John Allen Stephens is an artist, producer and multi-instrumentalist from Houston, TX blending elements of pop, r&b and electronic music.
“Dolzani is a skilled songwriter with melodies that are eternally engaging…and even soothing and seductive.” – No Depression
“Brian Dolzani exists somewhere between the sawdust covered floors of Southern dance halls and the green fields of the best folk festivals” – Lonesome Noise
Brian Dolzani mines his personal life and experiences to create songs that cut deep upon first listen. Through his unique vocal tone (a ‘smoother Neil Young’) and individualistic writing style, you can tell Brian is putting himself on the ledge with every song and performance. His music reflects his heartache and perseverance through early life tragedy, as well as the daily complexities of family life and deep existential issues we all face (if we know how to look and feel). Despite the often confessional and weighty issues that he writes about, Brian’s music is inspiring, healing, and a testament to the human ability to engage life at a deep, spiritual level, and live to tell the tale.
Cactus Flowers is Jessica A.M., Matt Black, and Mark Carcamo. Based out of Houston, Texas, Jessica & Mark met in early 2017. After bonding over mutual psych bands, they started playing and recorded a live session at Steamboat Ampworks. Matt soon was added to build the heavy undertones of each song. With a full arsenal of rock, dream pop, shoe gaze and psych, Cactus Flowers wants to take you on a journey into the mystic of the natural and spiritual world, outside & within.
Rose Ette debuted their fresh take on indie-pop in 2015, and have since established themselves as one of Houston’s most exciting new bands. They captured their guitar driven sound on Jungle, their debut EP on Miss Champagne, by mixing the shoegaze influenced sounds of the Jesus and Mary Chain with a girl-group vocal style to create something lo-fi, melodic and unpretentious.
Velveteen Echo draws equally from indie rock and bedroom pop to create a sound that is reminiscent of bands like The Sundays and The Cranberries. The band deftly combines catchy vocal melodies, jangly guitar, precise bass lines, and endearing lyrics to offer something lovely and hard to dismiss.
Emo influenced Shoegaze from the southeast.
Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, Matt Mason knew from an early age that his home would one day be Nashville, Tennessee. His earliest memories of his musical aspirations are going the Grand Ole Opry with his family, and telling his Dad that he wanted to play there someday. So by the time he was eleven he was playing guitar and singing whenever he got a chance. Early on, his influences came from the gospel music of his family’s small church and the sounds of the late great Elvis Presley. Today those influences still hold true, along with the music of Waylon Jennings, Garth Brooks, Merle Haggard and other country greats.
Matt’s dream of being a singer became stone cold ambitions one summer on a family vacation in South Florida when he talked his father into letting him enter a talent show. In front of a crowd of strangers Matt sang one of his favorite country songs and the reaction was overwhelming and more proof that being a country music performer was what he was destined to do. After this experience in Florida, Matt began to hone his craft even further by playing locally in his home state, and regionally opening for acts like Charlie Daniels, Joe Diffie, Vern Gosdin, Brian McComas, and Mel McDaniel.
The spring of 2005 brought the moment Matt had been waiting and working to reach for many years. He graduated from high school, packed his bags, and made that promising move to Nashville. He learned quickly that Nashville is not a town that hands out free passes to stardom. It takes hard work and lots of paying your dues up and down the musical trail of bars lining Nashville’s most famous street, Broadway. Matt was ready for the challenge and quickly gained local fame at famous bars like Tootsies, The Stage, Legends Corner and others. It was humbling to play on the stage of Tootsies where many of his heroes had played in their youth, and to know behind Tootsies majestically stands the Ryman Auditorium, the mother church of country music, waiting to embrace a new generation of country stars. Matt wanted to lead that new generation of country stars while always paying homage to his heroes and their influence with his music.
His big break seemed to be on the horizon when in 2006 Matt auditioned at the Wild Horse Saloon for a television series called “Nashville Star” on USA network. From among 20,000 contestants Matt was chosen as one of the 10 contestants. Each week contestants competed for America’s vote and the judge’s approval. Matt’s strong willed, mysterious, and reserved demeanor lead him to be dubbed ‘The Quite Storm” by co-host Cowboy Troy. “You deserve a record deal,” proclaimed Anastasia after Matt sang David Allen Coe’s “The Ride,” and Phil Vassar and John Rich agreed that the young performer was “a certified badass.” Matt’s performance of the Georgia Satellites’ song “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” was a definite hit with the judges on an episode. Anastasia and Phil agreed that he showed range and ability, and Naomi gushed that it was Matt’s best performance to date. “You’ve got a quality,” she said. Placing fourth overall in the competition secured Matt a spot on the “Nashville Star” Tour that crossed the country and brought Matt a solid following and fan base.
Matt’s fan base has stood strong behind the performer over these past years as he has continued to play shows around the country and has spent a significant amount of time in Nashville writing and recording songs. Matt has used his songwriting as an outlet to tell the up and downs from his own life over the years following the show. While continuing to work hard to attain his goals, a friend at renown booking agency William Morris Endeavor Entertainment who Matt had known nearly ten years, recommended him for an opportunity to audition for a new show called CMT’s Next Superstar. Recognized from his Nashville Star days and for his amazing talent and perseverance in this industry Matt once again was chosen as one of the 10 contestants to compete for a major label record deal in Nashville. After each episode, would travel to different cities re-airing the show, playing an acoustic set and just hanging out with fans which soon paid off. He won “CMT Next Superstar.”
Since winning the show, Matt has recorded eight master sides. Four with producer James Stroud and four with producer Phil Odonnell. He has written upwards of one-hundred new songs, and played shows with Little Big Town and Blake Shelton. He also toured three months with Luke Bryan, Lee Brice, and Josh Thompson on the “CMT on Tour” tour. Matt is continously working, writing and touring to become a name that will go down in history.
- “… ‘Fireball’ is a phenomenal debut album that rivals most of what I’ve heard all year.” Scott Zupardo (No Depression)
- “Western Star, a young band from Baltimore is one of the most intensely, straight up rock and roll bands I’ve heard this year. Sounding raw and raunchy but still structured and melodic, their debut album, ‘Fireball’, is a welcome introduction.” Rob Ross (Pop Dose)
- “There’s a wonderfully retro feel to ‘Fireball’, the debut album from Baltimore-based rockers Western Star. They’ve cultivated a classic garage rock sound, with just a hint of alt-country twang…” Jeffrey Sisk (Pittsburgh In Tune)
“If rock ‘n’ roll ain’t killin you, you probably ain’t doin it right!” These words echo above the din as I try to digest the lyrical feast that is Grand Old Grizzly’s latest work, Pure Country Pyrite. The Houston band’s third studio album is a jailbreak of western Americana wisdom and gulf coast grit.
Lead vocalist and lyricist Will Thomas sings and writes songs the way gym rats workout, the way I breathe air: because he HAS to. There’s no other way. It’s merely a convenience that, according to Thomas himself, he “has some weird s#&@ to say that no one else is saying.
“The band formed in Houston in 2012. Thomas linked up with Guitarist Paul Beebe, bassist Mark Riddell and Drummer Chris Lewis. After recording an album in Beebe’s closet they decided to take these songs Thomas had written and start playing them live. Grand Old Grizzly was formed. They were soon nominated by the Houston Press as Houston’s Best New Band and its Best Country/Americana act. Their second record, CosmoNada, charted in the Top 100 on the national Americana charts, and the band has performed shows with a bevy of nationally touring acts, including Leon Russell, Blackberry Smoke, James McMurtry, Cody Canada and The Departed, Mike and The Moonpies, Roger Clyne, Rodney Crowell, Red Shahan, and Soulhat, to name just a few. They’ve been featured on a compilation in Texas Music Magazine and Chris Gray of Houston Press calls the sophomore release “one of the finest slices of Americana” cut by a Houston act in quite a while.
Chris Lewis left the band after the second album. Houston drumming virtuoso Isaias Gil took over drumming duties and the lineup has remained static since. The boys next stepped into Edgewater Studios with producer Derek Hames and engineer John Shelton to capture the band in a new light. The brand new songs, some road tested, some born in the studio, all served well in capturing a fresh perspective for the band.
The songs on Pure Country Pyrite explore themes both poignant (“Awkward” takes a look behind the curtain of a relationship that’s outlasted its shelf life) and peculiar (“Gundowners” sardonically explores the tale of a pair of murderous rampaging lovers on a crime spree). There’s salty barroom rock ‘n’ roll in “Papa Was a Radio” and touching heartbreak in “Sunlight.” At the end of it all, Grand Old Grizzly always does a great job leaving the listener wanting more. This is a record that will make you want to catch the band live, hoping to learn the stories behind the songs. But it’s also a road trip record filled with songs to sing along with.
Dripping with irony and humorous wit, Grand Old Grizzly is a band on the cusp.