January 2009

A Little Bit of Chicken Fried

Author: LIndsey Hawkins | Photographer: butch hirsch

“Well it’s funny how it’s the little things in life that mean the most. Not where you live the car you drive or the price tag on your clothes. There’s no dollar sign on a piece of mind, and this I’ve come to know. So if you agree, have a drink with me and raise your glasses for a toast to a little bit of chicken fried and cold beer on a Friday night…”—Zac Brown Band.

Hilton Head Island, we who live here thrive in a very unique cultural blend of northerners and southerners, westerners and locals, old and young, rich and poor, retired and hospitality driven. We are a melting pot, folks, and our identity can sometimes become convoluted. But one thing is certain: Ain’t no party like an HHI party when it comes down to bars, beers and bands.

Now with each year, bands come and go like the tide. And in the last four years, we’ve seen everything from rock bands to alternative and punk bands and even a few bluesy old-time funk and soul bands. But how ’bout them cowboys?!

You’d think on an island off the shore of South Carolina, surrounded by country folk and neighbored by Georgia, we’d have more Southern accents and even more proud country singers to sing a song about the heartland. But alas, we are the Lowcountry marshland, and what we’ve been missing, ya’ll, is the heart of a country music band.

That is until Chris and Christian came together and created, well, Chris and Christian.

“It is what it is,” said Chris Stevers, guitarist and vocalist for Chris and Christian.

This is the laid back appeal of what may be Hilton Head Island’s sole good ol’ boy routine, and their music and performance is anything but sippin’ lemonade on the porch watchin’ the world go by. These cowboys take the music by the guitar strings and piano keys and make sure you stay ’til you’ve had one too many lemonades and one too many scoots around the Electric Piano dance floor.

“I’m not talkin’ cry in your beer country music, but stand up on your table and break somethin’ country music,” said Stevers.

Chris looks like Tim McGraw’s long lost twin, and Christian looks like the boy next door dressed up as a new wave country pop star. With only about 12 years between the duo, it’s fate that put them in a Hargray truck together and talent that brought them out singing a little bit of country and a little bit of rock ’n’ roll.

Chris Stevers, a 42-year-old Yemassee police officer, is no stranger to country music, or the bigger scene, when it comes to being a performer; but you can’t ask him, because modesty and chuckling is all your going to get out of this southern-grown Georgian with a black cowboy hat and a curious interest in your opinion. Born and raised in and around Atlanta, Stevers really wasn’t turned on to the country music scene until his mom and dad took him to see The Whaler’s around age 13.

“I’m right up there looking at him in his prime, and from then on, it was over for me,” said Stevers.

Following the introduction of The Whaler’s, into the curious passionate mind of a 13-year-old came a little influence and hero worship for Willie Nelson and Hank Williams Jr., when the whole country scene was changing in Nashville and country music was kind of reborn in the South. Stevers just picked up a guitar and started learning how to play, around this time, with a little help from friends teaching him chords.

“But I really learned how to play by watching and listening to Alabama on television and radio. I would record them and watch them over and over again and listen to them over and over again until I was self-taught,” said Stevers.

By age 16, playing covers by ear for hobby turned into a few good high school buddies and a garage band. By the time Stevers turned 19, he had joined the local law enforcement, along with a few other band mates, in what sounds like an overnight fairy tale of more than 15 minutes of fame.

Southern Bred, Stevers first real group, became the big local band for the country scene in Atlanta. Having a following from high school and, of course, the reputation of being a bunch of cool young cops who still liked to jam out, Southern Bred not only became a local bar favorite but a local country radio station hit overnight.

Southern Bred did all the morning shows, and was a favorite of Y106, which at the time was one of the CMA (Country Music Awards) stations and most widely listened-to local stations in the Atlanta area. As destiny took a few more leaps for the young cowboys, they just so happened to be playing as one of the top underground bands around the same time Travis Tritt, from the same underground circuit, hit it big.

The fame train brought Stevers to a few major opening gigs for artists such as Neil McCoy. It wasn’t long until Stevers was doing interview after interview on radio morning shows working very closely with Y106, not to mention doing what he could to support his favorite charity, St. Jude’s.

However, all good thing end in due time and, at age 23, Stevers quit the business for love. That’s right—couldn’t have been written any better except in a country song. He ended up on Hilton Head Island about 10 years later, flying solo and meeting the Simpson Brothers at Wingo’s.

One night, after hours, Stevers stayed to hear our own local Brian Simpson play. A friend of his pushed him to go up and jam out for fun. He ended up doing a little Alabama rendition, and that’s when David Wingo poked his head out of his office and gave his nod of approval.

From then on, Stevers spiraled into some of Hilton Head’s favorite gigs. He played with David Wingo and got the opportunity to open for the Charlie Daniels Band in Sea Pines in front of 3,000 of us locals. He played with Jeff Cook, from Alabama, right here in Bluffton. He also was a frequent guest spot with Scott Morlock at Electric Piano. But it was the fated break from law enforcement and chance musical conversation in a Hargray truck with current duo partner, Christian, that brought us our own little cowboy routine.

Christian, born Marshall James Young III, started his musical interest at age six in good ol’ Columbia, Ga. His father played guitar and his sister had nine years of piano lessons under her belt. Christian had an ear for music and a rare young love for learning. But like Stevers, Christian learned to play by ear.

“I had two piano lessons and decided I didn’t want to learn all the black lines and dots; I just wanted to play really well,” said Christian.

By age eight, Christian was recording himself on the piano and handing it out to his friends. This is when you know a performer is born. At age 10, piano was boring and guitar was cool. Christian’s dad taught him chords G, C, and D and sent him on his play- by-ear ways.

Christian has learned the theory of music but still can’t read it to this day. His self-proclaimed teaching staff included the likes of Metallica. He was a metal head at a young age and bought books on Metallica’s music and looked up tabs on the Internet; but like Stevers, Chris bought all his favorite CDs, listened and played, trial and error, on the chords until he was self-taught.

“Metallica taught me more about music then anything else because they were classically trained,” Christian said.

He started writing songs at age 10 and also had a garage band in high school that hit it big with the local high school crowds. But Christian’s passion for music placed him in the working musician’s world of wedding DJ and Karaoke master. He has worked locally in these two genres of entertainment as well as jammed out, Reggae-style, in the background of a few bands. However, his passion for music started the discussion with Stevers that landed him the foreground gift of playing in Chris and Christian.

Chris and Christian started in February, 2008, playing a few Electric Piano favorites and a whole lot of something this island needs—and that’s country music. Christian leads the duo on piano and vocals keeping the crowd momentum while Stevers tears it up cowboy-style on the guitar and vocals.

Both musicians have created a good time for a lot of locals. You can’t watch or listen without hitting the dance floor and feeling the honky tonk. But there is more to be had from these dynamic country boys. Their history proves talent; and while they can sing the stuff out of Brooks & Dunn and Alabama, they are songwriters and true musicians at heart.

There is something to be said for the musician’s struggle. It is the starving artist theory: There are people in this world who live for the love of the game. And so, in the words of Brad Paisley, “Just get you a guitar and learn how to play. Cut up some jeans, come up with a name. When you’re living in a world that you don’t understand, find a few good buddies and start a band.”

You can look forward to Chris and Christian’s first album, to be released this spring, 2009. To keep up with Chris and Christian, check out their new Web site at www.chrisandchristian.com and come see them play this February at Electric Piano.

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