June 10, 2016
STILLWATER, Okla - As a child Read Southall had planned to follow in the family tradition and eventually become a cattle runner. He was raised in Altus, Okla. where his family had deep roots in the farming community. Throughout high school he would occasionally strum his guitar around camp fires or at house parties; entertaining friends by playing covers of his favorite Cross Canadian Ragweed or Jason Boland songs. But it wasn’t until Southall went through a bad breakup that he first felt inspired to write his own original material.
“I started writing music as a curiosity,” he said, as an outlet for his feelings. The end result was a nine-track acoustic album entitled Six String Sorrow which released in July 2015 and was well received.
Building on momentum Southall started playing small sets around the state and gained a steady following first in El Reno and then in Stillwater. Southall’s next step occurred when he moved to Stillwater to fully immerse himself in the red dirt scene and formed a full band along with John Tyler Perry (guitar/backup vocals), Jeremee Knipp (bass/backup vocals) and Reid Barber (percussion). Southall said the goal was “to work with other young musicians who shared a similar vision.”
Opening for Randy Rogers Band at The Criterion. Photo: Jeremy Scott
He continued to say that he and the band have flourished in the co-writing aspect of their new material and everyone involved brings a unique dynamic to each song.
Currently the band is finishing up a five-track EP which is scheduled to be released at the end of June. However, Southall's primary concern is with live performances.
“We're a live band,” he said. “We want that feeling of being in the bar. The studio is different for me. The way I play and express myself is based off of people and the way everyone is feeling at that time.”
In the near future the band is planning on recording a 15- or 16-track live album with all the old songs from his acoustic record performed with the full band. He wants to let the music speak for itself.
Southall has an awareness and humbleness that is rare in young performers. He spoke about his early anxiety in moving to Stillwater.
“I felt guilty for not starting my musical journey in Stillwater,” he said. “But at the time I didn't feel good enough to be up there.”
After arriving in Stillwater, Southall formed a connection and began a friendly competition with local singer/songwriter, Ben McKenzie.
Performing at Stillwater's Tumble Weed Dancehall.
“We’re great friends now,” Southall said. “At first there were some jealously issues – nothing serious – but we worked through that and realized we both wanted people to be proud of Stillwater music again.”
He continued on about the cyclical nature of Stillwater’s music scene. Southall spoke of the great artists like Garth Brooks, The Great Divide and Cross Canadian Ragweed that all had tremendous success emerging from Stillwater. However, the popularity and demand for live music has slightly diminished over the years and tends to ebb and flow.
“Stillwater is in need of another music rush,” he said. “A generation of new artists. To me, it seems to come and go. Maybe God will bless me enough and we'll be a part of the next rise.”
Already in his young career Southall has had the opportunity to interact and heed advice from some of his idols. William Clark Green advised Southall that not every performance would go well.
“He told me, ‘You’re going to have some shows that are awesome and you’re going to have some that make you want to go home. It’s all about realizing that with the good comes the bad and you have to overcome that obstacle from the start.’”
Southall said he appreciates everything he’s experienced thus far in his career, but with everything happening so quickly it’s been almost surreal.
The band has already opened for John D. Hale, Granger Smith and most recently for Randy Rogers at The Criterion in Oklahoma City. Currently the band is working with a booking agency for future shows, but can’t release any specific details at the moment. However, Southall said big things are on the horizon and the band is looking to expand into more states around the central United States.
At OKC's Criterion. Photo: Dakota Snell
For now, Southall and his band want to continue making real, honest music.
“I hate seeing major acts who perform but don’t seem like they believe in it. It’s like they’re just there to get a paycheck. That's what’s so neat about the red dirt, Oklahoma and Texas country music scene. It seems like everyone involved loves what they do and the music they play.”
The Read Southall Band has already established itself as a fresh new face to the red dirt scene and looks to continue on in the tradition of their heroes and bring everyone back to the music.
For a list of upcoming shows and album release dates, visit www.facebook.com/readshouthallmusic or www.readsouthall.com.
Feature photo: Cody Roper