Country Next: Southerland
We take pride in introducing fans to country music’s brightest new stars through our Country Next series. Here, we chat with Southerland.
Southerland; Photo by Emma Kate Golden
Southerland is ready to take the country music world by storm!
Once solo acts, the rising country duo, consisting of Georgia-born Chris Rogers and South Carolina-native Matt Chase, crossed paths years ago when they met up with award-winning songwriter Ray Fulcher for a writing session. After becoming quick friends and receiving suggestions from industry veteran Lynn-Oliver Cline, they decided to morph into a duo and they’ve never looked back.
“From the time we started our duo, it all came together very organically. It was easy. And, here we are now,” Rogers told Country Now.
Now, Southerland is introducing themselves to listeners with their brand new EP titled Boot Up. The seven-track collection, produced by Greg Bates, is what the duo describes as “raw,” “emotional,” and “band-driven.” Embracing ‘90s country influences like Alan Jackson and Tim McGraw (just to name a few), fans will hear the duo’s traditional country harmonies and smooth vocals over real instruments on songs like “Dance,” “Might As Well Be Us,” “Thing Is” and more.
Southerland, who previously shared the stage with artists like Luke Combs, Brantley Gilbert, Darius Rucker, and Morgan Wallen, caught up with Country Now to talk about their new Boot Up EP, country music influences, life at home, and what’s to come.
Read on to find out more about Southerland in this exclusive Q&A below…
How did you begin a career in country music?
Chris Rogers: I got into music around age 10. It was one of those things where my entire family was into music. My grandfather played guitar. So, naturally, my uncles and cousins all played guitar too. Every weekend, we would all get together and sit around and play. And I continued to do that up to high school. I graduated from college and started working a job in Atlanta at Norfolk Southern Railway for the railroad. And I was playing these little dive bars all over Georgia. After a few years of doing that, it hit me that being a songwriter and being a singer was a viable option for my career. So, I quit my job, packed everything, and moved to Nashville in 2012. Shortly after that, I met Matt through Ray Fulcher. He is another singer-songwriter here in town.
How did you two become a duo?
Rogers: Well, Ray and I were writing together one day, and Matt joined us. We were playing for probably two years together, just as two buddies. It’s just one of those things where we just kind of hit it off, to begin with, as friends. And, we were playing all over the place in these cover shows. That took us down to Key West to this songwriter festival, and our label head now, Lynn-Oliver Cline, over at Riverhouse, happened to be down there and saw us playing. She offered us a duo deal right there in the streets of Key West, which is funny to say. She was the person who planted the seed of us becoming a duo. It was nothing that we had ever thought about doing before. It took about a year to take her up on that offer. So we continued, for the next year, to play those cover shows and finally saw the writing on the wall. We had been performing as a duo this whole time. We just didn’t call it a duo. So from the time we started our duo, it all came together very organically. It was easy. And, here we are now. We just released our new EP, Boot Up, under Sony Nashville. So we had signed a deal with them and got the ball rolling on that. So, it’s just been great. We feel very blessed to be where we are.
Being a country duo, has writing together always been easy?
Matt Chase: It was always easy for us. When we decided to become a duo, the immediate question following was like, ‘Okay, well, what kind of music is that supposed to sound like?’ And, the answer was so easy. We were like, ‘Let’s do what’s authentic to us.’ And, that was the music that we grew up loving and playing all of the time like Alan Jackson, Shenandoah, Tim McGraw, Clint Black, and artists like that. Songs by those artists were what we were playing when we were doing those cover shows. And, in the writer’s room, the thing about the two of us, and one of the ways we hit it off in the first place, is we are almost perfectly in sync with the music we love and the music we wanted to create. We both have strengths and weaknesses, but it was an easy process for sure.
The ‘90s influence is definitely heard on your Boot Up EP. Can you tell me more about that project?
Rogers: It’s funny that you notice the ‘90s influence in there. I’d say that’s probably correct because we grew up listening to that stuff. That’s such a huge compliment too! Guys like Alan Jackson and George Strait, Travis Tritt, Garth Brooks, Clint Black, I mean, all of those guys are the guys I was listening to growing up! So, it just felt natural and so easy and seamless to incorporate that kind of sound into our music. A lot of it is not track-based stuff. We try to keep it as real instruments as we can.
Chase: Yeah, it’s not track-based. It’s raw, emotion-band-driven stuff. And, how it came to the EP and some of the songs we chose, is we knew that this EP would be the first look at Southerland through many people’s eyes. Some people have never heard of us. And we wanted to incorporate a lot of things and say, ‘Hey, this is who we are.’ And, as you said, I’m glad that’s coming across. We try to showcase our influences in our music, from a song like “Thing Is,” which has a lot of that ‘90s country reference, all the way to ‘Boot Up,’ which is some of that swampy-er, rock stuff. And, we felt like these seven songs on the EP are who we are. They are songs that we truly love and, hopefully, songs that we can play for twenty years, but also songs that were a good showcase of a well-rounded band with all of the music we like.
Is there a significance behind the Boot Up title?
Rogers: Actually, there’s a very prolific story behind this! So, get ready for this one! We were writing over Zoom last year. And, we wrote this song with Greg Bates and Austin Taylor Smith. As Matt and I were sitting on Zoom and waiting for those guys to come in, Greg, who is also our producer, texted us and said, ‘Hey guys! I’m running late. I’m waiting on my computer to boot up.’ We didn’t have an idea going into this write. So, when he hopped on, we all started giving him a hard time. We were like, ‘Man. You sound like an old man, talking about your computer booting up!’ (laughs). We were just going back and forth and talking about it and laughing for a couple of minutes. And then, for a second, we thought about it and were like, ‘Man, this is a cool title. What if we did write that.’ You know, this swampy thing. So, we just got the ball rolling from there. It came out this boot-stomping thing that you hear, how it is now.
Chase: The song itself does pay homage to the working people out there. But, we wrote it heavily influenced by cowboy boots because that’s what Chris and I wear every day. That is what we are wearing right now, and it’s what we connect with. But, if you watch the music video, which we recently debuted. We wanted to make sure that it is more than just boots. It’s people putting on whatever is authentic to them, whether that’s high heels, work boots, or dress shoes. Whenever you lace up, that’s when everybody is ready to boot up and take on the day.
Have you been able to meet any of the artists that influence you from the ‘90s era of country music?
Rogers: I have not. But, we hope to someday! We would love that. An ultimate major dream of mine would be to, one day, open a show with some of those guys. But, even though I haven’t had a chance to talk to them directly, we’ve listened to so many hours of their music growing up over the years, and even guys like Brooks & Dunn, them being a duo themselves, we’ve watched so many shows they’ve had on YouTube. So, taking notes and taking advice through those videos in that sense has helped us a lot.
Chase: One of the beautiful things about those artists and why we feel like we connect with them so much is they are storytellers. You feel like you know them even when you’ve never met them. And, that’s another thing that we capture in our music. So, if you’ve never met us, hopefully, you get a glimpse of who we are as people.
With these songs, how do you choose who sings lead?
Chase: I would say each song is different. It depends on the lyrical content and who it connects with most. I’ll give you a perfect example. “Came Outta Nowhere,” which is probably one of our favorite songs on the record, that’s Chris’ family’s story. He grew up in that environment, so what better person to tell than the person in it and me complimenting that?
Then for me, taking over “Along Those Lines” was kind of a higher register song that fit my voice better. And, it incorporated a lot of my story, where it was the Wando river, the train tracks, and stuff like that. So, we base it off song by song. And, we think, ‘Who is the best vehicle to make this song come to life to connect with other people?’
Rogers: It’s all about the song. Again, another of our influences, Montgomery Gentry, they did that so well, where they would flip the verses and the choruses and who sang what. Sometimes, even in the chorus and the verse, it would flip back and forth. So, we’re still drawing off of the guys that we’ve looked up to, even when it comes to that sort of stuff.
Aside from your EP, Chris, you just got married. Congratulations! Has that brought any changes with you musically?
Rogers: Thank you! I mean, not much has changed. It’s only been a few weeks into married life so far. And, we’ve jumped right back into it. I do think songwriting and performing and being an artist evolves, though. So, it definitely will open up a new chapter to my songwriting ability. Now that I am married, I can draw on that and write songs about married life.
What does the rest of 2021 look like for you as far as touring goes?
Rogers: We’ve got some stuff coming up. Not as many shows as we would like, but we are looking forward to getting out there and booking more. My wife is actually in the start-up world, herself. She is into biotech. I think she would pop out on these runs here and there when she can. But, as we get bigger, an ultimate goal is to have her come out with us.
Chase: The beautiful thing is, it’s just great to have conversations that shows are coming back! And, I can tell you, playing on stage is an entirely different element of passion and enjoyment for us in this business. So, we are excited! We have dates rolling out now, and we’ll be sure to showcase those when they come out. But, we’re excited to see some old friends, and meet new ones out there on the road and let people know our story and our sound.
Fans can keep up with Southerland on Instagram.
Melinda Lorge is a Nashville-based freelance writer who specializes in covering country music. Along with Country Now, her work has appeared in publications, including Rare Country, Rolling Stone Country, Nashville Lifestyles Magazine, Wide Open Country and more. After joining Rare Country in early 2016, Lorge was presented with the opportunity to lead coverage on late-night television programs, including “The Voice” and “American Idol,” which helped her to sharpen her writing skills even more. Lorge earned her degree at Middle Tennessee State University, following the completion of five internships within the country music industry. She has an undeniable love for music and entertainment. When she isn’t living and breathing country music, she can be found enjoying time outdoors with family and friends.