Room to Breathe: A Conversation with Bella White

By Brent Thompson

Photo Credit: Bree Fish

Bella White falls under the “Americana” artist heading which is appropriate because her sound – like the genre itself – isn’t easily defined. It’s also an ironic categorization given that White is Canadian. Earlier this year, the singer/songwriter released her sophomore album, Among Other Things [Rounder Records] with the help of producer Jonathan Wilson (Dawes, Billy Strings, Margo Price). Currently, White is on tour with Band of Horses and the two will perform at Avondale Brewing Company on Sunday, October 1. Recently, White spoke with us by phone.

Southern Stages: Bella, thanks for your time. We are looking forward to your upcoming Birmingham show. Where is your home base these days?

Bella White: It’s kind of in flux. For the past two years, it’s been Vancouver Island, but I’m moving to New Orleans so half of my stuff is here and half of it is New Orleans [laughs]. Right now, I’m in Victoria.

Southern Stages: We are really enjoying Among Other Things. If you will, talk about the creation of the album.

White: I kind of wrote the album over a stretch of time. I spent most of the pandemic writing those songs, not necessarily all to be on one album – I was just writing a lot and feeling inspired. Some of them happened really quickly and then I wouldn’t write for a couple months and a few more would come out. It was a slow burn of writing a lot and finding the songs that made the most sense together.

Southern Stages: How would you describe your writing process?

White: It really varies. Being on the road is harder for me to write, yet I’m also taking in a lot more of the world in some ways – I’m constantly watching things and taking notes. But, for me, writing happens the most when I have room to breathe and less going on. It’s a very emotional process for me, so it’s hard to predict when I’m going to feel inspired.

Southern Stages: How did you connect with Jonathan Wilson? How was the experience of working with him?

White: Working with Jonathan was an amazing experience. I just love that man – he is so talented and so kind and so creative. I got connected with him through my record label. Mark Williams – the president of my label – knows Jonathan and suspected that we might like working together. I cut the first two singles two Decembers ago at Jonathan’s studio and we wanted to see how we collaborated and it went really well. I went back that following spring and made the whole record. Working with Jonathan was a dream and I hope to do it again.

Southern Stages: This must be an exciting time to be on your label, Rounder Records. The current roster – you, Billy Strings, Sierra Ferrell and Ruston Kelly among many others – is impressive.

White: It definitely feels like a privilege – there are so many people that I admire. Rounder Records stands the test of time – they’ve always had an amazing roster. I grew up on bluegrass and country music, so getting to be on that label is truly special.

Southern Stages: Some artists say this is a great time to be in your position given that music is so accessible via modern outlets. Others say, for the same reason, it makes it difficult to be found among the crowd. How do you view the current climate?

White: I feel like that’s a complex question. There are a lot of ways you can go about it, and now is an incredibly fruitful time to be making records and it’s so accessible and anyone can find it. There is a lot of room to be heard and have a voice. At the same time, it’s also hard because artists aren’t making as much money because there are less CD sales and less people purchasing music. I think streaming is a big reason I have my career and I’m grateful for that, but at the same time I think it’s a challenging time to be an artist. Touring is so expensive and touring is the way you can grow your audience. I feel like that’s complicated because I have two schools of thought. One is it’s an incredibly fruitful time to be an artist because everything is a click away, but at the same time it’s hard to make money and support yourself when music is free.

Southern Stages: How do songs stay fresh to you after you have performed some of them literally hundreds of times?

White: That’s a good one [laughs]. I feel like it’s valuable to rework your songs after a period of time. After a year of playing a song most nights of the year, it does get stale and you can lose the relationship you once had with it. A couple of ways that I find helpful are to rearrange it and to really tune into where you were when you wrote it and try to put yourself in that place. It’s also pretty cool to be in a room with people singing along to a song of yours and that connection puts me back in touch with it.

Southern Stages: Of course, New Orleans has a rich musical history, but what drove you to relocate there?

White: I’ve always had a love affair with that city. The first time I went there was in 2019 and I was smitten with the place. I didn’t want to leave the first time that I went, and the following times that I’ve gone back I just always felt a connection to the place. I started making a lot of friends that live there and really falling in love with the people and music community there. I feel like in New Orleans there are a lot of artists who are just making music because they love it – that to me is really beautiful.

Bella White will perform at Avondale Brewing Company on Sunday, October 1 in support of Band of Horses. Tickets to the 7 p.m. show are $30.50 and can be purchased at

Concert Shots: Devon Allman & Donavon Frankenreiter at Iron City 8-22-23

By Brent Thompson

At first glance, Devon Allman and Donavon Frankenreiter don’t make a likely pair. Stylistically, Allman is steeped in Southern Rock royalty while Frankenreiter is associated with Southern California surf music. But when teamed together, the two artists compliment each other quite well. Allman and Frankenreiter performed at Birmingham’s Iron City on August 22, trading vocals and lead guitar duties in front of an enthusiastic audience.

Out of our Comfort Zone : A Conversation with The Waymores’ Willie Neal

By Brent Thompson

Photo Courtesy of the Artist

Thanks to a mutual friend in Los Angeles, Atlanta-based Americana act The Waymores paired with legendary producer Shel Talmy [The Who, The Kinks, Manfred Mann] for the creation of its new album, Greener Pastures (Chicken Ranch Records). The teaming of The Waymores – the duo of Willie Neal and Kira Annalise – and Talmy resulted in an album that sounds reverent and relevant at the same time. On Sunday, August 6, The Waymores will perform at Trussville’s Ferus Artisan Ales at 12 p.m. Recently, we spoke with Neal by phone.

Southern Stages: Willie, thanks for your time. We are enjoying Greener Pastures.

Willie Neal: Thank you so much. It was really a labor of love.

Southern Stages: If you will, talk about the writing and recording process for the album.

Neal: It’s a funny thing. We have a friend named Harry Zinn that lives in L.A. – he’s a character actor and an entrepreneur. He is really good friends with Shel Talmy and they go out drinking twice a week. When our last album came out, Harry was listening to it in his car when he went to pick Shel up. Shel said, “I really like this – who is this?” and Shel said he’d never done a country album and it was on his bucket list. So, Harry gave Shel our number and a couple of days later he called. Originally, we did two songs with him – he sent a list of old standards we picked two of them, It went over so well Shel said, “We have to do eight more.” We told the label about it and we had enough songs for an album, but not enough songs for this particular project. It was just a couple of months and it was the first time we had to write for a specific project – they were all composed for this album. It definitely took us out of our comfort zone for writing. We played the song once and we rolled tape.

Southern Stages: As an artist, how do you feel about the current climate in the era of Internet, satellite radio, Youtube and other modern outlets?

Neal: Kira and have this saying – “The great thing about the Internet is that anybody can make a song and put it out. The terrible thing about the Internet is that anybody can make a song and put it out.” It muds up the water a lot. We’re grateful for it – it allows us to reach our fan base. You just have to look a little harder for the good stuff.

Southern Stages: This seems like an exciting time for Americana artists. Other than yourselves, acts including Tyler Childers, Sturgill Simpson, Billy Strings and Margo Price are all reaching wide audiences.

Neal: We are starting to get more attention and people have big ears. The live attendance is starting to come back strong since the lockdown. I think the lockdown made people realize what they were losing. You don’t know what tomorrow will hold.

Southern Stages: How do songs stay fresh to you after you’ve performed them hundreds of times?

Neal: It’s usually the fan reaction. People wanting to hear it makes the song fresh to you every time. When fans what to hear it, it melts your heart.

The Waymores will perform at Trussville’s Ferus Artisan Ales on Sunday, August 6. The all-ages show begins at 12 p.m. For more information, visit

Listen Out For The Lyrics: A Conversation with Hamilton Gardner

By Brent Thompson

Hamilton Gardner is stepping out own his own and the timing couldn’t be better for the Birmingham-based singer/songwriter. Gardner, the former front man of Pryme Suspect, is forging his solo career in an era that finds other Americana artists such as Billy Strings, Tyler Childers, Brent Cobb and Margo Price reaching wide audiences. Gardner is actively, writing, recording and booking shows and building a loyal fan base along the way. Recently, we sat down with him at his manager’s Birmingham residence.

Southern Stages: Hamilton, thanks for your time. If you will, give our readers a little background on yourself.

Hamilton Gardner: I grew up in Alabaster and went to school at Vestavia. I moved to Texas for about a year and came back to Birmingham about four months ago. It was good to go somewhere else for a little while, but I’m glad to be back.

Southern Stages: Given your background in bands – notably Pryme Suspect – did you feel that you would eventually be a solo artist?

Gardner: I wasn’t thinking about it much because our band was doing pretty well, but I’m happier doing this.

Southern Stages: How would you describe your writing process?

Gardner: It’s pretty much every day. Most of my ideas for songs come when I’m driving in the car alone. My phone has two or three thousand voice memos [laughs].

Southern Stages: Some artists say this is a great time to be in your position because listeners can find you so easily via modern outlets. Others say this climate creates over-saturation and makes it difficult to be found among the crowd. How do you view the current state of the industry?

Gardner: I think it’s the perfect time because you can build your fan base from much anywhere. It’s so expansive now especially with Spotify and all the streaming platforms. It’s so easy to listen to anybody’s music all the time.

Southern Stages: How many songs are in your catalog at the moment?

Gardner: Probably 20 or 25 that are really refined.

Southern Stages: Any news to report regarding the recording of new material?

Gardner: I’ve been working on a couple of songs with some other musicians and there’s one guy I work with in Tuscaloosa. I send my tracks to him with the time signature and it’s almost easier than if we were sitting down together. I can lay everything down exactly the way I want and send it to him and he can run the drum track over it and send it back to me.

Southern Stages: Coming from a band setup, what has been the biggest challenge in being a solo artist?

Gardner: There are a lot of positives in working with other people and getting their creative input. It’s been a little weird to get comfortable writing music without other people influencing it. Having been a front man for a band, it’s a little weird to be on stage alone.

Southern Stages: What is the makeup of your backing band?

Gardner: We’re still working on putting the band together. The drummer I play with right now I knew from Tuscaloosa and he used to fill in with Pryme Suspect because we didn’t have a permanent drummer. The lead guitar player is from Pryme Suspect and we meld well together on stage.

Southern Stages: How many instruments do you play?

Gardner: Probably five or six. I can play more than that, but not as impressively as I’d like. I started with saxophone.

Southern Stages: What is your primary writing instrument?

Gardner: It’s usually guitar. I have written a couple on banjo and piano, but I wouldn’t call myself a piano player.

Southern Stages: What’s your favorite instrument to play?

Gardner: Saxophone.

Southern Stages: Are you formally trained or self-taught?

Gardner: I’m formally trained on saxophone and everything else is pretty self-taught.

Southern Stages: Given the analytics available to you these days, how far and wide is your listening audience?

Gardner: There is a good group of people back in Austin that are listening and I love that people are doing that even with a 1000-mile distance. The last time I checked there are listeners in 100 different cities and it’s cool to be able to track it.

Southern Stages: Who are your main artist influences?

Gardner: For writing this style of music, my main influences are Billy Strings and Tyler Childers. Before I discovered either of them, I would not have thought either of those genres of music would have blown up the way they have.

Southern Stages: In writing, do your ideas begin with music or lyrics?

Gardner: Lyrically – every time. Wordplay is my favorite thing about writing – taking modern phrases and playing around with them. I try to get more creative by thinking, “I could say the line this way, but anybody could say the line this way. How can I make a head turn with at least a couple of these lyrics?” I try to keep my ear out for it all the time. Somebody around me will say a phrase that I think is really cool and I’ll leave the room and starting working on it. I may not be the best guitar player in the world, but listen out for the lyrics.

Southern Stages: Even though you are at the beginning phase of your solo career, you’re performed some of your songs hundreds of time by now. How do your songs stay fresh and relevant to you?

Gardner: When I play live, I try to mix up the way I’m playing them. With the music being so fresh right now, a lot of the folks haven’t heard the music yet and we get a good response. I’m so excited to see how people respond to the music and I get so much enjoyment in seeing people enjoy my music. A lot of what I love about playing music is seeing people react to it. I’m more of a fan of being an entertainer than being a writer.

Instagram @hamilton_gardner



Review: Toad the Wet Sprocket Remasters the Hits, Releases New Song

By Brent Thompson

Few bands have matched the impressive run of Toad the Wet Sprocket’s 1990s recorded output. The quartet’s 1991 release, Fear, plays like a self-contained greatest hits album thanks to tracks including “All I Want,” “Walk on the Ocean” and “I Will Not Take These Things For Granted.” Coinciding with the band’s current tour, Toad has released All You Want, a remastered greatest hits collection that includes a new track, “Best of Me.” In addition to the aforementioned Fear tracks, radio staples including “Good Intentions,” Come Down” and “Something’s Always Wrong” are found here as well. Toad still continues to record and tour regularly and the music has held up well – there is no time-stamp on this catalog and that’s a great thing for listeners.

Beauty Into The World: A Conversation with Abe Partridge

By Brent Thompson

Photo Credit: Cathy Partridge

“That’s where I pay my rent – I’m hardly ever there,” Abe Partridge says with a laugh when asked about his home base of Mobile, Ala. And when you look at his show calendar, you realize that he isn’t joking. The singer/songwriter’s unlikely career path has taken him from the ministry to the military to his current careers of music and visual art. Earlier this year, Partridge released Love in the Dark [Baldwin County Public Records], an 11-track collection of raw and honest songs that reinforces the comparisons Partridge receives to Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. Recently, Partridge spoke with us by phone on a rare day-off.

Southern Stages: Abe, thanks for your time. We are really enjoying Love in the Dark. How did the album’s material come about?

Abe Partridge: About half of the songs on there were going to be on an album I was putting out in July 2020. When everything happened, I shelved it because it didn’t make sense to put out a record when I couldn’t tour. During the pandemic, I wrote other songs so we went back through what we were putting out, took about half of those out and put a bunch of new ones in there. It’s kind of like a compilation of the songs I wrote over a four-year period.

Southern Stages: Where was Love in the Dark recorded?

Partridge: Most of it was recorded at Great Hill Studios in Nashville with my buddy Shawn Byrne. He produced my first record as well.

Southern Stages: How would you describe your writing process?

Partridge: I just write whenever I feel the need to. I paint too, so I make stuff every day.

Southern Stages: Which came first for you – music or painting?

Partridge: They kind of started around the same time. I was 26 or 27 years old in Middlesboro, Ky. pastoring a church and not really satisfied and kind of lost. I started writing and painting at about the same time.

Southern Stages: Have music and art always been parts of your life or did those interests come later?

Partridge: I loved listening to music, but I didn’t know anything about art – I still really don’t [laughs]. I never really tried to write music until I was in my mid-20s.

Southern Stages: If you will, talk about the path that led you to music and art.

Partridge: I left home at 18 and got a theological education. I went to four Bible colleges in four years, married a woman I met at the third Bible college on the day after I graduated from the fourth one – her name’s Cathy. We started having children and I was preaching up in Northwest Georgia at that time and then I got called to pastor a church in Kentucky when I was 25. By the time I was  27, I’d had all I could take of that and had one of those pivotal moments in my life and I decided to change direction. I moved back to Mobile with my wife and two children and quit the ministry. I joined the Air Force and went to the desert in 2013 and 2014 to participate in a war. When I was over there, I realized that all I’d ever done was bring negativity and violence into the world. I had been writing these songs and painting these pictures for eight or nine years. I told God that if he let me come home, I’d try to put a little beauty into the world. I got home and I played my first song in front of people in 2015 and it led to this.

Southern Stages: Given the life changes you made by pursuing music and art, has your family been supportive of your new direction?

Partridge: It wasn’t immediate, but everyone around me is supportive.

Southern Stages: Some artists tell me – given easy access to listeners via modern outlets such as Youtube, Spotify and satellite radio – that this is a great time to be in your position. Others say the current climate fosters over-saturation and therefore makes it difficult to be found among the crowd. How do you feel about the current state of the music industry?

Partridge: I get to make art for a living and, if this was pre-Internet era, I probably wouldn’t have ever had that opportunity. The world wide web allowed me to connect with people all over the globe. I don’t have a huge fan base, but what fan base I have is extremely supportive and I make a living doing it – I’m never going to complain about it. I mean it is hard to get your stuff heard and there are thousands of people putting out music, but I go old-school on that. I don’t look at trying to build a fan base via the Internet.  I try to build my fan base the old-fashioned way – by just going out and playing music for folks and hanging my art in places. I’m able to stay to connected with those people digitally and I think that’s the best way to do it. If you’re in your bedroom putting out records and you’re not out there trying to build a fan base, I can see where you can get frustrated.

Southern Stages: How does your schedule look going forward?

Partridge: It’s jam packed – I’ve got all the shows I want, honestly. I think I’ve slept in my own bed 15 nights since the second week of January. I’m about to head to Europe in a couple of weeks and I’ll be there for three or four weeks. Then I come and I’ll just be busting my ass for the rest of the year.


An Artist Again: A Conversation with Patrick Davis

By Brent Thompson

Photo Credit: Brooke Stevens

In a career spanning more than 20 years, Patrick Davis has seen the music industry from two distinct sides – solo artist and staff writer. In addition to his releasing his own albums, Davis’s songs have been recorded by Alabama, Pat Green, Morgan Wallen and Guy Clark among numerous others. These days, Davis is back to writing for himself and you can hear the contentment in his voice. In addition to heading up the annual Songwriters in Paradise Festival, he was also featured in a 2022 Forbes article that focused on the revenue streams, opportunities and challenges of modern-day artists. Recently, Davis spoke with us by phone from his Nashville home.

Southern Stages: Patrick, thanks for your time today. Like so many others, I really enjoyed the Forbes article and your insight on the current state of the industry. Some artists say it’s a great time to be in your position given the access to listeners and modern avenues. Others say those same factors create difficulty and over-saturation.

Patrick Davis: Yeah, I think it’s probably somewhere in the middle. Depending on what color glasses you have on, it could be better or it could be worse. It’s definitely difficult today to make money through the avenues we once had at our disposal. When I was a kid, artists would go on tour and play 25 cities and wouldn’t go on tour again for two years because they made so much money from album sales. Now, every band you’ve ever heard of is on tour year-round because the only way to make money is touring. They are trying to figure out the streaming royalties and they still haven’t, so the revenue streams have dried up. The only way to make real money is to be on the road. I feel fortunate because I do enjoy playing shows. It’s extremely difficult to get noticed with all the noise – there used to be three TV channels and four radio stations. There is great music being made – It’s just really hard to find it. You’ve got to figure it out and make it work and hopefully flourish – the Forbes article was me trying to explain the reasons I do some of the things I decided to do.

Southern Stages: You’ve experienced life as a solo artist and staff writer through your publishing deals with EMI Music and Warner Chappell. How would you describe your writing process?

Davis: When I was a kid, it was whenever the spirit hit me. When you start writing in Nashville, it’s a co-writing machine, really. When you get in that world, they’re trying to get you to write four to five times a week and that’s what I did for a long time. It made me unhappy, because at some point you realize you’re just banging your head against the wall and I had to get back to writing on my own terms. About five or six years ago, I decided I needed to be an artist again. I always have an idea somewhere – in my phone, on a piece of paper or a lick on my guitar. I have forced it before, but I find myself happier when I let it sit there until I’m in the right headspace.

Southern Stages: In 2020, you released the Couch Covers album. How did you go about selecting material for it?

Davis: It was done to keep myself sane during Covid. I decided during the early days of Covid, “Well, this can’t last that long. Maybe since we’re stuck at home I’ll try to learn a cover song every day and put it on Facebook or Instagram.” I thought I would be doing it for a couple of weeks and I think did like 70 of them [laughs]. It was a lot of fun and it helped keep me sane during those insane first couple of months of the Covid year. After finishing those 70 days in a row, I got a lot of requests from folks saying, “You ought to record these songs” and in June 2020 I decided to pick 10 of them that I thought would work in a cohesive unit. We went in over a couple of days with masks on and cut those songs – I hope that I did them justice. It was something positive that come out of Covid for me personally.

Southern Stages: With a large catalog of material under your belt, how do you comprise your set lists these days?

Davis: I try my best to dig into older songs that I’m proud of that maybe didn’t get a spotlight put on them. Some of them got a spotlight because they were recorded by some other artists, but there are deeper tracks and I like going there. When you’re writing for a publishing house, you’re writing 300 to 400 songs per year. It used to be that I had to write 400 songs a year to get 20 good ones. Nowadays, I can write 20 and usually I can have 10 or 15 that I’m happy with. It’s a muscle – you get better. I think I can do an eight-hour show and not repeat a song [laughs]. Whether an audience has followed me for five months or 15 years, I want to be sure that they get a little taste of everything.

Southern Stages: If you will, talk about Songwriters in Paradise.

Davis: About 10 years ago, I got asked to go down to the Bahamas. Some folks that I am friends with own a resort and asked if I would go down and play. I said, “How about I bring a few of my songwriting buddies and we play over the course of a weekend?” and that just kind of parlayed into another day and another day. It gives me the ability to hang out with my buddies for four or five nights and that’s really the attraction for us. There are only 150 to 200 attendees that get to attend each night – it’s an in-the-round, Bluebird Cafe setup and we do two shows a night with six performers a night.


Review: St. Paul & The Broken Bones break new ground

By Brent Thompson

Since forming over a decade ago, the Birmingham, Ala.-based octet St. Paul & The Broken Bones has been known for putting a modern spin on the classic soul/R&B sounds of yesteryear. Though the band has not lost its grit or its fire, the recently-released Angels In Science Fiction (ATO Records) finds Paul Janeway and company breaking new stylistic ground. Hatched as Janeway wrote letters to his then-unborn child, the album’s caution of the perilous world that lies ahead is palpable in its music. From the swampy “Oporto-Madrid Blvd.” to the hypnotic “City Federal Building” to the stripped-down “South Dakota,” there is an underlying tension that contrasts from the band’s previous catalog. Recorded in Memphis at Sam Phillips Recording Studio and produced by Matt Ross-Spang (Jason Isbell, Old Crow Medicine Show, John Prine), the album has a timeless quality – sonically, it could have been recorded last year or 40 years ago and that’s a good thing. Angels In Science Fiction is a healthy breakthrough that should find the band retaining its old fans and attracting new ones.

Wilder Woods Performs at Iron City on April 21

By Brent Thompson

Photo Credit: Darius Fitzgerald

Wilder Woods is a busy man, especially when you take into account that the singer/songwriter is also NEEDTOBREATHE’s frontman Bear Rinehart. On Friday, April 21, Woods will perform at Iron City with special guest Abraham Alexander. Currently, Woods is touring in support of his sophomore release, Fever/Sky (Dualtone Records). “I’ve been in a band for 20 years, and a band is a democracy where you make decisions together. Wilder Woods is a different outlet. I’m giving myself the freedom to to do what I want to do and say what I want to say,” he says in a recent press release. Advance tickets to the 8 p.m., all-ages show are $31 and can be purchased at