interview and getting to know this artist more. Be sure to check out their music, videos and schedule for the month. If you are a Georgia-based artist, 18 and over, and would like to be considered for Artist of the Month, please contact us with your name and a website to review.

Our April Artist of the Month is the band 8 Second Ride. Read their interview below as GC asked them questions about their career in country music.

GC: Guys, how and when did the band come together?

8SR; First, I wanted to just thank you, Georgia-Country.com for all the work you've done for the promotion of bands and exposure you've given us and other artists in Georgia. It's been a great thing to have the recognition from Georgia-Country and to have a great site like Georgia-Country.com give our band and our music a broad audience.

Our band actually started as a discussion with myself and John Piceno, who sings and plays acoustic guitar. We discussed way back in February of 2014 how we both liked a lot of the new, high energy country that was currently on the radio. Songs that have a bit more of an electric guitar edge and a bigger 'arena' sound to it. We had wanted to do some sort of musical collaboration together for awhile, and had only really done some solo and acoustic work together, or with others. But we wanted a full on band for this project. With the similar tastes for the newer country sound, we brought in a good friend of John's who was an incredible lead guitarist and great singer in his own right, Lewis Smith. With the three of us starting 'the country band', we began to decide what songs we wanted to play and started the search for the rest of the band, our rhythm section. It turned out to be a lot harder than expected to find the perfect guys who were going to be able to put in the hours and hit the road with us and commit to it. In the end, after we had some auditions for bass, and a stroke of incredible luck of finding a drummer that many of us had never heard through a close friend, the band was fully formed probably around June of 2014. Before that, I had created, literally, tracked music with drums and bass, for the me John and Lewis to start fleshing out the songs and getting them rehearsed and tight. So when we brought on the actual bass player and drummer, we were already playing and singing these songs pretty well.

GC: After the band was formed, how long did it take before you all started performing?

8SR: Our first show was at the Crazy Bull in Macon, Georgia. The venue manager, Rick Hill, was open to helping our band, and at the time he was willing to allow us to play in his venue with very little else to go on except our reputations as musicians from other projects and recommendations from other highly regarded bands and musicians. Then, soon after, Norm Brewer with Encore Entertainment, quickly booked us for more shows. We really appreciate that Rick 'took a chance' and allowed us to play the main stage right off the bat, in this amazing middle Georgia venue, with what was literally our 'first show'. To our credit, the band really did a good job, and it gave us confidence and a great feeling that this kind of music was something our band could really perform at the level needed to play anywhere. All the musicians in this band have had a lot of experience and have performed for many years with other projects, so it wasn't our first time on a stage. And to this day, we still have a great relationship with Norm, who also took a chance and booked us more shows right out of the gate. Norm has been involved with some pretty big events, including the multi-day Toadlick Country Music Festivals in Alabama. So it's been great having that kind of person lend support and guidance to us. What a great guy. We are also using Andrea Cathey and Southbound Entertainment to do some of our bookings in the southeast region.

GC: Was 8 Second Ride the original name of the band and if so, why did you all chose that?

8SR: Well we came up with a few names, but honestly the genesis of the name '8 Second Ride' came one night when I was up late watching bull riding or something simply by chance, wired from being out with friends and driving everyone home, and I had just come back from being at the Crazy Bull watching people fall all over themselves riding the mechanical bull there. Rick also was allowing us to have a live rehearsal at the Crazy Bull that Sunday on the same weekend, and his sound engineer Steve Dibble was going to test some new equipment while we rehearsed. So the name '8 Second Ride' just kind of came to me with all the 'bull riding' and the relationship with The Crazy Bull. I mentioned it to the guys and they all really liked it. We've never felt like any one person was the 'focus' of the band. It's not the 'Michael Lovedge' band, or the 'Lewis Smith' band. I've always felt like each person really does make the band a whole, and we wanted it to be a band name, and not an individual's name.

GC: Did you all set out with one style of country? Meaning, was it today's country, classic country or what?

8SR: Well, we honestly DID want to do modern, high energy country. More with a guitar edge and stuff we could really move around on stage and have energy with our live shows. So we actually did set out to do that, which was mine and John's intention, so we have pretty much stuck with that. We've also tried to get ahead of the radio releases of songs, or maybe sometimes pick songs that fit the band more than perhaps the more popular, pop country by certain artists. But our band formula at least for cover music is to try and find what is out or about to come out on country radio, or Sirius XM Highway, and then decide which of those songs has the more energy or a slight rock edge to it, or more of a guitar centered song, and then choose those. However, we've also made the effort to make sure that we are also keeping a good number of songs that are top 40 country that is currently out. For our personal, original songs, we've kind of taken a similar approach to the style of our writing, but we have some pretty different sounding songs that we've written and recorded.

GC: Take us around the band with names and what they play?

On drums, we currently have Bronnie Turner. We picked up Bronnie via relationships with other bands around December of 2016, when our drummer at the time for over 2 years, Phillip Smith, had picked up employment at Disney World as a sound engineer for much of the parks. It was an amazing job opportunity that he couldn't turn down. Phillip also lived in Atlanta, which sometimes interfered with show dates and rehearsals, so we had a lot of fill in work over the last 2 years with Lance Rodriguez, and Leroy Wilson, both of whom are well known musicians in middle Georgia with a lot of experience. In the end, now that we have Bronnie, I think our drummer spot will be secure for a long time to come. He's had to learn a lot of material and get caught up with where the band is at in 2017, but he has done it quickly and we couldn't be happier. He's driving the band from the drumset now, and we are hitting 2017 hard!

On bass, we have Alex Smith, who has been our bass player since roughly January of 2015. Originally we had Michael Sowers on bass, but he was reactivated for military service by the Air Force due to incidents happening in the middle east that required his service. Michael probably would still be our bass player, if not for those circumstances, and we hated that he had to leave. However, Alex has been a great addition to the band and is also the brother of our lead guitarist, so it was a natural and easy selection, and we all feel like he is a brother.

On lead guitar, we have Lewis Smith. I can't say enough about Lewis. His playing and his additions to the band are too many to mention. Some people just have a gift for their craft. His guitar playing is amazing. The bonus is that he also has a great voice and can sing lead vocals in some of our songs or great harmonies. Sometimes I just stop and listen to him or during a performance I really think about how amazing our band is, and much of the reason is Lewis' playing and his choice of what he is doing in each song.

On acoustic guitar, we have John Piceno. John also sings many of our songs as lead vocals. His acoustic playing and ability to harmonize, as well as his stage presence and energy on stage all make for a great performance. It's easy to just call one of the band members an acoustic guitar player who sings backup vocals or whatever. But if you take John's guitar work and his voice out of the performance, it's not even the same band. Both his guitar and voice are crucial to make our band sound great.

I'm Michael Lovedge, and I play rhythm guitar and sing quite a bit of the lead vocals. When I perform with these guys, I honestly feel like I am the least talented of us all, but I also feel like they make me sound more amazing than I could ever have hoped. But it's not 'my band'. It's OUR band, and each of us makes the performance and the unique band sound like what it does. I feel blessed to be with this group of guys and doing this on the level that this band allows us to be at.

GC: You all play often in middle and south Ga. Where is the bands favorite place to play so far and why?

8SR: Well, we've had some pretty amazing gigs. I think most bands will tell you that a venue with a high energy, full floor, and great PA all make for the best experiences. We've experienced all manner of show types, from the festivals to the multi-lineup shootouts, to the real deal Honky Tonks out there. In the end, and I don't mean to say this because we live right here, nothing has meant more to us or had more of a great feeling being on stage and when we finish a gig, than right here in middle GA at The Crazy Bull. It's like the mothership for us, and it really is a great venue. There's some other venues in our home state that we haven't been able to experience yet. We'd like to play The Gin in Albany, the Atlanta Coliseum (old Wild Bill's), Outlaws in Columbus, and maybe get a show at the Georgia Theater (even as an opener). It's been tough to crack into the Atlanta scene with country music as well. But each day we get a little more exposure, and things like what you are doing at Georgia-Country.com has been a great help to many artists like us.

GC: To you all, what is the main sign of a successful show?

8SR: Well, I think it's probably hard to say, as it might be different for each person. For me, and I imagine most artists, it's a FEELING that you have when you finish that last set. You may not get that 'high' at every show. And it might not even be the biggest venue or whatever that makes you 'feel' it. But when you just KNOW that you crushed it, that the crowd was asking for one more song, that rush of adrenaline when people are cheering. It's been great to see more and more people singing our original songs in front of us. I think that it's just a 'feeling' inside that you just know that you brought a great show to the people who paid good money and chose to come see you rather than go somewhere else. You made it worth their time. You made them dance, sing, feel good. And they did the same, bringing out your best. There is some shows where your voice, the playing, the energy, all come together and when there is a great crowd there who is engaged, it's nothing short of magical... you can't buy that or 'create it' out of nothing. It's just something that happens in that moment or that evening. Those nights make you feel amazing. Right now, it's just a dream, but to see/hear 10,000 people singing the lyrics to your song.. I can only imagine how amazing and fulfilling that must feel. Maybe one day.

GC: What goals, short term and long term, do you all have as a band?

8SR: Our short term goals is to get more of our original music recorded. We have several more songs that we need to get into the studio and get them out of our rehearsals and onto people's radios and phones and etc. Our original music wasn't something we intended to do at the beginning of the band's creation, but it's been one of the most single satisfying and rewarding parts of being in 8 Second Ride. We've gotten a lot of opportunities and some amazing moments that all would have never happened without our original songs.

Long term, the band continues to try and expand our range, to try and get into bigger venues and markets and areas we have not been to. We'd love to be able to be part of some of these 2-3 day festivals or concerts. We've had some great opening act shows, but we'd like to be considered more often as a great opening act for up and coming artists in the same vein as Luke Combs, as well as when breaking country artists like Michael Ray or LoCash and etc. are coming through Georgia, we can be the opening act. We've had Luke Combs, who I've been following since before he became a national artist who has songs now getting major radio airplay, come through Macon and it would have been great to open for him right here in our backyard.

We've begun the process of creating more music, and I personally write a new song just about every week. Not all of them work out, but we would love some sort of opportunity to perform, even if it's just acoustically, our songs as a showcase, or part of a group of songwriters performance as well. Obviously Nashville would be a great place to start doing these sorts of things, or any serious venues that do this.

As most groups, we continue to watch what is going on in the music world, where country music is headed, and also continue to try and keep the shows fresh and add new music as often as possible.

GC: If you could open for any artist, local or national, who would that be and why?

8SR: Man this is a tough question. This year will be the third year in a row that my wife and I go to the Tortuga festival in April down in Ft. Lauderdale. It's a three day massive country concern right on the beach. I spend a confiscatory amount of money to be part of the 'Admiral' group and we literally meet and eat with and go backstage and etc. with many of the artists. So on top of their amazing performances, I have gotten to meet these people and just hang out with them in person, in a laid back atmosphere. One of the artists who was a great guy was Dierks Bentley. He is obviously a huge name in country music, but he was also one of the people who was most willing to hang out and do stuff with the fans. I also enjoyed meeting John Pardi and his band. The guys from Old Dominion and The Brothers Osborne were also great people and just acted like friends instead of hit country stars. Through one of our booking agents, we've also gotten to know Justin Moore more of a person, and not just an artist, and see his personality and his interests. So it would be great to be involved in something with him. I love the music of ALL those artists. And like I said, it would be awesome to be able to be opening for some of these guys that are moving up, like Luke Combs. I've talked to his manager, Chris Kappy, way back when Luke was just on the cusp of breaking through and practically shamelessly begged (haha!) for an opportunity to open for Luke. Chris was not able to work that out, but remains a great contact and a great guy. Obviously the guys who made their trek through Georgia on their way up, just like what we are doing, and now are the heavy hitter names in country music, we would love to be involved in something they are involved with. Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Cole Swindell, Brantley Gilbert, Kip Moore, Billy Currington (another great guy from Tortuga!), FL/GA Line (Tyler Hubbard), Thomas Rhett, the guys from Lady Antebellum, and Zac Brown/Clay Cook. Some of these guys played in many of the venues we are playing at now, back in their time as up and coming artists. Our buddy Rocky Duncan (DJ ROCK) out of Milledgeville is now on tour with Luke Bryan but was with him in the venues that Luke played in before he became a mega country star. I think it's great when these artists give back to those who helped them make it, and bring those people along or give opportunities to others when they are able. Some of these artists come back around when you least expect them. Cole Swindell just showed up in Macon a couple weeks ago and was just hanging out with people, taking photos along with Luke Combs, after his show and over at the Crazy Bull. There are so many big name artists from right here at home, in Georgia, that it's actually pretty incredible if you think about it!

GC: What does the rest of 2017 have in store for the band?

8SR: We continue to write, have plans for recording our second EP, and continue to tour the southeast, from North Carolina to South Carolina, to Florida, and of course all over Georgia. We have had some great radio interviews, and plan to try and continue expanding our base of fans as we play more venues. We got to have our song, Outlaw, on Backyard Country, which 96.5 'The Bull' in Atlanta and William Barber (WB) hosts, which was on the countdown for 10 weeks, and WB had us up to the iheart media radio studios for a great interview just last month. Similar to Georgia-Country.com, they showcase up and coming artists and try to give them more exposure and a platform to 'get their name out there'. We met some great guys in the band '5 Speed' at the Georgia-Country Music Awards last year and they currently have a song on there as well. We will be putting more music out and just continuing to play more shows and trying to make more contacts and improving our shows and gaining experience. I am excited for what 2017 will bring, and if each preceeding year is an indication of anything, 2017 should be even better than 2016. We appreciate all that you and Georgia-Country.com has done for us and are honored to be the 'Artist of the the Month' for April!