Nashville is the home of country music and the land of broken dreams. All along Music Row are the shrines of success which draw hopeful artists to town each with their own plan to break through. Sometimes the path you’ve selected works. Sometimes a random happening results in an entirely different course. Occasionally, the world sees what you just don’t: that you’re good on your own, but better in a duo. That, for Matt Chase and Chris Rodgers is the path to Southerland. Chase is from South Carolina, Rogers from Washington. For three years they played small towns and dive bars as separate acts on the same bill. They wrote songs in a similar style and sang in a way which evoked the country music of the past. This modern yet traditional sound led them as a duo into a deal with Luke Comb’s team and the prospects of hitting it big as Southerland.
Unlike many of the pieces I’ve written for this series about how artists are maintaining continuity with fans during the pandemic, this is more a story about how a new act is building community. Matt and Chase are writing songs together, and those songs are good. In Nashville they like to say that country music is three chords and the truth. That’s a little too simple for me. There is one more piece: the musician is your guide to that truth and they write the story being told and choose those chords. Southerland is hitting each note dead on, and in a way which presages success in their future. Take a minute and listen:
A little bit of you
Along those lines
It takes a certain commitment to seek success in the country music business. No one knows precisely how many songs exist in the world, although the best current range of estimates is between 100 and 200 million. Anecdotally, we hear there are 4,000 songs a month written just in Nashville. About 40 country songs per year make it to number 1 on the charts. So, to write a hit is not just lucky, it’s like a moonshot in which the rocket was built by a colony of blindfolded monkeys and piloted by a homing pigeon with a drinking problem.
Matt and Chase have been working toward success in country music for nearly a decade. That’s a lot of shows in clubs, bars, union halls, and garages all in the quest for a shot at selling tickets on a tour. Then, after reaching the first milestone of getting signed by Lynn Oliver-Cline, the same woman who signed River House Artists’ flagship artist Luke Combs, Southerland was sidelined by the global pandemic which has closed the doors to venues around the world.
I was in Nashville during the deep freeze of February 2021, where bars were still open serving cold drinks and hot live music. My night on Broadway there showed me dozens of bars all of which had live music and talented players. It made clear the odds of breaking through. Everyplace I stopped the musicianship was good and singers had presence as well as talent. You have to be truly special to climb up over the competition and break through the clutter.
Broadway in Nashville 2/12/21
I see Southerland as a group which has a chance, given their growing song catalogue, the evident presence of both the guys and the team which is currently helping them find their audience. That, in combination with all of the shows which Matt and Chase have already played while building their individual audience gives them a shot. The songs which are above in this story show you their promise. Now, the winds of fate are blowing their way.
I spoke with Southerland, and as you would expect of a country duo, they’re storytellers. Below are the links for video and audio versions of the podcast:
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