Country superstars set to take Sunfest stage

Thursday, July 30 Lee Brice is on the Sunfest Main Stage at 9:50 p.m.

Thursday, July 30 Lee Brice is on the Sunfest Main Stage at 9:50 p.m.

Lee Brice got a unique break in country music.


He thought about performing his song More Than A Memory himself but then Garth Brooks came calling and, in 2007, Brice’s world changed.

Brooks’ recording of the track was the first single in the history of the Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart to debut at #1. Of course, the songwriter was soon Nashville’s Number One Boy and he signed a contract of his own.

He released his debut album, Love Like Crazy, in 2009 to a roar of approval but he wasn’t done.

In 2012, he topped his own success with Hard 2 Love, an album that went gold and featured three #1 Country singles, including I Drive Your Truck, which won Song of the Year at both the CMA and ACM Awards.

The heartfelt tribute to a father gone too soon showed that a country guy could be both tough and tender. Just like Lee Brice.

Friday: Joe Nichols, Chasin Crazy


Joe Nichols is the Friday night headliner, hitting the Main Stage at 9:50 p.m., bringing his latest hit, Hard To Be Cool to the Exhibition grounds.

If you’ve enjoyed Sunny and 75 or Yeah, you’ve heard the four-time Grammy nominee at his best.

He likes the idea of hit songs that contain something unexpected. And his are gold.

He loves that country sound, working with his producers, Mickey Jack Cones and Derek George, to make sure he brings it all back to traditional no matter how far out he might have journeyed.

And with titles like Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off, it’s not hard to see how successful that can be.

Now living in Texas because he loves the lifestyle for his family, Brice still keeps strong connections to Nashville.

On Friday, at 7:50 p.m., just before the Joe Nichols show, Chasin’ Crazy will play the Sunfest Main Stage.

That band celebrates the forming of an unlikely group, first a trio and then adding a couple more musicians. The logical next step was to continue to build a bigger band with a bigger sound.

Chasin’ Crazy has spent the past couple of years working together on and off the road.

Their name comes from a song title and captures the essence of the band.

Some fans have likened Chasin’ Crazy’s organic vocal harmonies to The Eagles, Little Big Town and the Zac Brown Band.

Sunday: Thomas Rhett,  Sam Hunt

Thomas Rhett is baaaaccckk!

The crowd-pleasing performer who rocked Sunfest in 2013 was such a huge hit with his Vancouver Island fans, he’ll be back again as the star act on Sunday.

Rhett really related to the fans when he hit the stage two years ago, inviting some of them to join him on the Sunfest Main Stage for the thrill of a lifetime.

He himself loves the excitement of the music industry. He’d thought about a variety of careers far, far from country music but none filled the bill.

He finally fell into songwriting and scored himself a recording deal after getting a song on Jason Aldean’s My Kinda Party, 2011’s double-platinum best-selling country album.

A recording contract? Rhett auditioned for at least seven record companies, and every one of them wanted to sign him. But he’s more than just another good looking songwriter. He loves to entertain and he’s not afraid to push the sides of the envelope to do it.

His songs include the idea of chatting with Jesus over beer, tossing in some hard-rock chants and hip-hop sounds into his country tunes.

And what about that name? It’s actually Thomas Rhett Akins Jr. so he’s forever connected to his dad, Rhett Akins, who earned a trio of Top 20 hits in the mid-1990s.

Missing his father when he hit the road to tour meant young Rhett didn’t necessarily want a career in music but cream rises to the top.

Just before the Thomas Rhett show, it’s Sam Hunt, who takes the stage at 7:50 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2.

Hunt grew up in a small Southern town; spent his school days concentrating on sports, but loving music, too.

He arrived in Nashville full of big dreams and he’s parlayed talent and energy into making himself a name as one of country’s most exciting acts.

His song Leave the Night On shows his quality. He already knew his way around the country music charts, having written hits for Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban and Billy Currington.

Like a lot of other young country performers, Hunt reflects what he hears so expect the sweet sounds of southern gospel-based R&B to waft by in his tune, and also the edgy influences of the hip hop he hears on the car radio.

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