Andy Velo was recently boxing in a charity event when all of a sudden he heard the familiar barking chant of Georgia Bulldog fans.
Velo, a country music artist from the Gwinnett-side of Suwanee who now lives in Nashville, looked over and saw Jason Aldean, the mega country star from Macon. The two met before the event and discovered their geographic connection. As they relaxed on Velo’s tour bus, they talked less about music and more about Georgia Bulldogs football.
“I think we all do take pride in the fact that there is a Georgia family to country music,” Velo said. “You find a lot of us who run together in Nashville.”
What to know
When: 3-11 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 14
Where: Cumming Fairgrounds, at 235 Castleberry Road
Cost: $12.99 general admission; $29.99 family package; $49.99 VIP package
Velo will be part of a lineup of Georgia-born country music artists who will open for Joe Nichols on Saturday at the Cumming Fairgrounds. Along with Velo will be Scott Brantley (Dublin) and Jacob Bryant (Jasper).
Velo, like his counterparts on Saturday, was reared on country music. His dad introduced him to Willie Nelson. His mom introduced him to Garth Brooks. Eventually he discovered Alan Jackson and Tim McGraw, and in high school (he attended North Gwinnett) Velo found the “outlaw” artists popular during the 1970s and early ‘80s, like Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard and others.
“I always knew country music was the only genre for me,” Velo said.
Brantley and Bryant were almost born into the genre. Brantley’s father, mother and brother all played guitar, and family reunions were an occasion for “pickin’ and grinnin’,” he said. Bryant’s grandparents were in a bluegrass band, and he remembers watching their weekend front-porch jam sessions with other musicians in the Jasper area. “It was ingrained in my family,” Bryant said. “I loved looking up to my family and all the guys that did the bluegrass thing and wanted to be like them.”
Brantley’s influences turned his sound “a little more traditional,” he said, and Bryant embraces some of Georgia’s trailblazing artists — Gregg Allman, Travis Tritt — to produce a concoction of Southern rock and country.
These days, they recognize there’s no uniquely Georgia sound in country music. The most prominent contemporary artists with Georgia roots — Aldean, Luke Bryan, Zac Brown Band, Lady Antebellum, etc. — incorporate “pop country sounds,” Brantley said.
But there’s a camaraderie, regardless of style. Brantley, Bryant and Velo have all experienced varying degrees of success, and each has spent significant time or now lives in Nashville, the center of the country music industry. Even miles away from home, they regularly run into or work with people from Georgia.
“I think there’s more people from Georgia in the music industry than I think Nashville,” Bryant said. “...I don’t know if it’s because we have nothing to do but play music and drink or if there’s something in the water.”