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Sawyer Brown keeps wantin' it all

By Robert Loy, November 1995

Page 2...

The win resulted in a $100,000 in prize money and a record deal with Capitol/Curb in 1984. The band's debut was released that same year, resulting in the debut single "Leona" reaching the Top 20. By 1985, the band hit the top with "Step That Step."

Later that year, Sawyer Brown became the first winners of the Country Music Association's Horizon Award.

From "Star Search" on, Sawyer Brown has had a lot of loyal fans, fans who bring placards to the concerts with numbers on them showing how many Sawyer Brown concerts they've been to. The critics lambasted them for their flamboyant showmanship and the lack of depth in such songs as "Step By Step" and "Betty's Being Bad."

The band later had an up and down career with many singles failing to move up the charts.

All that began to change in 1991, with the release of "The Walk," a heartfelt meditation on maturity. This was followed by the working class anthems "The Dirt Road" and "Cafe on the Corner" and the heartbreakingly beautiful "All These Years." Suddenly, the radio and the critics have realized what the fans have known all along.

For the past five years, every Sawyer Brown single has hit the top 10, seven of them have gone all the way to number one. They've won the TNN/Music City News award for best vocal band in 1993, 1994 and 1995 and top video group award from CMT. Curb Records has given them the okay to release six singles off their latest CD "This Thing Called Wantin' & Havin' It All." They contributed a song "Carpenter's Son" to Ricky Skaggs' gospel video project "Silent Witness."

Even after all the awards and the best-selling records, Sawyer Brown is not about to coast."It used to be that if you had one hit record you had a career, playing county fairs and clubs, and there were people who had one certifiable hit in 1963, and when I moved to Nashville in 1982, they were still singing it, still a star," Smyth said. "Country used to look down at pop music where you were only as good as your last album, and the whole flavor-of-the-month thing. And country music has become that, has become what they used to point their finger at. People unfortunately are building five-year careers in Nashville."

"We believed that one of the benchmarks of success was longevity.," he said. "We admired, like, the Beach Boys, Charlie Daniels, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, people who keep on doing what they do. Those kind of people are our heroes."

How does Smyth feel about critics finally giving Sawyer Brown some respect?

"Not as good as I feel about real people buying our records," he said. "Our fans are amazing in their energy and enthusiasm. We really have a loyal fan base, and I think part of the reason for that is we played secondary and tertiary markets, towns that nobody else would go to. We were just trying to work, trying to get out in front of people, and these people were hungry for it. There are performers who only like to play New York, LA, Miami. And that's probably where we're least accepted. I think they're somewhat jaded in the bigger cities, where they have different shows every night to choose from. We would go to small towns and play in high school gyms, the biggest building in town. And people appreciated it because that was it probably until we came back the next year. It's been real important to us, because in the days when we weren't getting much radio success, they kept us going."

After more than a decade together, the guys of Sawyer Brown are still friends, and it's all still fun.

With that attitude and their talents, Sawyer Brown will be a force to be reckoned with for many years to come.

You don't even need a crystal ball to see that.

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