Hometown Heroes: The Best Musicians Repping Small Towns
While many small-town artists dream of the day they see it out of their respective birthplaces, others happily settle in, more concerned with putting their town on the map than wiping its trapping away completely. Or if they must leave, they see an opportunity to take home with them wherever they go. Here are a few examples, brought to you by DEWShine, a true original with a citrus kick, born in the wilds of Tennessee, now available legally for the first time..
Clarksville, Tennessee is the fifth-largest city in the state, right behind Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga. It takes a bold artist to stay local. Tim Gents is that artist. He’s determined to stay in his hometown and impact hip-hop from there. In fact, the young spitter is so passionate about his city that his forthcoming album is titled Clarksville Nights, paying homage to the place that raised him. His slick lyricism and real-life narrative has attracted a nice following.
Atlanta and Houston are the hubs for southern rapping. Chattanooga, Tennessee rapper YGTUT hasn’t departed from the city that raised him though. It made him the artist he is. After a successful SXSW and bangers like “John Witherspoon” he’s building a following that will be hard to ignore, but the labels will have to book flights to Chattanooga if they want to board the YGTUT bandwagon.
Hailing from a town so small the local fast-food chain is its center, Ocala, Florida, native Eric Biddines is a down-to-earth rapper who shows Florida isn’t the glitz and glamour of South Beach. Let Biddines take you to some of the state’s locals-only destinations.
Some say Leon Bridges is a 24-year-old soul singer from Fort Worth, Texas. Others think he hopped out of a time machine from the ’60s; both parties have a case. Though he is just 24, Bridges has an old-school style as pure as a child’s laugh. These days pop music seems to be squeezing as many sounds as possible into a three-minute period; armed with six strings and his voice, Bridges is the antithesis of that.
What sets this former RJD2 and The Roots collaborator apart are his smoldering vocals. They will make you want to sell your house and start riding the rails. Take a listen to his most recent album, The River, and find yourself transported far away from the grind of the big city.
Is she blues? Is she country? Is she folk? Is she pop? Yes. Yes to all four. ZZ Ward is as diverse as her fedora collection. The one constant is her ability to cut through all the mess and hit you right in the feels, something she likely learned growing up in a tiny township in Pennsylvania. Whether she’s angry, sad, happy or bitter, she’s always ZZ.
Though he hails from the land of country music, Case Arnold is much more likely to rock a fitted than a cowboy hat—this Clarksville, Tennessee native shows that you don’t have to be surrounded by skyscrapers and cabs to develop a knack for spitting dope 16s.
When The Districts get off stage, they look (and probably feel) like they just worked a day in the mines, because they put everything they have into each and every show. While their music is often a little rough around the edges, that’s a purposeful choice, a tribute to the rawness of garage bands and small-town heroes who inspired them.
Most artists start in a small town and then move to the larger metropolis, but Pell‘s had the opposite trajectory. Born and raised in New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina forced Pell to relocate to Starksville, Mississippi, and it’s there that his music career really began.
Rather than the stereotypical hard-hitting Southern sound, Pell’s music is often an ambient, dreamy affair that calls to mind days spent sitting in the grass and looking up at the clouds rather than big-city appeal; it’s only fitting that his breakthrough project was titled Floating While Dreaming. He recently toured with Nashville electro-pop duo Cherub rather than other hip-hop acts.
Raury is technically from a big city (New York), but we’re allowing him in because his music has such a small-town spirit. His signature wide-brimmed floppy sunhat gives him the impression he should be living in Big Sur, and though his catalog isn’t huge, all his videography has been shot outdoors.