The Washington Town & Country Fair will close its main stage entertainment Sunday night, Aug. 5, with a concert from one of the premier live acts in music: Sawyer Brown.
In its 35-plus year history, the band has released 23 albums and won numerous awards. You’ve heard their No. 1 hits on the radio: “Step That Step,” “Thank God for You” and “Some Girls Do.”
The Missourian’s Currents Arts and Entertainment Editor Ethan Busse was able to speak with Gregg “Hobie” Hubbard, an original member of the band, a little about their history, experiences and what fairgoers can expect from their show here, set to get started at 6:30 p.m.
Following are highlights of that phone interview:
MISSOURIAN: You guys are going to be playing the country fair we have here in Washington on Sunday, so you’ll be closing us out. That’ll be a good wrap-up to hopefully a great week of another year of the Fair.
Have you guys played here before at the Fair, years ago?
HOBIE: I think we have, yeah.
MISSOURIAN: I have no idea how many years ago that was. But it makes me think of a question: Do you know how many shows you’ve played in your career?
HOBIE: We have played just a little over 5,000.
MISSOURIAN: Wow! That’s a lot of shows.
We’re excited to have you guys here. You have a lot of fans in town here and around the county. Now, you guys still tour a decent amount, right?
HOBIE: Yeah, we usually do about 90 days a year, which is great. And the summer months are definitely the busiest . . . And it’s still fun. That’s the best part of all of it.
MISSOURIAN: That’s great! What are some of your guys’ biggest inspirations that made you want to get into music?
HOBIE: I know I can speak for myself and I think we probably all share this, we all grew up loving music, and there is a connection that music makes that kind of is unique to music, I think. It freezes moments in time, it connects you to yourself, what you’re going through, to other people. And I think we all loved being part of that kind of connection, and still do. That’s what it’s really all about for me, that connection. Because I know as a listener, man, I’m constantly drawn to music, and I hear new stuff or stuff that just hits you. To get to be a part of that is really awesome.
MISSOURIAN: Right on. Yeah, good music has a timelessness.
HOBIE: Even stuff that people don’t say is good music has a timelessness if it works for you. You know what I mean?
MISSOURIAN: That’s right! It’s what you’re going through at the time, it’s going to be that memory.
HOBIE: Yep. It freezes it.
MISSOURIAN: Who is your favorite contemporary artist to your guys’ career?
HOBIE: Whoa! I don’t know if I can narrow it down to one . . . I know on my iPod, I was just listening to Bruce Springsteen, U2, James Taylor, any of which could work for that.
MISSOURIAN: What is something that Sawyer Brown fans might not know about the band?
HOBIE: (Laughs) Wow! Probably how many socks are on the floor of the bus . . . I don’t know, because they probably know us as well as anybody does, at this point.
MISSOURIAN: What has been your favorite place to play? Is there a location that you like to gig at?
HOBIE: We’ve been pretty lucky that we’ve had fun audiences everywhere. I know for me when we play up in the Pacific Northwest, that’s a part of the country I might not have seen otherwise, and which I love and we also have great audiences up there.
But I couldn’t pick just one because, honest to goodness, if you drop me in a room where people want to hear music, I’m happy. I don’t care what city it is.
So that’s the real truth for me.
MISSOURIAN: Easy to please. That’s a good thing. Our readers have asked us a few questions for you:
What’s on your bucket list as a band? Anything you guys haven’t done yet?
HOBIE: Oh, well, other than just continuing to write and create music that we feel good about, we’ve never played Red Rocks outside of Denver, a beautiful amphitheater there. So that would be, performance-wise, on the bucket list, because that’s such a spectacularly beautiful place that it would be a blast to get to play there.
MISSOURIAN: What was it like being on “Star Search?” I know a lot of people were introduced to you guys that way.
HOBIE: Yeah, everything about that show was new for us. We auditioned, never once thinking they’re going to pick us because we were like, “They’re not going to pick a band from Nashville.” But we knew we could get the videotape of the audition, and we just wanted to pitch that to club owners to try to get work, so we didn’t go in to the audition with any pressure on ourselves, which was probably a saving grace. So when they picked us and the next week we were suddenly on our way to L.A., everything was new. We didn’t know anything about TV, we’d never been to L.A. before, so it was a constant learning experience.
And all the folks who were on the show with us at that particular time, it was just great people, and it was not really like an amateur hour because everybody was working in whatever their field was, they just hadn’t gotten their break yet.
So there was a shared set of experiences that everybody had gone through trying to get a career going.
All my memories of that show are really good, and it continued to be a surprise just because we never expected to get on the show to begin with. So winning it was way beyond anything we ever thought was going to happen.
MISSOURIAN: That was pretty awesome.
HOBIE: Yeah, God bless it.
MISSOURIAN: How do you feel that that show compares to like other singing/talent shows on TV today?
HOBIE: Well, one thing that was different with that show was you had different categories, so it wasn’t just all music. Everybody certainly that we competed with were already out working, so it wasn’t, you didn’t have the younger people, you know, like a 16-year-old.
But the biggest difference probably was the amount of attention and pressure that came along with it, because that was the first year of “Star Search.” It by no means had the media attention that “The Voice” or “American Idol” do. So that puts a whole other level of pressure on the experience that we actually did not have that. I think we just sort of figured our family and friends were watching the show. We didn’t really know until we went back out on the road that, oh, this is what it means when they say all these people have watched it.
But there wasn’t sort of that mega-hype around it that there is with these other shows today, which probably just sort of ups the ante a little bit.
MISSOURIAN: So did you guys start out in Florida.
HOBIE: No, Mark and I are from there, but we really got our start here in Nashville. That’s where the original five of us got together.
MISSOURIAN: Another question we got, you’ve kind of already answered it, but what keeps you going doing this?
HOBIE: Yeah, it’s that connection, but you know the fact that we are so blessed that we get audiences who are just there to have a good time. And that never gets old. So that kind of keeps us going.
MISSOURIAN: What is your go-to song to get the party started?
HOBIE: We sort of kick it off with a couple of barn burners right off the bat. We don’t ease into it. We pretty much hit it full throttle, so hopefully the party gets started right from the get-go.
MISSOURIAN: Craziest thing that’s happened while out on tour?
HOBIE: For me it was literally one of those nights where everything that could go wrong did go wrong. First, one of my keyboards quit working and then the stand broke and both of them fell to the floor, which is one of those nights where you’re like, maybe this is a sign. I don’t know.
I had to sit on the floor cross-legged like Schroeder (from the “Peanuts” comicstrip) and play, because I have no way to hold this piano up. And no one will laugh harder at that than the other guys in the band. If you’re looking for sympathy on a night like that, you’re not going to get it from those guys.
MISSOURIAN: You’re going to be playing our Washington Town & Country Fair. Do you guys like that scene? I’ve always felt that’s like the heart of America, the fanbase there, you know?
HOBIE: It’s awesome! I tell anyone who will listen to me: Turn off the news and go to a fair, because if you really want to get a sense of what is good about the world we live in, go to the fair.
I love everything about it. I love that people are out there on rides, that you can get homemade pies, I love seeing the animal exhibits or whatever art the elementary schoolkids have made, because it’s a reminder of a lot of good stuff that somehow we don’t get bombarded with like we do the bad stuff . . .
I love walking around ’em because people are having fun. It’s a big week. Whatever town, whatever county. That’s a big deal, particularly when you get to the Midwest. I grew up in Florida, and our fair, it was a cool thing, but it didn’t have the same vibe you get in the Midwest and you get a whole lot more stuff that’s going on at the fair — agriculturally and every way. It really is a bigger deal.
MISSOURIAN: So you’ll actually walk around the fairs when you get there?
HOBIE: Oh, every day! And I eat more fried dough than any human should probably eat, but it just comes with the territory.
MISSOURIAN: That’s awesome! Well, hopefully I’ll see you walking around whenever I’m out there.
HOBIE: I’ll be out there wanderin’.
MISSOURIAN: Anything else you want to say to your fans here before you come out?
HOBIE: We’re ready. Ready to see ’em. If we’re ending the week, we’ll make sure it ends with a bang!