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Feb 13 Valentine's Day Weekend with 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. Since releasing my debut EP, It’s Getting Too Late To Say It’s Early, in 2008, I’ve played over 1,000 shows, performed in front of crowds over 10,000 people, shared a tour bus with Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, and heard the sound of a sold-out theater singing one of my songs in unison back to me. I’ve been able to share the stage with amazing artists like James Blunt, Gavin DeGraw, Marc Broussard, Edwin McCain, the Goo Goo Dolls, Grace Potter, Brandi Carlile and Heart. I’ve played for the U.S. troops stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as tours in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, performing for our men and women in uniform stationed overseas. learn more
Feb 14 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
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