"My band is like the Rodney Dangerfield of Memphis," guitarist Scott Sudbury quips. "Nobody pays attention to us here!" But the Bluff City's loss is the rest of the world's gain, as Sudbury has proven time and again: He's garnered attention from as far away as Italy ("melodic rock in the purest tradition," gushes Flash magazine), Sweden ("a great American rocker," says Catchy Hooks mag), and the Netherlands ("straight-ahead melodic poprock," raves STRUTTER'ZINE). In the U.K., his debut CD, Static on My Radio, was named "#1 Independent CD" of 2000 by Voltz magazine, while Nikammusic, a British production company, named his group the "New Unsigned Band to Watch" in 2002. All that flattery and Sudbury has yet to set foot overseas.
"We haven't had the chance to get over there," Sudbury says, adding that Static on My Radio "happened as a fluke. A friend in the music program at [the University of Memphis] had a studio project, and I was his guinea pig," he explains. "I didn't have a band at the time, so I cut a demo to form a band around."
Sudbury had a gig playing acoustic guitar at Alfred's on Beale, and he started selling the CDs to his quickly growing fan base. "I'd sneak in original songs at the end of my set, and tourists started taking CDs home. The word just spread," Sudbury says modestly. Through distributors, his Web site, and live shows, he's sold more than 22,000 discs to fans from 23 countries and 39 states.
"In Europe, MTV doesn't determine what's cool like they do over here," Sudbury says, noting that his biggest problem in the States is convincing listeners that his blend of heartland ballads and power pop is still viable. "Everyone thought my record was good but 10 years too late. Now people think I'm on the cusp of a new trend," he says with a laugh. "I have to do what I'm good at and what makes me happy."
Growing up in Bartlett, Sudbury was always exposed to music. "My folks would drag me and my brothers to a lot of outdoor music festivals in the '70s and '80s, but I was the only kid who was really into it," he remembers. Music took a backseat until he was 15, when a broken arm kept Sudbury off his BMX bike and away from the track team, even though he had a shot at the Olympic trials.
"There was a kid up the street who played guitar in his garage," Sudbury recalls. "He showed me some things, which I'd go home and practice on my brother's guitar. By the time track season came around again, I was already in a band."
Sudbury admits that the music biz is tough. "Distributing the CDs on my own keeps me busy. I'm doing everything -- booking, writing, sales -- and it's wearing me out." He pauses then tells me that his new full-length, Get the Picture, has been on the Cat's Music bestseller list for the last two weeks. "And it's not even officially out yet," Sudbury says, delighted.
The industry is taking notice. This spring, Sudbury's band did a showcase for 13 labels in Los Angeles. "Seven labels are courting us, so we'll go back in July to play for them," he says. "There's a market for what we're doing now. People wanna hear straightforward rock-and-roll, especially if it's from Memphis. We played the Hard Rock CafÇ in Beverly Hills, and when they announced we were from Memphis, it sold the place out."
"Memphis has so much respect and musical heritage," he continues. "Everybody complains about Memphis audiences, but people here are just spoiled because the entertainment is so good. I'm proud to be from here. There's such a wide spectrum of music going on that we take it for granted."
Sudbury plans to stay in Memphis even after his band signs a record deal. "The music community here is getting stronger all the time," he says. "Until you see the rest of the world, you don't appreciate it."
Catch Sudbury at the Get the Picture CD-release party this Friday at the New Daisy Theatre. Doors open at 7 p.m., with DJ Bobby and the Jack Straw Band opening the all-ages show.
Easy Way, the Midtown band helmed by the late great Craig Shindler, is reforming for a CD-release party at Murphy's this Saturday night. "We recorded the album back in 2000, and we wanted to release it as soon as possible but it took awhile," explains guitarist Jonathan Ciaramitaro, who started the group with Shindler in the spring of '99. "Craig wanted to start a band that played his own songs," Ciaramitaro, who now performs with Los Cantadores and The Minivan Blues Band, remembers. He and the rest of Easy Way -- Paul Buchignani, Clint Wagner, and Scott Bomar -- will take the stage at "rock-thirty."
"If you asked Craig what time a show would start, that's how he'd always respond," Ciaramitaro laughs. He says to expect Chris Scott and Jay Sheffield on vocals, as well as special guests like Colin Butler and John Stubblefield onstage at the one-night-only reunion. "The only other time we'd play would be if we got Craigfest going again," he says. "It would be nice to make that an annual event. There will always be musicians wanting to play Craig's music."
You can e-mail Andria Lisle at firstname.lastname@example.org.