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Festivals, Unsigned

Song of the South: An Interview with SouthSounds Music Festival Co-Founder Emily Hayes


The music scene in the South is very vast and wild out there in these times. It’s a really great time for diversity in our music scene. Well some folks decided that we needed to round up a bunch of these great bands and performers from all around the Southeast and put them all in one place: Lower downtown Mobile, AL, in some of the city’s best venues to showcase the amazing talent that is here all across the Southeast. From reggae to hip hop, country to rock, folk to even some great comedy, there’s a lot that the SouthSounds Music Festival has to offer (and for only $10 for a basic general admission ticket for the whole weekend!)

I am lucky enough to interview SouthSounds co-founder/organizer and the lovely Ms. Emily Hayes for an insider’s look at what people can expect from SouthSounds, what it takes to make a local festival, and why the Southeast has such an amazing music scene right now.

Canaan: Hi Emily! Thanks for joining us. First off, who are your co-founders of SouthSounds and what inspired you all to form the festival?

Emily Hayes: Ted Flotte, Kris Skoda and I were underwhelmed at the way our local and regional talent was represented at larger festivals in the area. Skoda had success with a three night music showcase he did for two years called “Coastline Chronicles”. In September of 2011, Ted and I put together a one day festival for Cathedral Square called “LoDa Live” for the Tunnel to Towers event that was happening. Afterwards, we all kind of put our heads together and realized we wanted a lot of the same thing as far as showcasing talent of the south. We all joined forces and took the best of Coastline and the best of LoDa and made SouthSounds – a three day festival that showcases regional up and comers for free in the square during the day, then at night branches off into the venues with even more talent to be exposed to.

C: Why do you feel like the local area acts were being underwhelmed?

EH: I should have chosen my words better! Haha! I mean regional festivals of a larger scale were completely ignoring a wealth of talent right in their own back yard. So we made a festival for them. It was one of those, “We can all sit here and complain about stuff or we can change it.” So we changed it.

C: What do you think makes Mobile’s music scene different and unique from other scenes around the country?

EH: I think the same thing that makes Mobile different from other cities in the country – it is a really well kept secret. That we all want to shout to the world! Haha! Routing wise, Mobile is great for bands because it is just off 65 or just off 10. So north/south east/west, you can easily route from here, to here or through here. We have loads of great musicians here in Mobile that cover all genres. I couldn’t think of a more ideal place to hold this festival.

C: Right on, right on. After a successful first year, you guys have bands coming from as far north as Memphis and Nashville, as far wast as Lafayette and as east as Jacksonville. You’ve also been able to market the fest in places like Birmingham. How do you feel about this expansion and do you think the fest could be even more exposed over time?

EH: I think the best way to sum it up is this year, before we even announced anything about SouthSounds part deux, we had bands asking us if they could play. David McClay of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea asked me at a November Art Walk in front of Wellborne Ideas if they could play. And that was the attitude of bands from our town and from all over the south. Bands from last year wanted to come back. Which is a wonderful feeling! Plus their friends who have bands were wanting in because they all came back telling them how well they were treated and how great Mobile is. My favourite quote from last year was when Blount Floyd of Great Peacock said, “I’ve played SXSW a few times and Next Big Nashville and I’ve never been treated as well as I was at SouthSounds.” Of course I’m trying to remember exactly what he said and I can’t but it was along those lines.I never want the festival to get away from its roots of taking care of the artists and the fans. We do everything in our power to keep wristbands affordable and to book a wide range of artists. AND THEY ARE ALL SOUTHERNERS which is awesome.

C: Do you think you guys would ever book a southern-area band that has gained national appeal, like say the Alabama Shakes (who I understand share a keyboardist with SouthSounds act The Pollies), or do you think it’ll be more of a strictly localized/regional thing?

EH: That is definitely one of our goals. The Shakes are on par with The Pollies – but Shakes had a whirlwind 18 months where they got picked up by ATO, recorded their record and BOOM they were out on the scene. When I was doing press for SouthSounds last year, one artists I discussed on Birmingham Mountain Radio with Reg was Alabama Shakes. I listened to that interview last night and it seems so bizarre saying “Yeah, I am looking forward to their record coming out next week.” And now it is “Man, did you see them on SNL last week?” When stuff like that happens it puts a spotlight on the region. When a band blows up like that, just think Seattle. We wanted to host them this year alongside Shovels & Rope, however Shakes are taking much deserved time off and S & R are playing Hangout. So the short answer to your question is yes, we want to have the ones who are making it on the larger scene a part of the festival but since they are making it on the big scene their schedules are wonky.

C: Why did you choose April 12-14 as your dates?

EH: I guess we kind of lucked up. We knew what could be done during the time frame that Coastline was going on and we knew that we were fighting football in the fall, which is when we did LoDa. David Calametti offered up being a part of Arts Alive! and it just made a boatload of sense.

C: Since this is the 2nd year of SouthSounds, what are some of the major changes that people who came last year will see this year and what can newcomers expect?

EH: That they will see? MORE SIGNAGE! HA! Just kidding. They will see more involvement from businesses along Dauphin Street. For instance, Hayleys is the official bar of SouthSounds, they are taking care of our artists and our patrons. Patrons get 20% off their tab by showing their wristband. Festival wise – We added comedy into the mix. It’s going to be amazing. Alchemy is a new venue on our SouthSounds scene and they will be hosting some amazing comics .And I hope we still wow the folks that came last year. I certainly don’t want us to bite off more than we can chew because to me that is how a festival could fail. I feel we are growing at the right rate for what we are doing.

C: What kind of different things have you been doing as far as promotion for the fest?

EH: Lagniappe has been giving us amazing coverage as well as Mod Mobilian. Birmingham Mountain Radio is always the first on board when we get rolling with festival press.We are going on our “press tour” this weekend.We are trying to figure out a better name for it, ha ha. But we will be stopping my Birmingham Mountain Radio to do a spot on air, we are cohosting a showcase in Cullman alongside CullmanSense, then we are headed to Nashville to do a web series, Breaking Underground, piece with Great Peacock. And lord knows what mischief we will get into after all that is done.

C: Cool, nice stuff. I hear there’s a VIP package this year. What all comes with that? And what are some of your other ticket options?

EH: The VIP package is def the way to go if you plan on spending all three days at the festival and having a gooooooooood time if you get my drift.

Here is a breakdown of the tickets : (1) GENERAL: $10 ADV// $15 DOS
This will include entry into Alabama Music Box, Blind Mule, Alchemy Tavern, Haberdasher and OK Bike Shop.

(2) CALLYS GOLD: $25 ADV // $35 DOS
This will include entry into all venues covered by the GENERAL ticket with additional entry at Callaghan’s Irish Social Club.

The following artists will be performing at Callaghan’s and will require the CALLYS GOLD wristband or door charge ($10 each):
Friday: Tedo Stone and Lost Bayou Ramblers
Saturday: Great Peacock and St. Paul & the Broken Bones
Sunday: Sam Doores + Riley Downing & the Tumbleweeds and Hurray for the Riff Raff


Includes all of the following:
-TWO VIP wristbands with entry at ALL venues including Callaghan’s
-Entry to the Hayley’s after party with artist meet and greet
-Hospitality* at Mobile Arts Council and Alabama Music Box
-Entry to win a Meyer Vacation Package
*All hospitality for VIP ticket holders will be provided by Back Forty Beer Co., Fairhope Beer Co., & fine local restaurants.
Only fifty (50) of these packages will be available for sale.

C: That’s a lot of stuff at a great price to me! As someone who tries to make it out to the local shows, I really love the venues in downtown, but SouthSounds will be my first chance to see some of the venues for the first time. Tell us about the venues and some of the little things that make them unique and different.

EH: Ah! This is what I love about SouthSounds. It lets people know “Hey, there is live music and entertainment happening down here all the time, not just this weekend.” For instance, earlier I told you about Alchemy. They host comedy shows weekly and have live music and an amazing courtyard. Through SouthSounds, people who might have never been to Alchemy swing by the check out a band or a comedian and fall in love with it’s old style architecture with new attitude.

The Blind Mule’s Attic is an amazing place to see live music because it forces an intimacy with the listener and the artist. It’s like a listening room meets a house show.

Haberdasher is just lovely. I mean, hells bells, they are like the vinyl record of the bar industry. What I mean by that is they aren’t your walk in “give me a purple hooter shooter and don’t hold back on the hooter” place. Now, if you wanted a purple hooter shooter, I am sure they would make you one. And it would be the finest tasting one ever. But the staff at The Hab are very well trained and take you back to what a cocktails are supposed to be. Not slammin down as many jack and cokes as possible to get a buzz, but having a Suffering Bastard after work and catching up with friends. They are mixologist and will be mixing with great acts at the festival.

What can I say about Alabama Music Box that hasn’t been said. Honestly. AMB hosts amazing national acts all the time but they are also very instrumental to helping out southern artists. You never forget an AMB show. Ever.

OK Bicycle Shop is good times. And Callaghans has made a name for themselves by booking quality talent throughout the years. I actually get a little taken aback at times when it gets wall to wall packed in there. I think I covered all the venues. Oy!

C: Wowza! Gotta say I’m getting excited. But now is time to talk about my favorite part: BANDS! Anyone who frequents our turntable.FM room knows I’m a massive fan of SouthSounds artists The Sunshine Factory and locals LF Knighton, who’s guitarist/vocalist Chase Knighton is performing a solo set at SouthSounds. So I ask you, who are some of your personal favorites that you’ll try to catch at the fest?

EH: My personal favourites? Geez that is a toughie. In all honesty, I was SUPER smashed from brunch when Great Peacock was last in town. I owe them a sober viewing. I’m always excited to see The Great Book Of John and The Pollies. Really looking forward to what 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea has in store for us. As well as some out right rock and roll from Vintage Cowboys. Evil Army is one of our most buzzed about bands. I’ve been hearing wild stories about them so I am def going to try and catch that set. It’s. Going. To. Be. Wild. And, as always, Callooh! Callay!. I mean, I love all of these bands. It is like my annual dream come true – having them all in my favourite city.

C: If you could have any band, regardless of their situation (together, broke up, dead members, etc) and have them play at any venue @ SouthSounds, what band would it be, what venue would they play, and why?

EH: Well that is tough because my dream show is pretty much every year at SouthSounds. BUT I WOULD DIE IF Remy Zero and Jump Little Children played in the Square right as the sun was setting. I WOULD DIE.

C: Is there anything else you’d like the people to know about SouthSounds?

That it is AMAZING, and that it wouldn’t be possible without sponsors. (See a full list here). and folks need to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and life.

The 2013 SouthSounds Music Festival will take place in downtown Mobile, AL April 12-14th. For more information, go to www.southsoundsfest.com where you can find schedules, buy tickets, check out their sponsors, see their past lineup and more.

Here’s a Spotify playlist for just a taste of what you can see at SouthSounds:


About Canaan Lamp

Writer/Philosopher/Music Lover/Festival Goer/Friend to Everyone.

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