By Ryan Meehan
The only “trouble” brothers Mark and Jason Sutton are about to encounter in the near future is the head-spinning dilemma on how to cope with the side-effects of super-stardom in country music. Lavish caravan of tour buses, hit music, world-class venues, millions of fans –count the ways Brother Trouble are about to face the ‘realities’ of life…Endorsements from world-class entertainers like Kenny Chesney don’t come every day, but they did come to this brotherhood. “We had the Big Star competition goin’ on, and these guys were by far the best,” Chesney told a throng of screaming supporters as Brother Trouble blew all the competition out the doors on Chesney’s much publicized “Next Big Star” national talent search. With the praise, the brothers landed a $25,000 paycheck and the hallowed ground onstage of opening spot on the closing dates of Kenny Chesney’s jammed to the rafters, Poets & Pirates tour. A far cry from the Sutton brothers early career experience of singing for tips on the Honky Tonk circuit. Fresh on the scene in Nashville just a few short years ago, Nashville’s Wildhorse Saloon put gas in their tank—both literally and creatively—when the brothers landed the rarified spot of a regular gig–allowing them to showcase their original music in one of the town’s hottest clubs. “It was like a chance to ‘go viral’ with our sound and songs,” noted Jason in a recent interview with Ellen Barnes of Gibson.com “It was one of the biggest tourist spots in Nashville and the weekend audience would take our music back to Texas or Illinois or wherever they came from.” “Nobody today is just one genre,” notes Mark in talking about the amalgamation of early influences the brother’s developmental musical chops paid homage to. Cutting their teeth early-on on the Myrtle Beach club circuit the brothers showed flashes of a creative heritage that included influences like Hank Jr.’s hard-edged honky-tonk, with pop-tinged shadings of Alabama. A shaker of Joe Walsh riff-and-hook laden blues made love to the southern fried rock of ZZ Top, 38 Special and Skynyrd. What emerged from the sands of South Carolina summers was a very unique sound that Brother Trouble solidly owned. Today, songs like Summer’s Little Angel, and Get It, Get It have pre-built a fan base for the brothers’ distinctive sound and musical vibe long before the thought of ‘radio impact’ ever had a chance to cross their minds. What has impacted with their audiences is their uniqueness. Brother Trouble has consistently stamped their brand on a free-wheeling approach to music that authentically brings the too often missed bona fide ‘kick-back and party down’ fun roaring back into the fabric of country music. With rarefied success just ahead, the Sutton brothers have hit the re-set button on a fresh wave of energy in country music! They’ve officially left ‘trouble’ in their dust, and Jason Sutton of Brother Trouble is my guest today in 7 questions.
RM: When did you get your first guitar, and could you briefly describe the first time that you ever attempted singing and playing guitar at the same time? Do you think that’s something that is more common among younger musicians within the genre of country as opposed to hard rock or heavy metal?
JS: The first guitar I ever got was when I was about 5 or 6 years old. It was semi playable, like a really nice toy one. Mostly, I just stood there swinging it around trying to look like a rock star which is actually pretty much all I do with guitars now! Ha! The first time I tried singing and playing at the same time it sounded worse than a kid at his first violin lesson, but I loved it and stuck with it and eventually it became easier and a lot of fun. I grew up listening to everything so it’s hard to say but I can’t really see why liking different genres would change how a kid learns to play and sing.
RM: Who was it that convinced you to really take your love of performing to the next level? How many nights a week were you working shortly after you decided that a career in the entertainment industry was something you wanted to pursue professionally?
JS: My wife. We were living in Myrtle Beach. I was making a decent living playing music on the side while working and she was the one who gave me the confidence to “go for it”. Once we made the decision to move to Nashville, I was gigging about 3 nights a week while working 2 jobs. I saved every penny I could scrounge up and we made the move. Mark followed a few months later.
RM: What’s the most frustrating part about being part of a successful music act with your brother? What percentage of the time would you guys say that you get along; and all is peachy?
JS: It’s kind of hard to find anything frustrating about being in a successful music act even if you’re in it with your brother. I guess other siblings fight a lot because we get this question all the time. Yeah we fought. We fought back to back when someone was messing with any of the Sutton brothers or our friends. Mark and I get along 97.6% of the time. We’ve ran the numbers.
RM: Which country track would you say is your favorite song of all time to cover and why? Which artist would you say has been the most influential for you and your brother when it comes to songwriting?
JS: That’s a tough one. In high school “Family Tradition” was a favorite that my friends would get me to play. Garth Brooks’ “Papa Loved Momma” was always a blast too. As far as songwriting goes, we’ve mostly been influenced by the great songwriters here in Nashville. They are the men and women behind the curtain that actually write all the hits we hear artists performing.
RM: What was the most important thing about the business that you two have learned from your interactions with Kenny Chesney? Is he pretty hands on when it comes to anything that has his name attached to it?
JS: Chesney taught us that success is a combination of hard work, determination but most importantly to be a good person and to always stay true to yourself. He’s very “hands on” which to stay authentic you have to be that way. People will sniff out what’s not genuine.
RM: You two seem to compose a lot of upbeat tracks whose themes are synonymous with getting out and having a good time on a weekend…Could you ever see yourself writing a legendary ballad? How do you channel the emotions associated with writing a song like that into something that people can relate to on a personal level? Does it have to start from a much more somber place in order to really tug on those heart strings?
JS: We’ve written a lot of ballads but for a live shows we like to keep things upbeat. We’ll slip a ballad in every once in a while. We go through the same emotions everyone does so if a song moves us then hopefully somebody else out there will like it too. Not really, people find inspiration everywhere. Chesney wrote “You Had Me from Hello” after watching the movie Jerry Maguire.
RM: What sets Brother Trouble apart from the other country music duos in Nashville today? What can fans expect from one of your live performances?
JS: I’d say what sets us apart the MOST is the fact that Mark can win any ultimate hot wing eating challenge in America and that I can fit 5 hard-boiled eggs in my mouth before gagging. Musically speaking, I think the brother harmonies and the time and energy we put into the songs and keeping our live shows entertaining for fans is what sets us apart as well. Our live shows are high energy and all about the fans. Folks at BT shows can expect to have a blast and probably break a sweat.
RM: What’s up next for Brother Trouble in the remainder of 2014? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
JS: We have a ton of shows on the calendar and will add more through the end of the year. We have a lot of cool things in the works for 2015 but can’t really spill the beans on anything yet, but I can say that one of those “beans” will be new music.
Official Website: http://www.brothertrouble.com/
Brother Trouble on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/brothertrouble
Brother Trouble on Twitter: http://twitter.com/brothertrouble
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