The Fairview Union brings a little local flavor to the Foothills Fall Festival
By Steve Wildsmith | (email@example.com)
For years, Chad Wilson watched his dad and aunts make the trek from the rural Morgan County town of Coalfield to Nashville, where they’d knock on the doors of Music Row and pitch songs to the country music industry.
For 10 years, they did the legwork, occasionally getting a “hold” placed on a song or one cut in a Nashville studio in preparation for pitching to one of the stars of the genre. They never got a song cut by a major label artist, however — but that didn’t stop Wilson from following in their footsteps.
“I started writing songs when I was 9 or 10 years old and taking them to Nashville, but they were terrible at first,” he told The Daily Times this week with a laugh. “I could walk into about six different publishers on Music Row now, but some of the first places I got into still won’t see me because they remember the stuff I brought them when it wasn’t up to par. But songwriting’s a craft, and you’ve just got to keep at it until you get better.”
“Better” is a relative term for The Fairview Union, the band Wilson leads that features his wife, Kelli (formerly Kelli Kerr, a 1996 graduate of William Blount High School and the daughter of Larry and Jan Kerr of Friendsville). The Wilsons and their bandmates — Chris Potocik, Neal Foster and Mike Barnes — have dominated the local music scene in recent years, and on Sunday, Oct. 13, they’ll rock the house on the final day of Foothills Fall Festival 2013. They’ve put in a lot of hours and a lot of miles, and sometimes the doors still close, but Wilson has no plans to hang it up any time soon.
“I’m still not discouraged after doing this band thing for five years, because if you love music, then you know that hard work is what it’s about,” he said. “If you think you’re going to get in it and make some quick money, you need to get into a different business. Even on a local level, it’s not easy; then you go to Nashville, and it’s extremely difficult. You just have to love it.”
Wilson and his wife met one another about a decade ago at a karaoke contest at Bullfeathers on Kingston Pike in West Knoxville; the two still have a picture from the first day they met one another because they were both placed in the contest’s top 10. A couple of years later, they ran into one another, Wilson asked her out and they’ve been together ever since.
The Fairview Union got started when the two traveled to Nashville to audition for “Can You Duet?,” the Country Music Television reality show; standing in line, Wilson noticed that most of their competitors played instruments.
“Me and Kelli just sang, and I told her that when we got back, I was going to get a guitar and learn how to play,” he said. “I did, and after about a year of banging around the house and driving her crazy, I got good enough to play a little bit.”
They started inviting friends over, Wilson’s rough-around-the-edges vocals blending sublimely with his wife’s honey-sweet ones, and those patio picking sessions soon evolved into a full-fledged outfit. Members came and went, but The Fairview Union picked up steam locally and notched several accomplishments: opening for country star Tracy Lawrence at Cotton Eyed Joe, beating 14 other regional bands in a competition at Wild Wing Cafe. They’ve released two albums to date and will put out a third in February 2014, and they’re steady performers at venues around East Tennessee, including Maryville: The Fairview Union plays regularly at Two Doors Down and at Smoky Mountain Brewery, where fans can get a sneak preview of next weekend’s Foothills Fall Festival set when the band plays the Brewery tonight (Oct. 5).
“It’s a process, there’s no doubt,” Wilson said. “The local venues, they’ve got certain bands that come in and do well, and they’re a little reluctant letting somebody they don’t know in. There’s this fine line you have to walk where you don’t drive a venue or a publisher crazy, but you also don’t let them forget you.
“It’s motivation for the band, because we love to play the venues we play and the local scene, but it can be a grind at times. To come to the Foothills Fall Festival and get to play under the lights and with these professional sound guys on this big, huge stage — that’s kind of what we play local shows for. We’re trying for the big ticket, playing Nashville every couple of months and trying to get a record deal.
“For the festival, when we finish before Tyler Farr and Brett Eldredge and Rascal Flatts go on, people aren’t going to say, ‘That was a sweet local band,’” he added. They’re not going to be able to tell the difference between us and them.”