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Newton County singer-songwriter makes headway in country music industry

Mansfield resident Gannon Adams will showcase his country music talent on Saturday, March 20 at Shawn O'Brien's Road House in Covington and on Saturday, April 6 at 8 p.m. at the Olde Town Pavilion in Conyers, as part of the Conyers Rockdale Council for the Arts performance season.

Mansfield resident Gannon Adams will showcase his country music talent on Saturday, March 20 at Shawn O'Brien's Road House in Covington and on Saturday, April 6 at 8 p.m. at the Olde Town Pavilion in Conyers, as part of the Conyers Rockdale Council for the Arts performance season.

Newton County native Gannon Adams has been able to gain considerable traction -- and attention -- in the country music business, thanks in no small part to a pair of American cultural icons.

The 26-year-old singer-songwriter, who calls Mansfield home, got an initial boost last April when he opened for the legendary Merle Haggard at the famed Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.

Adams, who subsequently opened shows for Haggard in Macon and at Pigeon Forge in Tennessee, said just being in the same room with his boyhood idol was inspiring.

"Opening up for Merle Haggard at the Ryman was just awesome, because he's my hero and I grew up listening to him," said Adams. "For me to be on that show and two other shows with him was incredible. He signed my guitar and we got a chance to talk. He's got some amazing stories. He's really not into the new country music -- he's still doing that old-style country."

In December, Adams traveled to Texas to perform his song "Game Face" (co-written with James Colt and Charlie Gilbert) at the Vince Lombardi Trophy awards show. In the fall, Adams was contacted by CBS-TV's "College Today" anchor Spencer Tillman, who invited him to the show after hearing "Game Face."

"I was approached by Spencer Tillman, who was looking for a positive, up-tempo song for this show," said Adams, who added that "Game Face" has also been unofficially adopted as a theme song by the Wounded Warriors organization. "I went to Nashville and probably wrote six or seven songs, but nothing I wrote hit me like 'Game Face' did.

"When we sent (Tillman) the song, he loved it and (CBS) had a video shot of us in Nashville at the Silver Dollar Saloon, and then they flew us to Houston, where I had a live speaking part on national television and they played the video. That was a cool opportunity."

Adams' career has moved into the express lane ("Things are moving real fast," he said), and he's finally reached the point where he's given up his day job at Conyers-based Key Curving & Paving.

"I guess you could say I'm making a living at music," he said. "I'm focusing all my energy on music. It's my job now and it's great, but it's still a tough job."

The 2005 graduate of Eastside High School said he's always loved country music and has owned a guitar since he was 13, but his desire to perform and write didn't heat up until he moved to Tifton to study at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.

After college, he met Barry Williams (the father of country superstar Jason Aldean) who helped him get started and was instrumental last summer in helping Adams record his first album, "Breaking Me Down," at Johnson Brothers Recording Studio in Covington.

Adams, who had no previous recording experience, admitted he was a little nervous at first but then let his instincts take over.

"I'd never done studio work before and when I recorded the album, I didn't even have a band -- that came later," he said. "It was really the first time I'd ever recorded at all. But it all came natural -- right from the very beginning, I just fell right in with the tracks."

With the album completed ("Breaking Me Down" is available for sale at all of Adams' shows and "Game Face" can be downloaded from iTunes), Adams and his band -- Ronnie Williams (bass), Daile Allman (drums), Tony Moon (guitar) and Nathan Singer (guitar) -- have been playing out regularly, and Adams makes frequent forays to Nashville for songwriting sessions and showcase performances.

"We're playing around a lot and we'll continue doing that," he said. "I just want to get better and better at what I'm doing. We're working toward getting a record deal, so we're keeping busy playing as much as possible... We've been traveling all over the place, really beating the bushes. And we've been getting a good response -- when we go back somewhere for the second time, the crowds are bigger and bigger."

Adams and his band have a pair of local dates scheduled, on Saturday, March 30 at Shawn O'Brien's Road House in Jackson, Ga. and on Saturday, April 6 at the Olde Town Pavilion in Conyers, as part of the Conyers Rockdale Council for the Arts performance season.

Adams -- who lives near the Newton-Jasper county line -- said he enjoys playing close to home and getting reacquainted with old friends and classmates.

"I always like playing at home," he said. "For one thing, you always get a good crowd and many times you get a chance to see people you haven't seen in a while. The last time I played in Covington, I ran into a guy I hadn't seen since we graduated. He didn't even know what I was doing before that night.

"There are a lot of people around here who don't know what I'm up to, so it's fun to show them what I'm doing now and build a fan base close to home."

For more information on Gannon Adams, visit www.gannonadams.com. To learn more about the Conyers concert, visit www.conyersarts.org.