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October 15
Sydney Lett
After building a huge following of loyal fans in her hometown of Des Moines, Iowa, in 2013 Sydney departed for Nashville, guitar in hand where she immediately caught the attention of several music industry executives and is currently in the studio with producer Jamie Tate, working on her debut record due for release in 2017. Along with her love of music, Sydney is also a gearhead, spending all of her free time working on her '66 mustang, or hanging out at the race shop with her NASCAR family.
Russ Roberts
Russ Roberts never meets a stranger. Whether he’s riding a New York subway, soaking up sunshine on the Gulf Coast or shaking hands after concert, he’s always making a connection with people. More often than not, those moments find their way into a song. A born songwriter with an ear for a good hook and a head constantly humming with fresh melodies, Roberts has a gift for capturing life’s pivotal moments in music. It’s easy to see why Roberts has carved a successful niche as a modern day country troubadour, placing songs in films and contributing tunes to projects by country veterans such as Ed Bruce as well as fledgling bands.

Like most independent country artists, Roberts flies somewhat under the radar and has built a grassroots following performing in select venues coast to coast and releasing critically acclaimed projects. His songs are slice-of-life country anthems such as “Dudley’s Truck Stop,” a musical homage to a real restaurant that has kept a Virginia Mountain community and passersby fed and happy for many years. If Roberts sounds close to the subject, he is. He grew up in Rocky Mount, VA, raised on the traditional country music and small town values that still inform his artistry. “I always wanted to make music when I was a kid, but I just didn’t think I’d ever have the opportunity,” he confesses. “For some reason I had in my head that everybody that did the music thing was from a big town. I didn’t realize until later that everybody came from somewhere. There’s not a lot of Opry stars that were born and raised in Nashville. A whole lot of them come from little bitty towns.” His uncle Henry Charles--H.C.--as the family affectionately called him encouraged the aspiring artist. “He had these two guitars and he said, ‘if you learn five songs and you can play them as good as I do, I’ll give you one of those guitars,’” recalls Roberts. “Then he went into the Navy and I kept practicing, but he got killed in a car wreck when I was 12. I really lost interest in pretty much everything at that stage of the game because he was really like a father to me. He certainly changed my whole life’s direction just by teaching me a couple of songs and three or four chords on the guitar.”

By his teens, Roberts had developed an appreciation for fast cars, high-octane beverages and rock n’ roll. After high school, he tried college, but music kept stealing his focus from the books. He wound up working in a factory during what he refers to as is “prodigal son” years. “I got off on a wild tangent and learned a lot of hard lessons in that amount of time,” he says, recalling how his uncle’s death and his parent’s divorce put him in a tailspin. “All those circumstances just kind of snowballed on me. I was mad at the world and I think I was probably mad at God too..” Roberts admits those were wild times. “I had a fast car that ran 150. When I quit college and went to work at the factory, I just gravitated towards the guys that were angry like me,” he says. “We drank every day. We partied every day. I had my car leave the ground one time and land with two wheels off the road. I was running about 135 mph and it was heading straight for a tree.”

As is often the case, it was faith and love that turned his life around. He married his high school sweetheart, Debbie, and vowed to be a good husband. It was a tough battle, but one night he hit his knees, praying for help and found his life changed. With that clarity of mind came a renewed creative vision. He began writing songs and they came fast and furious. “I got a spiral notebook and wrote a song and it wasn’t long until another one came,” he recalls. “I had 30 songs in no time. It almost felt like it was being forced on me. I couldn’t get away from it.” He joined a local band that took top prize in the Wrangler Country Showdown, and like most aspiring country singer/songwriters, he set his sights on Nashville.

After he made the move, industry veterans such as Doodle Owens, Sheb Wooley and Ed Bruce took him under their wing, and he also co-wrote with such hot Music Row talents as Billy Dean, Steve Dean, Carl Jackson and Neil Thrasher. He began getting songs cut and also saw his tunes make it on the big screen in such films as “Varsity Blues.” Throughout his career, Roberts has established himself as a versatile artist—a talented singer/songwriter with the ability to evoke his hero Hank Williams on traditional country fare, yet with a bluesy side that gives his take on traditional country a unique flavor. “I love Hank, but also listened to the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd,” he says. “If you didn’t like Lynyrd Skynyrd, you wouldn’t ride in my car or if you did, you’d be miserable because I had it cranked so loud and Bad Company was played a lot too. I tended to lean towards the bluesier side, but I also loved Merle Haggard, George Jones and Randy Travis.”

His music pays respectful homage to his influences, yet it’s obvious Russ Roberts is his own artist. He’s forged a successful career built on solid songs. “Creature” is a chillingly vivid tale of redemption while “Same Old Feeling” is a breezy Southern celebration of love and devotion. “He Saw the Cross” bears witness to the power our actions have to change the lives around us. No matter the topic, the common thread in Roberts’ songs is realism. He has that ability to channel life’s experiences into music that always evokes a visceral response. Whether its’ laughter or tears, a sense of wonder or reluctant resignation, Roberts captures the full range of human emotions in his songs and unleashes them on stage. “I’ve always liked to say things a little differently,” Roberts comments. “I love music and love performing. If you can sing a song and take people out of their circumstances – even for a little while – that’s a precious commodity.”
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