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Few Miles South – Proof All the Great Country Music Did NOT Go to the Dogs

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

I had one of the best days ever on April 9, 2019.  The weather in Nashville was glorious. I discovered new music, and thanks to the warm temperatures and blue skies, I was able to crank those new tunes up with the windows open on the way to my interview that day, but here’s the best part of all, this was no ordinary interview.  It was with a duo called Few Miles South and it wasn’t in some stuffy office building or a cramped coffee shop, it was at a dog park. Go ahead, read that again. Yeah, you read it right. A dog park. I love dogs. I love watching them play outside on a beautiful day.  This was also at one of Nashville’s best dog parks, the Two Rivers Dog Park.  It’s amazing.  It’s well-kept and spacious.   I highly recommend it if you’re in the area with your furry friend.  What could possibly go wrong?  Maybe everything, but this time, nothing did.

That new music that I was blasting on my way to chat with Few Miles South?  It was theirs. If they were as cool as their songs were, this was going to go well, and as you read above, nothing went wrong, so now you know, they couldn’t have been any easier to talk with.  So, why were we meeting at a dog park anyway? It turns out that Blake English and Tori Lund, who make up Few Miles South, travel with their two dogs, Tater and Tot, and they were headed back to their home in Georgia right after our interview, so they thought it would be a great idea to let the dogs tire themselves out a bit before hitting the road.  I’m not sure how tired the dogs actually got, but I’ll elaborate on that shortly.

First off, how did the band get its name?  Before we started digging too far into the mine, I wanted to know that much.  English explained because he came from a very tiny town in Georgia, directions were always given very casually.  If you wanted to know where something was, it was always just, “A few miles south of the gas station”, or “A few miles south of the church”.  Lund hails from Los Angeles, which is obviously in Southern California, so that’s “south”. They said they were overthinking band names and finally one day they just came up with Few Miles South and they agreed it was kind of a nod to where they both came from and it stuck.

With that out of the way, we returned to the very beginning.  English, as I mentioned, was born and raised in a small town in Georgia.  Blakely, Georgia, in Early County. It’s closest metropolitan city is probably Tallahassee, Florida and it lies very close to the borders of Georgia, Florida and Alabama.  

Photo courtesy of CMP – First Shot Online

He grew up with a brother, and said as a kid they were doing what most siblings do, fighting a lot.  His parents were divorced and “pretty wild”. When the kids weren’t fighting, they played baseball and were involved in Little League.  English spent every other weekend at his Dad’s house and the majority of the time living with his Mom, but admits that he “was kind of a nut” and did a lot of running away to his father’s house.  On those weekends over at his Dad’s, there was a whole lot of partying going on, but there was also something that clearly rubbed off on a kid that needed a little direction, and that was music. Dad was a guitar player.  By the time English was three he held a guitar for the first time. He wasn’t playing anything worthwhile of course, but he had one in his hands. His maternal grandfather was a musician and he had cousins that were musicians.  It’s not surprising that he eventually turned to music himself.

In sharp contrast to the dysfunction and craziness that was taking place in Blakely, things were much quieter growing up for Lund.  On the opposite coast, in sunny Los Angeles, Tori Lund was a self-described “brat”. A middle-child that also fought with her siblings, but they fought “quietly” or that fighting would have been stopped quickly, because she grew up in a much more “proper” home.  What is crazy, however, is what happened once Lund chose a college. Did she go to UCLA or USC? No. She headed off to Emory University in Oxford, Georgia. Georgia? Isn’t that where our friend Blake English lived? Strange. She wasn’t yet sure what she wanted to do when she graduated, maybe something in the healing arts, but she knew that she loved singing and began taking singing classes in college.  The only classes that were offered were in classical music, so even though it wasn’t really her first love when it came to genres, it was what was available, so she went with it.

Photo courtesy of onemillionactsofkindness.com

Thanks in part to growing up in such a reserved household, Lund also used college as a place to let her wild side out.  Drinking a little too much and hanging out with boys, the usual college things became all too regular for Lund and eventually she left Emory and returned to California.  She finished school in San Diego with a Masters of Classical Music. Having a complete change of heart on music, Lund totally switched gears, went off to India, and became certified to teach yoga.  She started teaching yoga in Los Angeles for a while after that. Lund was wearing a lot of hats, but I hope you caught the fact that while she was in the state of Georgia hanging out with boys and singing, she never hung out with a boy named Blake English, and she certainly never sang with him either.  There’s a good reason for that. Blake English was in California at that time.

They had swapped coasts.  English is 11 years older than Lund, so he had already given up on Georgia by the time Lund threw in the towel on California.  Even though he’d picked up a guitar at the age of three and that’s all he did was physically pick it up, he really began playing meaningful songs when he was about 12.  He taught himself some easy rock chords and learned to play songs by bands popular at the time like Ratt and Poison. He did that for a while. Thinking he was pretty cool doing that, but deciding he needed to be better, he eventually enrolled in lessons for a couple of years.  His teacher was Steve Hacker, who English called an “amazing musician”. Hacker would even get young musicians together to form bands to play at recitals in Blakely. English also played in bands with other kids in the area, those being his first real band experiences, which for a town as small as Blakely, it was something that there was anything like that at all.   After quitting lessons, because “I was that kid that thought he knew everything, and it was moving too slow for what I wanted to do”, said English, he continued to self-teach.

English had even taken the time to complete a course on audio engineering in Orlando, and lived in Atlanta and Birmingham, Alabama before moving to California.  While living in Birmingham, someone heard something English had written, liked it, offered him a publishing deal and he went out to Beverly Hills. Just like that, he got the deal and he was out in LA for 18 years.

Still doing the yoga thing, a friend told Lund about a rock and roll cover group that played at a yacht club a couple of times a month.  They were looking for a singer. “They were a bunch of guys in their 60’s and I was in my 20’s. They were The Harry Truman Band and then they were The Road Gang, same group of guys”, explained Lund.  She wasn’t sure she wanted to go back to singing, but she ended up taking the gig. That got her some experience singing with a band, something she never did before, but it wasn’t her only singing gig at that time.  She was singing at church.

Sometimes, the universe puts us in the right place at the right time.  Some people might even call it divine intervention if that “right place” happens to be a church, but whatever you want to call it, guess who happened to be playing guitar and running sound at the same church where Lund was singing?  Yes, that would have been Blake English. The two met there and after hearing Lund sing, English asked Lund where she got that “twang”. Always having been told she was “too nasally” in college and that “we have to get rid of that nasal tone” in singing class, English shot all of that down with one conclusion, that “nasal tone” was nonsense.  That was “twang” and she was completely cut out to sing country music. That was when the two began working together and writing music, and then finally moving back to, of all places, Blakely, Georgia, the small town that English couldn’t wait to escape from as a teenager. Nowadays, he and Lund both love it there.

Tori Lund, had never written a song before, so the duo admits it took some time to get their first one together.  English, however, had been doing it for a long time, so once they got the ball rolling, it got easier and now they have it down.  I told them I never would have guessed there was ever any difficulty by listening to their music. The songs are outstanding, and made me ask if they had played Nashville yet.  

“Maybe a couple times, but we haven’t had much luck here.  Venues seem to be looking for acts that have a big following here and we don’t.”  As the dogs from the dog park barked in the background on the audio I was listening to while transcribing this interview, almost as if they too, were protesting, I hope that changes as more people get to know Few Miles South and their music.  In my humble opinion, it’s better than much of what’s heard on mainstream radio and deserves to be heard in a place that goes around calling itself Music City.

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

That led to us talking about their current single, “Purple Skies”, from their album, Californ I Ain’t, which along with all of their songs, was written by the duo and recorded in-house, literally, in their house.  Remember, English is a trained audio engineer and knows his way around a recording studio, so having one at home is a convenience they enjoy. I loved “Purple Skies” from the first time I heard it, but I can’t wait for all of you to hear the story that inspired it.  I wasn’t prepared for this, that’s for sure.

“We played our first out-of-town gig when we still lived in California at a venue in Tucson, Arizona”, began Lund, “and we didn’t do any research on what the venue was, and as soon as we walked in, something was odd.  We realized it was a doomsday cult and they had all this literature and we thought that was pretty weird, and even how they spoke, their mannerisms and the language they were using.” English continued with, “I noticed with their names.  Everybody had these odd names. That was our first gig as Few Miles South.”

I wondered whether that group followed the duo on social media since that gig and Lund quickly answered, “We follow them!  Actually they follow a lot of musicians.” Then she laughed and said, “We want to stay on their good side!” Obviously, she was kidding and both she and English appreciate them as fans and followers, and I can appreciate them too.  They inspired a really good song. I’m so glad I asked about it. If there wasn’t a reason to really listen to it before, I think you have one now. All of the tunes that are out digitally right now are great and you can get them on all the usual platforms.  Definitely check them out.

The next big news for Few Miles South is serious business if you’re a band.  They’ll be playing the upcoming Stagecoach Music Festival in Indio, California, which runs from April 26-28, 2019.  Few Miles South will be playing on Saturday, April 27th from 1:30 to 2:00 PM on the Horseshoe Stage. If you’re planning to be at that festival, do not miss this band!  They’re so excited to play Stagecoach because it’s been a dream of theirs forever. It’s one of the largest, most well-known country music festivals in the country that’s held annually, so they’re hoping to gain exposure there and more than that, win over new fans.  I believe they will as soon as people hear what they have to offer.

Image courtesy of Valley Music Travel

Other places they’ll be going on their tour will be Canada, which is brand new for them, Wyoming and Jacksonville, Florida.  They’ll be playing festivals in those places where they’re looking forward to not only playing themselves, but seeing some of the other bands that are playing there as well.  

Once we covered all the bullet point items, we just talked about some random things, because that’s what I do.  We were in a dog park, and I need to tell you, for most of this interview, at least one of their dogs was on top of the picnic table that we were sitting at.  This was a very informal setting. It was just begging for informal conversation.

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

We talked about collections.  No, not bill collectors. That’s negativity!  Actual collections, as in collecting objects for fun.  It turned out that Blake English collects coins, kind of by accident.  His late father was a postal worker (in addition to playing guitar) and somehow got into collecting coins as a hobby.  Those coins ended up in his son’s lap after he passed away, and now English collects coins “without even thinking about it.”  Lund added that they find pennies all over the place and that someone had told them that deceased people will leave coins for their loved ones to find.  Both she and English said they feel comforted when they constantly find pennies in places they know they did not drop them by themselves. They also collect decals from state parks as they travel.  

Sometimes you ask just the right question next.  I asked both Lund and English who they thought the most underrated country artist, past or present was, and Lund said that Roger Miller came to mind right away, and maybe because she was relatively new to following country artists and had recently discovered Miller’s song, “Dang Me”.  Most people immediately think of Roger Miller’s, number one smash hit, “King of the Road”, and with as much as Few Miles South are on the road themselves, playing gigs and collecting those state park decals, they might consider covering that song. At this time, they are working out a cover of “Dang Me” anyway.  Roger Miller may not have been underrated in his time, but for someone who is just now really discovering country music and all it has to offer, you don’t hear his name everyday. It’s always good to hear that someone has jumped on board and isn’t afraid to explore the classic country artists. Lund also felt that she’s now getting some of the attention she deserves, but said Margo Price was underrated for a long time.

Video courtesy of NRRArchives2 and YouTube

His name came up a few times while we sat around talking, and it came up again.  English had said he’d like nothing more than to collaborate with Sturgill Simpson someday and that he was the guy he’d say is most underrated.  His reason? “He’s too good for country radio. He gets my vote.”

Photo courtesy of Ian Rawn Photography and Jam Base

On a rare day off at home, what does this pair like to do?  For English, mowing the lawn. Some might consider that strange, but if you’re stuck inside a van driving all over the country the majority of the time, that’s probably relaxing.  They love being outdoors. “Camping, hiking, taking the dogs somewhere they haven’t been”, said English. “Like on this table”, I replied. We laughed, because by that point, they were good and familiar with that table.  I think they were ready for a new table at some other dog park. It was old news to them.

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

I’d said that English wanted to work with Sturgill Simpson someday, but the duo both agreed they would also like to write with Brandi Carlile.  They both admire Carlile’s songwriting and performing.

When asked what the last show they attended was that really blew them both away, they answered at the same time, “Blind Boys of Alabama”.  Lund added that Ruthie Foster also played on that show, and that they saw it in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I wanted to know what made the concert so good.  “Their energy and their voices are still so good”, Lund told me, when talking about the Blind Boys of Alabama. I asked if they really are blind and English explained, “Yes, they are blind and they’ve been around forever.  They still bring it though. They do gospel, blues, R&B, that kind of thing. Unbelievable. Ruthie Foster was amazing too. She’s an incredible guitarist.”

Video courtesy of Paste Magazine and YouTube

We were nearing the end of our interview, but not before I asked them, when Few Miles South “Thinks Country”, what do they think?

Lund:  “I think of good storytelling.  Real, honest storytelling.”

English:  “I think simple.  Simple, honest people, playing real, honest music.”

Photo courtesy of Few Miles South Facebook

Few Miles South can be found:

Website:  https://fewmilessouth.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/fewmilessouth/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/FewMilesSouth

Instagram:  @fewmilessouthmusic






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