We have been working so hard on the business and writing songs. We want to make sure when we get out before the public eye that we have a stellar product, and we feel weve done that now, says the bands leader, Shawn Savage, who holds a degree in vocal performance and a masters in education from Cumberland.
Right now, were really eclectic, playing country-rock and getting into pop, but were even into some classic country stuff, said the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, 25, of Crossville, Tenn., whose voice ranges from bass to tenor.
The other band members include lead guitarist Daniel Ramsay, 22, a Lebanon High School grad and senior at Cumberland; bass guitarist Lee Austin, 22, of Dover, Tenn., and a Cumberland senior; keyboardist Jordan Parker, 26, of Franklin, Tenn., who earned a degree in music education at Cumberland in 2008; and drummer Andy Thompson, 29, of Portland, Tenn., a blueprint analyst for Bradshaws Collision in Gallatin.
The musicians came up with their moniker while chowing down at Cicis Pizza one evening.
We were struggling with a name because the personalities in the group are so varying, Savage said. First, we decided, Yeah, were east of Nashville, and somehow 40 Miles East of Nashville came up. We knew the distance was 34 miles, but 40 miles sounded better.
The band plans on a one-hour set of about 15 songs for their Wilson County Fair debut. Then after a firework show, they should perform for another hour.
Among the titles of their own compositions are Country Like That, What If, Three Words, Harder Every Time and Shes Mine.
Savage and Ramsay have been students in Cumberland instructor Michael Kossers Craft of Songwriting class. Kosser co-writes with the pair and manages the band.
When I first came into his songwriter course, I was far less informed and not very polished about how to put a song together, Savage said of mentor Kosser. He knew my goals, and he instilled in me that he knew I had talent, and he wanted to help me get there.
He was very critical of the songs, and I wanted that. He helped mold me into being a better commercial writer.
Recollects Kosser, artist in residence and director of the Cumberland University Songwriters Institute, Shawn came to me more than two years ago when I started teaching classes at Cumberland. He became one of my star pupils. He writes a lot of songs, and they were pretty good to start with and kept getting better and better. I feel like hes at a pretty high level right now.
Last year he told me he was forming this band, and I started going to see them at rehearsals and took over managerial responsibilities. The band has a lot of details to get down.
Shawn provides strong leadership to the band, and the rest of them are very highly focused on doing what has to be done to make a good band, said Kosser, who worked in the Nashville music business for 38 years as a songwriter, music publisher and author.
Savage, who grew up on a family farm raising hay and tobacco, says the first song he learned to sing was the National Anthem. While he has been playing the guitar for two years, he played trumpet in the marching, jazz and concert bands at Cumberland County High School. His musical influences range from Garth Brooks to rapper Will Smith, and hes a fan of Vince Gill, Josh Turner, popster John Mayer and the bluegrass band Nickel Creek.
As for the inspiration for his songs, he says, Some come from personal experience. . . . The truth about writing songs is that everyone wants to feel an emotion, whether a good or bad emotion. They want to reminisce or look forward or both. So when I write, I want to take someone back to that moment or forward to a new moment.
Im a very emotional writer and maybe not as polished as some writers. I dont really think about the cleverness all the time but about feeling. Im more of a feel writer, said Savage.
Earlier this year, Kosser took the band into the studio at Sony/ATV Music, the top publishing company on Music Row, to meet some of the sound engineers and the studio manager, and the group recorded a few songs.
There is some enthusiasm there, but it is early, so it is basically what can they do from now on. The process of evolving from a group of enthusiastic musicians to a band with a public presence takes time, said Kosser.
While 40 Miles Easts show at the Wilson County Fair is a big deal to the fledgling group, it is just one small step of many that any band hoping to hit the music charts has to take.
Our goal is to be performers in the industry for a long time, says Savage. I would prefer to be a national or worldwide recognized artist, but I love music, and if I can make a living performing music and writing, that is really what I want to do.
Rocking at the fair -- The band 40 Miles East performs at 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, on the midway stage at the Wilson County Fair. The fair opens at 5 p.m. weekdays and at 10 a.m. Saturday. Admission is $7 for ages 13 and older; $5 for ages 6-12; and 5 and younger admitted free. For more info, go to wilsoncountyfair.net.