In February of this year, Mitchell Tenpenny released his self-titled EP that included a song that I knew was going to be special called ‘Drunk Me.’ With the release of this EP, I was blown away by Mitchell’s unique vocals that really separate him from the pack in country music- there is no one that has a similar sound to Mitchell. I knew I wanted to have him play our festival this year and we were ultimately able to successfully confirm this as one of the performers. As the year progressed, I seemed to be hearing it all over the place. On the radio, on social media- I was even walking down Hampton Beach this summer and heard one of the bars on the strip playing it. It was announced late this past week that ‘Drunk Me’ was certified GOLD by the RIAA- a great accomplishment.
I’ve known that this song has been climbing the charts- at the festival, Mitchell thanked the crowd for making it his first top 40 single. But looking at the Mediabase charts this week, I was so incredibly happy to see ‘Drunk Me’ currently sitting at #15 on the country charts! And we don’t normally do this, but we’re asking y’all to call into your local stations and request this song to help Mitchell in having this phenomenal single continue to climb to the top of the charts.
Now since we don’t normally do this, why are we now? Because Mitchell deserves it.
For one, Mitchell’s talent is undeniable. His vocal ability is so unique so really captivating. Add that in with great songwriting and you have a recipe for a hit. Which is exactly what ‘Drunk Me’ is.
Secondly, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a ton of artists over the years but I can honestly say that Mitchell is one of the best artists of any of the artists that I’ve worked with here at NECM. Whether it be through the festival, at a show, or just an interview, Mitchell is the cream of the crop when it comes to being a good person. He’s extremely humble and polite and he is so appreciative of everyone that helps him along the way. I remember him thanking me for bringing him to the festival and a lot of artists say ‘thank you’ but you can tell that some really don’t mean it. Mitchell meant it. This dude just radiates pure sincerity. I can confidently say that Mitchell is one of the nicest people in country music.
And in case you didn’t know, Mitchell also does a ton of great work for others through his 10Penny Fund which was created by Mitchell from personal experience with a sincere desire to provide inspiration and support to cancer patients beyond traditional medical treatment. Determined to make change, the Fund invests in sustainable and meaningful programs that motivate patients, encourage healing, and build a community of support. You can donate to the fund here.
So again, please call into your local station and request Mitchell Tenpenny’s ‘Drunk Me.’ This song deserves to be at the top of the charts and so does Mitchell.
Sunday August 12th marked the fourth annual New England Country Music Festival presented by the Harbor Agency. The all-day ten-hour party was held at the picturesque Cisco Brewers in Portsmouth New Hampshire. The weather might not have been perfectly clear, but the beer, vendors, and music were surely amazing!
Walking the grounds, one could enjoy anything from decadent brownies and gourmet cupcakes to yummy pizza, hand cut French fries and fresh squeezed lemonade. Those seeking the true ‘country feel’ could even purchase a country western style hat! Many spectators came, not only for the great music, but for the delicious craft beer! Looking around the field before the start of the show, almost every hand was filled with a drink!
Sprinkles began falling from the cloudy sky overhead, but that didn’t dampen anybody’s start to the afternoon. First onto the stage was April Cushman, an emerging country (with a hint of rock ’n’ roll) singer/songwriter born and bred right here in New Hampshire. Dawning a black t-shirt with the classic Rolling Stones ‘tongue and lip design,’ she sang a real rocking song titled ‘Poison Ivy.’ When that song ended, she said to the crowd: “Come on Portsmouth! Let’s get louder!” “You all ready for a full day of music?” Next, she sang her very own ‘Impossible Excuse.’
While thinking about Cushman’s own daughter, one couldn’t help but notice the most adorable little girl sitting up on her daddy’s shoulder’s swaying to the music. She continued: “I’m a daddy’s girl so I decided to write a song from my dad’s point of view. The funny part about this is that it’s my mom’s favorite song of mine and she has no idea that it’s about her!” Then, she sang ‘Must’ve Been Me.’ Switching things up a bit, she next sang a cover of ZZ Top’s ‘Tush.’ She introduced her bandmates, Jimmy Eibner, “also known as the chemistry cowboy” on steel guitar, Dino on bass, Phil Sica on drums, and Steve Moreau on “the glitter” guitar.” The next song she played, ‘North Carolina,’ was released just two weeks ago. She finished up her set with ‘Drifting Lines’. April Cushman definitely has her own unique style, and is on her way to something big.
With the sprinkles continuing to fall during the set change, it seemed appropriate that DJ Mikey Fletch played Luke Bryan’s hit ‘Rain is a Good Thing.’ The crowd continued to fill in both the pit section and the general admission area as the beautiful Annie Brobst took the stage. Many of Brobst’s loyal fans, known as ‘The ABB Army,’ were there to support her. Before playing her first song, ‘Paperweight,’ she said to the audience: “Hey Portsmouth, How you doin’? This is a little song we wrote about being tied down.” Then she played another original that she cowrote with guitarist Rodger Hagopian titled ‘Still Water.’ She said: “In June we got the chance to go to some pretty big festivals out west and that was kinda a trip of a lifetime. We played in Colorado and in Montana. And we shared the stage with some pretty big names like Eric Church, Brett Eldredge, and Kip Moore. But the young lady that we got to share the stage with that I was most excited about was a lady named Ashley McBryde. Oh yeah! We’ve got some fans out there! I became a huge fan of hers. If you don’t know of her, you gotta look her up! But if you’ve heard of her then you’ve heard of this song. I hope you sing along!” Brobst then played her only cover song, ‘A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega.’
Next up were two more originals ‘Love You More’ and ‘Change of Heart.’ Both are off her latest album titled ‘My First Rodeo.’ She thanked April Cushman for kicking off the day by saying “Girl power to the max!” And said: “Thanks to all our friends, new fans, and existing fans. We appreciate you being out here today and we hope to see you again! I like to end our sets with the first song that I ever wrote. This is a cowrite between Rodger and I and the title track off our first EP. And it’s the story about my journey out to the Boston area from Columbus, Ohio.” She ended with ‘Ghost.’ It’s hard not to fall in love with Brobst’s heartfelt style of music.
The rain had stopped and DJ Mikey Fletch played Chris Stapleton’s ‘Broken Halos.’ Again, another fitting song as Timmy Brown played this one for the judges during his time on American Idol 2018. Last up for the “local artists” was fan-favorite Timmy Brown, a singer/songwriter from Norton, MA. Brown filled his set with originals, and kicked things off with the title track from his EP, ‘Leave This Town.’ He asked the crowd: “You guys ready to have some fun today?” Next, he sang ‘Amen.’ He continued to work the crowd: “Who’s drinking with me today? Put your hands together for April and Annie!” Continuing with the originals, he played ‘Tequila Lime & Salt’. Bassist Dave Allen had some fun on stage by changing his hat with each song! For this one, Allen appropriately wore a red, green, and yellow Jamaican hat with dread locks attached. Timmy Brown then played a brand-new song that is not even on iTunes or Spotify yet. He said: “How many of you go out and say I’m only having one drink? But one turns to two and two turns to three. That’s what I wrote this song about. It’s called ‘How We Drink Here’ cause that’s how we drink in New England!” He then told a personal story as to why he wrote the next song on his setlist. “So, I was lucky this year. I got to audition in front of Luke Bryan, Katie Perry, and Lionel Richie. One of my first songs that I played on the show was a song that I wrote for my grandmother. My grandmother passed away three years ago and she pretty much raised me. My parents were divorced when I was nine years old. So, I moved in with my father and my grandparents. And one of the stories about this song, I went to a psychic medium one day and one of the things she said to me was ‘your grandmother, Barbara, she wants to thank you either for a poem or a song.’ So, I know every time I play this song she’s up there listening.” Then he played ‘Fly Away.’
Next up was another not-yet recorded song titled ‘That’s Where You Come In.’ It was impressive to see that so many fans knew every line and were singing along. To really get the crowd pumped, he played two covers, Brittney Spears’ ‘Hit Me Baby’ and Devin Dawson’s ‘All On Me.’ He finished up by thanking the crowd: “If it weren’t for all of you supporting our dreams, we wouldn’t be up here today.” And concluded with a song that has over 400,000 streams on Spotify titled ‘Lil Bit.’ He made sure to mention his band members: Mike Franklin on lead guitar, David Allen on base, Leo Melanson on acoustic guitar, and Jeff Ballou on drums. It was so perfect to see a Timmy Brown beach ball from his merch table being tossed around in the pit during the end of his set. Though Brown is moving to Nashville this October, he’ll be back once or twice a month to play shows around the area and all of his loyal fans will be there supporting him in every step along the way.
Winning raffle prize numbers, for meet and greet passes, were pulled and announced during the set changes. The breeze picked up and the air seemed a little cooler. Right on schedule at 3:45, Michael Tyler, singer/songwriter from Thayer, MO took the stage. He played ‘Good at Being Young,’ ‘Secret,’ and ‘Crazy Last Night.’ He addressed the crowd: “Do we have any Jason Aldean fans out there? So, a little bit about how I kinda got into this music thing here. I was a huge fan of Jason Aldean growing up. I got on Myspace and I found his producer, the guy that makes his music sound so good. I said ‘Hey man, I love the way you make albums sound, I think we could make some good music together.’ It was a long shot but whatever. I was fourteen at the time in my hometown of Thayer, MO in the middle of nowhere. He replied and said ‘Hey do you ever play in Nashville?’ And I was like ‘All the time!’ (The crowd laughed!) And so long story short he came to a show in Nashville, I had my brother on guitar and I had my cousin on the drums and we played for him. And he said you know what you need to do? You need to get home to write a bunch more songs and get back to me. And I was like ok, that’s the end of that. And then four years later he signed me to my publishing company down in Nashville and I started writing songs. And then we met with Reviver Records and they signed us and now we’re in front of y‘all.” He then played Jason Aldean’s hit ‘Tattoos on This Town.’ He continued with two more originals, ‘I Can’t See’ and ‘If I Was Your Man.’ He talked a little about his next song choice, ‘Hey Mama’ and said: “My mom sat me and my brother down one night in high school. We may or may not have been drinking. We got caught. She said ‘alright boys, I just want you to know that if you go somewhere at one of your friends houses and you have been drinking, please don’t drive home or try and sneak home cause we know what you’re doing. We just want you to be smart about it. If you drink too much, please call us and we’ll come get you. You won’t be in trouble, we just want y’all safe. My brother goes to a party and he calls my mom in the middle of the night. She picks up and she’s like do you need me to come get you, are you in trouble? And he’s like no, we’re all good, we’re having a great time. And mom’s like ok, well why are you calling me. And he says cause I just met this girl, she’s incredible, I think I’m in love with her. And my mom’s like ok, let’s just talk about it in the morning. And they’ve been together now eight years! So I got to write this thing for my brother and it’s called ‘Hey Mama.’” Tyler continued with two cover songs, John Mellencamp’s ‘Jack and Diane’ and Billy Currington’s ‘Good Directions.’ He concluded his part of the show with one of his cowrites, Dierk’s Bentley’s hit ‘Somewhere on a Beach.’ Michael Tyler really got the crowd fired up for the next three performers.
We were more than halfway through the show. Following Tyler on the big stage was Nashville native singer/songwriter Mitchell Tenpenny. He started things off with ‘Truck,’ a song written about his old beat up truck that he had in high-school. After putting down his blue and white electric guitar, he addressed the crowd: “We appreciate y’all coming out today and hanging out with us. The rain is holding off. I don’t mind a little overcast. This next song is about this ex-girlfriend I used to have who was too hot for me and she knew it.” It’s titled ‘How She Goes.’ He continued with two more originals, ‘Mix Drinks’ and ‘Secrets.’ TenPenny talked a bit about his EP “We do have an EP out right now with six songs. And we just finished our first full-length record. And I’m so excited to get those songs out. It’s been a long time and a long process, but I’m very grateful for all the love that y’all share on the EP and the single.” He went on to play one of songs from the new record, ‘Goner.’
Changing things up, TenPenny played a crowd pleaser cover of Blake Shelton’s ‘Ol’ Red.’ He then played ‘Just Another.’ He then said “So last year I got a phone call from a guy named Granger Smith. Does anybody know him? I had been writing a lot of songs for a long time and that was my first time an artist called and said hey man, I want to cut your song. I want to put it on my record. And about a week later he called and said I want to make that song a single and it’s going to radio! That was the first time I ever got to hear my song on the radio. And thank you guys so much for listening and making it a hit for me. It changed my life and opened up a couple of doors. I want to give you my version of that song that we wrote.” He sang ‘If The Boot Fits.’ He really got the crowd singing along to his fun-loving song ‘Alcohol.’ He picked up his acoustic guitar and everyone was excited to hear the first song he ever released to country radio, ‘Drunk Me.’ Then he finished off with ‘Bitches.’ TenPenny had to fly in for our festival, so he wasn’t able to bring any merchandise with him. That made it even more special to see so many fans in the crowd with his t-shirts on!
It was starting to get dark as Hokes Bluff, Alabama native Drake White took the stage. He kicked things off with two crowd pleasers: ‘Feels Good’ and ‘Heartbeat.’ “It’s been a little while since we’ve been here. Thank you for the kind welcome.” White continued with ‘Story.’ Then he played ‘Girl in Pieces’ and ‘Grandpa’s Farm,’ two of the five songs off his new EP out right now called ‘Pieces.’ Before singing ‘Free,’ White said: “There’s no one as hard working as our troops. I salute you all today. This is a messed-up world but I do believe there is more good people than bad in it.” Taking a break from playing the acoustic guitar, White continued with ‘After Midnight.’ It’s another one from the new EP, written about how there are a lot of good things that happen after midnight. Highlighting the fiddle, he played ‘All Would Be Right.’ Drake White even danced barefoot and swayed to the fiddle sounds.
Darkness had set in and the stage lights came on just in time for ‘Take Me As I Am.’ Offering up some advice, White mentioned: “Any musician that you love, not just us…If you want them to keep going we are in crucial times right now, go download their music, go tell your friends about them. Go tell somebody about those people that you love.” He dedicated the next song, ‘The Best is Yet to Come,’ to all the mothers. This is a powerful song and White ended with his fist high in the air. Keeping with the slow, meaningful songs, he belted out ‘Makin’ Me Look Good.’ Then set the crowd on fire with ‘Livin’ The Dream.’ Every single person on hat damp green grass was singing along! Reminding many of us of the classic ABC series, ‘The Wonder Years,’ Drake White ended his part of the night with a Beatles’ cover of ‘With a Little Help From My Friends.’ The crowd really connected with White’s energy and soulfulness on stage.
It had been a long day of some incredible country music. The time read 8:15 and the crowd was pumped for headliner Chase Rice to take the stage. Rice started the night with ‘Lions.’ The contrast between the misty fog in the air and the bright lights created a smoke-like backdrop. Rice showcased his amazing guitarists as they continued to rock out to ‘Do it Like This.’ Rice grabbed his acoustic guitar for ‘How She Rolls.’ He threw his guitar pic into the crowd and then prepared to slow things down a bit with his latest release to country radio, ‘Eyes On You.’ “I think the last time we were out here was probably Boston. There’s one thing that has not changed since I’ve been coming up here to this part of the Northeast and it’s that I still very much love Jack Daniels. I drink it all the time.” He then played ‘Jack Daniels Showed Up.’
After giving out lots of high-fives and handshakes, Rice got the crowd cheering with a compilation cover of Dierk’s Bentley’s ‘Drunk on a Plane,’ Eric Church’s Drink in My Hand,’ Kenny Chesney’s ‘American Kids,’ and Tim McGraw’s ‘Live Like You Were Dying.’ Bringing things down a notch, Rice played ‘Gonna Wanna Tonight.’ “I want to write music that just means something to me. Because if it meant something to me it will mean something to somebody else. So, I heard this quote that made me think about that, From Harlan Howard. He said that somebody asked him a long time ago what country music was and he said three chords and the truth.” Of course, that led to ‘Three Chords and the Truth.’ He kept with the slow tempo and sang ‘Ride.’ The crowd sang along and Rice said: “You all sounded sexy out there!” Rice then played a cover of his first number one song as a songwriter, Florida Georgia Line’s hit ‘Cruise.’ He ended the show with ‘Ready Set Roll.’ Demonstrating his true appreciation for his fans, Rice spent about 10-15 minutes autographing hats, t-shirts, cups, anything that his fans handed to him!
It was truly an epic day at Cisco Brewers in Portsmouth, NH. Thank you all for supporting country music and we can’t wait to see y’all again next year!
August 12, 2018 will mark the 4th installment in the annual New England Country Music Festival presented by The Harbor Agency. This all-day, family-friendly event returns to the Redhook Brewery in Portsmouth, NH and will feature both nationally touring acts that fans can hear on country radio every day, along with some of New England’s best rising talent.
The festival will be headlined by Chase Rice who has drawn sold out crowds in Hampton, NH and Boston, MA (including this past January). Rice, with a pair of top 5 singles, and a brand new album (‘Lambs and Lions‘) has also had great success in the songwriting world including being a co-writer in one of the highest selling country singles of all time- Florida Georgia Line’s ‘Cruise.’
Joining Chase Rice will be Drake White- who had a few sold out shows of his headlining Spark Tour in New England just last year; plus, Sony Nashville recording artist Mitchell Tenpenny and Michael Tyler, who co-wrote Dierk’s Bentley’s ‘Somewhere On A Beach.’
New England’s own Timmy Brown and Annie Brobst- both 2x New England Country Music Local Artists of the Year award winners- as well as April Cushman will kick off the day.
More information on this year’s festival can be found at necmharbor.com. Tickets are on sale now and VIP tickets are already SOLD OUT. There is a limited number of PIT tickets still available for $45 (plus fees) and General Admission tickets are $40 (plus fees). Kids under 12 are free with the purchase of tickets. Tickets can be purchased here.