Something we know for sure down here in Florida is that the rest of the nation questions us more often than not. And, to be honest, we wonder about ourselves a lot of the times too. Sure; we can’t count votes, we love to torture the rest of you with our beach pictures in the winter, and we drive like every day is Nascar race day and the interstate is our track. But, one thing is for certain; we know our country music and we breed stars down here in our peninsula of imperfections.
Go ahead, shake your heads, and think that our world is filled with foreign flavored music, a man proclaiming to be Mr. Worldwide, and music videos begging to see that thong, but truth be told, we aren’t the north of the south and we are quite country, contrary to popular belief. In fact, among the senior citizens who are early birding their Grand Slams at Denny’s and the Daytona Beach spring breakers, there is an enormous country music fan base, and, more importantly, an abundance of county music talent.
To show that this theory has been tested and proven, I present to you seven artists (in alphabetical order) who have helped Florida solidify its southern status.
1. Emily Brooke – West Palm Beach, Florida
She’s new to the scene for most people, as she made her American Idol debut this week and wow’ed the judges and all of America with her rendition of Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away.” In fact, Harry Connick, Jr.’s exact quote was “she might have the most potential of anyone we’ve seen so far.” They also dubbed her the next Carrie Underwood, which is a pretty big compliment if you ask me. Whether you have heard of her in the past makes no difference; the fact is, Emily is “Here Right Now” and here to stay!
2. Easton Corbin – Gilchrist County, Florida
A Universal Music Group recording artist, Easton Corbin is often vocally compared to George Strait, winning over fans with his debut release, “A Little More Country Than That,” and maintaining a solid and steady career since his 2009 introduction. Easton has two Number 1 hits, two Top 5 albums, a plethora of other Top 40 songs, and a new album on the horizon. I think it’s safe to say his home state grew this agribusiness degree-holding University of Florida Gator well and he’s making hits like “Clockwork.”
3. Brooke Eden – West Palm Beach, Florida
Broken Bow Records artist Brooke Eden was also born and bred in the Sunshine State, surrounded by country music, spending the days “American Dreamin’.” Like Easton, she graduated from the University of Florida and made the move to Nashville, Tennessee where she thought better opportunities awaited. With a talent as monstrous as Brooke’s, it was crystal clear that Music City was exactly where she belonged. Broken Bow saw the same and realized it was high time for a label to “Lock it Up”. One of Country Music #CMchat’s “15 to Watch in 2015,” Brooke, a former Miss South Florida Fair, has a tremendous year of new music and exciting live shows ahead.
4. Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line – Ormond Beach, Florida
You had to have seen this one coming. Obviously one half of Florida Georgia Line grew up in the un-south that is souther than the south, simply based on the name of the duo. Not only did Brian Kelley plant his roots in the Florida dirt, he dug his cleats into the orange clay of his high school, as well as Florida State University’s baseball fields. It was when Brian realized he wouldn’t have a longterm career on the diamond that he decided to work toward diamond-selling albums instead. He’s well on his way, but remember one thing about Florida — he came from it and someday he’ll return to it.
5. Jake Owen – Winter Haven, Florida
Jake Owen and his partner in the womb, fraternal twin, Jarrod, were born in Central Florida. In true Florida fashion, Jake started his life out in the pursuit of a golf career, but had to bag his clubs after a wake boarding accident caused permanent injuries. Way to fuel the stereotype with that move, Jake. Anyway, he then sacrificed his life of “Beachin'” for a life of beatin’, moving to Nashville to focus on songwriting and performing. The lifestyle change was just what the surgeon ordered, as Jake has multiple Number 1 songs on the notch of his [sun] belt.
6. Cassadee Pope – West Palm Beach, Florida
You read that right. Republic Nashville’s (Big Machine) Cassadee is the third on our alphabetical list of country music stars to come from West Palm Beach, Florida. “My trifecta,” as I like to refer to them, is rounded out by this champion of Season 3 of The Voice whose debut single was certified platinum, who won a CMT Award, who is on the CMT Next Women of Country list, who has been on two major country tours (Rascal Flatts and Tim McGraw), and who is the future of the genre. While the State of Florida cried crocodile tears when Cassadee fled to Nashville, it was truly no waste of tears at all because she’s making us prouder every single day! But watch out, Tennessee, while we’ll allow you to share some “Good Times” with her, we are quite quick to lay claims!
7. Michael Ray – Eustis, Florida
Another Country Music #CMchat “15 to Watch in 2015,” Michael Ray is a Florida boy whose career began in the geographically deep south (but only geographically), but now extends to the capital of country music. Michael left his native land for musical growth, winning the reality competition show The Next, and ultimately signing with Warner Music Nashville. A renowned songwriter in the community, Michael released his debut EP, finished a tour with Chase Rice, and is road bound with Sam Hunt and Native Run. “Orange” you glad we prepped him for you, fans?
See? We aren’t just the southernmost point of the United States; we are mostly southern with a bad reputation for northern influence and invasion. So, next time you see a story on the news talking about how Flori-DUH messed something up again, remember all the phenomenal musical talent we have birthed, raised, and primed for your pleasure.
Now that you’ve read this, go do what one of my people would do … put on some gym clothes, lather on some sunblock, and go for a run. That, or drop your convertible top and go for a spin. You deserved it; that was probably more work than a Floridian does in a normal day. Joking. Sort of.