Country music fans on this side of the Atlantic have always reserved a very special place in their hearts for something as beautifully simple as a great country voice singing a great country song. That’s why I think so many are going to love Jamie Lee Thurston’s debut single, ‘Givin’ Up Breathin.’
The track, a co-write between Nashville based New Englander Thurston and George Teren (produced by Thurston and co-produced by Mike Purcell, who has also worked with Lynyrd Skynyrd, BR-549, and Waylon Jennings, amongst others), is that most quintessential of country songs: a story of heartache based on a true experience from the singer’s own life. Delivered in Thurston’s rich and bluesy baritone vocal style, he succeeds in sharing the pain of his loss by laying bare the depth of his love. The easy honesty of this revelation hints at Thurston being the kinda guy you could easily raise a beer or two with while trading stories of life’s ups and downs.
Indeed, if country songs could be classed as being about anything in particular, then it’s surely life’s ups and downs. And in that regard, not only has Thurston been there, done that, and worn the tee-shirt, he’s probably written some songs about it all, too! His talents secured Thurston a major record deal with Warner Bros. at one point in his career, but alas, as is so often the way in the music business, sometimes the business gets in the way of the music. And that’s exactly what happened. As changes were made within the corporate structure of the label, Thurston’s record – and all of the care, love, memories, and tears from which it was created – was temporarily sidelined, and eventually slipped right off the list of priorities for some of the new ‘suits’ at management level.
While those ‘suits’ may never have realised what they let slip through their fingers, Thurston never lost his fighting spirit. His natural sense of determination, inner-grit, and self-belief, has seen him stay strong throughout every storm he’s ever faced, coming out the other side not only stronger, but wiser too. In fact, he’s gone on to rack up some impressive career achievements when lesser spirits may well have folded.
All in all, Thurston can look back on a catalogue of nine albums, all of which demonstrate the scope of his creative talents, as seven were produced by himself, while he co-produced the aforementioned Warner Brothers album with Chuck Howard (who has also worked alongside Leann Rimes and Hank Williams Jnr), and a further collection was produced by Gregg Brown (who has also worked Travis Tritt and Tanya Tucker).
Not only that, Thurston has celebrated cuts by Rodney Atkins (the Top 20 hit ’15 Minutes’), and Montgomery Gentry (‘I Ain’t Got It All That Bad’, which featured Hank Williams Jnr). He also had songs recorded by Trace Adkins and Chris Cagle, but the Adkins cut was the victim of a last-minute twist of fate and didn’t make the final album. Cagle, on the other hand, experienced some of music’s ups and downs himself by being dropped from his deal before the album with Thurston’s track could make it to stores.
It’s not just in the studio where Thurston shines, however. His boots have stepped into the spotlight and walked up to the mic on perhaps the most famous stage of them all, the Grand Ole Opry, on October 29th 2009. He has also opened for some of the most noteworthy country artists of all time, in Alabama, Charlie Daniels, and the Dixie Chicks. Plus, John Anderson, Mark Chesnutt, Travis Tritt, Jake Owen, Brad Paisley, and Jason Aldean. And that’s just a small sample of some the acts he’s shared a stage with. The latter two, of course, are still among the biggest names in American country and are familiar figures to Irish country fans following their appearances at the C2C festivals in recent years. As a writer, producer, and performer, Thurston is practically made of music. And that passion is ever present in the music he makes.
‘Givin’ Up Breathin’ is the first single to drop from Thurston’s forthcoming album, the thirteen track collection, ‘The Window’, scheduled for release early September in the States. And while ‘Givin’ Up Breathin’ is itself a song of love and loss in country’s most traditional sense, the album’s title track demonstrates another side to Thurston’s ability, that of a thoughtful and tender interpreter of song as he masterfully tells the story of a death-row inmate. With Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard, two of his most important influences, being no strangers to the territory of prison songs themselves in their time, it’s no surprise that Thurston’s own creative courage has seen him follow in their footsteps.
Fearlessnes and honesty in music and in songwriting tend to co-exist with fearlessness and honesty in life. In Thurston’s case this is certainly so. Alongside his music career, he’s also producing a documentary entitled, ‘Ghosts In His Eyes’, as part of a continuing drive to raise both awareness and funds for veterans who are dealing with P.T.S and T.B.I. If there’s any truth to the old saying that the measure of a man is shown most by what he’ll do for others, then this one fact tells you everything about what’s at the heart of Jamie Lee Thurston.
Oh, and he can write and sing one heck of a good country song into the bargain! That part is important, too!
His contribution to the Irish music scene has been recognised by his inclusion in the entertainment industry directory, the Hot Press Yearbook 2017, which is the essential music and media who's-who in Ireland. Anthony was also asked to present John Farry (Nathan Carter's manager) with his award for Best Original Album at the 2017 Hot Country Awards and in 2015 presented Lisa McHugh with her Female Entertainer of the Year award.
In his role with HEM Country, Anthony has interviewed many artists who are well known names on the international stage, among them Clare Bowen, Imelda May, and Una Healy, as well as rising stars like Courtney Marie Andrews. Anthony's features for HEM Country have also helped to shine a spotlight on many of the best Irish country acts like Robert Mizzell, Cliona Hagan, Barry Kirwan, Bernie Heaney, and Hurricane Highway, bringing their talent and achievements to an even wider audience.
During his time writing 'On The Right TRAX', Anthony has interviewed most of the biggest stars on the Irish country scene, including Mike Denver, Nathan Carter, Lisa McHugh, Philomena Begley, Sandy Kelly, and Derek Ryan. He has also chatted with international artists such as Sunny Sweeney, Jim Rooney, Max T. Barnes, the late George Hamilton IV, and Tony Christie.
Anthony's sphere of influence extends well past the boundaries of country music, however, with time spent in conversation with international popstar Kiesza also to his credit. He has also shared time with several other artists from the Emerald Isle whose fame reaches beyond those shores, including Mundy, The Fureys, Frances Black, Pete Kennedy, Rackhouse Pilfer, The 4 of Us, Roisin O, Ham Sandwich and Mick Flannery.
As a writer, lyricist, and poet himself, however, songwriters have a very special place in Anthony's heart and some of his favourite interviews (together with the songwriters already mentioned) include those with Jimmy McCarthy, Johnny McEvoy, Charlie McGettigan, Kieran Goss, and Niall Toner.
Other household names whom Anthony has interviewed for 'On The Right TRAX' are the famous comedians Tommy Tiernan, Des Bishop, Neil Delamere, Jason Byrne, Andrew Maxwell, and Brendan Grace, as well as celebrity chef Rachel Allen, and television presenter Kathryn Thomas.
Anthony also does some artist representation and PR work, and has successfully secured national television and radio appearances for Irish and American artists.
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