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The Cadillac Three Are Feeding Hungry Kids With a New Livestream Series

Rolling Stone logo Rolling Stone 8/19/2020 Joseph Hudak
a man and a woman sitting on a couch © Bonnie Biess/Getty Images

The Cadillac Three aren’t the Partridge Family — they don’t all live together. So it’s been next to impossible for band members Jaren Johnston, Kelby Ray, and Neil Mason to spontaneously play an online concert for their fans once the pandemic set in.

“None of us were going to leave our houses, so we couldn’t do a livestream by hopping on Facebook. We had to take the long view: What is it we want to do?” says Mason, the business-minded drummer of the Nashville country-rock trio, who, like many of their peers, have been off the road since March.

The short answer was to get back on a real stage — but doing it without an audience and still delivering a typically rowdy Cadillac Three performance was a head-scratcher. “For a band like us, where our thing is the three of us playing, full band with drums and amps — loud — how can we provide a similar experience when we’re not able to be in a venue with fans?” Mason says.

After researching their options, they landed on a solution that not only puts them and other artists back onstage, but benefits their community. On Wednesday, the Cadillac Three will play their first full show together in six months, livestreamed from the tiny Nashville club where they cut their teeth: the Basement.

Like many venues across the U.S., the Basement (and its counterpart, the Basement East, which is rebuilding after a tornado struck the city in March) has been closed because of Covid-19. Mason and the Cadillac Three saw an opportunity to help out an early champion of the band, Mike Grimes, the owner of Grimey’s New & Preloved Music record store and the proprietor of the Basement.

“We looked at studios and rehearsal rooms, but our club-owner friends are struggling right now. There’s an opportunity to partner up with a venue, and not only provide a service we’re looking for — a place to rehearse where we feel safe and do the livestreams — but also give a venue some revenue they’re otherwise just not getting,” Mason says.

Dubbed “Country Fuzz Presents,” after the trio’s latest album and lifestyle brand, the series features full concerts by the Cadillac Three, Drake White, Hailey Whitters, A Thousand Horses, Lauren Jenkins, and more. The first show kicked off last week with Luke D***’s art-rock band Hey Steve. Keeping the headcount low in the club was a sticking point for Mason. For the Hey Steve gig, only six people were inside: four band members, a production tech, and the camera operator. With the four cameras designed to be remote controlled, future shows may require even less bodies.

The technology affords an extra level of safety, Mason says. “We can have a different camera person operate each day if we need to and not have to worry about if they’re getting tested or not. That functionally opened a big door for us and made us feel OK.”

Fans can expect a full-length show, with deep cuts that don’t often make the set list. Mason says they’ve been working up songs from all four of their albums, including “The Sticks” off their 2012 self-titled debut, and a quiet version of 2017’s “Legacy.” “For the first time in pretty much 10 years,” he says, “we’ve had band practice.”

In early June, following the death of George Floyd, the Cadillac Three made what some might consider an unexpected overture for a Southern-rock band by donating all of the net proceeds from their online merchandise sales to the NAACP. It was a way to shine a light on racial injustice and show a more socially conscious side of a group known for party anthems like “Crackin’ Cold Ones With the Boys” and “Party Like You.” According to Mason, sales were 30% higher than the week prior.

The livestream series has a charitable component too. Partnering with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, the Cadillac Three are challenging fans to help them feed kids who may not have access to daily school lunches because of Covid-19. The goal is 100,000 meals over the next 100 days.

“They’re able to provide four meals for every dollar donated,” Mason says. “So we’re trying to raise $25,000.” Fans can donate directly to Second Harvest via a dedicated button during the concerts, which are hosted by the virtual event company Moment House. The group chose Moment House because its platform made it easy to link directly to Second Harvest — and to the merch stores of the performers, some of whom are making ends meet by selling T-shirts and music online.

For the Cadillac Three, “Country Fuzz Presents” is a way to offer a trifecta of support: to hungry kids, closed clubs, and artists forced off the road.

“We’ve been back in our community for five months, which is the longest period of time we have been here in probably 15 years,” Mason says. “Looking at the landscape of Nashville and everything the city has had to deal with this year, we are just trying to do our little part.”

Upcoming shows include Hannah Dasher on Thursday, Kristian Bush’s Dark Water on Saturday, and Boy Named Banjo on Sunday, with concerts scheduled through September.

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