WHEN SINGER-SONGWRITER LUKE BRYAN FIRST ARRIVED IN NASHVILLE in late 2001, he wasted no time showcasing his considerable talents. He immediately got to work networking, songwriting, demoing, and weaving himself inextricably into the fabric of Music Row. After only a few months, his efforts paid off with a songwriting deal. And just a few years later, Bryan was recording and performing his own hits—including six #1 singles—and winning every country music award in sight. In 2012 alone, he won 11 major awards including a record nine wins at the American Country Awards as well as his first American Music Award.
SOME PEOPLE DO COUNTRY JUST A LITTLE DIFFERENTLY—like keyboardist and banjo player Kendal Marcy, who has performed and recorded with Brad Paisley and his band, the Drama Kings, for the past 13 years. With multiple instruments at his command and a musical background that includes both a concert pianist mother and a boogie-woogie piano-playing dad, Marcy and his diverse musical talents offer Paisley plenty of bandwidth to convey his distinctive musical personality.
EVEN IF YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF TIM PIERCE, you’ve heard him. A prolific Los Angeles session guitarist since the ’80s, Pierce has played on thousands of recordings by the likes of Michael Jackson, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Dave Matthews, Santana, Faith Hill, Josh Groban, Chris Isaak, Celine Dion, Ricky Martin, Joe Cocker, Kelly Clarkson, Jason Mraz, and many, many other artists. Tim took a break from his hectic studio schedule to field questions about his career and his craft.
GORDEN CAMPBELL LITERALLY CANNOT REMEMBER A TIME when he didn’t want to be a drummer. By age five he was accompanying the services in the Newburgh, New York, gospel church, where his grandfather served as pastor. “He had 13 kids, so all my aunts and uncles had something to do, like directing the choir or playing organ,” he says. “And they’re all still playing.”
JOSH KELLEY HAS COVERED A LOT OF GROUND, both musically and geographically. The Georgia-born singer/songwriter landed his first record deal while attending Ole Miss on a golf scholarship. He scored his first hit with 2003’s “Amazing,” and relocated to Los Angeles, where he crafted a string of catchy pop-rock albums. But by decade’s end he’d moved to Nashville, where he scored another hit with the pure country sound of his Georgia Clay album. Now he resides outside Park City, Utah, with his wife, film and TV star Katherine Heigl, and their kids.
SOMETIMES OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS—but sometimes it pays to do the knocking yourself. That’s the door-opening approach taken by Tommy Smith, guitarist and singer for rising London-based rock trio Leogun. The trio, which also includes bassist Matt Johnson and drummer Mike Lloyd, radiates crackling rock energy in the vein of Queens of the Stone Age and White Stripes. With the video for their first single, “Let’s Be Friends,” racking up views on YouTube, Leogun is now looking forward to the release of their debut LP in early 2013 on the Yamaha Entertainment Group label.
SOME KEYBOARDISTS JUST PLAY THE PARTS. Others pull up their music by the roots. For Jimmie “Bones” Trombly, who’s backed Kid Rock on piano, organ, harmonica, and vocals for the past 15 years, roots music is more than an influence—it’s a force of gravity that anchors his entire musical identity.
SOLO ARTIST, SONGSMITH, SIDEMAN: Keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist Russ Irwin’s musical career has been more like a game of musical chairs—one he’s definitely winning.
IT’S NO SECRET THAT THESE CAN BE TOUGH TIMES for working musicians. But drummer Dan Needham has overcome adversity via sheer talent, a positive attitude, and a multifaceted approach to the industry.
TRUMPETER BOBBY SHEW’S RESUME IS LONG AND COLORFUL. He played big-band jazz with Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. He led blazing horn sections behind Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, Barbra Streisand, and Smokey Robinson. He performed on countless film and TV soundtracks and has garnered GRAMMY® nods for his recordings as a leader. And as a leading educator and instrument designer, he influences the lives of countless young players, even from his current semi-retirement near Albuquerque, New Mexico, not far from where he grew up.