The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Sunday Profile

April 24, 2014

Gage: An alternative country band working to measure up

When you “gauge” something, you take a measure of it. Measuring themselves against where they’ve been and where they will go inspired four friends to start a band and call it “Gage.”

“We’ve come overcome a lot of personal obstacles to get to where we are,” lead singer Todd Hanchock said. “Me personally, I’ve had best friends that told me that I was wasting my time.

“As far as we’ve come, it’s just a blessing. You can gage how far you’ve come and you can gage how far you can take it.”

In the beginning, the band was just two friends jamming together in college, Hanchock says.

“Pat and I were writing songs and we got connected with Caleb Jones from the Collins Career Center in Ohio,” Hanchock said. “He was running a program where he was teaching kids how to record in a specialty class.

“He would record you for free but you would have to pay a small fee if you wanted him to do a complete mix on a song. After hearing about that I took him some songs to record for a demo tape we could give out to venues we were interested in playing. Caleb told us the songs would be better with a whole band.”

After hearing that, the two friends set out to put together a whole band.

“We all met in college up at Marshall University,” Hanchock said. “Friends put us together. My guitar player and I met while we were working at a bar and grill. From then on, a friend would point us in the direction of a guy who played drums named Grant Calhoun who lived close to Beckley.

“We met our bass player, Brett Traylor, through another friend who just happened to know of a bass player. It just magically came together. Pat and I played acoustic for about a year and a half before we put the rest of the band together.”

* * *

Hanchock says one of the biggest problems the group had was getting people to come to shows.

“Even more of a problem was getting a venue to give us a chance,” he said. “They’ve all been burnt by someone who brought in something that sounds great in the studio but they can’t back it up live. Venues are so scared to take a chance.

“There have been a lot of venues that ignored us until we started opening for national acts. There have been some venues that we’ve played for free so we could get in front of the fans. We’ve done that 10 or 15 places and they always come up afterward and ask us when our next open date is. They tell us they want us back on regular terms. It’s hard to get people to believe in you in the beginning.”

The event that showed them they could make it was opening for Brett Michaels in Huntington, Hanchock said.

“That was the stepping stone for us to really focus on getting more songs out there and pursue more options outside of West Virginia and to tour,” he said. “We’re trying to make fans all over the nation. We moved to Nashville about a year ago.

“The great thing about Nashville is that it offers everything you could ever need when it comes to music. Everyone is also willing to help you. You just have to ask. They don’t want you to make the same mistakes they did or they’ll warn you to keep you from pursuing something that is a dead end.”

* * *

When it comes to writing their music, Hanchock describes the group’s sound as a combination of country and rock.

“I’d call it ‘alternative country,’” he said. “We kind of fall in between. There’s a southern-rock edge on some of our songs. Everyone being from around the West Virginia area, the whole small town influence really comes out in our lyrics. Every song is about an event that happened to us.

“Regardless of where you’re from in West Virginia, you’re still from a small town. Country music leans more towards that in terms of ideas. There’s more of a story-line with country. We all grew up around country. It’s really cool to take all of your influences from other genres and put it into country and still be able to tell your story.”

Hancock says the band doesn’t just look to one time period or genre for their inspiration.

“George Strait is just a phenomenal artist,” he said. “Some of my roots go back to Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

* * *

“In terms of today’s song writers, Brantley Gilbert is a great songwriter. We follow closely what he’s doing. Eric Church is probably one of the people I look up to right now. These guys are out there writing their own stuff and it’s just great.”

These days, the members of Gage are finishing an album and getting ready for a tour.

“We have four full songs out right now,” Hanchock said. “They’re on our website. Anyone that signs up with their email gets one of our songs free. We’re going to have a text system set up soon so people can get another song free.

“We’re not charging for our music right now unless someone picks up one of our demos at our shows. It’s more important for the fans to come to shows.

“There are more songs that are done but we haven’t put them out there yet. By June we’re going to determine the 12 songs that will make the album. From there we hope to have the album out by the end of the summer.”

A tour is in the works right now and Hanchock says they’ll announce the full schedule when everything gets squared away.

* * *

“Bigfoot Entertainment Group is who we signed-on with recently,” he said. “They handle our bookings and they’re routing us two and three days a week.

“It’ll range in Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, and even Alabama. We’ll have a few shows in Missouri too. We won’t lock in all of the contracts until the end of April. That tour will probably start around July.”

For artists who want to make it big, Hanchock has some advice.

“Build up a fan base in your home town,” he said. “Play every little circuit and event that you can, whether it’s at a high school, coffee shop, or local bar. Whatever you can do to get in front of people, do it. Play stuff they know then mix in a few things of your own. Show your influences through your cover songs then play your original songs.

“Just stay in contact with your fans and engage them, even if it’s through your personal Facebook page. It’s extremely hard work, but it’s worth it. There’s nothing greater than standing on stage and having your fans sing your songs back to you.”

For more information about Gage, check them out at www.gageofficial.com and “Like” them on Facebook at “Gage (Official).”

Gage will be part of a line-up that includes Florida-Georgia Line, Nelly and Chris Lane on June 21 in Bluefield, Va.

— E-mail:

cneff@register-herald.com

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