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Stickers come out of Nashville 'Country Proud'


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"This is how we rock/this is how we roll/straight-up Southern right down to the bone."

The Stickers make that musical declaration on their new single, "Country Proud."

The Stickers, as fans might know, stem from just south of Pittsburgh in Brookline, but the band of brothers has its chosen sound down, having played dozens of county fairs over the years, along with regular trips to Jamboree in the Hills.

The Stickers
With: Christian Beck Band.
Where: South Park Amphitheater.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Admission: Free.

If the new album, also called "Country Proud," has that Nashville sound, that's because it was recorded there, originally at Disgraceland Studios, then moving to Blackbird (owned by John McBride, husband of Martina) when Disgraceland was torn down as part of the expansion of Belmont University. Over the past year and a half, the Stickers -- led by Wodarek brothers Joe, John and Jim -- have made nearly 20 trips to Music City to record and mix.

"This whole record, our focus was to try to create a collection of songs that will just knock people out, whether you're a country fan or not," John Wodarek says.

This is the group's second album recorded in Nashville, following the self-titled country debut in 2009 that placed four singles on the national charts and received airplay on more than 150 stations.

"Country Proud" was produced by Tony Castle (Kenny Chesney, Willie Nelson), but the band had guidance from other industry vets, including Blake Chancey, a Grammy winner (and owner of many velvet Elvises) who's produced everyone from Waylon Jennings to the Dixie Chicks. "He came in and helped us form our sound," Mr. Wodarek says.

They also got help from Jack Christopher at RPM Records and former Froggy FM general manager Frank Bell, now running marketing for Taylor Swift.

"A lot of people gave us honest feedback. The biggest thing is just being humble and listening to them and learning from it and making the changes."

This time, The Stickers took the further step of enlisting outside writing help for half of the songs.

"In Nashville, that's just the way of doing things," Mr. Wodarek says. "We wanted to show diversity. The last record we wrote all ourselves. This record we wanted to show we could work with songwriters as well. But we didn't go to just any songwriter. We went to guys we have a connection with."

One was Dave Pahanish, a Pittsburgher whose songs have been recorded by Toby Keith, Keith Urban and Tim McGraw. He contributed the ballad "Something About You" and "Those Were the Days," a nostalgic Southern rocker looking back on the days of playing for tip jars ("When that guy claimed he used to manage Stevie Ray/and he gave us his card/I remember thinkin' man, we were on our way/but we never got far").

Luke Laird, a Grammy-winner from Pymatuning who won a Grammy for producing Kacey Musgrave's "Same Trailer, Different Park," offered a pair of "Ain't" songs: "There Ain't No Way" and "Ain't Nothin' Better," a banjo-meets-electric love song in which the main character gives up his playoff tickets to hang with his girl. (That couldn't have been an easy concept for Mr. Wodarek, who works for the Steelers.)

The funky "Countrified," which opens the album with Joe singing "Hey city girl/you pretty girl/but you ain't heard of Conway Twitty girl," came from Neil Mason, drummer for Nashville band The Cadillac Three.

"It didn't really fit the style for them," Mr. Wodarek says. "We horsed around with it, and it fit us perfectly."

The title track, written by Mike Fiorentino and Cale Dodds, has been the first success, hitting No. 1 on the Top 6 at 6 on Y108. The band chose it as the first single, Mr. Wodarek says, because, "It seemed like the right song at the right time. It just reminds you of summertime. It's just a fun, sing-along anthem-type song."

Along with the writing and production team, The Stickers had two music directors and session guitarists in Kenny Greenberg (Chesney band guitarist) and Tom Bukovac (former Rascal Flatts).

"Tom is one of the most sought-after studio musicians," Mr. Wodarek says. "Just a tremendous talent. It's intimidating to sit in a room with him. Makes you feel intimidated to bring out your guitar after watching him play."

But it's all Southern hospitality in Music City, even for Yankee musicians.

"Everyone's so nice. Everyone's so down-to-earth. You know the work they've done and that they've won awards and everything else, but they never make you feel that way. The atmosphere down there is tremendous."

It's pretty strong within the group as well, as the Wodarek brothers haven't fallen into the personality clashes you often get with sibling bands.

"That's how we've always been," the bassist says. "That's why we go by The Stickers. We always did everything together. It's just how we were raised. When we go out on the weekend, we go out together."

With the last album's release party, at the former Saddle Ridge, selling out, they decided to do this one out in the open at the South Park Amphitheater.

"We put a ton of work into this thing, and we wanted to celebrate and open it up to everyone."


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