INTERVIEW: River County

From a high school talent contest to center stage, River County’s Derek Wylie (lead singer), Chris Presley (lead and rhythm guitar/background vocals) and Jake Hehman (keyboards & harmonies) formed a bond in musical kinship a long, long time ago that was destined “to be.”Welcome to River County - where the music runs wide and the energy is deep.. an excerpt from their bio says it all about these three talented young men. We sat down for a visit the night before the CD Release Party for their self titled debut CD.

Bev: Great to have a moment to visit with you guys, I know you have been very busy promoting your debut CD “Rockin The Country” which is out today! How exciting – what feelings are you experiencing knowing the hard work you have put into this has finally paid off with the release?

River County: We are very excited!! It is a huge load taken off our shoulders, but then a different huge load put back on now to promote it. We had five minutes to catch our breath. There is so much more to come.

Bev: Tomorrow night is the CD Release Party at the Rutledge, what are your feelings and fears?

River County: We try to not have fears and worry about things. Really, things like this interview make us more nervous than anything to do with performing.

Bev: I know you all attended high school together and got your start by winning a local talent contest, so you know a lot about one another, do you think that benefits the group?

River County: We think benefits us, because we have the chemistry and we just know what they will do or say and how they will react to situations, so it really helps.

Bev: You have a quote that says "If Lynyrd Skynyrd put on a cowboy hat and had a lovechild with Rascal Flatts, that’s River County!" Can you explain what that means?

River County: Well, honestly, it came during the middle of the night and it just is the energy and showmanship and harmonies of Rascal Flatts mixed with the edginess and raw energy of Skynyrd, that is who we are.

Bev: Of all the songs on the new album, which is getting the most popular or favorable response and most requested and why?

River County: “It's Alright to Cry"” used to be the most requested, but now that we have “Rockin’ The Country” on the charts, we have people upset when we wait til the end of the set to perform that song. So both are very popular.

Bev: Are these songs also the two you enjoy performing the most or do you have a particular song that you can really let go and just have a fun time with?

River County: We do a medley with two of our songs and we really like how we connect and transition them and the reaction we get from the crowd, it is a fun part of our show. “Rockin The Country” explains us as a group, and it is fun too.

Bev: Traveling from venue to venue, when you arrive in a new city, what is one of the 1st things you look for?

River County: A Cracker Barrell. Good ole home cookin’ comfort.

Bev: I know you wrote or co-wrote many of the songs on this CD, anything in particular that inspires your writing or is it random thoughts and feelings? When you have a block what do you do to refresh yourself and get back into the mode of writing?

River County: Jake replies, since he is the main writer in the group, and says I get so much from my daughter who is five so reality plays a big part in how I come up with ideas.

Bev: What has been your most difficult hurdle this far in your career?

River County: Personally is when we went to China, we left family behind and it was hard. And you get a funny feeling knowing you are performing to people who cannot understand a word.

Bev: I know you have played all over the country and abroad, so far who have you had the most fun opening for ?

River County: We opened for Andy Griggs and he is so much fun. Jimmy Wayne was a blast. Rascal Flatts was fun, so it is hard to choose.

Bev: Many of your songs have meanings and messages, do you prefer to perform these kinds of songs that connects you to the audience, or do enjoy the ones that just have a lot of fun connected to them and get the crowd going crazy?

River County: We enjoy anything that makes a connection – regardless of if it is a party connection or one where they have tears streaming down their faces. And when you have a song where they are clapping and cheering so loud as you hit the last note because the enjoyed it so much, that is fun too.

Bev: If you had your choice of anyone to write with who would it be? And Why?

River County: Chris – Jerry Reed, Jake – Jeffrey Steele or Garth Brooks, Derek - Tim McGraw

Bev: Same questions, but performing, anyone past or present you would love to perform with?

River County: Derek – Tim McGraw, Jake – Billy Joel, Chris – any of the Van Zant Boys

Bev: Worst experience on the road?

River County: There was one club in China where we could not get the power cords converted and it was all a nightmare and huge headache. But in the same breathe, performing for them was very cool, so it was all worth it once we got things taken care of.

Bev: As both artist’s who perform and write – if you had to choose to do one or the other which would you choose? Or Could you only do one?

River County: Chris – perform, Jake – Write, Derek – perform.

Bev: Any embarrassing stage stories?

River County: How long do you have? Jakes birthday was funny. We are kind of known to assist in playing a prank on people during our show where we put the birthday person in a chair, start playing “My Girl” and then simulate a lap dance .. well when Jake had his, we put him in a chair and then Derek came out in his wife’s Daisy Dukes and a sexy shirt and skipped over to Jake, it was pretty hilarious.

Bev: How about pet peeves of being an artist or in the entertainment industry.

River County: Small clubs you tend to get people who get too close and knock over our instruments or lean on them, spill their drinks.

Bev: What do you enjoy most about being in the entertainment industry?

River County: The fans. We are nothing with out our fans. So that is the best part. Getting to know people and having them love what you do.

Bev: In 50 years, looking back at the life of River County, what do you want to be remembered for most?

River County: We want to do what we love and have fun, and have people remember us for that. We want to be the fans band where they know they come 1st.

Bev: Is there anything in particular about this album you really want to say about it or about yourselves?

River County: When you listen to the album, really listen. We have a lot of hidden messages and meanings, so you have to hear it and listen. But go to a live show and then you will want to buy 30 CD’s.

Bev: I have really enjoyed our time together today, and wish you all great success with you career and this CD. Thanks so much for asking me to join you.

River County: Thanks so much for letting us visit with you, we had so much fun, you made this easy, now we are not scared of interviews.

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