BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Country music star Buddy Jewell will tell you that he was elected to his fame.
Buddy Jewell, who’ll be performing at the 2nd Annual RiverFest at 8 p.m. Saturday, August 5th, said his road through Nashville was literally voted on by fans. Jewell won the inaugural year of USA Network’s ‘Nashville Star’, the reality show that was country music’s version of American Idol.
“It’s more or less an atypical start,” Jewell said Wednesday afternoon. “It was pretty unconventional the way I got that deal in 2003. There were only a handful of reality tv shows on at that time… American Idol, Big Brother, and American Idol’s second year was the first year for Nashville star. Nowadays it’s more typical to come to fame, not necessarily stardom, but some kind of fame, from some kind of reality show. You turn on any channel now and you see those programs, but what happened to me was pretty unique at the time.”
The native Arkansan took shots at a career in the early 90s on Ed McMahon’s Star Search and Alabama’s June Jam Talent Search and decided that a career in music would be in his future. The wicked up and downs of trying to break into the music industry even led Jewell to a stint as a stuntman in a gunshow at Texas Six Flags theme park.
Jewell says now he’s an “overnight sensation” that was 2o years in the making.
“I spent so many years trying to get a record deal before I went to Nashville in 1993. It took me 1o years to get a deal and even then if it hadn’t been for the television show, I’m not sure this happens. I’m the quintessential overnight sensation that took 20 years.
His top performing songs include Help Pour out the Rain (Lacey’s song) and Sweet Southern Comfort. His nine records span the past 16 years and he says he likes to play and write songs that hold special meaning for him, but Jewell hesitates on describing his style. His latest album Reloaded was released this year and he said he will be playing some of the songs off that album as well as some of his hit songs.
“You know, I m probably not the best person to describe my music,” he said. “I play and write stuff that I like and try to write about things that mean something to me. If I’m listening to other songs I try to find stuff that moves me emotionally whether that’s sad or happy or somewhere in between. I’m more of a traditionalist, more or less. Especially considering what country music is today. It’s funny that when Taylor Swift announced she was going pop, I said ‘I guess I should announce I’m going country’.”
He said his shows are fun and comfortable and he likes the crowd to feel like they’re in their living room just getting wrapped up in some good music.
Jewell will be opening for Shawn Moss, a Fort Madison native who travels the country as one of the top Garth Brooks cover bands.
“I always like to have a lot fun at shows. You’re not going to see me climbing the riggings or anything, but I like to move around on stage. They’re going to hear Reloaded and my other two and half hits,” he said with a chuckle. “I like to interact with the crowd .Whether there’s 100 or 100,000 people in the crowd, I go out to connect and make them feel like they’re sitting in their living room.”
He says right now he’s just playing all kinds of venues including overseas.
“A friend of mine used to be VP of marketing at Ford and he says ‘If it pays we play.’ I’ll work as much as they’ll let me,” Jewell said.
“We’ve been in Europe quite a bit. Between that and coming home and playing and selling records – I’m in a really good place.”
He said Europeans favor the old 1960’s Buck Owens country style and he sees more traditional country fans there than in America.
“I see more cowboy hats in the audience over there than there are here. The first time I went over to Europe I played outside of Paris and we saw people literally dressed up like John Wayne with plastic pistols and everything, and they love the line dance. Seems like they got stuck in the Urban Cowboy area.”
He said Europeans still prefer a physical CD over the downloadable tunes.
“That’s a good thing, because we don’t always get paid with the downloads.”
Fans interested in learning more about Jewell before his performance in August can visit his website at www.buddyjewell.com or visit his social media outlets including Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BuddyJewell/.
“I wouldn’t be in this position if it weren’t for all the fans that keep buying the albums and concert tickets. If anyone has ever owed it to the fans, it’s me. I was elected to my records.”
RiverFest kicks off Thursday, August 3rd and runs through Sunday, August 6th.
A complete list of events and online registrations for tournaments can be found at www.riverfestfm.com.
A Riverfest Pre-Party has been set for Baxter Sports Complex on Sunday, July 16th from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Events include sand volleyball, bags, and KanJam tournaments. There will be lots of RiverFest giveaways including tickets. Anyone playing in any of the tournaments will be eligible for a 40-quart Grizzly cooler full of your favorite beverage on ice.
Keokuk’s Trystan Grisham will be performing from 2 to 4 p.m. The team with the most creative name will win a round of drinks on RiverFest.