The Cadillac Three Rise With 'The South,' Score Time on 'Nashville'

The Cadillac Three

Jillian Arciero

With 2014 off and running, there's an exciting new sound on the airwaves of country radio – The Cadillac Three. How does the group describe their style? Lead vocalist Jaren Johnston calls it 'Country Fuzz.' He explained that terminology to Billboard saying, "That's probably the best way to explain what we do. Growing up listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hank Jr, and a lot of the rock that was happening at the time – that kind of made a little mix for us."

So far, that 'mix' has been a successful one at country radio. Their debut single "The South," has quickly made an impact for the group – selling over 10,000 downloads the first week and sitting at No. 43 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart. Johnston says it all makes for an exciting time for the trio, which also includes Kelby Ray and Neil Mason.

"It's been really crazy so far," admits Johnston. "We were looking at our schedule this morning, and between a radio tour, a European tour with Eric Church, and then we do the rest of the year in the states with Jake Owen, so it's going to be a busy year," he says of their schedule.

Something that sets The Cadillac Three apart is their roots. It's uncommon for many country performers to hail from Nashville – let alone all three. "Neil and I were born at Baptist Hospital and Kelby was born at Southern Hills. We're all born and raised here, and very proud of it. I think you can hear that in our music."

For Johnston, success means getting to carry on a family tradition."It's really cool because I grew up with my dad being a drummer at the Grand Ole Opry, so I would go all the time. I saw Garth Brooks the first time he ever played and seeing that as a kid, getting to hang out and know immediately what you wanted to do, and to see that coming to fruition is pretty killer. We wake up every morning, and we're just counting our blessings, you know."

When asked to describe "The South," Johnston confessed it was actually a little bit of classic rock that stirred his imagination. "I wanted something for our live set that mirrored "Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin – maybe a southern version of that. I got into writing it, and started with the lyrics, I remembered the first time I heard 'Sweet Home Alabama,' and I was just mesmerized with it. I thought 'We need something like that.' I wanted to write something that would resonate with kids the way 'Sweet Home Alabama' did for me as a kid, so that's what I was going for."

It has been a crazy past couple of years already for Johnston, who has written hits for Keith Urban ("You Gonna Fly"), Tim McGraw ("Southern Girl"), and Jake Owen ("Days Of Gold.") "It's wild. There were times where I would hear three of my songs in a row, so that was kind of weird. But, I'm not complaining. I would be driving around with my wife, and we'd just take it in and realize that these are the times that we'd look back on and say 'Remember when?"

The band recently made their second appearance on ABC's "Nashville" on the January 15 episode, and Johnston has nothing but praise for that experience. "That whole thing has been a blessing because the whole cast and crew have been so nice. I'm a huge 'American Horror Story' fan and 'Friday Night Lights' fan, and Connie Britton was on both of them, T-Bone Burnett, Buddy Miller, and Callie Khouri have all been real good friends to us, so it's all been really cool."

Another group of people that Johnston is proud to be associated with is Scott Borchetta and his team at their label, Big Machine. "I've never seen anything like them. When we were searching for a record deal, my big thing was finding a team that we knew was going to work as hard or harder to support us and do their part. They were the one group that I felt would let us be us, and let us work as hard or harder, so it's cool to be working with Scott and everyone there. It's awesome!"