Track45 has "Big Dreams"
By Michael Rampa, June 2021
Ironically, Meridian, Miss. (population 41,148) is the birthplace of the father of country music, Jimmy Rodgers. The harmony-driven sibling trio of Track45 includes Ben Johnson and his infectiously bubbly sisters Jenna and KK.
The siblings released their debut EP, "Small Town," on Stoney Creek in the fall of 2020.
KK said "Small Town" was a showcase of the first chapter of their lives. The three songs showcased their harmony and instrumental skill. They played nearly every instrument on the track. A second EP, "Big Dreams," which came out in February, contained the three tracks on the debut release plus another original and a gorgeous deep cut Dolly Parton cover of "Light of a Clear Blue Morning."
Their story is right out of the country music playbook.
The band name is derived from living in a railroad town and Highway 45 which runs through it. Their first gig as young children was at a local nursing home. Eventually, they moved to Nashville, got publishing deals, writing songs for Justin Timberlake, Charlie Puth, Lee Brice, Dierks Bentley, Weezer, HARDY and Lauren Alaina. They also won a spot-on X Factor. That experience made them realize they were still a little green to the industry.
"Up until the show, we had only really played around our town," Ben said. "We had never really written songs before, and we really didn't know what we were doing or even what genre were. For a while, we thought we were a bluegrass band. Right before we left the show, someone asked us –®if we were to give you a record deal right now, what would you all sound like?' We said we really didn't know. So, we went home and really did some soul searching. Our sound is really – new old school country. We have a lot of traditional instruments and very modern themes."
Citing their influences, their first answer was "100 percent Dolly." The sisters were also into everything from Aretha Franklin and Elvis to Tammy Wynette and Debbie Rodgers.
In terms of instrumentation, Ben made the choice to take up the cello. While perhaps not considered a traditional instrument by country music standards, it was definitely an atypical choice that has worked out well "We all learned piano from our grandmom, but my mother said if you want to play another instrument, you can go ahead and save up for it. At first, I wanted to play bassoon, but that wasn't very practical, so I went with a string instrument that was most like the bassoon."
Though the band is mostly harmony driven and traditional, Jenna and KK can dance around like pop stars on the up-tempo numbers. All bands have trials and tribulations. Jenna had a cancer scare from which she is now clear. It has fueled her creativity. "When you have cancer, you can write from a very real place. And we were able to do it on the new song we have coming out you don't take life for granted. It really gives you perspective."
"When we write for people like Timberlake and Charlie Puth, it's all fiction, and when we write for ourselves it's all autobiographical," said KK. "It must be real for us and we tell stories that we've lived and believe."
Ben takes the state of the digital age in stride. "There are pros cons. if you look back to the Nineties and everyone was buying CDs, you could have a cut on somebody's album and make a pretty good living as a songwriter. Now that's not possible, you have to have radio singles to make a living. We wish the money would flow like it used to but on the plus side, streaming gives everyone incredible access worldwide to country music. We get to hear from people worldwide who have found us via Spotify, Amazon and Apple Music. It's really amazing the reach musicians have now."
"We're just people from a small town in Mississippi," said KK. "We can only write what we know," She was only 15 when they moved to Music City. "We were super fortunate to have such supportive parents," she said. "They knew I wasn't going to be content staying behind in Mississippi."
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