(Photo by Leann Noel, Bewitched Photography Studio)
The Justin Heskett Band, so far, has survived the competition and made it to the fourth round of the contest, recently winning in Arnold, Mo. On Saturday, Oct. 6, they will be traveling to Walker, Minn.., to compete in the fifth round. According to band members, if they win there, it's on to Nashville for the final round in January. For the winner, winning that final
round will mean a $100,000 prize plus a recording contract.
When asked about the contest, Cody Fox, drummer with the band, explained, "It's a talent search for the youngest country artist around here, whether you're a songwriter, musician, whatever. You go to these different state levels and compete and if you win, you just keep going up, and up, and up, until finally, you get to the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville."
He noted that at the competition in Minnesota, the band has to play two songs in seven minutes. To this, Heskett added, "So, we're driving 15 hours to play for seven minutes." Even though it is a long way to drive for seven minutes on-stage, both Heskett and Fox totally agree it's definitely worth the trip. Fox noted that some of the recognized country artists that have participated in this competition include Sarah Evans, Garth Brooks, and Martina McBride.
"Hopefully, that works out for us," Fox said.
Other members of the band include Cody Noel on rhythm guitar and the mandolin, and Matt Simpson on bass guitar. Heskett is the lead guitarist as well as the lead singer and Fox is the drummer of the group.
When asked about how the band came together, Heskett said, "We got together about two to three years ago, just me and Cody Fox, just sitting and playing drums and guitar in the house. [We] ended up starting the band and playing around in little dives, little places and picnics and anything we could get. So we figured that we were, hopefully, good enough to start going so we started recording some stuff and met more musicians. In about a year, we finally met Cody Noel and got him in the band. He's the rhythm player and then we got Matt Simpson here recently and he's on bass. So, we've been playing, out and about, as a full band pretty well for about two years, adding and removing members."
Some of the places that the band has performed include the Pink Galion in Cape Girardeau, Mo., and the John D. Hale Band Barn Party. The band has been the opening act for country recording star David Allen Coe and has played at the BullFest Rodeo that was held in Poplar Bluff, Mo. Fox added that they've played at "any other bar, restaurant from here to St. Louis to Memphis and everywhere in between.
When Heskett and Fox were asked how they became interested in participating in the Texaco Country Showdown, Heskett added that he has tried out for The Voice and American Idol as well as the Country Showdown contest with another band, all without results. With this band behind him, they've made it to the fourth round.
When asked how they became interested in music, Heskett and Fox noted that they both come from a musical background. Fox's great uncle is Jack Campbell of "Jack Campbell and the Ambassadors."
"Just about every other sibling in my family plays an instrument. It's in me and I just thought one day, 'I'm going to learn how to play drums and here I am. I did it," he said, adding, "So, I grew up traveling around with my mother who played with Jack Campbell and the McGruders. We're good friends with them. I learned how to play in church. I know that sounds cliché but it's true. I played in church and then went on to playing with them."
Continuing, Fox added, "I learned how to make people dance in church." Now he makes people dance where ever the band plays.
Heskett then shared a little about his musical background. He noted how his mother's great uncle was always playing the guitar and the piano.
"We always had one of his pianos around, guitar or something. I'd just pick it up and start playing that. I got into church and my preacher helped me figure how to play some guitar notes [and] I got into high school band and it just snowballed until I bought my own guitar and started playing by myself."
Neither Heskett or Fox have had any lessons or reads music. They are both self taught, although people have at one time or another shown them things.
Although the band does not have any CD's to sell at their concerts, people can listen to their music on iTunes, YouTube, and Amazon. The band also has a Facebook page. Fans are urged to keep up with the band and results will always be posted.
The band's debut album "Outlaw" contains the following songs, "Driving Me," "89 Doublewide," "Outlaw," "Together," "Come Back to Me," "When my Year Ends," and "Drunken Escapade," and "Bustin' Out."
Noel and Heskitt are the songwriters of the group. Heskett notes that he writes songs about things that have actually happened in his lifetime. For instance, "Driving Me" tells the story of how he's driving down the highway coming home to his family and although he's the one behind the wheel, they're the ones driving him, "89 Double Wide" tells the story of how his father got a bank loan to purchase a mobile home and "When my Year Ends" is about his brother's year in Iraq with the National Guard. The album can be purchased on iTunes.
"We want soulful stuff that means something to somebody. If one person buys it and they love it, then we did our job," Fox said.
When asked where they hope this journey takes them, Heskett said, "If we could do this to support our families and be able to make a name for ourselves, it's kind of what our goal is. To get as far as we can out in public and be able to succeed." Fox in turn said, "If we don't, I think we'll still be around." Continuing, Heskett replied, "We'll always play, no matter what."
When asked what advice they would give to others wanting to pursue this line of work, they both agreed on not being surprised if you go broke but to never give up. Fox said, "You could be playing to the smallest crowd [and] the dirtiest, nastiest place you could ever think of, but you never know who's sitting in that third table back there watching you."
In closing, both Heskett and Fox thanked all their fans for their support.
To keep up with the results of the Texaco Country Showdown Contest, go to Country Showdown.com.