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Colton Mathis: A True Blue Texan, Playing Hard, Working Hard

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By Johnny Griffith

When you think about growing up in Texas, there are a few boxes that typically get checked off along the way: playing sports (most likely football or baseball), hunting, fishing, camping, working hard, and playing hard. I had the pleasure of meeting Colton Mathis, and it didn’t take me long to realize that he checked off all the boxes and then some. As a kid he played football and baseball in school at Crandall, Texas where they had moved from Greenville, via Austin. Also having a love of the outdoors, he remembers hunting trips as a kid where he would spend six hours in the car on the ride down listening to music that would shape his tastes for years to come. Perhaps one of the most Texan things he’s done in his life, though, would be to pick up the guitar and make it an extension of who he is. He uses it as a vehicle to tell stories, make people laugh, make people cry, but most of all, make amazing music.

Currently residing in Forney, Mathis has been performing all over East Texas recently. Luckily we managed to get him to sit still long enough to answer some questions for EGuide.

Johnny: What was the one thing in music that grabbed you early and wouldn’t let go?

Colton: As long as I can remember music has always affected me differently. Around age six or seven I heard Stevie Ray Vaughan and that was it, I was hooked. It hit me deep. I really didn’t understand it then, but it did something to me.

Johnny: Was it always guitar for you, or is that where you landed eventually?

Colton: Yeah, I think it was. When I figured out that the sound I was hearing was made by the guitar, I had to have one. I played a little saxophone in middle school, but it never really did it for me. I enjoy playing bass and keys as well, but there’s nothing like the guitar for me. It’s nothing short of medication for my soul.

Johnny: Those hunting trips with your dad and the six hour drives listening to music had to have a major impact on you. Did you pick up any influences from that early exposure?

Colton: Man, I had quite a few, a lot of blues influence as well as classic rock even into classic country. My father had a collection of cassette tapes in a blue cassette case, and that was pretty much my playlist growing up. He was a carpenter and worked on the road quite a bit, and he took me on the road with him as much as he could. I loved going to work with him, the longer the drive the more music he introduced to me. I remember the first time he said, “Hey son, you should listen to this.” It ended up being Stevie Ray Vaughan’s greatest hits and “Taxman” is the first song on the album. From that point every time he would say that, I would listen. From there it was Stevie, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, ZZ Top, and Hendrix; by that time the blues had its grips on me. My dad also loved The Eagles and had just about every album. That’s kinda where the rock thing started in. The first time I heard “Life In The Fast Lane” I was like, “Woah what is this?” Then it went to Skynyrd’s album “Another One From The Road.” It was a live album and man, it sent me into a frenzie! I had just fell in love with the sound of guitar, and now I’m hearing three guitars pretty much soloing all at once! It changed me; that music spiritually changed me. And I really started to get more interested in what all was in that blue cassette case and found one that just said Led Zeppelin across the front of it, but there wasn’t anything in the box. I went to Walmart with my mom one day (back when they still sold cassettes), and scrolling through them I found Led Zeppelin 3. As soon as I got home, I put it in the Walkman, and it blew my fragile little mind! They were hard rock and blues and even folk all in one band. Led Zeppelin is my favorite band, as I got older I got into more modern rock and blues. But these bands were the reason for my love of music.

Johnny: Did you find being a musician in high school to be more of a challenge or an asset?

Colton: Well it never hit me until high school that the girls dig the guitar. It became somewhat of my identity, and I quit all sports to devote all my time to guitar. I was addicted to music by then, I wasn’t able to focus on anything else, including school work. I ended up staying up all night playing and sleeping in class, even when I was awake in school all I thought about was playing. They called it ADD. I eventually found myself leaving public school to be homeschooled where I would sit down for a while and do some work, but mostly played guitar all day.

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Johnny: Stylistically it seems you gravitated toward the Texas blues sound of Stevie and Jimmy Vaughn. What drew you to that more than country or rock, which seem to be a bit more prevalent in this area?

Colton: Well the foundation of my music is definitely the blues; it has changed over time, but it always seems to be there. The blues is so much more that a music genre; it’s a feeling, and I’ve felt that feeling for awhile now. Just the emotion of it, a single bend of a string can send chills up my spine. I get goose bumps every time I hear Albert King bend a note way up there or when Stevie hits that long bend, it hits deep. I got more into rock and country music later, but the blues has always had me.

Johnny: When did you figure out this music life was for you?

Colton: I was about 15 or so when I started playing out; me and one my best childhood friends Mackenzie Brooks, his brother Robert and their Uncle Buckwheat, played at the park in Crandall. I think that might of been my first couple of gigs, but was still just jamming around the house at that point. One day my friend Bobby Braswell came over to borrow an amp, and we ended up jamming until we decided to make a band out of it. Around the same time Bobby was working at the cotton gin and met a guy named Chris Cunningham. He suggested we jam with him. So we joined up, and the Chris Cunningham band was the first gigging band I played for. We played Texas red dirt, and at the time, I was just getting into it so it was real cool for me because it was new to me. I loved those days.

Johnny: About how many shows a month are you playing these days?

Colton: I play about 10 shows or more a month, sometimes less, sometimes more. I’d like to be playing everyday, but it’s just not possible at the moment.

Johnny: Are you primarily performing as a solo artist, or are you sitting in with other musicians?

Colton: Yeah, somewhat. I’ve been playing a lot with a good friend of mine Cody Daniel and doing song swaps. I’ve been searching for the right guys to form a band, but you know how hard it is to find the right folks.

Johnny: How would you describe your original music stylistically, and how did that process develop over the years?

Colton: Well my original stuff definitely has the blues in it, but over the years I’ve developed this darker side of country, a more red dirt/Texas sound. It just kinda comes out that way now days. My girlfriend says, “Babe your stuff is kinda depressing,” but I guess I just play what I feel or more or less what I know. It’s difficult to explain how I ended up here; I just did. I do like to write in different styles, though, for every feeling there’s a song that sings to it. But I like that people haven’t been able to label me yet. Maybe one day someone will say, “Yeah, that guy just plays what he feels.” That would be the best way to describe my music to me.

Johnny: What has been your best memory so far in your musical journey?

Colton: Playing main stage House of Blues in Dallas, no doubt. I had a blues band a few years ago called Colton & the 45’s, and it was so awesome, the place was packed. It was probably the biggest gig I’ve ever had. Sitting side stage I was so nervous I was shaking, but when it came my turn it was like I just floated out there. I didn’t sleep the entire night, I was on such a high. I’ll never forget the feeling. I can remember we played a slow blues tune, and somewhere in the middle of the song we brought it real down low. I hit one of those bends I could feel it in my knees, then I guess it hit the crowd because everyone went crazy at that moment. I didn’t feel like myself; it really didn’t even feel like I was the one playing; it was just happening. After the song I turned to my bassist Mike Pope and was like, “Did you feel that?” He said he thought everyone did.

Johnny: Where can people find you performing over the next couple of months?

Colton: I’ve got gigs all around north East Texas, looking to start moving out towards Dallas and Fort Worth soon. One place I do play regularly is Boondocks out in Seven Points, Texas on Cedar Creek Lake. That’s kinda my home place right now.

Johnny: As the year draws to a close, what is on the horizon for Colton Mathis in 2018 ?

Colton: Right now the plan is to continue to play gigs as much as possible. I’ve got an EP that will drop some time in the beginning of the new year, but really I’m just trying to focus on my original material and play as much as I can.

For more info on Colton Mathis go to facebook.com/cmathis34.

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July 27th: SFO, A Journey Tribute Band at Bergfeld Park

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The City of Tyler will host the annual Bergfeld Summer Showcase at Bergfeld Park, located at 1510 S. College Ave., on Friday, July 27. The event kicks off at 6 p.m. with fun and food trucks and live music beginning at 7 p.m.

This year, SFO – A Journey Tribute, a Nashville native band will take the stage. SFO recreates the experience of a 1980’s concert, playing all the Journey hits that you know and love with a special salute to Kansas and Foreigner. The band is made up of top-notch musicians from Nashville, Florida, and Minnesota who bring the highest level of musicianship to the audience.

Frontman Gabe Jacobs delivers powerful vocals to his audience by closely emulating the vocals and stage presence of legendary Steve Perry.

“This band will transport you back to the 80’s with all the songs you know by heart!” said Adriana Rodriguez, event coordinator.

The local favorite food trucks will be present for quality dining including Say Cheese, Weinerland, Lupita’s, Kona Ice and Pokey O’s.

For more information, contact Adriana Rodriguez at (903) 595-7248 or at ARodriguez@TylerTexas.com.

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The Haggertys: Hey Hey We’re The Haggertys

By Johnny Griffith

There are times when things just click with someone and you know it from the start. Then, years later you come back across them and it’s almost as if no time has passed. That’s kind of what is like for local Tyler favorites The Haggertys. Having all been members of different bands, some together and some collaborative, over the years, the lineup of “Patrick James” Freden (guitars, vocals), Brad Thurston (bass, backing vocals), and Clint Hiltz (drums/percussion) have been together as The Haggertys since 2013 and have been exciting audiences ever since with their setlists of 90’s standard rock covers as well as reinterpreting some classic songs along the way.

We sat down with the guys recently to get some more history on the band and a better snapshot of the members.

Johnny: How about we start with a brief bio of yourself and your background in music.

Patrick: I was born in Minnesota, moved to Tyler in 1974 and then left in the summer of 1977. I basically grew up in Ocean Springs, Mississippi playing Dungeons & Dragons, riding BMX bikes, and listening to albums over at a friend’s house. My first band was a punk band called Spastic Fury in high school. After that, I did some college in Mobile, Alabama, and eventually came back to Tyler in 1988. I played in bands all through the 90’s and started a solo acoustic project in 2005. I’m a self-employed graphic artist by day building websites, designing logos, etc., and music is my second business. I’m a full-time dad and husband, a professional tinkerer who likes craft beers, Les Pauls, Orange Amps, and hanging out in my favorite music store, Action Sound in Hawkins.

Brad: I’ve been playing music since I was 15 when I purchased my first guitar. It cost me $50 and was in a brown paper bag in pieces. After getting it put together, I started looking around for a band. No one needs a guitar player, so the next year I went and bought a bass, found a band, and the journey began. The start of my high school music career included rock bands like Conspiracy, Guardian, and Blue Steel. After high school, I branched out and did a did brief stint in a country band.

The call of the Hair Bands drew me to California, Hollywood to be exact. I moved in with a friend from high school, joined a band, and played the Troubadour on Santa Monica Blvd. within the first 3 weeks of being in California. I played in other bands there, like Hammer Lane. I did shows at The Roxy Theater and The Whisky A Go-Go. After wrapping up my California time, I moved back to Tyler, found an alternative band, Center Mass, which was later known as “Did Lee Squat?” (DLS?). That’s where I met “Patrick James.” We played venues in Dallas, Houston, Austin, and even Shreveport, Louisiana.

This too ended and I started my family, got a job, and put the band on the back burner. After some time, I started playing with Livid, a cover band around the Tyler/Longview area. This project just kinda wound down and I took a job out of town. More time passed with both family and job changes. I started playing bass in a praise band for Pollard United Methodist Church and did that for a few years until one day Patrick called. No, it was not the “I’m getting the band back together” kinda call. He wanted to redo his current project. I think he said he wanted to play more electric guitar and just rock out…so here we are.

Clint: I’m the baby of the band, born in Austin in 1974. I lived in Alvin, Texas through my 5th-grade year and moved to East Texas in 1986 where I joined the Union Grove percussion section in junior high and continued throughout high school. I played in the band and every sport Union Grove offered. As I got into high school, I was fortunate enough to be allowed to play football then at halftime, I’d take off my shoulder pads and march in the marching band. In 1992, I moved to Tyler and was offered a scholarship to join the Tyler Junior College drumline, better known as the Apache Punch. My hobbies are hunting, fishing, shooting guns, and working out. Currently, I work at Suddenlink as a Commercial Sales Supervisor.

Johnny: Who would you say was personally responsible, individually, for instilling that love of music you’d take the rest of your lives?

Pat: My mom for sure. She was the one that got me going as a kid…from playing Johnny Cash records to buying me a guitar and taking me to lessons.

Brad: My mom, she had me taking piano at the age of six, and we loved Elvis.

Clint: Hands down, my father. He played drums as well and he got me started gigging at the early age of 13 when I would sit in for him and play Wipeout.

Johnny: When did you three first meet?

The Haggertys: During the 90’s, Pat and Brad were playing in a band called DLS? and Clint was in a band called Affinity. The two bands did several shows together, including one at the Oil Palace in Tyler with DLS? as the headliner and Affinity providing support…the friendship and collaboration grew from there.

Johnny: How did the idea of starting the Haggertys come together?

The Haggertys: Sometime in the summer of 2013, Pat was doing his solo acoustic thing and had done some earlier shows with Clint and Brad as the Patrick James Band but these were still “acoustic” shows. After playing these kinds of shows for so long, Pat just got the itch to play with electrics and amps again, and Clint was on board to “get loud.” A permanent bass player was recruited and the band was formed. Really the Haggertys morphed out of the Patrick James Band and the guys started rehearsing so the song list grew. The band covers lots of material but kinda focuses on 90’s rock. The old “If it’s a good song, it’s a good song….doesn’t matter what genre it’s from” always applies.

Johnny: Okay, so the name. Where did it come from and whose idea was it?

The Haggertys: During one of the early rehearsals the idea of a band name came up and of course lots of stuff was thrown around. Pat noticed that all the band members had some righteous beards going at the time and this got him to thinking about people with beards and the one person that came to mind was a childhood hero from the show Grizzly Adams. Pat said, “the best beard ever, in my opinion, hands down, was Dan Haggerty, let’s call the band that!” So originally he wanted the band to be called the Dan Haggertys which morphed into the Damn Haggertys which quickly changed, for obvious reasons, and the band settled in with The Haggertys.

Johnny: When and where was the first Haggertys show?

The Haggertys: The first show was March 22nd, 2014, at Shoguns (#2) under their black tent outside. It was an alright turnout, and the band had fun. We later learned that many people were turned away or had to wait to get outside under the tent because of limited seating and fire codes.

Johnny: How would you describe your sound to a new listener?

The Haggertys: Straight-up, no-frills, fun-having, 3-piece rock cover band with a few surprises.

Johnny: You guys move in and out of different genres and decades of music pretty easily. Would you say there is one you’re more comfortable with than the others?

The Haggertys: Being a 3-piece with everyone doing something, we kinda gravitate towards 90’s rock songs we can easily play and cover well. More complicated songs with multi instruments tend to be harder (or impossible) to pull off with just three instruments, so we shy away from them. However, the art of taking a song and “making it your own” remake/cover is what we strive to do. Really any song we can cover well and make our own stays on the set list.

Johnny: Are you primarily covers or are you throwing some original stuff in the mix?

The Haggertys: We all played in what we called “Showcase Bands” back in the 90’s…all original songs and we all made albums, struggled to get gigs that paid, rehearsed a lot, tried to get signed, etc. Today we just play covers, play a lot, rehearse way less often, don’t care about getting signed, and get paid to play, which is nice. We won’t rule out that one day we might start writing songs again, but it isn’t on anyone’s radar anytime soon. We have done some reunion shows by combining Did Lee Squat? and Sand Dollar band members into a group called Did Lee Dollar. This allowed us to reconnect with old bandmates and fans and play some of the old originals. Come to think of it, it’s probably time for another one of those shows.

Check out The Haggertys online at:

www.facebook.com/thehaggertys

www.instagram.com/thehaggertys

www.thehaggertysband.com

 

Shows:

  • Thursday, July 12th – Razzoo’s, Tyler, 7-10pm
  • Friday, September 14th – Gregg County Fair on Dennis Hiltz Memorial Stage, Longview
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Southern Charm: Small Town Girls With Big Time Sound

By Johnny Griffith

So there’s an old saying that has something to do with ‘dynamite comes in small packages’ and that certainly holds true with the two talented, dynamic artists in the East Texas duo Southern Charm. Both hailing from small East Texas towns, Shelby Ballenger and Billie Jo Sewell have been making a name for themselves both as successful solo artists and the fast rising duet, Southern Charm. Both artists have honed their crafts on many local stages and along the way found they had a knack for harmony and similar musical interests. Borne of a shared passion and great timing, Southern Charm takes advantage of each artist’s unique vocal ability and is greater than the sum of its parts…which is saying something because Shelby and Billie Jo both have burgeoning solo careers in their own right. So much so that Southern Charm as a duet has to book six months in advance and then they have a seven show run in seven east Texas venues.

We caught up with them in the middle of this latest run to get some more background on these ladies and their “Southern Charm.”

Johnny: When did you two first take up an interest in music?

Shelby: From the age of 13 I began singing at The Wylie Opry. From there, I was self-taught to play the guitar. I eventually began going to open mic nights all around north Texas to make a name for myself. About 2 years ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to quit my day job and pursue music full time. I haven’t looked back.

Billie Jo: I started singing when I was 4 years old and grew up singing in church. I went from singing at church to Opry’s, restaurants, and festivals, to opening for people such as Ray Price, Gene Watson, Justin Moore, Mike Ryan, and Stoney LaRue. I had the honor to be on “The Voice” where I made top 150 on season 6 and recently I made top 100 on “American Idol.” I just recently signed to TXM Records and am currently in the studio working on my first country single!

Johnny: Who were some of your early influences?

Shelby: I always looked up to dominant female singers growing up. My lead inspirations were Shania Twain, Lee Ann Rimes, and The Dixie Chicks. When I began songwriting, I leaned on lyrics by Chris Stapleton, Miranda Lambert, and local artists such as Meredith Crawford and Matt Grisby for inspiration.

Billie Jo: I was raised by my grandparents so I was inspired by the oldies but goodies, as I like to call them, such as George Jones, Ray Price, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, and many others.

Johnny: When did you decide music was more than just another hobby and was something worth pursuing?

Shelby: Once I began taking the stage with my guitar, people began talking about the talent and potential I had. I tried to make an impression at every new venue and began to see the joy it brought to people listening. I began entering songwriting competitions once my repertoire grew and placed with within the top four each time out of hundreds of hopefuls.

Billie Jo: I knew at a very early age that God didn’t give me this voice to just sing at home. I just knew that He gave me this voice to share with the world and that one day this would be my full time career which, gratefully, I’m very close to being able to say. I’ve always wanted to use my gift that God gave me in hopes that the audience may come to know Him through my music and testimony.

Johnny: How did you two first meet and when did the idea of a duo project come up?

Shelby & Billie Jo: We met at an East Texas singing competition a little over four years ago. From there, we became instant best friends.

Johnny: When and where was your first show as Southern Charm?

Shelby & Billie Jo: Our first official show was at The Foxhole where we won a karaoke competition. We took home $2,500 which made it our first paid gig together. From there Southern Charm played The Forge in Ben Wheeler and then our solo careers started taking off. We now book six months in advance for the Southern Charm East Texas Tour.

Johnny: How about the name? Where did that idea come from?

Shelby: Billie Jo’s son Chandler won most handsome baby boy at the Emory Rains pageant in 2014. I saw Billie Jo make a post on Facebook needing a car to ride in the parade with. I offered her convertible slug bug for the event. While we were in the car, we started trying out songs to sing together. I mentioned that I’d always wanted to put a duo together and name the act Southern Charm. Billie Jo loved the idea so we ran with it!

Johnny: How would you describe your sound?

Shelby: Southern Charm’s sound has a pure tone and the harmonies blend extremely well. I [Shelby] have more of the bluesy tone and Billie Jo brings the powerhouse country twang. Together, our voices mesh to create a unique country sound.

Johnny: What do you feel you bring to the table individually that compliments your partner on stage?

Shelby & Billie Jo: We know the dynamics of music. We never try to overpower each other onstage and that’s something every duo needs in order to be successful.

Johnny: About how many originals do you try to work in during a show?

Shelby & Billie Jo: We try to work in all of our most favorite originals at each and every show. Usually there’s about four to five each.

Johnny: You’ve had a busy summer already, what’s coming up on the radar the rest of the year that you’re excited about?

Shelby: I’m currently working on my full album with Joe Austin as producer. I’ve written 12 brand new songs and my new single “Heartbreaks & Hangovers” will be released late July while the album will drop next summer.

Billie Jo: I have a big secret I’ll be able to announce in a couple months about where I will be on the National Stage. Currently I’m in the studio with Chad Mauldin and Mauldin Productions working on my new single that will be released in early August.

Johnny: What can a first timer expect at a Southern Charm show?

Shelby & Billie Joe: Harmonies that give goosebumps and two best friends shining, as they do what they love onstage.

Keep up with Southern Charm online at facebook.com/southerncharmmusic.

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