By Jeff Roberson
Like good musicians do, Kaleb Garrett got caught up in the music surrounding him during his youth. In northern Georgia where he’s from, that came in many forms.
“I grew up listening to a lot of different things,” said Garrett, who will be a guest on Thacker Mountain Radio Hour this Thursday at 6 p.m. at Off Square Books. “The Americana folk stuff, especially from the ‘60s, was what I gravitated towards. When I write, I call it Americana – neat lyrics and unique music.”
So the music of his own lifetime for the 27-year-old isn’t necessarily what he holds close. It’s the music of another era that resonates.
“Folk and folk-rock is kinda my favorite of all of it,” Garrett said. “Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac and some of the more folky stuff they did was always a big thing for me.
“When I was like 14 years old, all my buddies were into AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, that harder rock kind of stuff. So that is when I got super into guitar playing. But I didn’t get into folk and writing until I was probably 18 or 19. That’s when I started focusing on that. It’s just grown from that point ever since.”
Garrett can point to some times that he felt were significant moments to move his career forward.
“Some of the big milestones were when I was playing with this guy Steven Phillips. He had a radio show and a country band. With him were some of the first shows I played out in the public. We opened up for people like Diamond Rio. That Diamond Rio show was the first time I thought, ‘This could turn into something bigger than I thought it could.’
“A few years later we got to open for Three Dog Night in Nashville. That was another time I felt like I had gone a couple of levels up. That was with a band called Modern Vinyl that I was playing with then.”
The native of Hiawassee, Ga., near the Georgia-North Carolina state line, attended Young Harris College to study classical guitar and then Georgia Northwestern College. But his musical roots remained close to his thoughts and efforts.
“Part of that influence definitely was my family’s choice of music around the house, which ranged from the Beatles, Bill Monroe, Allman Brothers to Fleetwood Mac, leading to an eclectic idea of what music can be,” Garrett said. “My music feels like a fusion of folk, blues, and Southern sensibilities.”
Spending the past few years on the road throughout the South, playing night clubs, bars and opening for Little River Band, and Hank Williams Jr., in addition to Diamond Rio and Three Dog Night, Garrett made his way to Nashville where acclaimed Music Row producer, Larry Rogers, an Ole Miss alumnus, heard his music and felt a connection.
Combining the experience of Rogers with the musical talents of Garrett, the two have produced an EP reflecting that eclectic fusion of Southern sensibilities and making it a major part of Garrett’s sound.
In Nashville, Garrett caught the attention of Songwriters Hall of Fame member and former Ole Miss quarterback Jim Weatherly. The two met at the Franklin, Tenn., studio owned by their mutual friend Rogers and have plans to co-write.
“I started to find my voice I’d say about three or four years ago, doing this kinda folky, Americana stuff,” Garrett said. “(Ole Miss alumnus) Greg Miller has been a big part of this and very kind to help me and get me in front of people like Larry, as well as Justin Croft, an engineer and manager at famed RCA Studio B. Also, my friend Andrew Chastain has opened a lot of doors.”
The title track of the EP Garrett and his group have put together is highlighted by the single, “Sunshine Girl.”
“It’s kind of a college love story sort of thing,” Garrett said. “All my songs kinda just pour out spontaneously at one time. So far ‘Sunshine Girl’ has been the song that people have clung to most when I play live. I would say that’s the one people associate me with.”
The Thacker Mountain Radio Hour performance is yet another milestone as Garrett moves along on his musical journey.
“I’ve had a lot of people who believe in my music,” Garrett said. “To have another opportunity like the Thacker Mountain Radio Show is a complete honor and it’s very humbling that somebody believes in my stuff enough to let me get it out there. Just a humbling experience more than anything.”