Updated: Nov 9
"You don’t have to choose between being a songwriter or an artist."
Asa part of our series about Nashville’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing The Close.
Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?
Lori: I grew up on a farm in a tiny town in Oklahoma. We worked every day, farming in the summer and cutting wood to sell in the winter. I will NEVER work that hard again, no matter what I do. We had a “water cooler” for an AC and a wood-burning stove for heat. and a “party line” for a phone. If you know what that is, then you know the struggle is real. I am a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. The church we attended spoke and sang in Choctaw. My great-grandfather, Durant Williams, sang bass, and my mom was an alto. I learned to read and sing harmonies to old Choctaw hymnals.
James: When I was growing up, as far as I knew, everyone either sang or played an instrument. Hendersonville is a suburb of Nashville, and it is FILLED with musicians. My family, friends, and neighbors all played, so I did too. I didn’t know any different. My dad and brother played music around the house all the time, so I learned to play the piano and guitar a bit by default. When I was 15, my older brother Chuck had his own band and needed a drummer. He bought me a kit, and I played my first gig on the drums three weeks later. In addition to playing, my best friend’s dad owned a recording studio, so I gained free reign by the time I was in high school. Basically, I grew up surrounded by music and recording.
Shannon: I grew up in Georgia. When I was a baby, my mom sang lullabies to me almost every night. I grew up loving music. As a young boy, mom could never get me to go to sleep because I was up entertaining everybody by singing Elvis, Glen Campbell, and Linda Ronstadt, who I fell in love with at the age of 2. Early on, my dad had me fishing at the age of 3 and taught me how to drive at the age of 10.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path? Lori: I was sitting in a class at the Art Institute of Dallas, and my Audio II professor made a statement about, “All the music is in one place now. Everyone who is anyone and wants to do music is in Nashville now.” That was it. I graduated in June and was there by July. I had a car and $250.
James: In high school, I wrote a song with my best friend. He wrote the lyrics, and I wrote the music,and I sang it. It ended up being the theme song for our prom. It was the first time I realized that making music was more than an internal pastime hobby.
Shannon: I was notorious for constantly singing in high school. A few years after graduation, my best friend Cory sat me down and told me, “Shannon, you’re always singing and talking about Nashville. If you don’t stop talking about it and just go now, you never will.” So I went.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Lori: One of the most interesting encounters we had was with Efren Ramiez in LA. He played “Pedro” from Napoleon Dynamite. He walked in during our song, Superstar, and just sat intently focused on us from the front of the bar. After our set, he followed us outside, and we talked for over an hour. He is also a musician. That movie is EPIC to us, and it was such a treat!!
James: The very first album I produced and engineered took 3 months; I charged $800, and it sold 20,000 copies. We were all learning together and had great success.
Shannon: The Poltergeist story. Shannon waited tables at a local Longhorn Steakhouse downtown so he could have flexibility to work on his music. One evening, a large party was seated at his table. It was Zelda Rubinstein, the actress who played the ghost-purging psychic in the movie “Poltergeist”. She took Shannon aside and insisted he give her the check when they were finished eating. However, another man at her table did the same thing. This man followed Shannon to the register and TOOK the check, leaving Shannon no choice. Once Ms. Rubinstein realized that the man had paid the check, she told Shannon in her scary poltergeist voice, “I’m mad at you!” The scariest thing that’s ever happened to him!
Can you share with us an interesting story about living in Nashville?
Lori: I think the most interesting story I have about Nashville is really that everywhere you go, you meet people who are in music one way or another. When I first moved to Nashville, I was approached by a person who wanted to help me get feedback on my songs. He said he wanted to take me to a friend of his who could give me some solid professional feedback on my writing. I found myself in the studio of producer Allen Reynolds. He was a great songwriter and produced Garth Brooks, Don Williams, Kathy Mattea, and others. I was so humbled. He gave me solid, honest, and amazing advice on my songs and told me I had some hits and to keep on writing, that I was on the right track. Only in Nashville could I find myself in front of greatness because someone just wanted to help me on my way.
James: I played on 2nd Ave. every Saturday night for 4 years. I used to pull up on the curb, load in, and park two blocks for free! Nashville has changed dramatically.
Shannon: We were at the Sutler in Nashville and were approached by a producer who had heard us sing and insisted we walk across the street right then to his studio. There are producers, engineers, and music industry people everywhere in Nashville, and you never know what might happen on any given day.
Can you share with us a few of the best parts of living in Nashville? We’d love to hear some specific examples or stories about that.
Lori: For me, the best part of living in Nashville is the access we have to some of the best talent and music resources in the world. Here in Nashville, it’s a true music community. The attitude and atmosphere we’ve found in our friend circles is that we are all in this together. There are SO MANY systems followed here with music that it makes it a dream to be able to get things done when you need them. I think our live band is AMAZING because we have access to other musicians who have made music their life’s work, and they were HERE when we were ready. I don’t think I would ever have met the caliber of writer and vocalist I’ve found in Shannon or the caliber of musician, engineer, and vocalist like we’ve found in James. I can only hope they feel the same way about me! We’ve been able to complete our live band with some of the best players around,and I feel so honored that they chose to join us.
James: I’ve learned 99.9% of what I know about music in Nashville from backyards, birthday parties, clubs, churches, and friends’ homes. You are surrounded by music in every form, and you can’t throw a rock without hitting a musician. Unfortunately, mostly drummers!
Shannon: What I love about Nashville is that you have the opportunity to become anything you set your mind to and find your niche. You can get in where you fit in; sometimes you stand out, and sometimes you’re humbled. You have to keep going and keep trying, no matter what. You can get your feelings hurt or get your head swelled up, but regardless, it’s a town of dreams. And sometimes they come true.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Lori: I think the funniest mistake I made when I was just starting to explore music here in Nashville was that I was scared to go into a guitar shop and ask for help! I didn’t have a pick or a tuner or anything. I snuck in, bought a little attachable tuner, and left. I didn’t ask any questions or anything. I got home and realized I forgot to buy picks. So I took an old driver’s license and played with the corner of that license for over a year. The good news is that now I have a VERY unique way of playing guitar, but I learned I shouldn’t be afraid of what I don’t know. I could have set myself way back, but I wouldn’t change it either because it made me a better guitar player!
Shannon: A hot dog, chips, and a drink. One of the funniest mistakes I’ve made is going off script during a radio interview and promo we had to do for a weekend 4th of July celebration. We did a live in-studio performance and radio interview, and the sponsor handed Lori some information to mention if she could. She left off a few minor details, and being the rule-follower I am, I JUMPED IN at the last second and shouted, “and don’t forget about the $5 hot dog plate! Paused and then yelled, “Chips and a drink!” You can’t make this stuff up. SMH.
James: In 2009, I sold all of my music gear to fund a golf career. I have since purchased it all back. Lesson learned: I am NEVER going to stop playing music. So all you musicians, keep your stuff. You’ll just end up buying it back.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
A friend set me up with a producer at Quad Studios. I took the meeting, and that’s where I met James McKinney. passed on the producer, but I became fast friends with James. He taught me everything I needed to know about how to put a band together. I was green and inexperienced with a full band because I’d always played solo or in a duo. I told him I had no idea how to form a band. He said, Do you know a drummer? I said yes. He said, Do you know the lead player? I said yes. He said, I play bass, so now you’ve got a band! LOL. He made it sound SO EASY. He was kind of right. He changed my life! Now we do this together! James: Chuck Mckinney (brother) has always been my biggest fan, and praise and criticism are unrelenting. He pushed me into music, not just for his own gain but to strengthen our personal brotherly bond. He bought me my first drum set and never excluded me from people or projects he had!
Shannon: My friend from home, Cory Dague, for pushing me to come to Nashville, and my mentor and friend, the late Harley Allen. One day I asked him, “Can I come to you with songs that I write and let you critique them and tell me if I’m on the right track.” This led to us becoming great friends and him becoming my songwriting mentor. He was brutally honest with me and helped tear me down so I could build back up and become the best songwriter that I could be, which is a continuous learning process.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
This is it. We’ve played over 150 shows together so far and don’t plan on slowing down. This is our forever band, and we are doing it until we can’t get around anymore! James: I’m excited about writing and recording our next record already. We have some processes figured out,and we all encourage each other so much! It’s a dream team! What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? 1 . The industry changes every day. 2 . You don’t have to choose between being a songwriter or an artist. 3 . Success is figuring out who you are. 4 . The genuine article isn’t rare, just overlooked. 5 . Everything starts at the beginning. Get started.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? All: The Close has been able to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time because we don’t try to be everything to everyone all the time. We took all the lessons we’ve learned individually over the years and created The Close around a true “DIY” premise that uses our individual strengths in the most efficient way collectively. We delegate within our band, lean on our own individual strengths, and put our egos aside. Find out what you are best at and do it. Let someone else do what they are best at. The music industry requires artists to wear many hats. Remember that you can’t do everything. Learn to surround yourself with highly capable people who are better at some things than you are, and learn to delegate. We even schedule our writing time. If we didn’t, we would burn out, so we make sure to go on at least one secluded songwriting retreat per quarter, no matter what. We go out of town to a secluded home, turn off our phones, and write together from Friday to Sunday, no matter what. Once that’s taken care of, we can concentrate on the pressing matters of this business with a clear head.
Find another way to pay your bills and make yourself available for opportunities, sweat equity, and passion. Stop trying to pay your bills with music right away, as you’re taking away your ability to do your own music.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Lori: I think that every vehicle should have a temperature sensor or a motion sensor that alerts you on your phone if the car reaches a certain temperature (or movement after a long time). That way, if someone forgets their child or pet, it would alert HOT CAR or MOTION hopefully reminding you, thus saving lives!
Shannon: I would encourage city governments to plant food-bearing trees in all public areas so they could have free food everywhere for people who need it. They could also have a public garden they could take care of instead of landscaping. If they’re spending the money anyway, it could be food.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Lori: “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” Maya Angelou. This has been the most relevant advice I’ve ever heard. I live by it. I am open to a fault. But when I realize that someone is not a good person, at their core, they are going to show you. It’s up to me to pay attention and see the signs. The second I see it, I’m out. It has really kept me safe over the years.
Shannon: “Have big ears.” I’m not sure who said it first, but my friend and songwriting mentor, Harley Allen, taught me this a long time ago, and it changed my life. From then on, I started really listening to what others were saying around me. I have gotten so many profound hooks from just really listening. Less talk, more listening.
James: I played a song and poured my heart out to someone I respected immensely in the industry as a kid. He said, “Out of all the songs I’ve ever heard, that’s definitely one of them”. He laughed at his joke and thought it was really funny. In the moment, it destroyed me. I was 16. But throughout my life, it has shaped me. I learned to never be that person to someone else. It really changed my outlook on being an influence to other people.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-) Lori: This is such an easy question for me. Weird Al Yankovich I am his biggest fan, and I want to start a petition to get him to play the Super Bowl. I think he is the most brilliant and underrated writer and musician of our time, and we have only yet to realize his genius. I get asked all the time, how will I know I’ve “made it”? I’ve made it ONLY when Weird Al parodies one of my songs.
Shannon: Linda Ronstadt. She has inspired me since the age of two and has helped shape my musical journey. She even took her own band, the Eagles, and encouraged them to go out and become what they wanted. She is selfless and wise, and her voice is SOUL, POWER, PASSION AND TRUTH.
James: Prince would’ve absolutely been my #1 choice. Among the living is Jimmy Fallon. Brilliant, charming, funny, genuine, talented, and hardworking. Also, I can relate to his encouragement and excitement for people and life in general!
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
The Close is a collective of introspective lyricists known for their genre-blending melodies and stellar harmonies. Comprised of three members, each member is not only a songwriter but also a musician and lead vocalist. Their music first gained attention with the release of their EP Hello Heart in 2019. Since then, they have been praised for their ‘mesmerizing wall of sound coming straight to you’ with their harmonies and captivating live performances. The Close’s music is a fusion of various genres, including Americana, contemporary folk, roots, and country, all infused with a commercial pop sensibility. This unique blend allows them to create a sound that is both familiar and fresh, appealing to a wide range of listeners. One of the defining characteristics of The Close is their ability to establish an intimate connection with their audience. Their live performances are not only dynamic but also deeply personal, creating a sense of closeness between the artists and the listeners. This musical connection evokes emotions and creates a profound impact on their audiences.
The Close is set to release their upcoming single “Coming To Break Your Heart” on September 1st. They have also been working on their debut full-length album, tilted Orbit, which is set to be released in the fall of 2023. The highly anticipated album is expected to showcase the growth and evolution of The Close’s sound while staying true to their signature style. About the interviewer: Guernslye Honoré, affectionately known as “Gee-Gee”, is an amalgamation of creativity, vision, and endless enthusiasm. She has elegantly twined the worlds of writing, acting, and digital marketing into an inspiring tapestry of achievement. As the creative genius at the heart of Esma Marketing & Publishing, she leads her team to unprecedented heights with her comprehensive understanding of the industry and her innate flair for innovation. Her boundless passion and sense of purpose radiate from every endeavor she undertakes, turning ideas into reality and creating a realm of infinite possibilities. A true dynamo, Gee-Gee’s name has become synonymous with inspirational leadership and the art of creating success.
Written by Guernslye Honore 14 Followers ·Writer for Authority Magazine Guernslye Honoré, affectionately known as "Gee-Gee", is an amalgamation of creativity, vision, and endless enthusiasm. #NewMusic New Music
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