Dan Andrews, Homer Hart, Rachel Holder, Garrett Strand, Greylan James,  andJack Ryan


Back in June of 2012, I wrote this article https://www.knoxfocus.com/gab_gallery/2012-cma-music-festival/.  In the article I highlighted two amazing artists. Greylan James and Rachel Holder. Tonight for the first time  both talents performed at the same venue.  Merle Fm held their “ACM  Nomination Party,” on the Tennessee Riverboat. The performances, the atmosphere, and the camaraderie, truly made the party that was held tonight a “Project X”  party which will be talked about for years to come.

Having last seen Greylan James and Rachel Holder almost a year ago, I quickly noticed how much farther each has come in building on their talent. Greylan, will be appearing on “The Voice” in the next few days and rumor has it he did really good. *Note, “I told you so. This young man will be a rock star!”” Rachel Holder on the other hand, is deep into the beginning of a long and successful career. She has probably one of the best “support teams” I have ever seen. An example is  her strong adverting on musicrow.com (an industry trade website.) Another example of her support team placing her in the right locations is having her perform at the Merle FM party tonight. Both are unique and need to be looked at individually to get a better idea of who they are and where they are going.

Greylan James- When I hear and see Greylan James perform I am immediately reminded of the time Jack Ryan and I were at a local bar called “Tin Roof” on the Cumberland Avenue strip. A young relatively unknown artist with about 20 fans was performing. Jack turned to me that night and said “Dan this kid is going to be a huge star.” The artist he was talking about is Hunter Hayes. It was an amazing night. We sat around talking and Jack and I gave Hunter a lot of advice. Hunter has gone on to become a huge star. Greylan, reminds me of Hunter, for all the right reasons.

Greylan is young, talented, dedicated, and determined to get to the next level. He is literally one the best guitar players I’ve ever heard. He has a strong support team led by his parents who have done all the right moves to get him in position to make the jump to the level of rockstar. Most importantly, Greylan loves to perform and it shows. His passion combined with his skill is what is propelling him to the next level. The Greylan I wrote about in Nashville last year compared to the young man I saw tonight is just mind blowing. Just when you think he can’t get any greater, he opens it up on a whole greater level. With him going on “The Voice” I believe this will be the flame that lights the rocket fuel and rockets his career to the rockstar level.

Rachel Holder- I think it was best said by the owner of Merle Fm, Ron Meridith when he stated to me “Rachel is the next Carrie Underwood.” I agree with him completely! In the music world there is something called “the Carrie Underwood effect.” That being that Carrie Underwood when she came on the scene she raised the bar so high because of her talent, looks, and her performance, that most female artists haven’t been able to compete with her level and thus haven’t been able to make it in the industry because the standard is so high. I’m proud to say that Rachel Holder reaches that level. A  funny yet telling moment at the party was when Ron Meridith told me his high opinion of her and how she should be on my radar. I turned to him and said. “You should have read my article about her in the paper a year ago. I knew she was great then and she’s even greater now!”

So who is Rachel Holder? Tonight was a “before the bubble moment.” This the one thing all rockstar journalists and photographers live for! It is that seldom moment when a signed artist is on the verge of making it huge and you as a journalist get quality time with the artist. No handlers, no public-relations people, no aggressive managers trying to spin an angle. You get to see the artist for exactly who they are.  As a journalist it is about as rare as a solar eclipse and it is just as amazing and unforgettable.

Rachel is an artist that truly understands and appreciates the opportunity that she has earned through hard work and determination. When I spoke with her we talked about the importance of her being the current face of the legendary Curb Records. She spoke at length of the history of the label, and how she is excited to add to that history.
I also noticed how much she cares about her band. She cares deeply about everyone from the guitar player to the bus driver. Literally! In a fun moment she asked me to photograph her bus driver paparazzi style. It was a great moment. We were on Volunteer Landing. The river was behind us and the weather was perfect. The bus driver Kelli took advantage of the moment and posed for photos. Everybody was in great spirits.

Kelli the bus driver

That is something I noticed throughout the night. Wherever Rachel was a positive vibe was evident.A small example of this is when I first walked up to her. She immediately remembered me from CMA Fest and started asking me how I have been. Simple little things like that quickly disarm a person and make you want to see her succeed. From the moment she walked up to me all the way till the end of the night when she gladly and patiently took photos with every fan in the room, she made sure everybody who meets her leaves with a positive impression.

As for seeing Jack Ryan on his big night celebrating his nomination for an Academy of Country Music award. It was a poignant moment for me. As many readers know, Jack Ryan has a special place at the Knoxville Focus. It is Jack Ryan who sponsored me with my membership in getting into the Academy of Country Music. Very few journalists on the planet are allowed to become members of the ACM. Jack recommended me to the Academy. Soon after that Jack Ryan faced a new hurdle by having to start over at a new radio station. Jack and I had many heart-to-heart conversations in diners and restaurants all over Knox County talking about the daunting challenge Jack Ryan faced. In about a year he has gone from being unemployed to rising to every challenge and now garnering the pinnacle level of achievement in country music. That being nominated for an Academy of Country Music award.

I would say I love a happy ending. An ending where the good guy wins and everybody lives happily ever after. But this ain’t the end of the story… This is just the beginning! A new beginning for Jack Ryan and a great beginning both Greylan and Rachel.