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Feb 12, 2016 Erick Baker Knoxville, TN If you had told me when I graduated from the University of Tennessee in the summer of 2001 that I would end up making a living as a singer-songwriter and a television show host, I wouldn't have believed you. My degree was in public relations; I didn't have a background in music, unless you count singing in the congregation on Sundays. Amazingly though, as it turns out, you would've been right. I didn’t grow up singing or playing music. I’ve never had voice lessons, and I taught myself how to play guitar. With my music, I’ve always relied on passion instead of skill. The first song I learned to play was “Straight to Hell” by Drivin' 'N' Cryin.' (My Mom and Dad were so proud.) My performing career began on an apartment balcony in South Knoxville, playing for friends and random people passing by, which soon led to playing cover shows at local bars and restaurants. I was 23 when I wrote my first song, in the summer of 2002. The first time I seriously considered pursuing a career in music was on May 9, 2007, after opening up for John Legend at Knoxville's Tennessee Theatre. At the time, I was in graduate school, working on a master’s degree in English. A local promoter heard me perform at a songwriter showcase a few weeks earlier and, remarkably, offered me the gig. I went from performing in a noisy bar for 15 people who could care less to a sold-out theatre of 1,500 who intently listened to every word I sang. The guy that walked on stage that night wasn’t the same guy that walked off. One set, six songs in just thirty minutes, changed my life forever. Music has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. It’s taken me to parts of the world I would have never seen and connected me with people I would have never met. It’s given my life purpose. Without music, I may have never met the two greatest loves of my life, my wife, Mandy, and my daughter, Annabelle Rose Baker. My songs belong to every right turn and wrong turn that has led me here. They reflect the pieces of poetry hidden in the experiences that lie within each of our everyday lives. Currently, along with continuing my career in music, I'm pursuing a new adventure, one that's led me back home. I’m proud to say I’ve lived in Tennessee my entire life. However, touring out on the road with my music for the last decade, I’ve only seen it passing by through a windshield. Finally, after all that time away, Tennessee is calling me back where I belong. As the host of the new PBS outdoor television show Tennessee Uncharted, I’m getting the opportunity to rediscover how great my home state is, one adventure at a time. Our lives are full of uncharted places, and this show is all about getting out and exploring them because you never know where they may lead you.There is always something new to be learned or gained, and every day I uncover a little more about myself. I am so grateful for what I’ve been able to do with just my voice, my words and a wood box with strings. Surprisingly, music has given me so much in my life. It’s allowed me to see the world and, along the way, find the beauty and blessing of home. learn more
Feb 14, 2016 Judah & The Lion Knoxville, TN “Friend of a friend” is the way it all came together, three very different people from very different places, united by a shared love of music. As a band, Judah & the Lion owes much to fate and to the small town feel of Nashville, the city that brought the trio together from scattered parts of the country. The three met while attending Belmont University in the city, introduced to each other through music and mutual friends. “We all had similar stories, despite the fact that we’d grown up in different places,” explains mandolin player Brian Macdonald, “Judah is the Southerner, I’m the Chicago city slicker, and Nate is the laidback, bearded Rocky Mountain guy.” One listen and you can hear the influence of each of their youths. Judah Akers in his Tennessee hometown, listening to the soulful crackle of Ray Charles records, Nate Zuercher, a Colorado kid into rugged rock’n’roll, Macdonald driving through the suburbs of Chicago, blasting everything from Frank Sinatra to Billy Joel. Somehow, all these sounds have come together in Judah & the Lion ’ the old school sincerity of Southern gospel and soul, the energy of rock and the time-tested pop of classics and hits from the past. And through it all, there is the sound too ’ of their shared obsession, the feverishly nostalgic twang of bluegrass, country and traditional folk music. Judah & the Lion is a modern pop band with a feel as old as hills and holler, Akers’ topical lyricism matched with the familiar feel traditional instrumentation ’ mandolin, banjo and the kind of vocal harmonies that make the heart ache. “We’re all very different people but it has been obvious since the day we met that we should make music together,” says banjo-player Nate Zuercher, “Though we’re different, we have similar philosophies as to what is important in life and that is a huge part of what keeps us going strong. We know it is important to enjoy where you’re at, to love the people you’re with and live a bold and passionate life. That looks different for each of us but allows us to relate and understand each other.” learn more