We are back with the Building the Community Series, as I sat down and talked to Hunter Baxter and Brett Gibbons about how they started the Tailgate Country podcast. I have been following these guys for a while. They have really made something of themselves and continue to shine with a high level of work ethic and passion for Country Music, and I'm excited to see where they take Tailgate Country. The boys already have over 100 episodes and have hosted guests such as Wade Bowen, Michael Ray, Tyler Braden and many more. For those just finding out Tailgate Country, Brett described who they are and what they do: "We are a podcast that interviews Country Music artists, songwriters and whoever is in the industry, up and coming and interesting. Our tagline is "where artists tell their stories". We give these individuals a longer platform as compared to let's say a radio show. We are different from other podcasts because we don't just have them on to promote their new EP or album. For example, we had Michael Ray on and we wanted to know "who is Michael Ray?"...like how many times has he really been asked that in the last couple of years? Probably none. We like to ask where they are from, who their influences are; an open forum to get to know who they are. I talk with Hunter and Brett about how they got started, from random roommates who loved Cody Johnson to growing a podcast together and where they plan to take Tailgate Country next.
Get To Know Hunter
"I'm originally from Columbus, Ohio and grew up playing hockey, baseball and golf.
I have listened to Country Music my entire life - my parents always had it on in the car wherever we went. I honestly wasn't really into music until I got into college. We both went to Bowling Green State University in Ohio. I don't know if you would call Bowling Green a "country school", but it's out in the cornfields. Honestly, I fell in love with Country Music. A lot of my friends liked it and got me into it. I just moved to Nashville, the podcast has brought me here. Back in 2018, I came to CMA Fest with my mom, walked down Broadway and told myself "I'm going to move here in a few years". As of this past summer, I've been down here 6 times. The podcast has brought me tons of friends so I can come down to visit and go out and watch their shows. One pretty cool thing is that Twenty One Pilots are from my hometown. I went to school with their younger siblings and that was when I realized artists are normal people just like us. Brett and I met in college and were college roommates. One thing that Brett and I bonded over as random roommates was that we both loved Cody Johnson. This was 5 years ago, before anyone really knew who Cody Johnson was. We saw him play in Lexington, Kentucky, 4 hours down interstate 75. Went there and back in one night just to see him play."
Get To Know Brett
"I'm originally from just west of Cleveland, Ohio. Unlike Hunter, I didn't grow up listening to Country Music. My parents didn't listen to it and I didn't listen to it until late high school. Let me tell you how I got into it. The Little League World Series was on in 2013 and Jason Aldean's "My Kinda Party" was the theme song. I listened and I was like "damn this is pretty good". I dove into that album and it was my introduction to Country Music. At that time, I was listening to early Aldean, early Dierks, even Brantley Gilbert and I really fell in love with the sound. Hunter and I were random roommates at Bowling Green. He told me how much he liked Country Music and introduced me to some of my favorite artists like Muscadine Bloodline. Likewise, I introduced him to some of his favorite artists like Riley Green. I moved down to Texas to take a job recruiting football players at Texas State. It was 60 hours a week, no pay, I had to pay rent from my savings and was bartending at a hotel for a while. Now I write for a Sports Betting website and work for Google. Outside of that, if it's not Country Music, it's football, and my fiancé and dog too."
Q & A With Hunter Baxter & Brett Gibbons
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Tailgate Country and how did this journey start for you both?
A: Brett: "I wish it was more interesting, but I was getting into podcasts so I texted Hunter and our other friend Brian and said "there's like no Country Music podcasts out there". All of the messages in our group chat were about Country Music. So I just thought why not get behind a mic and talk about this stuff. The first iteration of Tailgate was not what you hear today. There were no plans. I had to spend 4 hours cutting it because we were always saying "uh" and "um" and "yeah" and there were spots of awkward silence."
Hunter: "We talked about songs we liked and didn't like and random news stuff. I think we saw there were not at the time many Country Music podcasts or pages. At the time we really only knew of Whiskey Riff and I thought we could do something similar to that and really focus on younger artists. Before our second iteration of the podcast, we took some time off from it."
Brett: "Our schedules were impossible to figure out at the time."
Hunter: "We started back up again when COVID began. We thought artists would have more time since we couldn't do anything. We’d contact someone and see if they wanted to jump on a zoom with us and talk about themselves. That's really how we got going."
Brett: : "In a weird way, COVID saved our podcast and totally changed it. Zoom gave us a reliable source where there is no clipping, no weird audio stuff and it records everything for you in the app. Our first ever guest was Kurt Freeman, around the 4th of July. He's our intro/outro to this day - our buddy from Cleveland who is an artist. We had him on and did a segment with a fantasy snake draft, picking the most patriotic country songs. It started with people we liked and who were up and coming. A couple of our first guests included Wynn Williams and Manny Blu. Hunter and I noticed that once we stopped recording, the artists would always tell us how much they enjoyed coming on and how they don't get to do that type of interaction very often. That's really how we got going."
Q: Most memorable moment so far with Tailgate Country?
A: Hunter: "I think for me it was our episode with Kolby Cooper. We got on the Zoom with him and he seemed shy at first. 10 minutes in he asked, "am I allowed to cuss on here?" and then he really opened up. For me, that was my favorite moment so far."
Brett: "Most memorable moment is tough, since there are quite a few of them. I have to go back to the Wynn Williams podcast, because our schedules didn't work out and I had to do the interview by myself. It was way in the infancy of the podcast and I was NERVOUS. I’d seen him play a few times live and he was the only guest that I've seen live up to that point. I asked him to be on the podcast in person as he was opening up for Parker McCollum in Austin. He was such a cool guy and when we stopped recording he said "dude, I love what you guys are doing". To hear that from a guy I've watched on stage, listened to his music and bought his merch, was really cool. The other one we interviewed was Matt Burrill and Tyler Lessard. They told us that when we come down to Nashville to hangout with them and actually see them in person."
Hunter: "Going off that, we interviewed an artist named Tory Grace, it's been 8 months now. She was playing at a round recently and I didn't think she would recognize me. She did and came up and gave me a hug. Just the appreciation we get from the artists that have been on really means a lot."
Q: What is your vision for Tailgate Country and what do you get out of it?
A: Hunter: "My vision for it now, since I'm in Nashville, is to start doing some in person interviews. To date we've only done stuff over Zoom since we are in different states. I think we are still going to have the original Tailgate Country podcast and hopefully lean that toward bigger artists. I want to start a side podcast for smaller artists where they can come over to my place or I can go to their place, sit down, do the podcast and they can play a couple songs to help get their name out that way. Those are some of my plans for the next couple of months."
Q: What advice do you have for anyone who's trying to become an entrepreneur and start their own podcast, business, service etc.?
A: Hunter: "Don't give up. You never know where it could take you. When we started this, we joked about getting a job in the music business or becoming a talent scout for Sony Music or something like that. Now, 2 years later, I'm moving to Nashville and trying to find a job in the music industry."
Brett: "To branch off of what Hunter said, we say this amongst ourselves all the time. You never know who's going to say yes, so take a swing. I know that's kind of a cliche answer, but we've had people accept an invite that we didn't think would. That goes not only with podcasting, but really anything. The worst people can do is say no. How they say it is a different story. Take big swings."