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Sawyer Brown

Sawyer Brown

Country band

For the Record

Out of Step With Nashville

The Walk a Runaway Success

Something More to Say

Selected discography

Sources

Sawyer Brown is one of the few bands in country music history to be thrown into the spotlight early in their career as winners of a national awardand then forced for the next decade to try and live it down. However, such obstacles didnt stop the groups energetic members from giving their all for their music. While the Nashville-based country music industry proved to be a tough nut to crack, the bands highenergy compositions have won them legions of fans along the road to Music City acceptance. After over 10 years of constant touring and recording, the members of Sawyer Brown have finally gained a measure of respect from their Nashville peers, as well as critical acclaim as both songwriters and musicians.

The band got its start when Ohio-born singer/songwriter Mark Miller hooked up with Gregg Hobie Hubbard while both men were studying at the University of Central Florida in the late 1970s. After moving to Nashville in 1981, Miller and Hubbard formed the band Savannah along with bassist Jim Scholten, guitarist Bobby Randall, and drummer Joe Smyth. The group

For the Record

Members include Duncan Cameron (joined band, 1990), lead guitar, dobro, mandolin, steel guitar, background vocals; Gregg Hobie Hubbard, keyboards, background vocals; Mark Miller (wifes name, Lisa; children: Aden Gunnar Agustus), guitar, vocals, songwriter; Bobby Randall (bandmember, 1981-90), lead guitar; Jim Scholten, bass; and Joe Smyth, drums.

Group formed as Savannah, c. 1981; changed name to Sawyer Brown and worked the club circuit in Nashville, TN; signed with Capitol Records, 1985; released first Number One single Step That Step, 1985; signed with Curb Records, 1990.

Awards: Winners of Star Search competition, 1984; Horizon Award, Country Music Association, 1985; named TNN/Music City News vocal band of the year, 1993; video group of the year award, Country Music Television (CMT), 1993.

Addresses: Record company Curb Records, 47 Music Sq.E., Nashville, TN 37203.

soon decided that they needed a more original moniker: they changed their name to the Nashville street where they came to rehearse, and the band Sawyer Brown was born.

Millers rough-edged vocals provided a perfect instrument for the up-tempo songs about cars and girls that made up much of the groups early material. Their music was a reflection of the bandmembers own youth and exuberancewhich sometimes bordered on too much of a good thing, according to many critics. And while the group was full of confidence after winning the music competition on the syndicated television program Star Search in 1984, their award was an honor that didnt mean much to the Nashville music industry. Peter Cronin noted in Billboard, To country musics cognoscenti, Sawyer Brown was a little too uptown and showbizzy to be taken seriously. [But] in retrospect, the band has done a lot to make country music safe for the bolo-tied slickness of Diamond Rio and the highenergy showmanship of Garth Brooks.

Out of Step With Nashville

In 1985, the year following their Star Search award, the band broke their first Number One spot on the country charts with Step That Step; the single stayed on the Billboard country charts for 21 weeks and earned the band the Country Music Associations Horizon Award for new talent. Unfortunately, gaining a position on the charts turned out to be the exception for Sawyer Brown, rather than the rule. Musically, what happened to us is that we were always out there on the edge a little bit, and I think radio took a very strong swing toward traditional music for a few years, Miller told Edward Morris in Billboard. We continued to do what we were doing and kind of got into a no-mans land.

Sawyer Brown was determined not to let their lack of radio play affect them; with a rigorous touring schedule of over 220 shows per year, they built a base of loyal fans throughout the United States. We developed such a cult following that we were able to tour year-round, and we really didnt notice the difference between having a hit song and not having one, Miller asserted in the interview with Morris. Sawyer Browns energetic performance on stage was one of the reasons their concerts continued to draw large audiences; the groups musicianship and songwriting abilities boosted record sales among their growing following and accounted for their longevity despite lack of mainstream success during the 1980s.

The Walk a Runaway Success

The year 1990 marked a turning point for the band. With the departure of Randall, Sawyer Brown welcomed guitarist/songwriter Duncan Cameron on boardand good things began to happen. The groups 1991 album The Dirt Road featuring The Walk, a single written by Milleras well as Cafe on the Corner, released the following year, each received favorable critical reviews and went on to become gold records.

Sawyer Brown had claimed their position as one of Nashvilles top country bands, and the popularity of The Walk helped solidify their spot among country musics most respected acts. A poignant look at the growth of a relationship between a father and son, the song garnered several media Top Ten honors and held chart-topping positions for weeks on end.

That song was kind of an ace in the hole for us, noted Miller in a Curb Records press release. We believed in it so much that we put our hearts and souls into promoting it. We knew it had the potential to strike some emotional chords with people. The song did just that, with critics as well as fans: I know my own thinking began to change the day I was riding down the road and first heard The Walk, admitted Country Music contributor Bob Allen. I remember thinking that day, Damn! What a great song! Who the hell is this? I remember how floored I was to discover it was Sawyer Brown.

Something More to Say

Another possible reason for the bands newfound popularity is the emotional maturity reflected in their lyrics in recent years. I wrote Step That Step when I was 23 years old, explained Miller in the press material. Its been more than ten years now, and I think we look at life differently. Theres a much broader worldview we bring to our writing now. I dont think that means you rock any less. I think we rock as hard as we ever did. Its just that we have something more to say.

Sawyer Browns wealth of original material, most of it penned by Miller, was supplemented when songwriter Mac McAnally hooked up with the group on their 1992 release, Cafe on the Corner. McAnallys All These Years, a tense portrayal of marital infidelity, was one of the albums three Number One singles and one of the bands biggest hits. The successful songwriting partnership of Miller and McAnally found its way into the recording studio when McAnally signed on as co-producer of both Cafe on the Corner and 1993s Outskirts of Town. In the studio, McAnally balanced Sawyer Browns unrestrained enthusiasm with more spare, focused guitar accompaniments than the band had used on past projects, reflecting the groups growing image as chroniclers of the simple lives of working class folks.

The mix of songwriting, studio direction, and maturity seems to have worked, and in the wake of projects like Cafe on the Corner and Outskirts of Town, Sawyer Brown has been accepted into the Nashville fold: the nominations the group received in 1993 for honors from both the American Music Awards and the Academy of Country Music can attest to that fact. But winning the INN/Music City News award for vocal band of the year in 1993 had a special significance: as an award generated by the support of the groups fans, it reminded Sawyer Brown of their audiences role in advancing their growth as a group. As Smyth told the Nashville Banner, We got a renewed sense of our direction, musically, and I think that showed. Over the ten years weve been recording, weve all maturedthe songwriting, the performance, us as individuals. The energy is still there, but weve all grown up a bunch.

Selected discography

The Boys Are Back, Curb, 1989.

Greatest Hits, Curb, 1990.

The Dirt Road (includes Some Girls Do and The Walk), Curb, 1991.

Cafe on the Corner (includes All These Years), Curb, 1992.

Outskirts of Town (includes The Boys and Me and Drive Away), Curb, 1993.

Shakin, Capitol.

Buick, Curb.

Sources

Books

Cackett, Alan, Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Music, Crown, 1994.

Periodicals

Billboard, May 23, 1992; August 7, 1993.

Country Music, May 1994.

Country Song Roundup, January 1994; April 1994.

Nashville Banner, August 13, 1993.

Stereo Review, November 1993.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from a Curb Records press release.

Pamela L. Shelton

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Sawyer Brown

Sawyer Brown

Country band

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Sawyer Brown is one of the few bands in country music history to be thrown into the spotlight early in their career as winners of a national award, then forced for the next decade to try and live it down. However, such obstacles didnt stop the groups energetic members from giving their all to their music. While the Nashville-based country music industry proved to be a tough to break into, the bands high-energy compositions have won them legions of fans along the road to Music City acceptance.

The band got its start when Ohio-born singer/songwriter Mark Miller hooked up with Gregg Hobie Hubbard while both men were studying at the University of Central Florida in the late 1970s. After moving to Nashville in 1981, Miller and Hubbard formed the band Savannah along with bassist Jim Scholten, guitarist Bobby Randall, and drummer Joe Smyth. The group soon decided that they needed a more original name; they changed their name to the Nashville street where they went to rehearseSawyer Brown. Millers rough-edged vocals provided a perfect instrument for the up-tempo songs about cars and girls that made up much of the groups early material. Their music was a reflection of the band members own youth and exuberance. And while the group was full of confidence after winning the music competition on the syndicated television program Star Search in 1984, their award was an honor that didnt mean much to the Nashville music industry.

After winning the $100,000 first prize on Star Search, the band signed with Curb Records in Nashville. By the end of 1985, they scored three straight top ten hits. Sawyer Browns first number one hit, Step That Step, stayed on the Billboard country charts for 21 weeks and earned the band the Country Music Associations Horizon Award for new talent. Unfortunately, gaining a position on the charts turned out to be the exception for Sawyer Brown, rather than the rule. The group only managed two more top ten records through the end of the decade: This Missin You Heart of Mine and The Race Is On.

Some critics believe the Star Search win brought a stereotype along with it that was hard for the band to overcome. In 1999, Richard Quinn stated in Country Music, Its hard to get respect when your big break came in winning the Ed McMahon-hosted shlockfest Star Search The members of the band are bothered by the criticism they have received regarding Star Search. The way people put that whole Star Searchthing down really bothers us, said Jim Scholten who plays lead bass for the group. When Star Search came along, we were an aspiring band playing clubs and beating our heads against the wall. When somebody says You have a chance to go do a TV show and play in front of millions of people, what kind of idiots would be too cool to do it? Hubbard felt that the lack of success was because the band wasnt country enough for Nashville. He echoed the criticism while talking to Quinn, Too energetic, stand still, wear cowboy boots, somebody needs to have a cowboy hat, youre not country, you dont sound like everyone else in Nashville

Despite the lack of radio play, Sawyer Brown was determined to move forward. With a rigoroustouring schedule of over 220 shows per year, they built a base of loyal fans throughout the United States. Sawyer Browns energetic performance on stage was one of the reasons their concerts continued to draw large audiences; the groups musicianship and song writing abilities boosted record sales among their growing following and accounted for their longevity despite lack of mainstream success during the 1980s.

1990 marked a turning point for the band. Sawyer Brown welcomed guitarist/songwriter Duncan Cameron to the group as Randall departedthe only change within the band since its start. The groups 1991 album The Dirt Road, featuring The Walk, a single written by Miller, as well as Café on the Corner, released the following year, each received favorable critical reviews and went on to become gold records. Sawyer Brown had claimed their position as one of Nashvilles top country bands, and the popularity of The Walk helped solidify their spot among country musics most respected acts. A poignant look at

For the Record

Members include Duncan Cameron (born July 27, 1956; joined band, 1990), lead guitar, dobro, mandolin, steel guitar, background vocals; Greg Hobie Hubbard (born October 4, 1960), keyboards, background vocals; Mark Miller (born October 25, 1958), guitar, vocals, songwriter; Bobby Randall (born September 16, 1952; band member, 1981-90), lead guitar; Jim Scholten (born April 18, 1952), bass; Joe Smyth (born September 6, 1957), drums.

Group formed as Savannah, c. 1981; changed name to Sawyer Brown and worked the club circuit in Nashville, TN; won grand prize on Star Search, 1984; signed with Capitol Records, 1985; released first number one single Step That Step, 1985; signed with Curb Records, 1993; October 25, 1998, marked the bands 3,000th show.

Awards: Winners of Star Search competition, 1984; Horizon Award, Country Music Association, 1985; named TNN/Music City News vocal band of the year, 1993; Video Group of the Year Award, Country Music Television (CMT), 1993.

Addresses: Record company Curb Records, 47 Music Sq. E, Nashville, TN 37203.

the growth of a relationship between a father and son, the song garnered several media top ten honors and held chart-topping positions for weeks on end. In 1999, Miller still felt like Sawyer Brown had more ground to walk. He stated in Country Music, Were still not widely accepted by the industry, and I think that keeps an edge on us. That keeps us hungry. Were not, never have been and are never going to be the darlings of the month. So that keeps us fighting.

The 1991 hit album The Dirt Road was not the only dirt road for lead singer Mark Miller. During off-stage hours, Miller, along with brother, Frank, developed a strong herd of Polled Hereford cattle at his Tennessee farm familiarly named Dirt Road Farms. Miller commented in Successful Farming, When my brother and I attended our first sale, we didnt even have a farm name. I bought a cow and had to thinkof a name on the spot. Miller continued, I blurted out the name Dirt Road Farms and it stuck.

Farming is not the only extracurricular activity for Miller. At 39 years of age, Miller became the only multimillion-selling recording artist ever to sign a pro sports contract. Miller played backup point guard for the Continental Basketball Associations Fort Wayne Fury in Indiana. In a Billboard review of Drive Me Wild, Chuck Taylor stated, Mark Miller always puts an abundance of energy and personality into everything he does, whether its singing, dancing, or, for that matter, playing basketball. (Miller has had five knee surgeries to prove it.) Miller started with the team tryouts in October 1996 and played with the team for two years. Although he did not dress out for the 1998-99 season, Miller remained part of the team. Because of Millers involvement with the team, and the groups desire to be more selective in concert dates, Sawyer Brown went from an average of 220 concerts a year to a little over 100.

Sawyer Browns wealth of original material, most of it penned by Miller, was supplemented when songwriter Mac McAnally hooked up with the group on their 1992 release, Café on the Corner. The successful songwriting partnership of Miller and McAnally found its way into the recording studio when McAnally signed on as co-producer of both Café on the Corner and 1993s Outskirts of Town. McAnally continued to be influential in the 1999s release Drive Me Wild, Sawyer Browns sixteenth album which he co-produced with Miller. Miller knows that McAnally has been an important influence on the band. He told Country Music, Mac came up with this philosophy a few years ago before Café on the Corner he said, You guys shouldjust figure out what it is you want to say, and well make records about it. And thats been the philosophy.

In 1999 Sawyer Brown observed its eighteenth year in Nashville. What has led to the groups success in a business that has the odds stacked against them? Miller says simply that the band isnt done yet. He stated in a Curb Record press release, Its been a case of looking at ourselves and saying, We can do more. We can be better. We still have things to say, and we want you to hear it. Miller also observed that there is nothing to complain about. He said in Country Music, At this stage in our career how could we get upset about anything? Miller continues with a shrug, Were still here! Ultimately God has his hand in everything. Theres a reason why were still here. I dont think any of us could pinpoint it and tell you why. Its just one of those meant-to-be kind of things.

Selected discography

Out Goin Cattin, Liberty, 1986.

Shakin, Liberty 1986.

Sawyer Brown, Liberty 1987.

Somewhere in the Night, Liberty, 1987.

Wide Open, Liberty, 1988.

The Boys Are Back, Liberty, 1989.

Buick, Liberty, 1991.

Café on the Corner, Capitol, 1992.

The Dirt Road, Liberty, 1992.

Outskirts of Town, Capitol/Curb, 1993.

Greatest Hits 1990-1995, Curb, 1995.

This Thing Called Wantin and Havin It All, Curb, 1995.

Treat Her Right/Shes Getting There, (EP), Curb, 1996.

Hallelujah He Is Born, (Christmas album), Atlantic, 1997.

Six Days on the Road, Curb, 1997.

Drive Me Wild, Curb, 1999.

Sources

Books

Kingsbury, Paul, editor, The Encyclopedia of Country Music, Oxford University Press, 1998.

Periodicals

Amusement Business (New York), August 3, 1998, p. 5.

Atlanta Constitution, March 4, 1999, p. C7.

Billboard, December 5, 1998, p. 85; March 6, 1999, p. 25; May 29, 1999, p. 22.

Country Music, June/July 1999, p. 60.

People Weekly, December 15, 1997, p. 71.

Successful Farming (Des Moines), December 1998, p. B10.

USA Today, March 9, 1999, p. D3.

Washington Post, May 4, 1998, p. D5.

Online

Sawyer Brown Discography, Rolling Stone. com, http://www.rollingstone.tunes.com(December 3, 1999).

Sawyer Brown, Curb Records biography, db.system-x.com/curb2/artists/artistbio_T1.cfm?1D=57(November 22, 1999).

Julie Sweet

Cite this article
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  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Sawyer Brown." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Sawyer Brown." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/sawyer-brown-0

"Sawyer Brown." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved October 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/sawyer-brown-0