Tricked Out Country

Tricked Out Country – the name can be misleading. Obviously, it’s more than just country… but what else does such a name entail? Well, lead singer/guitarist Neil Scott Johnson, drummer/producer Anthony Liccese and trumpeter Ken Scharf have somehow conducted an amazing musical merge: we’re talking country with the classic sounds of jazz and blues. Actually, Johnson describes it better:  “Our sound is an eclectic mix of ‘in-your-face’ country, jazz and blues. The addition of Ken Sharf's horn to country music is one way in which we stand out.  Anthony's production, employing unusual beats, keyboard pads, arrangements and mixes, along with my steady, country-esque vocals and rockstyle guitar, also makes Tricked Out Country stand out.” There it is – all the reason you need to check out the band’s debut self-titled record. Get on it. These guys are spreading the word as we speak, and the road will follow soon after. There’s much, much more to get into, so keep reading for all the answers to the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Tricked Out Country (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out over the others in your genre?

Neil Scott Johnson (NJ): Our sound is an eclectic mix of "in-your-face" country, jazz and blues.The addition of Ken Sharf's horn to country music is one way in which westand out.  Anthony's production, employing unusual beats, keyboard pads,arrangements and mixes, along with my steady, country-esque vocals and rockstyle guitar, also makes Tricked Out Country stand out.

PEV: What kind of music where the members of the band into growing up? Doyou remember your first concert?

NJ: I was into classic rock and many other genres through my parents' recordcollection. My first concert was New Riders of the Purple Sage. Anthony wentthru all the music phases, classic rock, disco etc etc. In his earlychildhood years, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass strongly impressed him.Then came 80s pop-music. Our "hired gun" for this project; Ken Sharf clearlywell rounded, grew up with jazz and actually played with Ray Charles' afeatured soloist for 12 years.

PEV: Tell us your take on the music scene is like in your hometown and whatwas it like trying to break into it?

NJ: The music scene in my hometown of Binghamton, New York, was primarily classic rock. There were many, many music venues that I played in. That hasall changed now. There are less places.

PEV: With that, what can fans expect from a live Tricked Out Country show?

NJ: Tricked Out Country is a studio project, but yes, we do a steady gig inNYC's Times Square about once or twice a month. We are doing it differentthis time. We are concentrating on creating something very different; TheCD/DVD. Then , diverting ALL of our attention on the marketing behind it. Wesimply are not interested in packing up a van and playing clubs all over thecountry before our product has become a household name.   When the interestgrows, so will the gigs. Fans can expect a serious high energy, in yourface, as if playing to an 80,000 person crowd.

PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?

NJ: No matter what, we want to give it our all - all the time. Me personally, I hope my equipment doesn't fail!

PEV: Having all been in other bands before how is playing with Tricked OutCountry different then those other works?

NJ: The standing gig we do is in the NYC theatre district. Many times, thru ourmusic circles we have created, other great "pit" musicians show up and joinus on stage.  For example, occasionally more horn players will show up andwe'll have a full blown horn section. It becomes almost a no-bounds jamsession including world class musicians. It's awesome. Tricked  Out Countryhas recorded and/or performed with Lincoln Schelifer, Bill Holloman, Dan Cipriano, Bill Harris and more.

PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?

NJ: The desire to create art inspires me. Every song comes from somethingdifferent, whether it's a melodic hook or a lyrical phrase.

PEV: What's one thing we'd be surprised to hear about the members of TrickedOut Country?

NJ: We're all former astronauts and have walked on the moon. We don't talkabout it much because must people are just into the music.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a career for you?

NJ: Yes. When I felt it was too late to go back to school and become a labor lawyer.

PEV: Tell us about your latest release.  What can fans expect from this? Howis this different from past works?

NJ: Tricked Out Country is an eclectic mixed bag of in-your-face country songswith a killer jazz trumpet and a very different construction approach.Anthony & I feel, with our different styles and roles in this project, thatwe have created something that is classic.

PEV: How is life on the road for you in the music world? Best and worst parts?

NJ: Again, we are doing it a bit different this time. Recording & Fans first -Then the road. In the past with earlier bands, Anthony & I have done theroad. For example with the Neil Scott Johnson Band, we have opened for RandyTravis, Brooks and Dunn, Billy Ray Cyrus. We simply want to do it differentthis time.

PEV: Is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?

NJ: Unlike Ken Sharf and Anthony, I have not played Europe, but I did hum atune while walking on the moon - hey that's a great song title! Whenready and fully fomented, We would like to take this project worldwide.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What's it like when you get to play at your hometown?

NJ: My friends and family are very proud and supportive. When I play in my hometown people wonder why I still have a day job.

PEV: What can we find each of you doing in your spare time, aside fromplaying/writing music?

NJ: I like spending time with family, snorkeling and pining for fjords.Anthony, also a family man, enjoys golf, watching CNBC business channel, andsports handicapping; especially thoroughbred horse racing.

PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration? Why?

NJ: Present would be Eric Clapton, and past would be Stevie Ray-Vaughn. Becauseof Clapton's professionalism and delivery of a song, and Vaughn, because he was, in Eric Clapton's words, the best blues guitar player that ever lived.While I haven't asked Anthony, I bet he would love to write and record asong with Rush.

PEV:  Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

NJ: We actually have two here, one; my daughter !Miranda Scott, and her newsong, Butterflies, on you-tube and available on iTunes. Anthony and I arefloored by this song; especially her vocal performance! Also, Anthonyconstantly raves about "Empire of the sun". Check out their song "We are thepeople". They are somewhat established however still relatively unknown.This is a perfect example of Anthony's pop influence.  He drives me and myclassic rock foundation nuts! On a more serious note, it is this very mixingof our two very different styles that lead to the very different sound of Tricked Out Country - Where country meets Jazz.

PEV: If you weren't playing music now what do you think each of you would be your career?

NJ: Well, since my days of being an astronaut are over, I think I might want togive a shot at being a doorman at The Plaza Hotel in NYC. Anthony, degreedin engineering holds a position in major telecommunication company managingthe implementation of voice and data solutions.

PEV: So, what is next for Tricked Out Country?

NJ: To concentrate on marketing so that we can spread the word, gain thousandsof fans and do a very serious tour.

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