AP NEWS

Country band Sawyer Brown coming to Fort Hall on May 24

May 18, 2019

Any band that stays viable for nearly 40 years in the music industry deserves applause. But a group like Sawyer Brown that stays in demand for four decades with four out of their five original members still playing is nearly unheard of. Country music’s award-winning Sawyer Brown takes the stage at the Fort Hall Casino at 8 p.m. May 24, and tickets are nearly sold out.

Best known for songs such as “Some Girls Do,” “The Race is On,” “Six Days on the Road,” “The Dirt Road,” “Thank God for You” and “Step That Step,” Sawyer Brown’s road to fame had a rare beginning as the first winners of the TV show Star Search in 1983 where they won $100,000 and a music contract with Capital Records.

Unlike many winners of modern talent shows whose spotlights fade, Sawyer Brown has gone on to release 22 albums — three of which have been certified “gold” — and win the Country Music Association’s “Horizon Award,” the Academy of Country Music’s “Vocal Group of the Year,” and Country Music Television’s “Video Group of the Year.” They have toured with legendary greats such as Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.

Though a silver anniversary for the band is something to be celebrated, the founding members of Sawyer Brown have been together even longer. Joe Smith (percussion), Gregg “Hobie” Hubbard (keyboard), Jim Scholten (bass guitar) and Mark Miller (lead singer) were all part of country artist Don King’s touring band, which is where the four of them met. Shayne Hill (lead guitar) was invited to join the band in 2004 after rehearsing only once with them.

When King lost his record deal and they were let go in 1981, Hubbard said that they decided to form their own band, which was first named Savannah, which they used until a few months before their debut “Star Search,” a TV show that ran from 1983 to 1995.

When asked about how the band chose its new name, Hubbard said, “The name Sawyer Brown wasn’t a road that any of us lived on or practiced on. We just wanted a band name that sounded like a person’s name. … There have been bands in the past that have had a name of a person who wasn’t in the band necessarily. That’s just what we wanted to do. We just kept compiling lists and narrowing them down. Sawyer Brown was the name that five people could all agree on and it just had a cool ring to it.”

Hubbard jokingly added, “We’re not big overthinkers here. We just liked it. There was no deep meditation involved.”

Miller and Hubbard have actually known each other since eighth grade and continued their friendship at the University of Central Florida where Miller played on the basketball team and studied physical education and Hubbard studied English. Scholten and Smyth were members of the Maine Symphony Orchestra.

When asked about the keys to Sawyer Brown’s longevity and success, Hubbard stated, “I have to give God the first credit. Something like this doesn’t happen without His having a sense of humor with us. I think you have to be willing to work really hard and not give up when others are maybe giving up on you. Having a sense of humor through it all and not taking yourself so seriously. Take the work seriously, but don’t take yourself so seriously.”

The talents of the band members far exceed more than mere stage performance. Hill plays multiple instruments, toured with Chely Wright, Avalon and LeAnn Rimes before joining the band and owns his own recording studio. Smyth has been credited with the ability to play more than 300 percussion instruments and earned a master’s degree from the University of Miami in music. Smyth also played with the Nashville Symphony when they performed at Carnegie Hall. Hubbard started writing music in college and co-wrote several of the band’s hits like “The Dirt Road” and “Drive Me Wild.”

Miller didn’t start writing and singing music until he was in college, yet the music he wrote, including the band’s anthem theme, “Some Girls Do,” as well as “Thank God for You” and “Step That Step,” all became Billboard No. 1 hits.

Besides working for the success of Sawyer Brown, Miller discovered the Christian rock band Casting Crowns in 2003 and helped them launch their career, which included the No. 1 hit “The Voice of Truth” which was featured in the film “Facing the Giants.” Miller, himself, also has written and/or produced his own Christian-based movies including, “Ring the Bell,” “The Ivy League Farmer” and “Where the Fast Lane Ends.” He is the executive producer of the movie “Chasing Down Madison Brown,” which just was released last year.

When asked if all of the band members had the same level of Christian belief as Miller, Hubbard replied, “I would absolutely say that we are all Christian-based believers. It’s a foundation of who we are and what we do for a living. …. You can be singing a Christian message without singing a Christian song. I believe our songs have that foundation underneath them. … The bulk of our stuff is very positive and about the working class, blue-collar, hard-working people which is who we are where we came from. Being a musician and being a Christian aren’t separate compartments. It’s all one thing. To be a Christian doesn’t mean you have to be making gospel music or preaching. You are a Christian with your life and how you live it which is the foundation of spirituality.”

As for the future, Hubbard says that the band has written several new songs that they hope to release as an album sometime this year and says that Sawyer Brown will keep performing “until there’s no reason to get out there and play.”

Tickets range from $29 to $49 and can be purchased at shobangaming.yapsody.com/event/index/370386/sawyer-brown.