It’s almost time to come down to Christian Country at the Creek. Four months from now, the newest event in Christian Country music will debut at Mill Creek in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., on Oct. 30 and 31, 2019. Concerts will run daily from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
“We are excited to begin this new event running alongside Creekside,” says Patz. “Come hear more than 30 Christian Country artists during two music-packed days of concerts. This is one of the greatest musical styles today. Don’t miss it!”
Patz says he is excited to have Pardoned, Jessica Horton, Sara Lewis, and Bonita Eileen, among those slated to perform during Christian Country at the Creek.
“These artists have many different musical influences, but they all come full circle, back to what these events are all about: Family,” Patz states.
Jessica Horton shares, “I owe almost every part of my musicianship to my grandpa. I called him ‘Pop.’ We were two peas in a pod. I was his shadow and sometimes he’d pretend he was mine. We spent nearly every weekend of my childhood at the Sparta Opry, then later Blackhawk and Longview Opry. I remember traveling with him to Bruce for country music singings. We even went as far north as Illinois, singing at old school houses or for festivals. Every weekend there was some music adventure for us. Pop sang and played for every child in his life for his whole life, and I think that’s how we all remember him. So as soon as I could make a sound, he had me learning the old songs, and as soon as I could wrap my fingers around a fret, he had me strumming chords. I couldn’t reach all the strings for the G chord, so you’ll still catch me playing it how he modified it for me! It’s hard to break old habits.”
“I’ve certainly had other influences, of course,” Horton continues. “My dad always played guitar beautifully, and a lot of folks on my mom’s side of the family know how to pick and grin. I joined the band in school and learned to play the French Horn. My band teacher Mr. Hawkins taught me all the fundamentals of music theory and reading notes. This proved to be the perfect foundation for my college musical education experience. At the university I studied classical voice, and I was able to learn how to understand and control my breath and voice. I took some theatre classes that taught me about diction. Music and theatre together taught me so much about making intentional choices when I tell a story through song.”
Horton is inspired about her journey ahead as she reflects on God’s direction in the past. “I truly believe God orders every step we take, even when we think we are taking them ourselves. I get excited when I look at all these people and how God loved us so much that he put us together to help us along our journey. I would not be who I am without them, and I certainly wouldn’t be half the artist.”
“I’m very excited to meet some new influences at Christian Country at the Creek. It’s an honor to be a part of something so amazing. I can’t wait,” exclaims Horton.
Christian Country at the Creek is thrilled to welcome new artist, Pardoned, whose members are Donnie Marr, Rusty Rowan, and Parker Rains.
Donnie Marr sings tenor for Pardoned and is responsible for the vocal arrangements of the group’s songs and the sound production of each show. He was influeneced by his “Paw-Paw Marr” who played guitar and piano and sang bass. It was Donnie’s “Paw-Paw Marr” who helped birth Donnie’s love for music.
A gentleman named Mike Spears taught Donnie Marr to “hear the harmonies” in the music. Spears was an electrical engineer and passed his knowledge and understanding of sound systems down to Marr.
“Rusty Rowan is a musical hero to me. He is one of the greatest musical influences in my life,” Marr says. “Rusty’s talents are second to no one and even Rusty himself doesn’t recognize how good he is. He really is one of the most talented people I have ever known.”
Rowan and Marr are co-owners of Pardoned and also own stock together in a retail automotive dealership.
Marr’s spiritual influences were his Maw-Maw Reid and Jimmie Rowan (Rusty’s father). Marr says his Maw-Maw Reid taught him how to pray and was his spiritual rock. Jimmie Rowan helped Donnie understand what real ministry is.
“He taught me that ministry has to go beyond the walls of the church to really be effective, and that it has to come from the heart,” Marr says He can still hear Jimmie Rowan tell him, “No matter who they are or what they have done, its our duty to show them the love of Christ.”
Rusty Rowan sings lead for Pardoned and writes most of the group’s songs. His biggest influence were his parents.
“When I was a kid, my mom and I would listen to country radio every night until my bedtime,” says Rowan. “I couldn’t have been more than five or six years old at the time. I remember my excitement when she would let me call the show and request a song. It was always ‘Coca-Cola Cowboy,’ by Mel Tillis. My dad took me to see Mel Tillis when I was six and we went to a concert every year after that. My favorite concert memory is of Marty Robbins. I was only eight years old.”
Rowan says his parents always encouraged him to follow his dream of playing music. He laughs and says, “There’s no telling how much money they spent on lessons and traveling, trying to help me achieve my goals musically.”
As for the daily business of operating a musical group, Rowan credits Lynn Fox and Jackie Wilburn as his biggest influences.
“Those two men were professional in every sense of the word,” says Rowan. “They operated in different areas of music and ministry but their morals and ethics were perfectly in line with each other, in my eyes they were the best.”
Rowan cannot say enough about either of these men or their families. “They taught me how to talk to people, how to work with churches and talent buyers, and how to enjoy life on the road. They were great men.”
Rowan says he still turns to Lynn Fox for advice and encouragement today. “Jackie Wilburn passed away a few years back, but I think about him everytime i drink a Coca-Cola; he loved them.”
Parker Rains sings baritone for Pardoned. He is the youngest member of the group and takes care of merchandise and lighting. Rains says his mom and dad raised him on Southern Gospel music. “My parents had a Southern Gospel group and I became amazed by anything that was related to drums and percussion.”
Rains says he was playing drums for his church choir when he first had the opportunity to sing: “I realized that music could give me a break from everyday life and allows me to express myself while sharing the message of the gospel.”
Pardoned’s baritone is drawn to the harmonies of music. “I love the way Diamond Rio, Lonestar, and the Gatlins structure the harmonies of a song; and nobody can deliver like Vince Gill.”
Rains hopes to help bring more attention to the fact that young people can enjoy Christian music. “The stuff we do right now is really cool. If we can get more folks in my generation to give it a chance, I have no doubt that they will love it as much as I do.”
Another talented Christian Country artist that will be appearing at the Creek is Bonita Eileen. “My love for Christian music has been a passion to me since I was age five,” says Eileen. “Music strengthens the faith of believers and helps lead the lost of all ages to Christ. Music is an outlet of praise, joy, and refreshing that brings glory to our Father, changing lives one at a time.”
Bonita Eileen talks about her musical influences. “Being raised in a musically inclined, close-knit family, I would have to say my parents have been the biggest influence in my life through song. My mom played the piano and daddy led the singing. I watched their love for the Lord and their walk grow tremendously through Christian music.”
“My daughter Ashley will always be my hero and example of what love for gospel music truly is,” Eileen shares. “As she now sings with the angels in Heaven and I have the hope of singing with her again some sweet day.” A talented singer in her own right, Ashley died in 2003 at the age of 14, from a brain tumor.
Sara Hambrick Lewis is an artist who also allows the experience of grief to touch her audience in a special way. Her husband passed away two years ago. She says, “I began singing with my dad in church at a young age, then my mother and I started singing together in church when I was 12. My biggest influence and encourager had to be my late husband, Roy Hambrick, and a very special cousin, who I love like a dad, Rodney Eakins. He writes some of the songs I sing. He encourages me and supports me so very much. He will never know what that means to me and how much I enjoy getting to sing with him each week.”
Lewis continues, “My biggest influences in gospel music are also Bill and Gloria Gaither, along with many of the Homecoming Friends. I was watching a Gaither video at the age of 12 and said then and there, this is what I want to do. Today I’m even more excited about what God has in store for me in gospel music”
“Sheri Easter has to be my biggest female influence,” Lewis continues. “I love that lady. I love her style and her voice, but most of all, her sweet spirit and her love for God and people.” Other musical influences for Sara include the Primitive Quartet, Heirline, and Heaven’s Mountain Band.
These artists and many more will be appearing Oct. 30 and 31. The inaugural Christian Country at the Creek is the exciting sister event to Creekside Gospel Music Convention 2019 and will be presented at the Mill Creek Conference Center, which is located at 3785 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, Tenn. One Christian Country artist will be chosen from each day’s concerts to perform that evening during the Creekside Gospel Music Convention.
The Creekside Gospel Music Convention, Oct. 27 – 31, 2019, offers Bluegrass, Country, and Southern gospel afternoon music showcases, evening concerts, and the 2019 Diamond Award presentations.
For more information on the Christian Country at the Creek, Creekside Gospel Music Convention, or the 2019 Diamond Awards ceremony, as well as accommodations and VIP tickets, contact Rob Patz at 360-933-0741.
Read the June SGNScoops Magazine Online HERE