10 Questions with ... Logan Mize
April 12, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Logan Mize was raised in small-town Kansas, where his father was a butcher and his mother was a teacher. His working-class upbringing taught him to value success and challenge himself, and also instilled in him a love for music that tells a story. With influences ranging from Alan Jackson to Elton John and Aerosmith to Enya, Mize is a well-rounded musician with a gift for connecting through lyrics. Mize and his wife have two children and have made a home in Nashville, where he has worked his way up from a regular player in the club scenes to an opener for artists such as Dierks Bentley, Eric Church, Lady Antebellum, and more. His rugged good looks have also landed him work as a featured artist in a Cotton commercial starring Hayden Panettiere and on the CW-TV show "Hart Of Dixie." He was recently signed to Arista Nashville and is making an impact at radio with his current single, "Can't Get Away From A Good Time," which had already earned sales in excess of 100,000 copies and had been streamed more than 1,000,000 times before ever hitting terrestrial radio thanks in part to a boost from SiriusXM's "The Highway."
1. Logan, thank you for taking time from your radio tour to speak with All Access. Growing up in a small town in Kansas, there couldn't have been much in the way of songwriters' camps or studio time for a young, budding musician. How did you find your talent, and when did you know music was the right career path for you?
I was always into music, and I took piano lessons. I was really into Elton John records, and I got an Alan Jackson CD for my ninth birthday and wore it out. I was just always really into music, but I never thought I'd be a performer, because I was always terrified at piano recitals. I was probably 15 or 16, and I got to see my first concert. My first concert was a Kenny Chesney concert, and just seeing all the semis and buses roll into town, and going up to the Kansas Coliseum that night and see him play, it was just clear. It was like, "Okay, now I know what I'm going to do." I think that was the moment! I have not met Kenny yet, but I hope that happens soon.
2. You've cited musical influences ranging from Elton John and Aerosmith to Waylon Jennings and the Dixie Chicks. And, you may be the first Country artist I've ever seen give a nod to Enya when mentioning inspirations. How have these varied artists influenced your sound and songwriting?
My parents always listened to music. My Dad got really into Celtic music and had a lot of Enya playing around the house. And as a piano player, I liked how she played. Her base hand on the piano was always really easy for me to pick up on, and I loved the melodies, because they were just simple. It was a really pretty layering of her vocals, so I picked up on Enya from my folks. The Country stuff was really me. For my Dad, the most Country he listened to was the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. I got into Country on my own, because it matched my surroundings growing up. I was in a town of 2,000 people with dirt roads in the middle of it. All my friends grew up on farms; my Dad was a butcher, so Country music just really fit lyrically into my life. But all the other stuff - the Rock, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Aerosmith - all the other stuff is stuff my parents were listening to.
3. You recently shared some Throwback Thursday photos on your social media sites showing your pre-music careers in what look to be construction and trucking - complete with long, flowing locks and cut-off shirt sleeves. If music had never worked out for you, which of those pre-music careers do you think you would have been able to pursue the longest?
Well, I always really enjoyed doing excavating. It was fun and was always fun to show up and do something new and different. The thing I like about being in the music industry is that I get to do something different every day, whether it's writing or producing or going into the studio. I'm in a new town all the time. I liked excavating, because some days you were digging a ditch, and some days you were hauling heavy equipment down the interstate with those "Oversized Load" stickers on it. There was just something cool about it, and I really enjoyed doing that.
4. After moving to Nashville, you landed some small-screen cameos, playing yourself in an episode of the CW-TV show "Hart of Dixie" and in a commercial for Cotton starring Hayden Panettiere. Did you actively pursue these roles, or were you just in the right place at the right time?
It was definitely all right-place-at-the-right-time. I've always been interested in doing that sort of thing, but I never knew how to get into it. That may have been one of those things where I just put it out into the universe, and it just kind of happened. But, my bass player asked me if I wanted to be on a Cotton commercial, and I said, "Sure." So, we went and auditioned for it. There were tons of bands down there auditioning, and they all seemed really nervous like they were trying to get the gig. But I walked in thinking we already had it, so I didn't really care, I just showed up and played a song. Next thing I knew, they were putting me in a commercial with Hayden Panettiere! So that just kind of happened. Then the "Hart of Dixie" thing really kind of happened the same way. They called me and asked me to come out and be on the show, and they wrote me into the script. I got to win a "Battle Of The Bands" on the show, so it was pretty cool! I really hope I get to do more of that in the future. Right now, my main focus is Country radio and breaking through there, but eventually, I'd love to do more of that.
5. You worked the Nashville scene and opened for some heavy hitters - including Lady Antebellum, Eric Church, LeAnn Rimes, and more - before signing with Sony Nashville/Arista. How did this partnership with Arista come about?
I'd been talking to [Sony Music Nashville VP/A&R] Jim Catino for probably three or four years, and he has been a fan of the independent stuff I released. He was always very open with me, and any time I wanted to talk to him and ask him questions, he would always give me the time of day, take me to lunch, and he was always very positive and encouraging. And he was always very honest! He would say, "Right now, there's just not room. We don't have room at radio." But he's always been very cool, and it has always been an open conversation. But he also always said that if the right time comes along, that he wanted the opportunity to work with me. He also said, though, that if it happened with someone else he would be happy for me. I never thought it would take four years from the time he really started talking to me until the time my song hit Country radio, but it was about a full three or four years before anything materialized. It has been really cool, because I feel like I've been signed over there for longer than a few months, because I've been in a relationship with them for a while.
6. You have a knack for story-telling in your songs, as is evident in "Can't Get Away From A Good Time." Just a regular guy and his neighborhood buddies finding good times in the simple life. Another song you shared with us recently was "Welcome To Prairieville." It has a similar story-song feel, but with a completely different vibe. Can you share a little bit about that song and what makes it special?
It's really reminiscent of how I grew up in Kansas. Kind of a sheltered, small-town upbringing where you don't really realize everything that is out there until you leave. Then you look back at it, and you realize the beauty in that. Prairieville is a town that I made up, but it's very similar to my upbringing in Clearwater, Kansas. It's just special to me, because I never thought anyone would latch onto that - I wrote that one for me. All the songs I write about Prairieville are really for me, so the fact that other people are starting to like that is really cool. It kind of gives me the satisfaction to feel like my true creative side is being accepted by people in the industry. I would really like for "Welcome To Prairieville" to be the album title, but we might end up moving in a different direction, and it might be geared a little bit more toward some other potential singles that have come about in the eleventh hour - some stuff that I've written. Prairieville is definitely going to happen at some point. I'm not sure if it'll be the title of this one or not, but I'm still pulling for it.
7. You are out on radio tour right now, but you had to take a brief break from your scheduled appearances when your wife gave birth to your second child. Congratulations! Were you at all nervous about postponing your scheduled appearances during this early part of your career?
I was very nervous - anxiety ridden! I feel like my whole life has been that way...I either can't get jack-squat going on, or everything is going on at once. I'm sure that's how everybody's life is, though. My wife sent me a picture recently of me from six years ago on St. Patrick's Day. It was when I had a guitar that I had traded a set of golf clubs for, because at the time I didn't have a guitar - I had had to pawn it to pay for something else. I was playing at Paradise Park [on Broadway in Nashville] for $30. I would go down there and play a four hour set acoustic in the middle of the day for $30. And she sent me the picture, and she said "Six years ago today!" And now here I am on a radio tour. So, I didn't have jack-squat going on, and now here I have two kids at home and a single on Country radio, and I'm on a radio tour. So I was very nervous about how the scheduling was going to go, because I really like to be present for the kids. My son is getting to the age where it really affects him if I'm gone, so I try to limit the amount of days I'm gone in a row at a time. But with the radio tour, it's just very important right now. This could mean longevity within the format. But it has been a lot easier than I thought it was going to be once I got out here. There's FaceTime, and technology so it hasn't been too bad.
8. For anyone who hasn't had the opportunity to meet you yet on radio tour or see you perform live, how would you sum up the Logan Mize sound? What makes you different, and what unique life experiences do you bring to "three chords and the truth?"
It's a very Midwestern feel. I try to keep things - as far as the sound goes - pretty stripped down. I don't like big walls of sound and tons of layering of instruments. I like more of a simplistic approach with good atmosphere and big choruses. Lyrically, everything is pretty simple. I'm a simple Midwestern guy, so I try to make the songs as well-written and creative as I can while at the same time being very relatable to the listeners who are going to be tuning in to Country radio.
9. You have a full lineup of performances with festival appearances and headlining dates moving through Spring and Summer. When can we expect a full album of new music, and what can you share about the project so far?
I'm sure a lot of that will depend on how the single performs at radio, but I would hope for an album by the end of the year. That's still all up in the air, I'm sure. As far as the album goes, I've released two independent albums before this that kind of flew under the radar a bit. One hit 49 on Billboard its first week, but compared to the two things I've previously released, this project is light-years beyond anything I've done so far. As far as the songwriting goes and the production goes, this will be the truest sound to who I really am as far as songs go and the sound of the record. It'll be the most accurate portrayal of who I am and what I sound like, so I'm really excited about it.
10. We love hearing about the first time you heard your single on the radio. Where were you the first time you heard "Can't Get Away From A Good Time" on air, and can you share with us the story about how you felt and what you thought at that moment?
I have to give [SiriusXM Sr. Dir./Music Programming] John Marks a shout out, because the first time I heard it was on SiriusXM's The Highway. He has been so good to me. I remember when it came on the radio thinking, "Is it really going to play?" Because he said, "Yeah, we're going to put it on for such-and-such date!" So you're listening, but in the back of your mind, you're thinking, "This can't be real. Am I really going to hear this on a station that I've known of for years?" And then sure enough, there it is! And it came on, and I thought, "Holy crap! That's me on there!" It was crazy. Just such a rush! I'm very thankful to him for giving me a shot, because I wouldn't be doing this interview if it wasn't for John Marks.
1. This is a big year for you, Logan! You just celebrated the birth of your second child, you're working on your first major-label project, and you are turning thirty! What are some of the goals you have set personally and professionally for this banner year of 2015?
Well, I definitely want "Can't Get Away From A Good Time" to reach #1 on MediaBase! That would be awesome! I would like to - well, one goal I had since I'm turning 30 is that I thought it would be cool to try to run 30 miles and drink 30 beers on my 30th Birthday, but I'm going to be on a flight down to Key West that day. So, I might have to scratch that plan...and just drink the 30 beers! I just want to continue to be a rooted family guy. I want to be a good dad and be there for my kids, but I also want to be out on the road and tear it up as much as I can and play as many shows as I can for the people who want to hear me. If "Can't Get Away From A Good Time" does well, I'll definitely be a happy guy.
2. When I ran in to you at CRS on the Sony Boat, I told you we were interested in sitting down with you for this 10 Questions interview because we thought you were cool and interesting when you stopped by to introduce yourself. You quickly told me that may be the first time anyone described you as "cool and interesting." I stand by my statement, but if you had to describe yourself, which words would you pick?
If I had to describe myself, I guess I'm just a goofy guy. Most of the time, I'm doing all I can to keep it together and look like a professional! I kind of want to cut up and goof most of the time. I'm just a simple person. That's a hard question to answer - I'm not good at describing myself, apparently! If you're going to say "cool and interesting," I'll stick with your answer, because it sounds a lot better than mine. That can't come from me though. You can describe me as that, though!
3. Speaking of cool and interesting, when you were in your early 20s, you discovered you had a family connection to the Country music industry. Can you tell us a little about Billy Mize, what he did, and how you found out about him?
When I was in my early 20s, I was driving down the road in Bellevue, Tennessee, and I got a call from this guy named Ray Erkhardt. He was one of Billy Mize's good friends. He said, "Hey, Billy Mize is turning 80 years old. He's your relative. We know that you're in Nashville as a songwriter, and we'd really like it if you came out and performed at his 80th Birthday celebration at Buck Owens' Crystal Palace." So, of course, right away I'm on the phone to my dad and grandpa. And my grandpa is one of those guys that you just can't get a story out of him - you can't even prod it out of him! The guy was a Nazi prison guard during WWII, and I still haven't gotten a single war story out of him! I finally just had to ask him, "Why didn't I ever know about this?" And he just responded with, "Oh, well, I guess I just never thought to tell you that you had a relative in the music industry." My grandfather had gone out to California and lived with Billy Mize for a few weeks in the 1950s on his way out there for something. It was really interesting to find out that my family knew about Billy Mize, but I really just never knew. He was kind of a behind-the-scenes type of guy. I knew who Buck Owens and Merle Haggard and all those guys were growing up, but I didn't know I had a relative that was behind their careers. It was really a cool discovery! I went out and played for the party. I got there and was picked up by Merle Haggard's son, Benny, who now plays in Haggard's band. I got picked up in his truck and taken to The Crystal Palace, and Merle's band showed up, and they were playing this filmstrip. There were all these people talking about Billy Mize - kind of like a montage video - and Merle Haggard came on the screen and said, "I've gotta say, I think my favorite song, maybe of all time, is 'Who Will Buy The Wine' by Billy Mize." And then the video cut off, and they welcomed me up on the stage. I was crapping my pants, because the song I had to sing was "Who Will Buy The Wine," and Merle Haggard was sitting in the front row! It was a house band, and we hadn't even rehearsed, so I had to walk up and grab a guitar from somebody and just tell the house band, "'Who Will Buy The Wine' in the key of E," and we just had to run with it. So it was pretty crazy. I've kept in touch with Billy's grandson, Joe, because he made the documentary film on him called "Billy Mize And The Bakersfield Sound." I've kept in touch with Joe quite a bit, and his brother Buddy, who was one of the founders of the NSAI, who lives in Nashville. I don't have a number to reach Billy, though. He's about 85 now, and I haven't talked to him since I played at his 80th Birthday party, but I keep in touch with some of the others. I may very well have embarrassed myself, and they're just being nice to me, but there's nothing more nerve wracking than trying to play a song for that crowd in front of those people. It was crazy, but it was so much fun!