Highway 55Cypress SaloonAugust 30, 2014 8:00 PM
12710 Telge Road
Cypress, TX 77429
View More >
Scott Ricks was a songwriter looking for a voice. After searching for three years all over the Southeast, Scott finally found the one he had been looking for and just three miles from his home in Albany, Georgia. Lead singer, Cody Smith, and guitarist, John Garrett, had been singing acoustic cover shows around Albany when a chance meeting between Scott and Cody at the Levee Studios brought the three together. "I had gone to the Levee Studio to work on some songs," said Scott, "when Dennis Frazier, who was helping me produce them, told me he had let a kid sing a few earlier that day and thought I was going to be impressed. Dennis had heard Cody singing in another part of the studio and thought it was the radio instead of someone taking voice lessons to try to improve their range. I had heard hundreds of singers over the years and couldn't find the voice I thought fit my songs. I also remember sitting there running my mouth about what a front man needed to look like, act like, etc., while Dennis got the song up on the board. He hit the button on Cody singing "Corvette Dreams" and after the first few lines I turned to Dennis and asked, ‘What does he look like?'…"
After the introduction they decided to use the band name that Cody and John had been using to play around town, Highway 55. Georgia Highway 55 ran through Cody and John's hometown of Dawson, Georgia, just a few miles down the road from Albany. The two decided on the name because of all the good times and life lessons that had occurred down Highway 55.
The first order of business was to get an album in the works and to put a band together. Scott gave Cody and John some copies of other recordings of his 200+ songs so they could pick their favorites and start learning material.
"When I slide in the CD," Cody said, "I couldn't believe what I was hearing. How were these songs not already on the radio? I bet I listened to "Little White Lines" a hundred times that first night. I could hear myself singing every single song and that was a big deal to me. I don't want to sing songs just because I thought they can sell. I want to sing songs that have something to do with my life and mean something to me. I couldn't have found more of that in Scott's music."
They added band members Jason Bowden on drums, Dave Cortez on Bass and Dwight Plymel on lead guitar and started branching out into bigger shows around Southwest Georgia including Tifton, Fitzgerald, Ellaville, Valdosta and Statesboro. Unfortunately, after only a month of playing with the band, Dwight was killed in a car accident on Interstate 75 in October 2010. Dwight had been a long time traveling musician and was just what the young band had needed. His untimely death left a big hole, but also a sense of hope when the band members reflected on his short stint with them.
"I bet he told me a dozen times," Scott says, "how much he loved the music and Cody's strong voice. He had been playing for 20 plus years and he would say ‘I'm finally on to something, I just know it.' It meant a lot to know that he enjoyed playing with us that much and really believed in what we were doing and where we were headed."
Skyler McCrary was added as the guitarist to replace Dwight and the band was again off and running. The lineup of musicians, like any young band, has changed since its inception as Highway 55 continues to find its voice and audience in music. Current members of the traveling group include Cody Smith on lead vocals, Skyler McCrary on lead guitar ,Collen Strickland on Guitar, Layne Faulkner on Bass, Gavin Livermore on Drums and Matt Eakins on steel guitar, lap steel and dobro.
"Having Gavin join the band has been huge for our live show performances," says Cody. "They really put a lot of time and effort into practicing and have forced us all to step up our game to keep up. We hardly ever practiced outside of setting up for shows before they joined the band, but now we practice at least a couple of times a week and it really shows in how our music is coming together."
The band completed building a music studio this past year complete with Pro Tools HD and has been holding off releasing any new music until they felt like they had the songs just like they wanted. "Matt studied and trained as an engineer," says Scott, "so he's been a huge asset not only as a musician, but also in the studio. We'd be lost without him when it comes to recording."
The summer of 2013 will see the band spread its wings to other parts of the country as they embark on a Western tour that includes Texas, Louisiana, Colorado, Wyoming, and the Dakotas. "It's been great to see the crowds get bigger," says Cody, "and to see people singing our songs even in places that we haven't been before. We try to keep it simple. Just focus on the music and work on making sure the crowd has a good time. It feels like we grow stronger as a band every time we play. The chance to take our music out West and find new friends and fans is very exciting. "
Highway 55 maybe an eclectic combination of musical talents and personalities, but it all comes together for a band that has its finger on the pulse of the growing population of music lovers of all genres. Realizing that everyday holds its own trials and tribulations, Highway 55 wants to ease those days with music that you will love to listen to and feel a connection to.
"We talk all the time about how none of us, or anybody we know, only has one type of music on their iPods. I think today's music lovers, like us, are into all kinds of music. So in our shows we cover anything from Hank Williams Jr. to Lady Gaga. All these influences come together and make us who we are and it keeps it fun."
The band's first album, The Levee Sessions, is a mixture of Country and Southern Rock songs that represent the various types of music that the members relate too. From the hard driving guitars of "Southern Nights" to the more poetic "Middle of Nowhere", a song about Scott's hometown of Fayetteville, Alabama, Highway 55 wanted to show that they listen, like and play all sorts of music. For those who like sad old country songs "Bottle and My Bible" will be a favorite. For those who like a little more drive in their music, the fast pace of "Rough" is sure to catch their ear. One of the Bands's most requested songs has become "Little White Lines", a song about drug use, rehab and redemption.
"Of course, the first question I get asked," says songwriter Scott Ricks, "is whether or not the song is about me? Fortunately, I can answer no. It was inspired by a friend of mine and the struggles they went through with one of their children. But I think the song is so popular because everybody either is, or knows somebody, who has been devastated by addiction."
Opinions vary on whether or not a song like "Little White Lines" would ever make it on country music radio given its content.
"Obviously, I'd be lying if I said we weren't trying to get songs on main stream radio," says Scott, "But at the same time, that has been one of our fan's favorite songs and we couldn't be happier about it. We want to write music that relates to people like it relates to us and for that reason we'll never put any type of restrictions on what we write or play. If we get it, we'll play it and hope that other's get it too."
And apparently others are getting it. "We have set new records for sales in each of the last 12 consecutive months," says band manager Austin McAlpin. "It's exciting to know that every month we gain more fans than we did the month before. We've all ready sold over 40,000 downloads of our songs and about 4,000 CDs. And we really haven't left South Georgia yet. Our website averages about 30,000 hits per month and our YouTube video of Little White Lines has nearly 60,000 views. "
"Those are pretty good numbers for a band with only one album, no major label pushing them and very little radio play," continues Austin, "but I think that is probably the most exciting part. The fact that we are all just getting started."