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

Concert Shots: Sierra Ferrell at Saturn 4-12-23

By Brent Thompson

Sierra Ferrell is creating a frenzy with listeners and critics alike as her sold-out show reiterated at Birmingham’s Saturn on April 12. Mixing traditional country sounds with calypso and gypsy jazz, the West Virginia native – touring in support of her release Long Time Coming (Rounder Records) – held the crowd in her hands.


Concert Shots: Tab Benoit at Saturn 4-11-23

By Brent Thompson

Louisiana gunslinger Tab Benoit has a longtime, loyal following in Birmingham and his fans packed Birmingham’s Saturn on April 11. Benoit mixed in old favorites including “We Make A Good Gumbo” and “Night Train” alongside James Taylor’s “Bartender’s Blues” and a timely version of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.”


Big Sky Mining: A Conversation with Torrin Daniels of Kitchen Dwellers

By Brent Thompson

Photo Credit: Ed Coyle

Wise River winds 30 miles through the state of Montana and is also the title of the latest release by Kitchen Dwellers. The Bozeman, Mt.-based quartet – Torrin Daniels (banjo), Shawn Swain (mandolin), Joe Funk (bass) and Max Davies (guitar) – crafted the album during the Covid downtime. Produced by Cory Wong – a musician/producer best known for his work in the jazz and rock fields – the result is a 10-track effort that finds the band staying to true to its traditional roots while revealing an array of other influences. On Wednesday, April 19, Kitchen Dwellers will perform at Saturn. Recently, Daniels spoke with us by phone from his recently-adopted home of Portland, Or.

Southern Stages: Torrin, thanks for your time today. Where are you right now?

Torrin Daniels: We’re at home – I just moved to Oregon this last fall. Our bass player just had a baby a couple of days ago so we’re taking a little break right now.

Southern Stages: Where are the band’s members located these days?

Daniels: Up until this fall, we were all in Bozeman, Mt. Right around September, our bass player moved to Raleigh. N.C. and I moved to Portland. There are still two guys in Montana. I really like the Northwest and I’ve always enjoyed going on tour here and it’s not really that far from Montana.

Southern Stages: We are really enjoying Wise River. Are these songs older ideas that had been around for a while in bits and pieces, newer compositions or a mixture of both?

Daniels: Some were in bits and pieces, but most of them came about during the peak quarantine period of Covid in 2020. It was the most collaborative way we’ve written songs  – we had a studio in Bozeman that we could go to every day. Since we weren’t on the road, it was a thing to do. We were able to go in and meet up with each other almost every day because we were lucky enough to still live in the same town and really put some time in on all those songs. We really crafted those songs together which we really hadn’t done before as a band.

Southern Stages: How did you guys end up working with Cory Wong?

Daniels: He reached out to our manager – he and some folks at our management company are friends. He had shown an interest in working with a string band and had never done that before. He’s kind of a wild guy and, even if something isn’t in his wheelhouse, he is adventurous and fearless enough to reach for that. We’re kind of a weird band as far as string bands go, so we said “Yes” to it and were excited to work with him on it.

Southern Stages: The commercial musical climate these days seems receptive to string band music given the success of your band, Billy Strings, Molly Tuttle, Greensky Bluegrass and others.

Daniels: I think that right now is a really exciting time in bluegrass and folk music and Americana. I think a lot of people that have been searching for their sound are finding it right now. This generation of bluegrass players and string band players, we are coming from a wider range of influences than a lot of bluegrass players have in the past. When you’re talking about bluegrass, there’s always a very high grade of musicianship. From our band’s standpoint, we’re just now getting to the sound we’ve been looking for. In the new songs we’re writing, you can hear a wide range of influences.

Southern Stages: Some artists tell me this is a great time to be in your position given instant access to listeners via Youtube, Spotify, satellite radio and other modern outlets. Others say it’s a difficult time for an artist to be found among the crowd. How do you view the current state of the industry?

Daniels: It’s weird because it really is a double-edge sword. It’s super accessible. If you know how to use the right avenues, you can find almost any given show that a lot of bands play nowadays. You can find that show recorded somewhere in some capacity – that did not use to be the case. If you hear a band did a one cover [song] on their tour, you can search for that video on Youtube and you can find that three minutes of specific music. But on the other hand, if people don’t feel like seeing you, they look you up on Spotify and make up their mind about you without ever seeing you. I always think of Pearl Jam – when they first became a band, it was a couple of groups coming together. They sold out their first five or six shows at larger theaters and no one had seen that particular band yet. Your music can be found anywhere nowadays, but some people definitely use that as an excuse to not go see your band. And there’s clutter too – there are tons of bands.

Southern Stages: How would you describe your band’s songwriting process?

Daniels: It can form in may ways in our band. It started with whoever’s song it was, they would almost finish it and get a very full idea of what they wanted the song to be and the rest of the band would finish it out. Nowadays, we have a lot more songs where someone just comes in with a melody or an idea of where they want the song to go and there are a lot more people adding and suggesting. It’s a lot more collaborative nowadays which I think has been producing some of the better songs that we’ve written

Southern Stages: Obviously, your band’s style of music lends itself to improvisation. But with that said, there are also songs you have played hundreds of times by now. How do those songs stay fresh for you after so many performances?

Daniels: Part of it is that we’re always working on our craft. As a bluegrass musician, you are always encouraged to re-examine your musicianship and always improve on your harmonies and rhythm playing. It’s as necessary to practice your rhythm playing as much as your lead playing. There are always different ways to improve on your playing and get better at bluegrass and string music. I think that is one of the ways we feel about good about songs we’ve played forever – we nail them more and more as we progress.

Kitchen Dwellers will perform at Saturn on Wednesday, April 19. Sicard Hollow will open the 8 p.m. show. Advance tickets to the 18+ show are $17 and can be purchased at


Concert Shots: Goose at Avondale Brewing Company 4-2-23

By Brent Thompson

Goose’s Alabama debut performance was a success to say the least. Playing to a frenzied, capacity crowd at Birmingham’s Avondale Brewing Company, the Connecticut-based quintet’s two-set ride included “Yeti,” “California Magic,” “Dripfield” and the Grateful Dead’s “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo.”