“I like to connect with people at any age, whatever it might be sonically or to the depth of what they are willing to think. I like to think, and I like people to think and that often generates a connection that can be nurtured,” says Stoney LaRue. As he prepares the release of Us Time, LaRue reflects on this important connection he has fostered with his fans over his 15-plus years of touring. Together, LaRue and his fans have culled together a “favorite live song set” that is dedicated to his loyal and growing fan base. LaRue is known for his real life, thinking man’s music.
US TIME is a collection of songs from the native Texan who now resides in Oklahoma reflecting on his own dreams that openly shares with his longtime fans. “This project is a tribute to my fans. We have developed a strong relationship and I appreciate all of them,” says LaRue. “ Together, we have built a compilation of fan favorites from the live shows that reflect the complexion of our time together in music, it is simply our US Time, “ he continues. This sentiment rings even louderafter LaRue took a hiatus from touring this summer to re-center his life that seemed to be lost.
LaRue says, “Being able to record such timeless songs as “Empty Glass”, “Into the Mystic” and “Wichita Lineman” aside some of original tunes, all selected by my fans make me feel validated as an artist and hopefully it gives the fans exactly what they are looking for”.
Being able to connect with fans the way we can today is mind blowing to LaRue. When this journey started over 15 years ago, communication was restricted mainly to the stage, written letters and before show meet and greets. Today’s instant social media connection is what helped generate this collection of songs. “I just kept a list of songs that fans would either request via Twitter and Facebook or yell to me on stage,” says LaRue. “Us Time is a very collaborative effort with them. Also, having RS Fields as the producer on this project was a good call. This is our first time working together and he totally nailed the production and we totally were in sync on how it should sound. I am very happy with the end result, it feels live and it feels real, and that is what music is all about,” he continued.
Independently charged, LaRue has sold over 300,000 records over his career and plays 200-plus shows a year. His songs have seen the top of the charts, most recently his hit “Golden Shackles” from his eOne Music debut, Aviator, in 2014.
For nearly a decade, American Aquarium have spent the majority of their days on the road, burning through a sprawl of highways during the day and playing hours of raw, rootsy rock & roll at night. Sometimes, the job is a grind. Most times, it’s a blessing. American Aquarium’s songs, filled with biographical lyrics about last calls, lost love and long horizons, have always explored both sides of that divide. For every drunken night at the bar, there’s a hangover in the morning. For every new relationship, there’s the chance of a broken heart. It’s that kind of honesty — that sort of balance — that makes the band’s newest album, Wolves, their strongest release to date.
And it nearly didn’t happen. When American Aquarium traveled to Muscle Shoals to record Burn.Flicker.Die. in 2012, they were convinced the album would be their last. Even though they had enlisted the help of award-winning singer-songwriter Jason Isbell to produce the sessions, they were exhausted; weathered and whittled to the bone by more than a half-decade of heavy partying and heavier touring. To a small group of diehard fans, they were absolute rockstars… but being rockstars to a cult audience doesn’t always put food on your table or gas in your tank. BJ Barham, the band’s frontman, was so poor that he’d been living out of a storage unit for months, unable to afford an apartment in the band’s hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina.
Clearly, something had to give. Maybe it was time to make one final album — an album about failure, desperation and disillusionment — and then throw in the towel.
As fate would have it, Burn.Flicker.Die. eventually proved itself to be the band’s most successful release to date. Critics loved it. Fans rallied behind it. Fast forward 2 years and almost 500 shows later, the band has travelled the world, quadrupled their fan base and reinvented their passion for the road. When the time came to record another album in June 2014, it only made sense to do something that celebrated survival rather than failure.
The result? Wolves, which Barham describes as “the sound of a band firing on all cylinders”. Produced by Megafaun’s Brad Cook and recorded during a 20-day stay at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, NC, Wolves was funded entirely by American Aquarium’s diehard fanbase. The album’s 10 tracks represent a departure from the band’s signature twang. Instead drawing more from the alternative rock sound that inspired their name almost a decade ago. Wolves blends the twang of the pedal steel with the dark, dirty swirl of two electric guitars, creating a sound that’s fit for the roadhouse, the honky tonk and the dive bar. Barham has certainly spent time in all three, but now looks to brighter horizons in these new songs.
“I’ve always written about being the drunk guy at the bar at 2 a.m.,” he admits. “I’ve written about the pick-up lines and the drinking and the drugs. This record is more personal than that. It’s a coming of age record.”
It’s also a record that reaffirms his faith in American Aquarium, a band he started in 2006. Since that time, more than 25 musicians have passed through the group’s ranks. In recent years though, things have felt a lot more stable. Ryan Johnson, Bill Corbin, Whit Wright, Kevin McClain and the newest addition, Colin Dimeo, round out the group, turning Barham’s songs into fiery, fleshed-out compositions.
With Wolves, which hit stores in early 2015, American Aquarium is literally bigger and better.
“We were legitimized by Burn.Flicker.Die.,” Barham says. “That album was a breakup record with the road. It basically said, ‘This is our last album, this is why we’re quitting, and hey, thanks for the memories.’ Fast-forward, though, and we’ve got a new record that says, ‘We ain’t done yet.'”
Mike and the Moonpies are the modern face of the outlaw country music movement. From their home in Austin, Texas, they carry the torch of their predecessors, while maintaining the originality and independence that the genre is infamous for. The Moonpies, led by Texas born songwriter Mike Harmeier, manage themselves and produce their own albums. While steeped in tradition, the Moonpies rejuvenate honky tonk and traditional country music and appeal to a wildly eclectic audience. They are equally at home in dance halls and theaters, and can share a bill with an indie rock band or a country legend.
The Moonpies live on the road and have the scars to prove it. Currently touring the U.S. in support of their third studio album, “Mockingbird”, they continue to live up to their reputation as one of the hardest working and veracious bands in independent country music.
“Mockingbird” is the 3rd studio album for Mike and the Moonpies. Produced by frontman Mike Harmeier and longtime friend and musician Michael Kingcaid (What Made Milwaukee Famous), the album features 10 brand new original songs all written by Harmeier and performed by the Moonpies. Several guest performers that appeared on 2012’s “The Hard Way” returned for this one, including Warren Hood (Lyle Lovett), Jenn Miori Hodges (Carper Family), and Pete Weiss (Leo Rondeau). Recorded at the legendary Cedar Creek Studio in Austin by John Silva (the Trishas) and mixed at Good Danny’s in Austin by Max Lorenzen, “Mockingbird” is the band’s best sounding album to date. This collection of songs find Harmeier in a very nostalgic state of mind both lyrically and musically. On the title track, reminiscent of Steve Earle’s “Guitar Town”, Harmeier sings about the influence of his father and grandfather on him today. The debut single “Smoke Em If You Got Em” kicks off with an Allman Brothers style guitar riff and speaks about the evolution of Harmeier and his band in the music industry. Lookout for several surprises on this album which is far and away the band’s most eclectic to date. “Mockingbird” is sure to make a huge impact on the Texas Country scene and place the Moonpies in a position to break into the Americana genre, where a large majority of traditional country and roots music currently reside.