Ricky Gunn wanted to give ’em steel in his first full-length album.
The background vocal credits could include a pedal steel guitar on “Livin’ Like Me,” a 13-song collection available on iTunes through New Canvas Entertainment.
Count Gunn among a number of acts booked for free concerts in the next month at The Boathouse Waterway Bar & Grill, just west of Myrtle Beach. Two days before Gunn’s gig to open for Craig Wayne Boyd – Season 7 winner of NBC’s “The Voice” – at 5 p.m. Aug. 30, Sumter native Lewis Brice, younger brother of multiple music award-winner Lee Brice, will have his turn at 9 p.m. Aug. 28. (Look for Lee Brice in concert Oct. 16 at Coastal Carolina University’s HTC Center, in Conway.)
Speaking by phone Sunday night from home in Newton, Ga., in the Peach State’s southwest corner, ahead of a rare week off tour from performances, Gunn called steel guitar his favorite instrument.
“My grandfather turned me on to old country music,” Gunn said, “with the older stuff, including fiddle and steel guitar.”
Gunn, who counts the late Hank Williams, Conway Twitty, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings among his musical influences, said that during pre-production of his own CD, “the first thing” on his wish list was, “I want steel guitar all over this album.”
They’re the ones who made country music. They made the model for country music.
Realizing a goal “where I could pull it off,” Gunn said his album fuses “modern country sounds with these traditional instruments,” in a salute to such legends.
The CD gets into gear right out of the gate with “Out in the Country,” with a catchy chorus, in the second song written for this project.
“It’s one of those sing-along songs,” Gunn said. “You ride down the road, blasting it … and sing along with it.”
“King of the Town,” a single from earlier this summer, radiates like many of the album numbers with words and memories to which Gunn relates.
Duet partner found in Music City
The pace slows down a tad for “Don’t You Wanna Know?” a duet with Dana King, whom Gunn called a “really talented” singer-songwriter he met in Nashville when preparing to record a demo with three or four songs.
Gunn said he and his bandmates were checking out clubs in Music City’s Broadway district, and King’s rendition of “Crazy” caught him, “and it just blew me away.”
“We just peeked our head in the door,” Gunn said, “ … and we heard her do another song. She was amazing.”
Gunn said he was grateful that he finally “talked her into singing on the demo” in the recording studio.
Artists and composers remain the cogs to keep country’s pioneers, Gunn said, including his aforementioned favorites, visible for youth and generations to come.
“They’re the ones who made country music,” he said. “They made the model for country music.”
By playing their music and talking about them, and still using these steel guitars in songs “with little licks,” Gunn said their foundation will play on.
“When we’re on the road,” he said, “we’ll do a Johnny Cash song, a cover. That’s the way we keep their music alive.”
Gunn brought up his 14-year-son, whose ears he’d pique when he would play classic tunes, and “he would ask me who that was.”
“He probably has a bigger collection downloaded on his iPod from iTunes than I do,” Gunn said. “He sings Kenny Rogers’ ‘The Gambler’ and other hits, and he loves it.”
Asked about being from a state that continues to produce a wealth of innovative musicians – Alan Jackson, Zac Brown, Trisha Yearwood and Corey Smith, to name a few – Gunn said he does not know.
“It just keeps evolving,” Gunn said. “Maybe people see, ‘This guy from my state did it, so I can do it.’ It’s crazy how many artists are from Georgia right now. They see it is possible to conquer dreams and get to the point where you want to be. Each and every artist who has done it before inspires them.”
Gunn, who performed multiple times during the 2015 Country Music Association Music Festival in Nashville, said this marked his first time on stage there. In previous years, he was “just a fan” on hand.
“Walking out on stage,” he said, crediting his family for nonstop support in his musical pursuits, “it was exhilarating. Then a lot of the people started singing back to ‘King of the Town.’ That gave me chicken skin, to say the least. I had goosebumps all over. … That was a dream come true.”
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 444-1764.
If you go
WHAT: Free concerts
WITH: Such musicians as Lee Brice’s younger brother, Lewis Brice, and Ricky Gunn (rickygunn.com)
WHO AND WHEN:
▪ “Free Show Fridays” series, 9 p.m. Fridays: Ricky Young on Aug. 21, Lewis Brice Aug. 28, and Brian Davis Sept. 4, an act to be announced for Sept. 11, Josh Phillips Sept. 18, Outshyne Sept. 25, Cali Roots Session Pre-Party Oct. 2, Tyler Hammond Oct. 9, and Austin Mowery Oct. 16.
▪ “Summer Concert Series,” 5 p.m. Sundays: Donavon Frankenrieter with Cody Simpson on Aug. 23; Craig Wayne Boyd, with Ricky Gunn Aug. 30; and Trevor Hall Sept. 6.
WHERE: The Boathouse Waterway Bar & Grill, 201 Fantasy Harbor Blvd., along Intracoastal Waterway, just west of Myrtle Beach, off U.S. 501, next to Clarion Hotel.
INFORMATION: 843-903-2628 or www.boathousemb.com