The Cadillac Three
With that passionate battle cry, the centerpiece lyric of their anthem “The South,” The Cadillac Three have launched a movement in country music, forging a bond with fans both in the U.S. and overseas in a way not seen since Garth Brooks. Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, the trio of singer-guitarist Jaren Johnston, lap-steel player Kelby Ray and drummer Neil Mason are brothers in “hell yeah!” spirit and in music. They are effortlessly cool, as real as they come and arguably the most vital addition to the country-music landscape this decade.
The proof lies in both their hard-rocking live shows and their blistering new album Bury Me in My Boots, their first recorded for Big Machine Records. Onstage, the group possesses a sonic power that other touring bands couldn’t match with double the players. Johnston sings and shreds with a room-filling “kiss my ass” attitude, Ray delivers slippery riffs and a phantom bass line on his steel, and Mason pulverizes the kit with the force of Zeppelin’s John Bonham. Remarkably, they’ve harnessed that same crackling energy on Bury Me in My Boots, a collection of 14 songs that were hatched the old-fashioned way: written on the road and tested live in front of an audience.
“I’ve never seen any other band in Nashville say, ‘Yeah, man, we like to try out a song live for a long time just to make sure it goes over well, before we put it on a record,’” says Johnston. “Most Nashville bands, they get a demo, they like it, they cut it, and it’s on the record and sometimes the radio the next week.”
Produced by The Cadillac Three with Dann Huff and Justin Niebank, Bury Me in My Boots is the follow-up to their self-titled 2012 independent debut, which Big Machine re-released after signing the band. But there’s more than just years separating the projects.
“We drove thousands of miles in a van and a bus between these two records. We played hundreds of shows in the past five years and have been through so much,” says Ray.
Indeed, The Cadillac Three have toured relentlessly in the U.K., where they’ve garnered a rabid fan base, opened U.S. tours for Eric Church and Dierks Bentley, and are currently on the road with Florida Georgia Line.
“We’re still writing songs about where we’re from because it’s our favorite place in the damn world,” says Mason, “but at the same time, we have all these other experiences to draw on. We’ve been all around the world. This record is everything that has happened since.”
The constant, however, is authenticity. More than any other act in country music today, The Cadillac Three paint the sharpest picture of small-town life — all three members have a hand in writing the songs on Bury Me in My Boots.
“You can help me Mr. Dave, I have so many,” she says looking with wide, innocent eyes toward her manager when pressed to quantify her collection. “Stryper. I just went on tour with them, it was awesome. I wear my Stryper shirt a lot. Some of my other favorite shirts are Bon Jovi, Loverboy, Lucinda Williams, Jason Isbell … ”
Yes, she calls her manager Mr. Dave and her agent Mr. Jay – that’s kind of her thing, recognizable by anyone raised in the south. But she says their name with respect and reverence instead of the sass and flare one would expect from a girl who prefers leather and denim over dresses and heels, just like she prefers a rowdy crowd dancing on a bar top over a seated one golf-clapping after each song.
Don’t be totally fooled — Tyndall isn’t a rocker hiding in a cowgirl town. Her Eastern North Carolina accent and penchant for aching love songs gives her away as a grounded country thoroughbred. The newly released “Everything Is Texas” is a heartbreak song so deep it nearly made the guy she wrote it about cry.
Each night on the road before playing “Everything Is Texas”, Kasey Tyndall tells the story behind the song and how the guy she loved, a Texas-native, just disappeared on her. No explanation – just up and left. “His face … I almost felt bad for him,” she says with guilty laughter as she recalls the night he turned up in her crowd and planted himself front row.
The heartfelt song was penned with the help of Lena Stone and Lainey Wilson.
Tyndall’s journey to Nashville was accelerated in 2014 when she won a radio station contest to sing “We Were Us” with Keith Urban. Opportunities came quickly after that late summer performance, including signing with WME’s Jay Williams for booking (Eric Church, Luke Bryan, Chris Stapleton, Dierks Bentley). The then college student was greener than new money when she moved to Music City — during her first co-write she had no idea she was working with Doug Johnson (Randy Travis, Lee Brice, Rascal Flatts) until he stepped away and the other writer in the room, Nick Autry, said, “Do you know who that is?”
“Anyone that’s big … I get super nervous,” Tyndall says, the anxiety flushing her face even as she thinks about writing with some of the veterans and legends she’s sat down with. She’s has opportunity to be nervous a lot lately. Neil Mason from the Cadillac Three, Driver Williams from Eric Church’s band and Tommy Cecil are a few of the seasoned writers she’s worked with. A publishing deal with Sony ATV promises to bring more top-end talent to her door. After working with her, Cecil (Luke Bryan, Jake Owen, North Carolina’s Parmalee) agreed to produce her EP due in March 2017.
During a song like “Who I Ain’t”, a song on Tyndall’s upcoming EP, the fire inside this fast-rising singer breaks containment. Between songs and offstage, Tyndall couldn’t be more approachable. She’s quiet, but increasingly confident about who she is, and who she ain’t. “I wasn’t the prettiest or most popular or anywhere remotely close to that,” she says recalling high school. Her multiplying fan base appreciates this and her rock anthems have become their anthem.
“You get on social media and you see society saying ‘That’s what you should look like.’ I instead wanna be a voice of ‘Hey it’s totally OK who you are, just like you are.’”
Tyndall did over 100 tour dates in 2016, doing runs with the likes of Kane Brown, Granger Smith, Casey Donahew, and The Cadillac Three… and there appears to be no slowing down in 2017. As Tyndall explains,“I love to sing and perform and I’m thankful for anyone who wants to listen. It’s almost like my fans and I have this team. It’s kinda the ‘Be who you are’ team. And I’m blessed to have the best team in the world.”