While the Goo Goo Dolls were closing out their first Alaskan concert at the ConocoPhillips Borealis Theatre last Friday, a young quartet of country singers were gutting it out in the pouring rain on the more discrete Colony Stage. A small contingent of fair-goers huddled together on the soaked green wooden benches circling the stage as the band belted out a version of the Oak Ridge Boys’ “Elvira”. The four-part harmony cut like butter through the competing squeals of the delight from the adjacent carnival rides. Then, out of nowhere, the unexpected deep bass of singer Blake Whitlock punctuated the harmony and brought the small crowd to its feet -- “Giddy Up, Oom Poppa Oom Poppa Mow Mow”. A few bars later another solo featured an even more surprising vocal tone – this time it was the silky-smooth alto of Randy Austin who sounds remarkably like Rascal Flatts’ Gary LeVox.
“Yeah, I never hit puberty,” joked Austin.
For their final number, the quartet shifted into vocal high-gear to perform their country-rock single “Pool Party”. As the pounding drumbeat dropped, young audience members rushed the stage to dance – the remaining seated adults clapped along with giant grins gracing their faces.
Produced by eight-time Grammy nominee and three-time BMI Music Award winner Wayne Haun, the Nashville-based quartet, better known as 4th + Main, are just beginning their journey to country music stardom but already, they are skilled in the art of wooing fans.
“Man, I’m not used to this kind of cold! I’m sorry if my hands are freezing,” said singer Chase McDaniel apologetically as he greeted fans after the performance. Judging by blushing cheeks of his female admirers, McDaniel’s cold hands were the last thing on their minds. The 24-year-old’s steely blue eyes and deep southern accent undoubtedly make him the hunk the of the Nashville-based 4th + Main. It’s a title his bandmates are happy to poke fun at.
“[Chase] is definitely a good ole southern boy – he’s a ladies man or I guess, charming,” heckled McDaniel’s bandmate Chris Chavez when asked to describe McDaniels in one word. McDaniels’ bandmates nodded knowingly.
Formed just over a year ago, the genuine comradery of 4th and Main is remarkably palpable both on and off stage.
“I think the most fortunate thing about this group is that we get along so well! Actually, our sessions band was telling us earlier today that they never get to play with people who actually like each other. We're actually friends and we actually hang out – it really feels like a brotherhood,” said McDaniels before recounting a moment from the previous month when his bandmates helped him through a pre-concert panic attack.
McDaniels isn’t the only one in the band feeling the love. The band’s alto, Randy Austin, knew they had something special the first day all four members where in the same room.
“We all flew into Nashville and sang for Wayne for the first time – Wayne’s a man of very few words and you won’t get much out of him often – but when he heard us, he said ‘yeah, that’s it’. Which in Wayne-speak means, yeah that’s really great! I think that’s when I knew this was going to work,” said Austin.
United by deep country roots, the young singers found their way to country music via gospel.
“I grew up listening to [my grandfather] singing these old gospel songs in church with a small country quartet. He traveled to-and-fro with them with them singing harmony -- so it was at a really young age that I was listening to gospel harmonies. When I got older, I got into country music and you know listening to the harmonies of it. I got my guitar when I was 15 and it wasn’t long before I was writing songs,” said McDaniels who was raised by his grandparents in Greensburg, Kentucky.
McDaniels credits country superstar Josh Turner’s song “Gravity” as the impetus for him finding country music. Not surprisingly, McDaniels’ one baritone voice directly reflects his inspiration.
“His voice is just so mellow and smooth – not just lyrically but his tone. I was so drawn to the song because I believed that’s what country music can be and it was beautiful,” gushed McDaniels.
Among the band’s other influences are Rascal Flatts, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban and Garth Brooks. With the incredible vocal range of 4th + Main, fans will easily recognize each of the band’s heroes in their self-titled EP.
Despite their undeniable talent, 4th + Main is still humble and just happy to be playing their music.
“We’ve been in Alaska for about ten days now and we just think it’s gorgeous! We were in Ninilchik before this playing at a small country festival and like, that was the highlight of my trip – I got to see a volcano,” McDaniels said enthusiastically. “We definitely want to come back and play the State Fair on the big stage!”
For now, 4th + Main will return to Nashville with their new touring experience under the belts in hopes of securing a record contract.