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Chris Colston: No Stranger To Hard Work, Part 2

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By Johnny Griffith

Success in the music industry is an equation that has many variables of which talent is but one. Who you know, who they know, timing, and good old fashioned luck can all influence the career trajectory of an artist. However, if you ask anyone who has enjoyed success for longer than the proverbial fifteen minutes, they will tell you that a good work ethic is crucial for longevity in the business.

Chris Colston, a local country artist from Lindale, has been putting in the time and the miles needed to gain exposure, experience, and fans from across the state and beyond. Colston, along with drummer Tony Foster, guitarist/vocalist Riley Foshee, and bassist Scott Phillips, has been working hard to craft a sound that gives a great chance for success. We had spoken to Chris a couple of years back and decided to catch back up to see how things were going since we last spoke:

Johnny: The last time we talked to you it was 2015, and you were starting to play more gigs out of the area. How far has the journey taken you from then to now in terms of where you are booking shows and the exposure you’ve gained out of the East Texas region?

Chris: Since we last talked, we have played venues in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and Texas, and we currently have a show booked this summer in Arizona. We are gaining ground all over Texas, and we are very excited to be gaining ground in other areas too. Our new EP is being played by stations in Oklahoma and Missouri as well as many stations all across Texas, which is very exciting. When we played in Missouri last spring, people were singing along to Blacktop Gospel, which was cool! The radio station in Springfield had been spinning for several weeks before the show so fans were there and ready to hear it live.

Johnny: Along those lines, back in 2015 you had released your first album, and now in 2017, you’ve released an EP. How was that process and did you find it different from the first experience?

Chris: It took about 8 months to get the new EP finished, and then we waited until what we thought was the right time to release it, so it ended up being about a year long process from start to finish. My first album, “Guitar Playin Outlaw,” was recorded before I had a band, so we used some great studio musicians. This EP is different because it was recorded with my band and captures my sound. When folks listen to this EP, they are hearing what we sound like live, and that is what I like a lot; it’s real.

Johnny: How has the reception to the new release been so far?

Chris: So far, feedback has been great. It is getting a lot of exposure through Spotify. Stats from Spotify show that most of the listeners are in Houston, Dallas, and College Station, so that’s cool.

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 Johnny: So Lindale has a reputation for producing good musicians. Is there any feeling that you have a certain expectation to live up to due to that reputation?

Chris: Not really. I mean it’s great being from the same hometown of Miranda Lambert, but on the other hand, I’m just doing what I love, just like she did.

 Johnny: Who was your biggest influence, musically, when you were first starting out?

Chris: Stoney Larue was a huge influence for sure. He is an incredible musician, songwriter, and vocalist. I play their “Live at Billy Bob’s” album all the time.

Johnny: East Texas has a strong singer/songwriter community. Do you often collaborate with other local writers and, if so, how has that process made you better at the craft?

Chris: I do think collaborating with other writers has made me a better writer, but I don’t just write with anyone. I try to keep my circle small, and I only write with a few people.

Johnny: Listening to your music, you mention your grandfather often. How important has your family been in you being where you are today, and where you want to get to with your music?

Chris: Family is everything and always will be. I have a very large family, and every single one of them supports what I do. I have learned what a blessing that is because I have met other artists who don’t have that, and it’s a struggle for them sometimes. When I made the decision early on that music is what I wanted to do with my life, my mom told me that I had chosen one of the most difficult jobs to pursue, but if that is where my heart was, then they would support me.

Johnny: Are there any of your shows coming up this year you’re more excited about than usual?

Chris: I am really looking forward to opening up for Randy Rogers in Lindale at Love and War in May. I have followed Randy’s music for years and really like his style. I am also looking forward to our show at the Alpine Country Blues Festival in the mountains of Alpine, Arizona in June.

Johnny: So it’s been two years since your last interview here, let’s catch up on the survey questions: Best live concert you’ve seen in the past two years?

Chris: Probably the Cameron Nelson and Cody Johnson concert at Cowboy’s in Tyler.

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 Johnny: Best hamburger you’ve had on the road?

Chris: The #2 from Whataburger all day long! And don’t forget the bacon.

Johnny: Most memorable gig you’ve performed the last two years?

Chris: It would have to be opening up for Shane Smith and the Saints to a sold out crowd at Love and War in Plano. The crowd was great.

Johnny: Dallas Cowboys or Houston Texans?

Chris: Cowboys even though they can’t seem to catch a break.

Johnny: Best album you’ve bought the last two years?

Chris: “The Whippoorwill” by Blackberry Smoke.

Johnny: If you could play any show, anywhere, tonight, where would it be?

Chris: Billy Bob’s Texas.

To catch upcoming tour dates and the latest music, check out Chris Colston online:

Upcoming Shows

  • April 5th – Poor David’s Pub, Dallas
  • April 6th – The Back Porch, Kilgore
  • April 7th – Love and War Lindale w/Jason Boland, Lindale
  • April 13th – Fat Jacks, Texarkana
  • April 20th – White Elephant, Fort Worth Stockyards
  • April 21st – Drunken Mule, Commerce with Drew Fish
  • April 27th – The Woodshed, Ft Worth
  • April 29th – Moore’s Store, Ben Wheeler

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Bands

October 13th, Award-Winning Band MercyMe in Concert

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October 13th, Award-Winning Band MercyMe in Concert

MercyMe will be in concert at The Oil Palace is October and is guaranteed to sell-out!

Since their debut in 2001, Grammy®-nominated, multiple American Music Award and Dove Award winners, MercyMe has sold more than 8.5 million units in CD, single and DVD sales, garnered 27 No. 1 multi-format Christian radio singles and four consecutive mainstream radio hits with ‘I Can Only Imagine,’ (No. 4 AC/Top 25 on Top 40/Hot AC), ‘Here With Me’ (No. 4 AC), ‘Homesick’ (Top 10 AC), and ‘So Long Self.’

Their radio success has continued with recent singles ‘Flawless’ (No. 1 for 15 weeks) and ‘Greater’ (No. 1 for 16 weeks)​, landing them the Top Christian Airplay Artist spot on Billboard’s 2015 Year End charts.

MercyMe made history in 2014 as ‘I Can Only Imagine’ surpassed 2 million digital downloads, making it the first song in Christian music to go platinum and double-platinum in the digital domain. In 2009, Billboard named MercyMe’s ‘Word Of God Speak’ the No. 1 Song of The Decade and the group the No. 1 Artist of the Decade in both the Christian Songs and Christian AC Songs categories, recognizing them as one of the industry’s most notable talents.

They have sold out venues throughout the US and Canada, including Radio City Music Hall, and have appeared on The Today Show, CBS This Morning, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Fox New Channel’s Fox & Friends, CNN, ABC News, and in the pages of Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times, USA Today and more.

Their most recent project “MercyMe, It’s Christmas!” debuted atop the Billboard Top Holiday Albums chart and became an instant classic. Their eighth studio release, “Welcome To The New,” garnered Billboard Music Award nominations in all three Christian categories and two Grammy® nods; the album is available in stores now.

Tickets start at $19 and are available at oilpalace.com. The Oil Palace is located at 10408 State Highway 64 East, Tyler, (903)566-2122.

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Blacktop Mojo: Burning Up The Roads To Success

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By Johnny Griffith

About a year and a half ago I sat down to interview Blacktop Mojo, a Jacksonville based hard rock band riding a wave of momentum after several successful years together and an upcoming album release. The end of that interview finished with this:

“Blacktop Mojo can still be heard around East Texas on a regular basis, but I would definitely suggest checking out their website for more information and a sample of their music if you haven’t heard them. If it’s in your wheelhouse, get out and support a great local band that won’t be local for much longer at the rate their Mojo is working.”

As it turns out, I was a little more prescient that I anticipated as Blacktop Mojo’s stock has only risen in the ensuing months. With a successful album release, ever increasingly distant tour stops, and mounting accolades from industry critics and magazines, local BTM shows are becoming harder to come by.

In case you might not have heard of Blacktop Mojo, their sound can be described as “modern rock that got dragged through a puddle of southern rock and then dipped in a little bit of grunge”. The band was originally formed in 2012 and the current lineup includes Matt James on vocals, Nathan Gillis on drums, Chuck Wepfer on rhythm guitar, Ryan Keifer on lead guitar, and Matt Curtis on bass.  

With a huge sound and chest shaking vocals, Blacktop Mojo brings a high energy rock show that leaves fans wanting more everywhere they go. While in the midst of rehearsals last month for their most recent tour that kicked off in San Antonio on April 20th, we caught up with them to see what had been going on for the past year and a half and what was on the radar for the rest of the year.

Johnny: So it’s been about a year and a half since our last interview with you guys and the last time we talked there was an album in the works. When did “Burn The Ships” release and how was the process different from the first time around when you recorded “I am”?

BTM: “Burn The Ships” released in March of 2017. The biggest difference between this record and our first record, “I Am”, was the amount of time we took for pre-production. On “I Am”, we spent about two weeks getting ready and arranging the songs before we went in to record it, where on “Burn The Ships”, we spent about eight months demoing and playing around with different ideas.

Johnny: How has the reception been to the album so far and do you guys have your own personal favorite song from it?

BTM: The reception to the album has been incredible this far. We’ve had countless positive reviews and feedback from publications all over the world. Also, our first single off of the album entitled “Where The Wind Blows” reached number 27 on the Billboard Active Rock chart last summer.

Johnny: You guys got to open for Bon Jovi last year in a sold-out stadium. Tell us about that about how you guys got that honor and a little about the experience?

BTM: We actually won that honor in a contest the band was putting on. We submitted some of our original music and were picked by Live Nation and the band’s management to open up the show. The experience was beyond amazing and the crowd was very receptive to us. We cannot thank the Bon Jovi camp enough for the opportunity and for treating us so incredibly.

Johnny: Obviously that put you in front of a lot of potential new fans but what would you say the biggest takeaway from that event was?

BTM: Our biggest takeaway from that night was that whether you’re playing in front of 20 or 20,000 people, you should treat it the same way. Make everyone feel like you’re playing in a stadium even if it’s an empty room.

Johnny: Blacktop Mojo has been trending steadily upward the past couple of years with several accolades from industry publications, over 40 thousand likes on Facebook, a new album, and you guys seem to play everywhere and anywhere. What kind of effect has the increased exposure and success had on the daily routine and what kind of new challenges have came along?

BTM: Our daily routine hasn’t changed much when we’re home. We still write and rehearse on a regular basis and go about business as usual. The increased exposure has made touring opportunities more readily available for us and has increased the number of people we can reach with our music, which is super exciting for us.

Johnny: You have a pretty extensive tour coming up that you’ll already be on the road for when this goes to print. Is this the biggest tour BTM has embarked on and what goes into planning a 2-month long road trip that covers, as best I could count, 32 states, both sides of the country, Canada, and 43 shows?

BTM: This is our most extensive tour to date. A lot of planning, routing, and generally putting the puzzle pieces together has gone on over the past few months by us and our team to make this happen. We couldn’t be more excited to get back out on the road and see our friends across the country.

Johnny: I’d say it would be time for a break after that sort of trip, but you guys are right back at it, playing Rock Fest 2018 up in Wisconsin with some huge names, do you guys ever have to step back, take a breath, and say to yourself “this is our reality”?

BTM: We are very blessed to be able to wake up and do what we love every single day. They say “you never work a day in your life if you do what you love”, so I don’t think we’ve ever really thought about taking a break.

Johnny: Were you able to see yourself at this point back when you played your first show at the Neches Fall Festival or the first “official” show as BTM at the Shelton Gin back in 2012?

BTM: It would have been hard to imagine getting to do what we do now back then. We’ve always just been happy to be able to play music for people.

Johnny: With what’s on your plate for the first half of this year, I almost hate to ask, but what’s on the radar for the second half of 2018 that you can share with us?

BTM: We have plans to keep touring throughout the rest of the year and are currently writing music for our third record.

Johnny: What has been the best memory from the ride so far?

BTM: It’s hard to pick just one from all of it. One of my favorites so far was riding back into town off of our first tour last Summer/Fall. We’d been out on the road for over 60 days straight with 7 of us basically living out of our van. We were tired, beat up, and hungry, but everyone was smiling and joking with each other. It really felt like we had accomplished something.

For more information on Blacktop Mojo and when they’ll be back at a location near you, check them out on the web:

www.blacktopmojo.com 

www.facebook.com/BlacktopMojo.

 

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