New Music to Know: The Cadillac Three Are All About ‘The South’

By Annie Reuter

With their single “The South,” Cadillac Three were looking to give the youth of today a song that they could relate to, just as the band related to Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s “Sweet Home Alabama” when they were little.

Jaren Johnston said he wanted the gritty track to be “an epic, Southern song that hits you immediately the first time you hear it. You know it’s a serious situation you just heard. That’s what I wanted to do. I sat down and wrote that.”

Fittingly, the three members of Cadillac Three –singer/songwriter Jaren Johnston, drummer Neil Mason and lap steel player Kelby Ray– hail from Nashville, Tenn. making the lines “This is where I was born/ And this is where I’ll die,” resonate even more.

The band released their self-titled debut last May on Big Machine and are currently working on its followup with producers Dann Huff and Justin Niebank. caught up with the guys over several days in Las Vegas for the Academy of Country Music Awards, which they were attending for the first time.

“We’re just soaking it in,” Mason said in a trailer backstage before the band’s ACM Party for a Cause performance. “It’s cool to be here and actually get to see all our friends and all the other bands. We’re all running around in the world separately most of the time. To be able to be in the same place for a weekend, it’s probably going to get a little out of hand.”

Those friends include Florida Georgia Line, Dierks Bentley, and Mike Eli of the Eli Young Band, who are all featured on their current single, “The South,” which is Cadillac Three’s first radio hit. Chances are though you’ve heard countless songs by the guys on country radio. Their songwriting credits include Jake Owen’s “Days of Gold,” Keith Urban‘s “You Gonna Fly,” Tim McGraw‘s “Southern Girl” and his latest single featuring his wife, Faith Hill, “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s,” which he debuted at the ACMs, just to name a few.

Last year, Owen spoke with about covering the Cadillac Three’s song “Days of Gold” and making it his album title, explaining that the first time he heard the track it instantly grabbed him.

“Nothing ever happened [for them] with that song, and I was always a fan of it,” Owen said of the track. “I used to ride around in my truck listening to that song, going, ‘Man! I’d love to sing this.’ So when I asked [them] if it was OK if I recorded it, [they were] gracious enough to say ‘yeah.’ And I put my own little spin on it.”

Owen, who grew up in Florida, said he felt the song personified what it was like to be someone who was used to living in the sunshine. “[And] just with the melodic structure and the tempo of that song,” he explained, “it seemed very conducive for the kind of atmosphere I want to have at my concerts that we’re headlining.” Owen recently thanked Cadillac Three for letting him use their song, by taking them out on his Days of Gold Tour.

When it comes to whether they keep a song or give it away, the Cadillac Three say they usually know pretty quickly.”The idea is to just get as many songs out there as we possibly can,” Johnston said.

One way to get your songs out there is through television. Earlier this year, the guys were featured on ABC’s Nashville as an artist Rayna James was looking to add to her record label, Highway 65.

“I don’t know if we’re going to go back. We did not end up signing with Highway 65,” Mason said. “Once they said we signed with Big Machine it was like, ‘Okay, that’s real.’”

Cadillac Three’s sophomore album could be out as early as this year. “We cut six or seven songs,” Johnston said. “I think we’re probably going to finish it up this month. It’s going to be 11 songs of fury. We’re coming out swinging and we’re real proud of it.”

Johnston said the guys have “two, three real cool Southern ballads” and that it’s going to be a “rad record.”

“We cut a song ‘White Lightning’ that everybody is really excited about,” he said. “It’s about to be a single in the UK. It’s going to be a really well-rounded record that’s going to show what we do.”


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