Area band charging forward on music scene

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The pursuit of simple happiness has developed into an Americandream for five young men. And they are singing and performing thatdream to the beat of a country tune.

A mere thought entertaining both the idea of creating a countryband and “Bringing Mullets Back” has matured into a success storywith energy and enthusiasm written all over it.

From the brainchild of former front man Josh Brister, TheColonels were born and have blossomed lately. In fact, 2009’s BestCountry Artist as declared by the Jackson Free Press has also takenthe state title in the Country Colgate Showdown in Kosciusko duringthe Central Mississippi Fair.

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Now, with fingers crossed, blistered and sore from practice, TheColonels’ originals “Brighter Day” and “Nothing Left to Lose” maybe the two songs that could sweep the Colgate regional title inRock Hill, S.C. on Dec. 5, sending Topher Brown, 26; Charlie “ChuckDiesel” Townsend, 29; Donnie “The Duke” Hollis, 25; Marvin “Chatty”Curtis, 32; and Brett “Skitch” Hart, 21, with them on anall-expense paid trip to nationals in Nashville, Tenn. If TheColonels take the national title, which comes with being the “bestnew act in country music,” according to a recent press release,they will also win $100,000.

“My nerves are OK right now,” said lead man Brown. “I’m surethat by the time we go I will be a nervous wreck.”

But in the meantime, “we are just working out any bugs in theperformance,” Brown said.

As far as competition goes, Townsend knows it is only going toget stiffer from this point on.

“It is only going to get harder in regional competition. It isgoing to be tough. (It’s) a matter of nailing it on game day,” hesaid.

Curtis said the judge’s critiquing for a band is somewhatdifferent from the grading of a solo act. There can’t be any weaklinks because it could hurt the group’s grade as a whole, heexplained.

“We just want to put on the highest quality show with lots ofenergy,” the keyboardist said.

Summing up their transition from just for fun to a seriouspursuit, several members of The Colonels defined their music as”country on crack.” “Country on crack,” can be defined as a stageperformance full of energy, well-played instruments andambition.

Both Curtis and Townsend, a rhythm guitarist, are no toriginalmembers, but their exuberant talent cinched them a spot in TheColonels. Brown, Hollis and Hart are original members.

The band has developed a team effort in almost every process ofmaking the band work. Curtis said everyone pulls their weight inthe band by contributing creatively through ad-libbing theirinstrumental parts in the creating process, pursuing gigs andhandling business operatives.

The band has matured to promote a democratic form of say-soamong its members.

“What I like about the band is that we all work together to makeit gel – the whole band is in the decision-making process,” Curtissaid.

Each member thrives on music somehow and working several jobs tomake this love for music work in the real world.

The band has also made some highly progressive footsteps, havingopened for some serious country headliners like Shooter Jennings,Crossin Dixon, Randy Houser, Jeff Bates, Paul Thorn and James Otto,most of whom are Mississippi natives.

“I love being onstage. I love the rush I get from stage fright,”bassist Hollis said.

Brown loves being surrounded by a crew he loves and meshes wellwith.

“I love playing with these guys. And I just love music period,”Brown said.

He derives his inspirations from his father, Ricky Brown who hasbeen in music for 40 years. He is also enlightened by the blues,including the sounds of Stevie Ray Vaughn.

“(I) decided at a young age (13) I wanted to be a rock star,”Brown said.

Brown, Curtis and Hart basically live and breathe music.

All three work at Brookhaven Music and Sound Co. off of Highway51 South and are teachers, too. Brown teaches guitar and runs therecording studio. Curtis teaches piano and Hart delivers lessons onthe drums. Curtis is glad to work neck and neck with “top of theline musicians” both at work and on stage.

Townsend is a personal trainer and operates his own smallbusiness specializing in documentary film productions. Hollis is afather and a husband and is in the pursuit of furthering hiseducation as of now.

Work also bleeds into their spiritual lives as well.

All “still play for Jesus,” Hart said, at churches all over thesouth central part of the state, including Hollis at Temple Baptistin Hattiesburg, Hart and Brown at Pinelake Baptist Church inFlowood, Townsend at Country Woods Baptist Church in Byram andCurtis at Easthaven Baptist Church in Brookhaven.

All five are aware of the issue of playing in both the churchand secular scenes. They are mature in how they handle the issue ofplaying in a bar on Friday or Saturday and singing or playing forGod on Sunday or Wednesday.

“I definitely think you have to separate the two. If you playmusic for a living you have to play music. It’s the job … youhave to pay the light bill … so any money-making gig is to make aliving as long as it’s done in a professional manner,” Curtissaid.

“Playing music in church is different to me,” he continued.”Church music should be played in a professional manner as wellbecause not only are you playing for the people … you are playingfor God … which is more important than anything. As a band werealize the importance of staying grounded and knowing that churchshould not be taken lightly.”

Hart sees it as an opportunity of lighting up a dark room withtheir music by exampling their faith and fortitude in theirrelationship with Christ.

“For me, because I don’t drink or smoke or do the typical barthings, it isn’t really much of an issue. I personally think thatby being Christians that play in bars, we have a unique opportunityto live out our faith in ways that others might not get the chanceto. Are we perfect at doing that? By no means, but we try to useour influence in a positive way,” Hart said.

“Hopefully, we handle one like we handle the other. We don’treally try to compartmentalize our lives. We all love Christ and weall love music. We can love Christ and music at church and at abar,” Hollis said.

Townsend is on the same page with the rest of the band when itcomes to the situation and seeing it as work is work.

“Bottom line, I’ve made a commitment to the band,” he said. “Ibelieve God provided an opportunity to be a musician for a living.That means working. Taking gigs. You gotta take them as theycome.”

Most members are homegrown in area, except for new memberTownsend who is from Byram. Hart and Hollis grew up around eachother in the Loyd Star area of Lincoln County. Hart graduated fromplaying the French horn in the school band to learning to playdrums on his own after dropping out of band his junior year at LoydStar Attendance Center.

Curtis grew up playing music with his family and has beenplaying in gospel groups since he was 16.

He probably brings the most experience to the group. He comesfrom a musical family and met his wife Jessica, who also sings somefor the band at performances, while playing piano in her father’sgospel group Bob Scott and Sweet Spirit. The group had seven songsin the top 80 charts for gospel music. He has lived in Brookhavenarea for the past seven years.

“Its kind of crazy how opportunity presents itself,” Curtissaid.

He has also orchestrated music for recent Brookhaven LittleTheatre’s “Wizard of Oz” production and has personally played pianofor the Fordices. Brown said he brings experience to the group.

Maybe this is a combination of talent, passion, faith,perseverance, experience and hard work will continue to pay off forThe Colonels.

In fact, Hart believes they have been “blessed” to come as faras they have.