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Toby Keith was born with the name Toby Keith Covel on July 8, 1961, in Clinton, Okla. The family moved to Oklahoma City when Keith was young, and it was there he became interested in the musicians who worked in his grandmother's supper club. He got his first guitar at age 8, but it would be years before Keith would pursue music as a career. At 6-feet-4 inches, Keith worked in the oil industry and played defensive end with the Oklahoma City Drillers United States Football League (USFL) team.
In 1984, Keith turned to music full time, playing the honky-tonk circuit in Oklahoma and Texas with the band Easy Money. A demo tape made the rounds in Nashville, but there were no takers. After catching a show in Oklahoma, Mercury Records President Harold Shedd signed him to Mercury Records. His 1993 debut single, "Should've Been a Cowboy," went to No. 1 on the Billboard country singles chart, and his self-titled debut album was certified platinum.
When Shedd left Mercury for Polydor Records, Keith went with him. He released a second album, Boomtown, in 1994. The gold-selling collection produced the No. 1 hit "Who's That Man" and the Top 5 hit "You Ain't Much Fun." The platinum-selling Blue Moon followed in 1996, featuring introspective tunes like "Does That Blue Moon Ever Shine on You" and "Me Too."
When Polydor closed its Nashville operation, Toby Keith returned to Mercury Nashville, releasing Dream Walkin' in 1997. The bittersweet ballad, "When We Were in Love," went to No. 2, as did a cover version of rocker Sting's divorce ode "I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying." The duet earned the unlikely pair a Grammy nomination, and Sting joined Keith for a performance on the 1997 CMA Awards telecast. Keith's Greatest Hits, Volume I followed in 1998, although its lead single, "Getcha Some," failed to crack the Top 10. (It has since sold more than 2 million copies.)
Unable to see eye to eye with Mercury, Keith moved to the fledgling DreamWorks Nashville label in 1999. There he worked with label head and producer James Stroud on the studio album How Do You Like Me Now?! The lead single, "When Love Fades," was a modest hit, but the title cut was a five-week No. 1 hit. Another single, "You Shouldn't Kiss Me Like This," also went to the top spot on the singles chart for three weeks.
The double-platinum success of How Do You Like Me Now?! also earned Toby Keith some long-awaited award nominations. Keith won two Academy of Country Music awards in 2000, for male vocalist and album. In 2001, he won his first CMA award, for male vocalist. His 2001 album, Pull My Chain, produced three No. 1 hits, "I'm Just Talkin' About Tonight," "I Wanna Talk About Me" and "My List." (The latter two spent five weeks each at No. 1.) He was also nominated for six Academy of Country Music awards in 2001, though he didn't win any.
On March 24, 2001, Toby Keith's father, H.K. Covel, was killed in a traffic accident in Oklahoma. Covel's truck was sideswiped by another vehicle, which caused his truck to swerve into another lane, where it collided with a charter bus. Within six months, the events of 9/11 prompted Keith to write "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)," a song about his father's patriotism that pulled no punches. As the lead single from the 2002 album Unleashed, the song peaked at No. 1 over the Independence Day weekend.
Ever since being crowned as the Top New Artist at the 2010 Academy of Country Music awards, Luke Bryan tour dates have been country music's hottest ticket. While Bryan is now riding the success of back-to-back #1 singles, his dream of moving to Nashville was briefly derailed after he suffered the tragedy of losing his older brother in an accident the weekend he was set to move. Instead, Bryan enrolled at Georgia Southern University and was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. It was not until 2001 that Bryan finally got his chance for stardom when he moved to the country music capital.
Luke Bryan got his chance when he was spotted by a Capital Records A&R executive at a local honky-tonk, who signed him to a record deal in 2005. The country newcomer released his first album, I'll Stay, in 2007, which featured the hit singles "All My Friends Say" and "We Rode in Trucks." In addition, Bryan is credited with penning Billy Currington's #1 Country hit "Good Directions," also released in 2007. In support of his debut album, Luke Bryan tour dates had him traveling around the nation playing at county fairs and mid-sized venues. It was with the release of his sophomore set, Doin' My Thing, and its onslaught of chart topping singles that brought Bryan to the big leagues. The first single, "Do I," melted the hearts of southern belles all over the country and peaked at #2 in 2009. The next two singles, "Rain is a Good Thing" and "Someone Else Calling you Baby," proved to be even more successful when they each hit #1 on the same survey. As the ACM's top new artist of 2010, country music fans everywhere are demanding Luke Bryan tour dates at a venue near them.
Lucky for fans, Bryan's concert schedule has him touring with Tim McGraw and the Band Perry at various cities throughout the country this Spring and Summer 2011. Don't miss out on catching one of country music's rising stars: use Eventful as your resource for news and updates on Luke Bryan tour dates.
Still in his 20’s having played two tours in Europe, three tours in Iraq and Kuwait for the American Soldiers, and three shows at the White House including two for President Bush himself, Granger Smith will never say he didn’t “Live life to the lees.” “Music is what I do” quips Smith. “If I can help someone get lost in the moment of a song long enough to forget the worries of the world or long enough to remember what’s most important, then I’ve done my job.” Granger’s musical contributions are not limited to the exotic travels or remote locations. Since his early teens, the native Texan has been writing, singing and honing his craft as a musician. At 19, his work paid off by landing him a songwriting contract with the world famous EMI Music Publishing in Nashville. Smith, a former member of the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M, followed his dream east on what would be a five year stay in Tennessee. “That experience at 19 years old was critical in developing who I am today as an artist,” says Granger. “I tried to soak in the craft of songwriting like a sponge from the older guys I was paired with. I credit so much of my learning to those mentors.” In 2004, upon signing a new publishing contract under singer Phil Vassar, Granger was given the freedom to return to Texas and rediscover himself as an artist. He re-entered the Texas market and re-enrolled at Texas A&M University. Over the next two years, Smith released three albums and received his bachelor’s degree from A&M all while tearing up the Texas highways on the way to the next concert. As an aid to developing his signature sound, Smith recorded and produced his most recent albums himself in his own studio with his own band. “The freedom to take our time in the studio with my own band is priceless,” says Granger. In appreciation to his alma mater, Granger wrote the song “We Bleed Maroon” with proceeds going to a scholarship fund for incoming students with exceptional spirit. The song was quickly adopted as a modern day anthem for the school and the music video is still played on the jumbotron at Texas A&M home football games. On May 31st 2008, the song was taken even higher when it traveled on the Space Shuttle Discovery with Astronaut Michael Fossum and the STS-124 Crew. Although his songs alone, chiseled from deep roots in country and rock music seem to capture all generations from all over the world, Granger Smith was born to be an entertainer. People are naturally drawn to his charisma from casual music lovers to esteemed diplomats, from young children to the President of the United States himself. Granger Smith is an adept presence both on stage and through the speaker, a young artist whose flair stands at level with some of the greatest country musicians and who will someday, given a continued rise in popularity, be heard and seen throughout America. However, the imminent question must be asked: Is the world ready for Granger Smith?
There’s always been a strong connection between country and Christian music, and few acts better exemplify that unique bond than High Valley. With a fresh, engaging sound that combines the best of contemporary country with compelling faith-based lyrics, High Valley is truly the best of both musical worlds.
“We always describe ourselves as Dierks Bentley as a trio. It’s that new country kind of vibe,” says Brad Rempel, who along with his brothers Bryan and Curtis comprises High Valley “It’s not as pop as some contemporary country. Our music is a little more organic, a little more acoustic. We grew up singing harmony as a family and in church. There was always harmony and acoustic instruments, so our live show features a mandolin, an acoustic guitar, a bass guitar and three part harmony.”
The Canadian trio has opened shows for Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, LeAnn Rimes and Reba McEntire, earning a solid reputation as a must-see live act. High Valley’s last album, “Broken Borders,” was named Album of the Year at the 2007 GMA Canada Covenant Awards in the country category while their hit “Back to You” was honored as Country Song of the Year. High Valley has also been among the nominees for Group of the Year at the Nashville-based Inspirational Country Music Awards.
“There’s a huge part of the population that really loves positive faith-based country songs. People want to hear songs with faith and hope instead of desperation and despair, and it does seem like there’s been a spike in the last few years,” Brad says referencing such faith-based country hits as Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel” and Brooks & Dunn’s “Believe.” “People are searching a for some encouragement and something to believe in.”
High Valley serves up that kind of music. Skilled musicianship combined with the sibling’s soaring harmonies create a fresh sound that has attracted a legion of enthusiastic fans from Canada to Central America, where the group has a strong fan base in Belize. “We’ve done 60 or so dates in Central America,” says Bryan. “Our sister used to teach at a Christian school there and she gave our CD to a radio station. The station invited us to come and tour. We’ve been back five or six times.”
The Canadian-born siblings grew up in Alberta on a farm in the rural community of La Crete. “When you leave Nashville, if you get to the Canadian border, you are only half way home,” says Brad with a laugh. “La Crete is parallel with Juneau, Alaska, just as far north as Juneau. Right now you can either cross the river on an ice bridge--so you are actually driving across the river--or you can take two and a half hours worth of gravel road to get there. It’s a pretty remote little town.”
The Rempel family relocated to Canada in a rather unusual fashion when the siblings’ paternal grandfather loaded his family onto a truck and drove them from Mexico to Canada. “Our parents were both born in Mexico in a Mennonite colony where they rode horse and buggy and had no electricity,” says Brad. “Then our grandfather bought an old gray truck and as a result, he got kicked out of the colony because that was against the rules to have a vehicle. So he packed up the family and immigrated to Canada with the family in the back of this truck. There were two families, four adults in the front and 20 children on the box and that’s how they made their move all the way to Canada.”
Life on their farm was dominated by faith, family, hard work and lots of country music. “We always heard Diamond Rio and Ricky Skaggs growing up,” says Bryan. “I love Blackhawk and I always liked listening to the Everly Brothers on the record player. George Jones was played a lot too.”
It didn’t take long for the brothers’ own musical aspirations to develop and they knew very early on what they wanted to name the band. “When I was a kid, I had a little tape recorder I used to do mock radio shows,” recalls Brad. “I was the deejay. I was the band. I was the advertising company and everything. The band was always called High Valley. So when we started our band, we just kind of naturally called it High Valley because that’s what I called every band in my little radio show.”
Brad was only 12 when the group began performing and Bryan was nine-years-old. Curtis, the youngest sibling, joined the group later on. The brothers performed at Bible and church camps then graduated to opening dates for major country acts such as Canada’s top country artist Paul Brandt. “In 2001, we recorded for the first time in Nashville,” says Brad, “and the following year we spent 110 days on the road, even though we were still in school and had part-time jobs.”
The siblings have always enjoyed connecting with people and sharing the gospel with a hurting world. “We play quite a few churches, but I’ve always wanted to be able to sing the music that we sing to an unsaved audience, people who haven’t heard the message of Jesus Christ,” says Curtis. “That’s who we want to sing to and that’s the reason we sing.”
“Our goal has always been to show the light of Jesus Christ to the world,” adds Brad. “We want to offer a positive, faith-based version of the new country sound. That’s why we play a lot of mainstream festivals, sharing stages with Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, and Brad Paisley.”
In working on their Centricity debut, the members of High Valley want to record songs that will both inspire and entertain. Brad has been busy collaborating with some of Nashville’s top songwriters, among them Cindy Morgan, Tony Wood and Joel Lindsey.
“We recorded a song called ‘Been Through The Water’ and it says, “Don’t wear your old shoes on your brand new feet when you’ve been through the water,’” Says Brad. “We feel that song really speaks for itself--once Jesus has changed your life, let the world see it and make sure there’s a difference.”
Curtis agrees. “The Bible it says that our gifts are gifts from God and we need to give them back to him,” he says. “We want to use the gifts that He’s given to us to honor Him and to expand the Kingdom and just to sing to people who need to hear the message.”