Exclusive: Heath Sanders on “Down on the South”
Heath Sanders just dropped his latest single “Down on the South” and made his second appearance today on The Bobby Bones Show, so of course we just HAD to talk to him about it.
Tell us the story behind “Down on the South”.
Its really is just an ode to my high school years. Back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, most of us blue collar kids didn’t have cell phones so we’d drive through town with our heads hanging out the window yelling “Meet at the hayfield!”, to every group of parked trucks we passed. Hell, in a half hour there’d be 20-30 rigs out there. If we weren’t fighting or falling in love, we were perched on a hay bail or a tailgate trying to figure out life. It was our first taste of freedom, our first attempt at figuring out who we were and, for most of us, our first shot at love… and man, we gave it hell.
When did you realize music was your calling?
That’s a tough one. I’ve always been a die hard realist and had never considered music as a profession until April of 2018. I’ve always been able to sing a little but the fact is, there are literally millions of singers out there with a voice better than mine who didn’t make it. I guess thats always been in the back of my mind and thats whats kept me from pursuing a career in music. The truth about the country music industry is, a voice can only get you so far; you’ve gotta have something to say. I guess it wasn’t till last year that I realized I was actually capable of writing. Once I’d gotten a couple of songs under my belt that I thought were worth sharing and seeing a response from listeners that it dawned on me that this might be what I’m meant to do with my life. It’s pretty astounding and incredibly humbling to have people write you from halfway across the world telling you what your words mean to them. That’s what keeps the negative voices in your head at bay.
How did you get to connected with Bobby Bones?
It’s crazy how it happened. They had cut our hours at work, as gas prices had fell back in 2017. I hadn’t played and sang in a bar in probably 13 years but losing that overtime pay forced me to sell one of my guns, by a little sound system and start playing local bars again. I was making a couple hundred bucks a weekend, enough to keep me out of the hole financially. I think I’d been doing that for about 3 months when a good friend of mine asked me to cover Stapleton’s “Either Way” and post it on my socials. Hell, it took me like 3 weeks to learn how to play it lol. I posted it back in February of 2018. It going viral inspired me to try my hand at writing, so I sat down one Sunday morning and starting writing my first single “Bloodline”. It took me all day to write a verse and half the chorus. I was literally sitting in my living room, pen in hand, writing the first song I’d written in over 13 years when I got an alert from Facebook messenger. It was Bobby writing me from his personal page. Sure, enough the phone rang in a couple of minutes and they asked me to do a live, on air, telephone interview the next morning. That was followed by an invitation to come to Nashville to sing an original song live in studio. So me and my buddy Jamey Jones from Russelville AR finished “Bloodline” over the next week or so. I was literally sitting in the motel room the night before the in studio performance learning it. It was by far the most terrifying thing I’d ever done. Bobby changed my entire life in one phone call. Incredible.
What are the albums you feel really formed you as an artist?
I was raised in an extremely conservative christian household, so I wasn’t exposed to secular music until I was 15 or 16. I think the first album I ever purchased that wasn’t Christian was “Yourself and Someone Like You” by Matchbox 20. I remember locking myself in my room and not coming out till I had learned every lyric. Early on though, southern gospel groups like The Isaacs, The Manual Band, Jeff and Sheri Easter were huge influences. Choir backed singers like, Rev John P Kee and Fred Hammond were among my favorites too.
My mom and dad had split when I was two, so I was able to peel away every other weekend and dive headfirst into Garth, Brooks and Dunn, Tracy Lawrence, Reba and all the folks who made the 90’s so badass. Later on, up into my 20’s it was these folks that dominated my truck stereo, along with classic rock powerhouses like Led Zeppelin and The Steve Miller Band. As of late I guess my biggest influences are the story tellers and poets like Eric Church, Luke Combs, Chris Stapleton, Chris Knight and Tyler Childers along with the southern rockers like Blackberry Smoke, The Cadillac Three, Whiskey Myers and Bishop Gunn. If I were to narrow it down to one single album though, it would, without a doubt be, Garth Brooks’ “In Pieces”. I’ve yet to hear a better album.
Are there any ways being an oil field worker inspire your music?
Absolutely. Back in March of 2018 when I was really debating whether to jump into this thing with both feet or live the rest of my life with a head full of what if’s, I just sat down one day and asked myself, “Man, what do you have to offer Nashville? What can you bring to the table. What makes you different?”, and I came to the conclusion that the only thing I could give Nashville was my life, my story, the hardcore conservative christian background, the honest dirt road roots and the 20 some odd years of hard, pay check to pay check, back busting blue collar living I’d made. It was the fact that I know exactly who I’m singing to and writing for that inspired me to take the leap, because I lived it, right along side those men and women.
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Do you have any upcoming opportunities to perform your new music live?
On 3/30 we’ll be opening up for Frank Foster at the Hamilton Expo Center for the Bulls Bands and Barrels rodeo in West Monroe. LA.
I also have some smaller hometown gigs around Arkansas over the next couple months.
When can we expect some more new music? Maybe an EP or LP on the horizon?
Of course! We don’t have any dates set yet but it will definitely happen. My management team over at L3 entertainment are on the same page when it comes to releasing music as far as our philosophy regarding not letting time crunches getting in the way of doing things right. We just want all our supporters to get the kind of music they deserve, regardless of when it happens but we’re definitely looking forward to what the future holds!