Without significant radio airplay, it takes a healthy work ethic to break through as a touring band. As they pass through markets, bands must rely on audience buzz or getting noticed by a curious concert calendar reader.
This has been the business model for Whiskey Myers since the band formed in 2008. The Texas Southern Rock group have been true road warriors, playing cities throughout the South and developing a loyal following.
So after playing various local clubs and theaters in the past, the boys in Whiskey Myers are now set to play their largest venue ever in the Triangle when they plug in as part of the Carnival of Madness tour at Red Hat Amphitheater in downtown Raleigh Saturday night.
Playing on the massive tour, and opening for such mainstream rock stalwarts as Shinedown and Black Stone Cherry, has offered the members of Whiskey Myers a chance to step up their game on a bigger stage both literally and figuratively. According to bassist Gary Brown, it has become a bit of on-the-job training.
“There’s a little bit of a learning curve,” Brown explains over the phone, during a break in the summer tour. “But at this point we’ve played enough large stages in front of large crowds that we’ve started to figure out how to have a stage presence. You learn quick that you have to reach everyone that shows up, to the point where the guy at the very back of the venue notices what you are doing.
“Shinedown has really got it figured out – how to do this whole touring thing – and some of the guys in our band are getting a little bit spoiled. You play these large stages in front of these large crowds every night; it doesn’t take long to start getting spoiled.”
Maybe a little spoiling is something that the five guys who make up Whiskey Myers deserve after the grassroots campaign that built their fan base. Even now, watching from the stages of the amphitheaters, Brown says it is obvious that the majority of the audience members aren’t buying tickets to see his band, necessarily. Still, the musician says that the band manages to gain a few more fans each night.
We just are who we are, and the music that we have is just what comes out of us when we play.
“It’s been a pretty good reception,” he says. “When you look out there, you can tell which ones in the crowd are the folks who have never heard of us before. As the shows progress, they visually warm up to us.”
But Brown looks forward to a day when the band may not have to fight quite so hard to get recognition. With their last album “Early Morning Shakes” debuting at No. 1 on Billboard’s Digital Country Album chart, and managing to crack the Top Ten in the Overall Country Album chart, he and the rest of the band are on the cusp of their biggest album release thus far.
And when “Mud,” the latest record from the Texas band lands in stores next month, it will have some of the hottest names in music attached to it. With both record company Thirty Tigers and producer Dave Cobb, both known recently for breaking such names as Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson into the country mainstream, the guys in Whiskey Myers are learning to balance newly acquired expectations from the corporate side of the music business with the “Ronnie Van Zant fronting Black Sabbath” vibe that has brought them this far.
It’s a new world for them, and one that Brown says they have to be careful traversing without losing the motivation that they have relied upon.
“(Mainstream success) would be great if it happened, but we’ve never catered our music toward what we think would ever get us onto the radio or anything like that,” Brown says. “We make our music and hope that radio picks it up. I just think if you ever start writing music with a certain mindset toward something like that, it just loses its heart and authenticity.
“There’s been some people who tried to fit us into the country music category,” Brown explains, “but then some country folks don’t think we’re country enough. Of course then rock people don’t think we’re rock and roll enough. We just are who we are, and the music that we have is just what comes out of us when we play.”
Who: Carnival of Madness Tour featuring Shinedown, Black Stone Cherry and Whiskey Myers
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Red Hat Amphitheater, 500 S. McDowell St., Raleigh
Info: 800-745-3000 or redhatamphitheater.com