It’s been 37 years and more than 4,500 shows since five guys who loved to make music came together to form Sawyer Brown in Apopka, Florida. They’d all played with the Don King road band.
This year the band that’s been nicknamed “the Rolling Stones of Country Music,” headlines Springfest at 8:30 p.m. Friday, May 18, at Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds.
Keyboardist Gregg “Hobie” Hubbard, one of the four founding members still with the group, credits their longevity and chemistry to “having a sense of humor about pretty much everything.”
“We take work seriously, putting together a record or giving 100 percent every night you are on the road.
“What matters is we love what we’re doing -- still, every bit as much as we did and recognize it as a gift to get to do this.”
To say they have a storied history in country music is a bit of an understatement.
The multi-award winning country band has had more than 50 of their singles chart on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs and recorded 23 studio albums.
They’ve garnered awards from the Country Music Association, the Academy of Country Music Awards, are six-time winners of Vocal Band of the Year by TNN/Music City News Country Music Awards and three-time winners of CMT Country Music Awards.
“Awards are awesome,” Hubbard said, but it’s the fan-voted CMT awards they cherish most.
When they hit the stage, expect to hear their top, most loved songs.
“We’re strong believers -- when folks come to see you live, they want to hear the songs they know. We know that’s why people are out there, so that’s what we play.”
As to his favorites?
“I absolutely love ‘The Walk.’ We play it every single night. It’s one of my very favorites.”
“Some Girls Do” is another song he really likes. “People responded to that right away.”
“And maybe ‘The Dirt Road.’ It’s a song that Mark and I wrote and we know our families are in the song.”
Besides Hubbard, band members include Mark Miller, lead vocals; Shayne Hill, multi-instrumentalist; Jim Scholten, bass guitar; and Joe Smyth, percussion.
The themes are everyday life. “Underneath some of this is a lot of perseverance because that’s what we saw in our hometowns and families... and this sense of we’re all in this together,” said Hubbard. “It’s that stuff that continues to matter to us.”
The band has over 30 notable singles.
Hubbard mentions cowriting two of them, “Dirt Road” and “Drive Me Wild,” as well as a number of the band’s other songs.
“One of my favorite things to do is write,” he said. He was definitely influenced by his parents who were English teachers. “I grew up loving language and with an appreciation of writing.”
There were other powerful influences early on, as well.
Piano lessons, which he points out, “is not what you want to do in second grade.”
But it turns out, his parents were right.
“I had an incredibly great music teacher in elementary school who encouraged harmony singing, not just singing the melody.”
All of these helped shape his career choice and success.
“I have been obsessed with music as long as I can remember,” from listening to his parents Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney and Peter, Paul and Mary albums to anything he could find on the radio dial.
“It was a hybrid of everything,” he said of his musical tastes. “That’s where we come from. It never felt like we had to fit in one small box.”
“When we started out, we hoped we would be able to do this,” he said of their long history.
“To play night after night and see that the music has made that connection, it doesn’t get any better than that. ...Getting to be part of that connection in a live setting has always been fuel for the fire for us.”
People should come ready to have a good time, he said. It’s not a sit-still kind of audience.
And the band loves playing Montana.
“If I ever go missing from Tennessee, that’s where I’ll be found.
“You’ve got the most interesting mix of people, this beautiful physical landscape and we always have great audiences out there.”
Tickets are on sale at www.lccfairgrounds.com or the Lewis & Clark County Fairgrounds Administrative office. They are $30 in advance and $35 day of for festival style tickets (limited seating available). Or call 457-8516.
Helena's own Sunsah 406 will open for Sawyer Brown beginning at 7:30 pm.