by Tamela Meredith-Partridge
Sawyer Brown, consisting of lead vocalist Mark Miller, keyboardist Gregg “Hobie” Hubbard, bassist Jim Scholten, drummer Joe “Curley” Smyth and guitarist Duncan Cameron, recorded some of the richest, smoothest and most animating harmonies of their long and vibrant career within their current album, “Sawyer Brown–The Hits Live.”
“We always try to cut the very best songs,” Miller said. “We don’t try to put an equation (of song types) on it. Sometimes, if a song just feels so good that you don’t have to think about it, then I don’t pay much attention to the lyrics. But sometimes the melody and the feel are only background to what the lyrics say. If that’s the case, I want those lyrics to really mean something and have an impact.”
Since making their chart debut in ’84 with the Top Twenty single “Leona,” Sawyer Brown has continually raced to the top of the country charts with close to twenty Top Ten hits including, “Step That Step,” “The Walk,” “Some Girls Do,” “Thank God For You,” and “This Time.”
The band, originally known as Savannah, began playing together at local Nashville, Tennessee gigs in ’81. They later changed the name to Sawyer Brown, derived from an actual street in west Nashville. They went on to win the $100,000 first prize in ’84 on “Star Search,” and soon landed a record deal.
The cornerstone of the firm Sawyer Brown foundation lies in their ability to appreciate and blend five individual personalities and talents into one harmonious unit.
“Hobie is absolutely brilliant and one of the easiest-going personalities in the world,” Miller said. “He’s the mediator and the guy who makes sure we all treat each other well. We co-write a lot. He has a really sensitive heart and that shows in his writing and it really touches a lot of people.”
“Duncan is a really excellent, hard-nosed guitar player,” Miller added. “Whatever you need, he can give it to you. He’s ready to take the ball when it’s his turn, and he’s a fine songwriter. He’s also got a very big heart, even though he may not always want you to know that.”
“Jim, I believe, is the best bass player in music today,” Miller explained. “He’s an incredible musician and he has such a good spirit about him, he’s the kind of guy you love to be around.”
“Joe has the most formal training of anybody in the band,” Miller said. “He’s got a degree from Berklee College of Music in Boston as well as a Masters from Miami, but along with all his knowledge and chops, he’s one of those guys who knows that all you really need to get to the heart is three chords and the truth.”
Miller, known for his boundless stage energy and stylistic dancing, leads a surprisingly serene private life as a family man and devout Christian.
“I grew up in a Pentecostal church, and that’s just the way we do music,” Miller said. “We had drums, horns, guitars. There was moving to the music. I had never really thought that much about it until people started talking to us. I’ve had people come up and say, ‘I thought you’d be the wildest thing on the planet.’ And in their mind they are probably thinking, ‘This guy’s pitiful. He doesn’t even have a life.’ But that’s ok. I do have a life. But it’s pretty simple beyond the stage.”
With seventeen albums and numerous music industry awards to their credit, Sawyer Brown has achieved one of the largest and most loyal fan followings in country music.
“We have an incredible fan club,” Miller said. “I don’t even know how many members there are, but it’s a lot. We have a website, www.sawyerbrown.com, and every year at Fan Fair we have a breakfast for our members. We also have a deal that when you join the fan club, you get a backstage pass to meet the band at one of our shows.”
As Sawyer Brown’s popularity continues to escalate, they take a moment to look back and pay homage to the hard work, determination, and music that made their journey upon the road of success so memorable.
“The secret of our success is that we’ve never quit caring,” Miller said. “We’ve never been complacent about our music or our position within country music. We’ve always felt we had more to achieve. That keeps you hungry, and we’ve stayed hungry. That’s at the heart of why we’re still here.”
Sawyer Brown will be performing a Christmas Show and Greatest Hits program at the Little Nashville Opry on Saturday, November 24.