APRIL 29, 2020
North Carolina's CLIFF WHEELER is a musician powerhouse putting guts and grit in to his own brand of heavy hitting country music.
When I was looking through the submissions coming in and heard a song called “Sober Again” my ears perked up and I tuned my whole mind into the screen.

Cliff Wheeler is a performer and songwriter from North Carolina’s Lemon Springs. He’s got a heavy sound that blends hard rock, blues, and country music with outlaw mentalities. It’s hard, raw, and full of old-school country-heart. The end product feels like a hot sunny day in a lawn chair watching the sun crest the pines; you’ve got a case of beer and nowhere to go.

With that right there, I want to start off with this: I ask every country-music interviewee about their thoughts on how the genre is changing. I loved what Cliff came back with. “Country music has changed so much in my life time. It's almost like it isn't the same genre anymore. That probably sounds funny coming from me, as we push the boundaries. I'm thankful for folks like Cody Jinks, Ward Davis and Whitey Morgan who are keeping the tradition of "outlaw country" style alive. I just can't dig the overproduced stuff, no offence intended to anyone. It's just not to my liking. As far as the CWB [Cliff Wheeler Band] goes, we just do what we do. I've had people get a little out off and say "that ain't country"! My response is usually two things, "have you listened to me talk?" and "as long as it's good, I don't care.” I don’t care either. I agree 100%. If it feels good, and it sounds good, it is good! I really appreciate that even though Cliff has watched the genre evolve over the years, he hasn’t allowed the curmudgeons break his spirit of innovation, or acquiesce to the trends. He’s making the music he wants to, and that’s the way it should be. that’s the type of artist you should be spending dollars on.

Cliff started playing guitar at the age of seven. Even though his father was almost fired over the ordeal (ask Cliff about it sometime through his social media) nothing has got in the way of his long and storied career. Through college he cut his teeth at the occasional pick up gig and party, but he didn’t start performing professionally until the mid 80’s. Even then, he hadn’t begun performing under his own brand until a few buddies got together, whom were all performing with other acts, and started playing his own tunes. “A radio station out Wilmington, NC got ahold of the track "Judgement Day" and asked me to participate in the North Carolina portion of a national country music competition sponsored by a major media company. At first, I was reluctant as I didn't have a band, but eventually decided to give it a shot and what do you know? In our first live performance, we won. That's how the initial touring group came together.” That was just in 2017 and how his first touring act formed. I love when you see media outlets invest in the up and comers like this. I’ve seen radio stations time and time again put out “support local business” PSAs or say “we support out locals” and go right back to playing the top of the billboard charts. That’s the music equivalent of Facebook moms posting “support small business” and still heading to Walmart to buy what they need on discount. It’s great to see this kind of thing happen and I’m happy to read about it.

I wanted to know what was coming up next for Cliff Wheeler and his band. He told me, “Going forward I've got a new solo acoustic song coming out May the 1st titled "Farewell Song", but don't worry. I'm not planning on going anywhere. We've got another full band single that will be coming out July the 4th titled “Sunshine”. He went to on to say, “We are very excited about both songs, but especially "Sunshine"! It has a killer groove and a real swampy feel to it. We think it may be our biggest song to pressure there! As soon as we can, we will be back on the road…” I’m excited to see where they’re taking the sound on this next set of releases. Innovative bands have this innate ability to surprise me with how they can take what they’re doing and improve the landscape.

Even with a solo acoustic song on the way, you loud & rowdy Wheeler fans need not worry: “We prefer to do full blown loud electric shows, but those include a couple of solo tunes as a change of pace. We also do a surprising number of "unplugged" shows. We are getting better and better at doing those. Eventually I will probably do some solo shows, but for now I'm going to do as much as I can with this lineup. This is a killer band. I can't say enough about them. Gary is an amazing guitarist, Garret is the current Carolina Country Music Association Bassist of the Year and Johnny is rounding into the perfect drummer for the CWB.”

Cliff Wheeler is a great guy with some great things to say, both in his music and off the stage. His band push boundaries, and in the directions they feel in their own hearts, not the hearts of music execs. It’s great to see this, and I want to see more of it. Thanks for chatting with us today Cliff! Check him out on facebook or on his website

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