Musical chemistry helps country music band expand its popularity beyond Kentucky
The band’s video “Home” debuted last week on the television channel, which also lists them as the No. 15 most popular artist, just behind Kenny Chesney and Lady Antebellum.
The band has been posting updates to its nearly 14,000 Facebook fans and 8,000 Twitter followers throughout the day, encouraging them to vote for them on the CMT website.
Sundy Best was featured last month in The Lane Report’s young professionals magazine, BG – A Way of Life.
Sundy Best is a local success story that keeps on growing, thanks in part to the World Wide Web.
Talented as they are, lead vocalist, guitarist Nick Jamerson and cajon drummer Kris Bentley are quick to admit their progress in the music scene hasn’t come without a lot of hard work, as well as considerable luck.
The band was founded on the reconnection of two longtime friends and is influenced by their eastern Kentucky roots. Natives of Prestonsburg and residents of Lexington, Sundy Best played their first shows before modest audiences at local “dive” bars. In less than two years, however, the band began performing regularly across multiple states, produced a professional music video and surpassed 13,000 fans on Facebook. (Recently, they added a new band member, bassist Coleman Saunders.)
It is difficult for small-time bands to gain recognition on a larger stage. So, in December of 2011, the members of Sundy Best used the crowd-sourcing website kickstarter.com to raise enough funds to record a second album.
Nearly 250 fans showed their support via the site, and the band met its month’s-end goal of $6,000 during the first 18 hours of the campaign. In the end, they raised nearly $15,000.
“It gave us confidence and let us know that people do care and approve of the music we’re writing and singing about,” Bentley said. “It was great to have them be a part of it and make them feel connected and involved. (Kickstarter) definitely helped get us to where we are today.”
The band also credits the media platforms Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as key components to getting the band’s name out and drawing in new support.
“You used to have to play at places six or seven times a week (to gain new fans), but now people just have to log on to the Internet (to find you),” Jamerson said.
Bentley is the social media guru of the band and logs on to various platforms multiple times a day to write updates, add new songs and photos, and interact with fans. In addition to its thousands of Facebook and Twitter followers, Sundy Best also has more than 161,000 views in its YouTube channel.
“It’s important to connect with people on a personal level (via social media),” Bentley said. “The more we’ve done that, the more successful we’ve become.”
Jamerson and Bentley first became friends during their middle school days in Prestonsburg. During their senior year in high school, they began playing music together at church on Sundays – hence the name of the band.
The two friends drifted apart during college. Bentley played basketball at Centre College and Jamerson was on the Pikeville College football team and also performed some solo acts at local bars.
Then, about two years ago, Jamerson called Bentley to see if he had any drums for sale.
“He messaged me back and said, ‘No, but I want to play,’” Jamerson remembered. “He came to Prestonsburg that Friday, practiced at my dad’s and we played a gig the next night.”
Sundy Best’s debut album, “Tales, Lies and Exaggerations,” came out within the first year. While it was only a self-recorded demo, it provided the band with more opportunities to play shows around the Midwest. The first studio-recorded album, “Door Without a Screen,” was released this summer (thanks to support from kickstarter.com).
It features the band’s most popular ballad, “Home,” and several songs about life in eastern Kentucky, such as “Mountain Parkway” and “Prestonsburg.”
Over the past year, Sundy Best has been performing regular gigs at the prominent downtown Lexington bar Redmond’s on Thursdays and Saturdays. They also recently played at the Emerald Lounge in Asheville, N.C., Tin Roof in Cincinnati, and the Pikeville, Ky. Expo Center, where they opened for Lynyrd Skynyrd.
While Jamerson can’t fully describe why Sundy Best works so well together, he chalks it up mostly to musical chemistry.
“Nobody is sticklers for perfection,” he said. “We’re in sync with each other; you just learn how to read each other. We all play with a lot of emotion, so I never feel like our shows are the same.”
“I’ve been in some rock bands and I’ve recorded all kinds of music, but when Sundy Best came along, it was the perfect blend of everything I loved about country music as a kid,” added Saunders, who compared the band to old country artists such as Waylon Jennings. “Nick is one of the most honest singers I’ve heard in my life. (His lyrics) are straight from where he lives and what he talks about is genuine.”
Sundy Best is cautiously optimistic about the future. Their goals include continuing to build their fan base and enjoy their craft.
“We want to just keep playing and take it as far as we can,” Jamerson said. “We’d like to get more of a regional following, but we’ve got a really good thing going on now… I’m my own boss and I get to play music with my best friends. “Every day is a new day and as long as we keep moving forward, we’re living the dream.”
— Lorie Hailey and Esther Marr
BG – A Way of Life