There's an old saying in the music business about remembering where you came from. Newcomers Jericho Woods definitely qualify as a band that hasn't forgotten their roots.
When asked about the support they have received from their native state of Kentucky, lead singer Josh Mitcham swells up with pride. "Any success that we've had has been a direct result of the people we've built relationships with who want us to be as successful as we do," he tells Billboard. "They want it for us as bad as we do. If we can't win over our own folks, we'd have a really hard time getting other people excited about our music, too. We felt like starting at home and building the relationships there."
And those relationships have definitely helped the band become one of the most talked about in the industry. However, it's not all simply idle conversation. Same Ol' Dirt, their debut album, recently hit the top 25 of the iTunes Country Album chart and also hit No. 8 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart.
"When we released the album on a Friday, we were in the top 25 on iTunes on Saturday night. That's because everyone we knew was sitting on 'go' that we had met over the last year. They couldn't wait to have the music and to share it."
Guitarist Scotty Bratcher said the heartfelt lyrics of songs such as "Same Ol' Dirt" and "Stuck Here in Bowling Green" definitely strike a chord with the listener. "There's so much pride in a band who sings what they mean. We sing about things we know. Having a big truck doesn't make you country. But being close to knowing what it feels like to lose a farm does. I think this band can relate to what is really country, as opposed to sitting around with a bunch of guys about being that word."
The band comes from a multitude of directions. Paul Priest, bassist, has enjoyed a two-decade-plus radio career. "I was the last generation who got to cue up Garth Brooks singles on 45 RPM," he says fondly. "They sent us rock and roll stuff too, so we would get the Nirvana stuff or Pearl Jam. Of course, we couldn't play them because we were waiting for the new Joe Diffie single, so I got to take a lot of that home. It was a great era for me. I wasn't good, but I had soul," he recalls with a smile.
For Mitcham, while he has always loved music, he did take a sensible path to the band, serving as an agriculture teacher in Kentucky. He said it took some time to convince people of his seriousness about music, but they are definitely on board now. "With people that you've grown up with, there's only a garage band and people who are on the radio, and they don't really see any significance in the levels in between. So for a long time, people would say, 'Oh, yeah, you play music. I would see you at that thing in town or whatever.' Then, when they hear you on the radio or seeing things online, people will start getting scared: 'Are you gonna take the next year off?' They're listening to me a lot different in class now. They think maybe it will be worth something to them someday. I've never hidden to them where I would rather be, and I'm proud of it. When people ask me, I say, 'I love teaching, and I like my job, but I would love to go play music all the time.'"
Now, with the music starting to garner attention, it's time to pick up the pace and take the music to the people. Paul Priest says he feels it's time to kick things up a notch. "We played a lot of places in the region over the past year, put out the record, and they were so excited about the record coming out. We've got a lot of shows ahead of this year, so I think people are ready for music like ours. I think there's a void in popular music for people in their 30s and 40s that went crazy over Hootie, Edwin McCain or Garth Brooks. I think that void needs to be filled."
Mitcham just wants the audience to be entertained. "We want every show to be different for the fan," he says. "My wife, who is just an average radio listener, will look at me and tell me it's either good or it's not good. … She'll say stuff like that, which for me is important to have. When we put out an album, I don't want to play it the same way every time. When they come out to see a show, I want it to be fresh and new for everyone involved."
Bratcher agrees, carrying the sentiment one step further. "We want our shows to be special occasions. We're happy people. We like to throw parties, and that's what we look at it as."