By Caitlin Forsha –
Festival of the Bells committee president and entertainment chairman Rick Williams and Hillsboro Ministerial Association spokesperson Brian Robinson have announced the three artists set to perform at the 2017 Festival of the Bells, scheduled for July 6-8.
William Michael Morgan will be performing Friday night at the festival, while Brett Young will headline the show on Saturday night.
The Christian act for Thursday night will be Danny Gokey.
Williams said that the committee is excited for this year’s festival, and he believes the talent this year is outstanding.
“We had four people on our radar this year,” Williams said. “I was able to see the other two, and I did not think that they probably would fit in as well as these two in Hillsboro, so we went after them first.
“They’ve been out with Brad Paisley, who’s been here, and people like that and totally blossomed. They pick up a lot of showmanship with that.”
Williams thanked the Festival’s sponsors, including two new sponsors this year, Russ Newman Insurance and Charlie Mootz Trucking.
“We couldn’t do it without our sponsors,” Williams said. “There are a lot of people in the community that care about Hillsboro and Highland County. I think it’s important to give back to the community.
“I can look back at paying $11,000 for Brad Paisley. He’s about $750 [thousand] per show now. Taylor Swift, we paid $6,000, and she’s $1.5 million today. We try to get them early because we can’t afford them any other time.”
Williams encouraged any businesses interested in assisting with the Festival to contact him at (937) 393-9447.
“We’re always looking for corporate sponsors,” Williams said.
The regular country music slate at the Festival will begin with William Michael Morgan, who will perform Friday night at the Festival.
A biography of Morgan provided by Williams says that Grammy-nominated producer and executive vice president of A&R at Warner Music Nashville Scott Hendricks describes Morgan as “one of the very best singers I have ever recorded.”
“I will never forget the first time we went into the studio and heard William Michael’s voice come across the speakers,” Hendricks said. “It was a jaw-dropping experience.”
Williams said that he thinks Morgan will have “great success.”
“I think William Michael Morgan is more like real country,” Williams said.
According to his website (williammichaelmorgan.com), Morgan’s current release is the song “Missing,” after his “sweetly romantic” debut single “I Met A Girl” charted in the Billboard Top 10. Williams said that Morgan’s next single will be “Back Seat Driver.”
Morgan’s debut album, “Vinyl,” debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart, according to the Billboard website.
Although he’s just 22, the Mississippi native Morgan began performing with “a band of middle-aged musicians who shared his love of Keith Whitley, Merle Haggard and George Jones.” He began traveling back and forth to Nashville to write at 16 and moved there permanently at age 18, according to his biography.
“I like to sing about love. I’m a lover, not a fighter,” Morgan said in the biography. “I like to write about having a good time. I’m a typical 22-year-old.”
Brett Young will headline the 2017 Festival of the Bells and is sure to please Festival fans with his upbeat “West Coast-meets-Southern sound,” highlighted by his number-one hit “Sleep Without You.”
Williams said that Young is nominated for the New Male Vocalist award at the Academy of Country Music Awards and was a perfect choice for the Saturday night show. Williams predicts Young will “explode” into the country music industry with continued success.
“I think Brett Young is going to boom, boom, boom,” Williams said.
According to his biography was initially a pre-draft selection by the Tampa Bay Rays out of high school, but he turned to music after “a major elbow injury took him off the pitcher’s mound for good.” Following three independent albums, Young is currently enjoying success with his self-titled debut album, which was just released in February.
The “Brett Young” album includes the aforementioned “Sleep Without You,” as well as his latest single, “In Case You Didn’t Know.” The romantic hit is currently No. 29 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart.
Young is scheduled to appear in concert this year with several former Festival headliners, including stops on Justin Moore’s “American Made” tour with Lee Brice and Lady Antebellum’s “You Look Good” tour.
Danny Gokey will open the 2017 Festival of the Bells, as the contemporary Christian singer will perform in a concert on Thursday night sponsored by the Hillsboro Ministerial Association.
Gokey will be promoting his latest album, “Rise,” which was released this January. Its first single, the title track “Rise,” has already reached No. 1 on the Billboard Christian Airplay chart. According to Gokey’s website (dannygokey.com), he is also touring with Casting Crowns.
Gokey, a Top Three finalist on the eighth season of “American Idol,” gained attention on the show after his wife died of surgery complications shortly before his audition. Robinson said that experience is reflected in Gokey’s music.
“Some of these songs he has written obviously have been at very low points in his life,” Robinson said. “Our community’s no different from many other small towns in America. There’s a lot of hurt, heartache and suffering going on right now, and I really feel like his songs will reach out to a lot of people.”
Gokey began his recording career as a country artist with his successful debut album “My Best Days,” according to his website. After being nominated for an American Country Award and touring with Sugarland and one-time Festival of the Bells headliner Taylor Swift, Gokey “broadened his sound to match a more inclusive message.”
Gokey’s second album, “Hope in Front of Me,” was a number-one hit and included the smash singles “Tell Your Heart To Beat Again” and the title track. He also released a Christmas album, “Christmas Is Here,” in 2015, with the hit single “Lift Up Your Eyes.”
The Christian opening act event is sponsored by churches in Highland and surrounding counties, along with local businesses. Robinson said that it is only through God that this event is possible.