Herald JournalWinsted-Lester Prairie Journal, May 20, 2002

Interviews with some Winstock artists

By Ryan Gueningsman

The countdown to Winstock 2002 is on.

The Friday, June 7 lineup includes The Clark Family Experience, Blake Shelton, Trace Adkins, and Lonestar.

The Clark Family Experience, 6 p.m.

Their names all begin with "A" and it's only appropriate as these brothers ­ some still high school age ­ are emerging on the scene as country music's newest musical sensation.

Brothers Alan, Aaron, Adam, Ashley, Andrew, and Austin Clark are The Clark Family Experience. Hailing from the small town of Rocky Mount, Va., the Clark kids were performing with their missionary parents since a very young age at churches and fairs.

After seeing them perform on a public access television show, they were brought to the national scene by famed Nashville manager Sherman Halsey.

"Quite simply, I was blown away," said Halsey. "Their talent, let alone stage presence and magnetism, compelled me to track these guys down. I had to work with them."

Halsey signed the guys to a recording contract with Halsey/Curb Records, and within several months of their signing, they landed a spot singing on The Oak Ridge Boys "Live From Las Vegas" variety show. This led to touring with George Strait for two summers, beginning work on their own TV series, as well as putting the finishing touches on their first album ­ which may be out by the time they hit the Winstock stage.

The guys have already been heard on the radio with several hit singles. As they continue to build their fan base, country music fans from all around will be checking out this new experience ­ The Clark Family Experience.

Some of The Clark Family Experience's hits:

· "(Meanwhile) Back at the Ranch"

· "To Quote Shakespeare"

· "Standin' Still"

Blake Shelton, 7:30 p.m.

Exclusive interview

When Blake Shelton moved to Nashville to pursue a career in music, he was offered a job immediately ­ painting a house.

Although painting a house was not what he had in mind, he gladly accepted the offer because the owner of the house was legendary songwriter Mae Boren Axton, whom he'd met several years before.

The native of Ada, Oklahoma, which is a town of about 15,000 people, Shelton has been in love with the outdoors since he was a child.

"I grew up loving the outdoors ­ hunting, fishing and things like that," Shelton said.

"I used to spend a lot of summer time with my Uncle Darrell, and he was the guy who'd go fishing with me on the river. When we got home, he'd grab his guitar and start playing and I was in awe of that."

His uncle was a major influence to him as far as learning to play the guitar, as well as teaching him to write songs.

"I've always loved music, but I didn't know anything about it. I didn't know how to play the guitar, and he's the guy that taught me that. He really got me interested in music and writing songs," Shelton said.

By the age of 17, Shelton had his heart set on where he wanted his life to go.

"By the time I was 17, man, I knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life," he said.

Shelton played at a local opry theater in the Ada area, and was hired as a regular performer after several guest appearances.

"That's where I really cut my teeth as far as being on stage and learning to entertain the crowds, talk to them, things like that," he said. "I was only 16-17 at the time, so I didn't play too many bars. When I did, we just had to beg and beg to get in there, and when we did, it was almost like don't ask again, so that was kind of hard."

Shelton took off for Nashville, still only 17 years old, in June of 1994, landing his house painting job at Axton's house.

"She was great to me, man," he said. "She really took me under her wing and introduced me to a lot of people in Nashville."

"Looking back on that time ­ that was a real important part of my life, just being with those people," he said.

At the same time he was painting, he came into contact with Bobby Braddock, who had written a lot of songs in the past.

"I think meeting Bobby was the biggest break of my career ­ probably my life. He took interest in my vocals, and was interested in producing. We talked about what we wanted to see on an album, and found it to be pretty similar," he said.

Along with Braddock, Shelton took the four or five songs he had recorded in Nashville and started looking for a record label.

The now defunct Giant Records signed Shelton, but even with a record deal, things weren't as easy as they may have seemed.

"Giant wouldn't put out the album, and Bobby stood by me through all of that when he didn't have to ­ he's a cool guy," Shelton said.

A short while later, Giant Records closed its doors without putting out Shelton's album.

"I thought it was over, man," he said. "I'd been hearing rumors that Giant was going to close, and in March of last year it began to happen.

"Austin" (Shelton's first single) was scheduled to be released, I think, April 28 of last year, and Giant Records closed its doors on April 18."

"Luckily though, there was a handful of radio stations that got their hands on "Austin," and it was already starting to chart ­ Warner took notice of that, took my project to that side of the label and it's worked out good for everyone," he said.

It's working out well, indeed. "Austin," once officially released to radio stations, went to the number one spot on the charts and stayed there a record-breaking five consecutive weeks.

"It's still all a blur to me from last year," he said. "You start feeling like a rock star or something because everyone wants a piece of you, they want to meet you, and know who you are.

"The only regret I have is that I didn't document it better ­ take pictures and keep track of everything that was going on.

"What I do is sing and pick the guitar, and when you get that kind of attention happening all the sudden like that, you don't know how to react," he said.

Shelton's second single, "All Over Me," was released and did well on the charts. His current single is a song called "Ol' Red."

"I'm pumped about that song right now," Shelton said. "It's a story song, almost like a miniature movie ­ it just blows my mind that they accomplished what they (the songwriters) did lyrically.

"It's my favorite song in the world," he said.

Even though Shelton is out there establishing himself as an artist, he's still not sure of the direction he wants to take.

"I don't really have a direction as an artist ­ I'm only 25 and don't even know who I am as a person. It's a growing process that I'm figuring out as I go," he said.

Shelton has started work for his next album, due out next year sometime, and is currently holding claim to a nomination for the Academy of Country Music's Top New Vocalist award.

"I owe all that to the success of "Austin." It's overwhelming to be nominated for an ACM, and both guys I'm nominated with (Chris Cagle and Phil Vassar) are real consistent and have great careers so far."

In a few weeks, following the ACM awards (on television Wednesday), Shelton will resume his schedule, stopping in Winsted.

"I hope I get to do some fishing, 'cause I love that stuff," he said.

Trace Adkins, 9 p.m.

Jumping onto the radar screen of the country music scene in the mid-'90s, Trace Adkins is one singer in today's industry who knows the meaning of hard work.

Following inspiration from watching his grandfather sing at church, Adkins was able to talk his father into letting him take guitar lessons. This developed into a great interest in music ­ and a passion for working hard.

A native of Louisiana, Adkins hit the club circuit and paid his dues in the honky-tonks of Texas. After several years of that ­ along with doing odd construction jobs, and even working on some oil rigs ­ Adkins decided to make the move up to Nashville.

He landed a job at a small club east of town, continued to work construction, and "made the rounds." A fate encounter at an airport led to Adkins meeting the president of Capital Records Nashville (see exclusive interview with Adkins on pages 32-33).

Before long, Adkins had his debut album out and scored his first number one hit song. He won the Academy of Country Music's New Male Vocalist award in 1997, and shortly thereafter, was on the road opening for Alan Jackson.

At this point in Adkins career ­ he knew he had to shake things up a little bit. With his latest album, "Chrome," he felt that "the first time people listen to this album, I think they're going to go, "Wow!' It's going to be one song that's really laid back and beautiful, and the next song is gonna scare 'em ­ that's kind of how this album is."

Now that summer is upon us, Adkins is looking forward to heading north to Winsted and "just going out there and doing our thing."

Some of Trace Adkins' Hits:

· "This Ain't No Thinkin' Thing"

· "I Left Something Turned On at Home"

· "More"

· "The Rest Of Mine"

· "Every Light in the House"

· "There's A Girl in Texas"

· "Lonely Won't Leave Me Alone"

· "I'm Tryin'"

· "Help Me Understand"

See Adkins interview

Lonestar, 10:30 p.m.

Not only are the members of Lonestar quite possibly the hottest band in country music today ­ they are also co-headlining Winstock 2002.

Although it has taken the band, who originally met in Texas, a few years to get to where they are today ­ as well as a lead singer change ­ they are now on the top of their game. With the release of their latest album, "I'm Already There," Lonestar keeps proving to those who thought it wasn't possible ­ that anything is possible.

Launching their career into the big-time was the hit song "Amazed," off of the album "Lonely Grill," which won two Academy of Country Music awards (song of the year and single of the year).

"Everything changed with "Amazed," said lead singer Richie McDonald. "We went from playing in front of 1,000 people to playing in front of 10,000 people. It brought us a lot of new fans. We gained a lot of confidence from 'Lonely Grill.' It was the album that defined us."

Now, Lonestar is taking advantage of their newfound fame. They toured with George Strait last spring, headlined their first major tour last fall, and this summer, will be bringing their music to many venues across the United States.

Lonestar is: Richie McDonald on lead vocals, Keech Rainwater on drums, Dean Sams on keyboard, and Michael Britt on guitar.

Some of Lonestar's hits:

· "Tequila Talkin'"

· "No News"

· "Tell Her"

· "With Me"

· "Smile"

· "What About Now"

· "Amazed"

· "I'm Already There"

· "Not A Day Goes By"

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