When Tumbleweed Music Festival rolls into Kansas City in late July, the outlaw country fest brings with it an exciting new component. After weeks of voting and campaigning, Tumbleweed fans crowned an up-and-coming independent outlaw country act to play the festival.
After 20,000 votes among the top five, we have our winner. Greg Payne & The Piedmont Boys snuck out an impressive last-minute win. How impressive? The South Carolina five-piece trailed most of the competition until the twilight hours. But a strong showing from fans and friends help them squeak past Porter Union and secure their spot in Kansas City.
The Piedmont Boys and Porter Union combined for nearly 14,000 of the votes. And just about 100 separated the two when the dust settled.
"We were blown away by the support we received from our fans and friends during the competition," Greg Payne tells Wide Open Country. "It was so close at the end and could've gone either way. Our folks stayed up late to make sure we kept pushing forward and it paid off."
The white-knuckle finish shows just how much these fan bases wanted to see their bands on the Tumbleweed stage. It also "reassured the fact that I don't want to be a politicians," Payne says.
For Greg Payne & The Piedmont Boys, Kansas City comes as a first. The East Coast outlaws have plenty of miles on the van. They toured through Texas, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. But the Tumbleweed Music Festival is their first date in the midwest. (Though, Payne says, he's been a Kansas City Royals fan his whole life -- "George Brett was the man!").
Tumbleweed features some of the best names in outlaw country, both modern and legendary. Performers include Jamey Johnson, Cody Jinks, Whitey Morgan, William Clark Green, Roger Creager and more. Greg Payne & The Piedmont Boys will fit right in.
Payne grew up on classic figures like Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Jerry Reed and Conway Twitty. "Then I spent my rebellious years listening to metal until eventually coming back to country," Payne says. When he did, the modern sound didn't really resonate.
Payne started a career in real estate and construction, always taking in the older outlaw scene as a bystander. But a tragedy put everything in perspective. "I hated what I was doing," Payne says, "When a good buddy of mine died in an accident. I said, 'Screw this, I'm starting a band.'"
Payne called his old college buddy and the Piedmont Boys were born in the mid-2000s. The band eventually grew to a five-piece with a rotating cast, releasing their first project in 2008.
Nearly a decade later, new project Natural Born Rebel captures all the reasons Payne's fans stayed with him through the years. The outlaw outfit captures plenty of tongue-in-cheek tales of life on the road delivered with the right amount of sincerity. "It's a long way to the bottom," Payne sings. "But I made it here just fine."
Other tunes in that vein include "Travelin' Outlaw Band," "Natural Born Rebel"(with plenty of Johnny Cash vibes) and "Come On Out Tonight." Songs like "Pussy Cat" will probably make your mom blush, while "Two Reasons" shows both the heavy Twitty influence and Payne's ability to reach deeper into classic country metaphors.
"You never know which songs are gonna catch on with your fans and it's been cool to see their reactions at shows," Payne says. "'Alone Again' is becoming a surprise fan favorite and 'Goodbye' is probably my favorite to perform live off the new album."
But don't take his word for it. Make up your own mind when the band takes the stage at Tumbleweed Music Festival. Payne is excited to expand the fan base -- and to see a lot of the other acts. "We've done shows here in the Carolinas with Cody, Roger and Whitey, so I'm looking forward to seeing those guys again," Payne says. "But the guy I really don't wanna miss is Billy Joe Shaver. He's definitely a honkytonk hero of mine.
Tumbleweed Music Festival takes place July 28-29 in Kansas City. Get more information and tickets here.