Mandi Layne & the Lost Highway • Rolling on the Road to Success

Best Female Vocalist • Best Songwriters • Best Duo • Best Country Band Best Original Band • Best CD Release

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Artist Feature, Review Music Awards,   From Issue 809   By: Matt deHeus

30th April, 2015     0

As individuals, as a duo, or with their full band, Mandi Layne and Greg Kevorkian are not new to winning honors at the Review Music Awards.  A sextet of wins this year, including major Country honors including Best Female Vocalist, Best Songwriters, Best Duo and Best Country Band, Best Original Band, along with Best CD of the Year for their release Country to the Bone, added to their already impressive career haul of honors from previous years.

In somewhat of an annual event, I sat down with Mandi and Greg at White’s Bar to discuss their reaction and plans for the future.  While the jukebox coincidentally pounded out country tunes, we decided to try something a little different in this year’s interview.  Here is a little of that Q & A.

Review:  First of all, what is in your CD player right now?  What are you listening to when you hit the road?

Mandi:  I have Old Crow Medicine Show and listen to them alott.  The song right now is Dearly Departed Friend.  They just bring a lot of different styles together.

Greg:  Almost 100% Leonard Cohen.  He has a new album at 80 years old.  He is as prolific as ever.  He has covered so many styles in his career.

Jointly both added that they also both listen to a lot of Drivin’ and Cryin’.  As Greg said, “They are a punk band and an Americana band and a roots band and a country band, all at the same time.” 

He also pointed out the band’s practice of putting out a new 5-song EP every few months.  “There is always fresh music.  And each recording has its own theme.  I think that they really are on the front of how music is going to be recorded and released.

Review:  Your own CD received a very positive response when it was released last year.  With a bit of space between you and the recording, which are your favorite tracks from Country to the Bone?

Mandi:  “The Last Time You Let Me Down.”  That one was mine.  It is the first one that I wrote by myself - words and music.  That’s the one for me.

Greg:  Right now I really love “Before Summer’s Gone.”  It’s not just about how short summer is, but kind of a metaphor for life.  You don’t always realize how quick it goes.  A lot of people really like “Hot Mess.”  We hear that is people’s favorite all the time.  The guys in the band like to play it.

Mandi:  We also ought to give credit to Greg Stryker, who helped write many of the songs on the album.  He was very important to how they turned out.

Review:  At this point in your musical journey, what would you say is the best part of being in a band?

Greg:  Playing originals - songs that mean something to us.  We love it when people tell us “my eight year old daughter loves that song.” We have heard a few times that someone is using something from our album for a wedding song.  That is so awesome.

Mandi:  Agreed. The best part is it is a chance to express my creativity outside of my house.  I can show something that I wrote.  The other thing is when the people in your band become your friends.  We are lucky that we have space in our home and can let band members come stay.  

Greg:  This lineup is so great to work with.  They get offers to play with others all the time, but we are clear in what the gig is and everyone gets along so well.  It is a family atmosphere.

Review: And what is the Worst Part?

Mandi:  Time away from family.  We have an all or nothing approach.  When you travel as much as we do – and everyone also has a day job or is married or has kids – family time means so much more.  Sometimes you have to slow down a little bit and find some balance.

Greg:  For me, it is cell-phones.  (Laughs all around the table, as we all know why immediately).  People are buried in these things.  When the singer has their eyes closed and you know they mean it, you are missing a moment if you are scrolling through your phone.  The phones are great when people pose for pictures, but they can get in the way of a singer’s ability to really “sell” the song.

Review:  You have played a lot of places over the years.  Which would you say was most memorable?

Greg:  First, there are so many places around here that have been very good to us – the Stables, White’s, Big D’s, the Wil-Lew, Joe’s Garage.  But the most memorable for me had to be Tootsie’s.  Everyone has played there.  It is right behind the Ryman Auditorium, which hosted the Grand Ole Opry.  Alcohol was not allowed at the Opry, so the stars went to Tootsie’s to drink before and after the shows.  Johnny Cash played and drank there.  Hank Williams.  Willie Nelson.  To think we played there means a lot.

Mandi:  Before I was ever in a band I went to Tootsies.  It was amazing that just a few years later I was singing there.

Review:  You also won an award for Best Duo.  What are the biggest differences between the duo and what you do with the full band?

Mandi:  One of the huge differences is we might play any genre of music.  I can pick songs like Adele, or something from Bette Midler.  We can slow it down some from the full band if we want.

Greg:  For me it’s a little adjustment.  My hands are pretty full.  I have to be mindful of the bass and the drum parts and the leads.  I have to try to emphasize different parts on the guitar. With a full band you lay back a lot more.

Review:  Can you imagine branching outside of country at some point?

Mandi: I love all kinds of music and have been influenced by various artists of all genres. Yes, I could definitely see myself branching out, just as today's country music is doing. I like variety and get very excited with the idea of maybe writing a blues album or a hardcore southern rock album someday.

Greg: Definitely, the next album I want to do is an old southern swampy, blood and guts album. I would love to do a pop album at some point, since I'm really influenced by the Beatles and Pink Floyd. I like the idea of branching out and not being stuck in one genre. I want to see Mandi branch out for sure, but she is a born and raised country girl.  Country isn't just in the song it's in the singer. No matter what she sings there will always be a country sensibility.

Review:  Social media has really revolutionized things since you two first dipped your toe in this industry.  How has it changed things for you?

Mandi:  We love social media and the Internet.  We can reach out to so many people – potentially millions.  Facebook helps to get people out to our shows and streaming allows more people to hear our songs.

Greg:  We have had downloads as far away as Malaysia.  There is no way that happens in the 90’s.

Mandi:  It also lets us network with other musicians and friends.  We like to hear from other artists like us.  I like to hear their stories and see them gain success.

Mandi and Greg have a full summer shows planned with the Lost Highway.  Members include Matthew Bryan (lead guitar), Gary Rivers (bass), Dave Banks (keyboards) and Mark Sutton (drums).   Check for their schedule or come by their regular “Mandi and Friends” night at Joe’s Garage (6468 W Vienna Rd, Clio, MI) to check the duo out in person.




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