One of the benefits of playing music for a living is being able to meet people from all over our country. The heartland is often overlooked by many of us that live on the east and west coasts. After spending many years traveling across the region, the heartland has become one of my favorite places to tour.
As a born & raised southerner, I know the importance of manners and especially hospitality. “Southern Hospitality,” is something we learn from an early age and honestly, we think we have the market cornered. I thought the same thing until I spent some time in Nebraska.
I first met the Schiferl family several years ago while playing a show with my friend John Berry. I can still remember the drive from Omaha and was astonished at the vast landscape just miles from a major city. I am originally from the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, so I am accustomed to remote areas. I thought I knew what it meant to, “Live in the sticks,” that was until we exited I-29 and headed west. The further we drove west, the fewer houses we passed. We finally arrived at The Schiferl’s WJ Ranch in Fordyce Nebraska, and when I say it is in the middle of nowhere, it is in the middle of no cell service nowhere. My first thought was these people must be crazy to put on a concert, in a barn, in the middle of a cornfield.
To my surprise, the show was incredible and could not wait until I had the chance to come back.
I kept in contact with the Schiferl’s and the next year they invited me to come back to the Ranch to open for Ty Herndon.
I traveled by myself for this trip. I love to be on an open road without any traffic and living outside Atlanta that does not happen often. The drive from Omaha was a welcome change of pace.
I had just released a new record a few days earlier, and this show was the first time I would play many of these songs.
As a new artist, it is always unnerving playing for a different audience but, the Midwest hospitality rivaled anything we have in the south. Replace, “You betcha,” for, “Y’all,” and you would think you are in the south.
This past September I made the trip back to Nebraska to open for Billy Dean. But this time, I had a chance to bring my wife Susan and my friend Shane.Billy Dean was a class act. He is such a talented singer, songwriter, and musician.
One of the unique things they do on the ranch is that they hold cowboy church the Sunday following the concert. If you have never heard a sermon from horseback, it is something worth experiencing.
My favorite part of any trip to the ranch is the fellowship. From the meal before the show, the traditional post-concert pie & ice cream, to the jam session with the local musicians.
I hope I get the chance to share my music with the people of north-east Nebraska, and south-east South Dakota for many years to come. If you ever get to check out a show at the ranch, you will not regret it!
Check out http://www.schiferlswjranch.com for more information about upcoming events.