Exclusive Preview: Riverbend 2018

By Katie Faulkner

Hundreds of talented artists, both established and up-and-coming, are tuning up to play for crowds of nearly 700,000 festival goers at Riverbend 2018. This eight-day music fest always fills the banks of Chattanooga’s 21st Century Waterfront with country, rock, and pop fans. With less than six weeks until the gates open, it’s time to check out the lineup, start brushing up on your favorite jams, and grab your wristbands. In this exclusive Riverbend preview, CityScope® magazine talks to four headliners about what we can look forward to at this year’s festival.

Cam

Bud Light Stage  /  Sunday, June 10  /  8 p.m.

 


After releasing her debut album just three short years ago, Cam has enjoyed numerous hit singles, a Grammy nomination, and one of the top-selling country albums of 2015 with Untamed. As an immensely talented lyricist, she draws her inspiration from nostalgic crooners to present-day pop princesses. She took the time to tell us about her roots, her influences, and her heart-baring performance style.


CS: With a background of writing in different genres of music, what drew you to the country style? Who are some of your biggest influences?

C: The lyrics. The stories. The heartbreak. Hearing Patsy Cline croon through the speakers at my grandparents’ ranch. But all kinds of music influences me, from St. Vincent to Indigo Girls to Randy Newman to Bon Iver!

CS: You’ve recently celebrated your first #1 hit single and a Grammy nomination with Burning House, as well as your first platinum album with Untamed. Can you pinpoint or describe the moment you first felt like you’d “made it” and broken into the music industry?

C: I care much more about being meaningful to individual people than I do about “making it” in the industry. The industry was created around art, and sometimes the industry forgets that they are just a conduit. They are supposed to be helping good music reach those who need it. Just seeing crowds sing Diane at the top of their lungs these past couple months (I have to play it twice at most shows), even with almost no radio airplay – that’s been more rewarding than anything.

CS: You’ve been singing since an early age and working in the music industry for years. What are the moments you enjoy most about this career? Is it writing, recording in the studio, performing, something else?

C: Writing is frustrating because it’s hard and a vulnerable place to be. But once it’s all done, I get to see people’s faces as I sing to them. Seeing it in their eyes, feeling the connection, realizing we have the same hurt or joy or whatever – that’s my favorite part.

CS: At Riverbend you’ll be performing for an outdoor festival audience – what can fans expect from your live show?

C: It’s a dynamic show! There are loud moments and tender moments and everything in between. I also love telling the stories behind songs. I’m a talker, so you’ll really know me better by the end of it!


(above) photo by Dennis Leupold

Flo Rida artist at riverbend 2018 in chattanooga


Flo Rida

Coca Cola Stage  /  Thursday, June 14  /  9:30 p.m.

 


A bona fide superstar, Flo Rida has been making hits for over a decade, selling over 100 million records, which ranks him among the world’s best-selling artists. Consistently producing up-tempo dance hits and exciting new singles which resonate with numerous cultures, Flo has amassed a world-wide fan base. He has been working hard on his fifth studio album, expected this summer, but took some time to tell us about his ascent to the international stage and his personal hopes and goals. He also made sure we knew, when he makes it to Riverbend, it’s going down – for real.


CS: Celebrating the 10th anniversary of your debut album, Mail On Sundays, which included your megahit Low, how do you feel about where you are as both an artist and a person now?

FR: Blessed. I am truly blessed. Ten years ago I had been working since I was 15 years old to break into the industry. To go from sleeping on floors, cots, and couches to selling out stadiums all around the world is truly a blessing.

CS: Arguably one of the most successful artists of our generation, achieving international acclaim, can you tell us about your approach to cultivating and maintaining such mass appeal?

FR: I live in the studio. No matter where I am, I’m constantly working on songs. I’m in the club almost every night observing  the trends, the people, and the music that people respond to.

CS: Your music is so upbeat, with many singles often topping the charts as dance hits. Can you tell us about how you developed your style and what some of your influences are?

FR: Well coming from Miami, the music I heard growing up was up-tempo. Artists like 2 Live Crew, DJ Uncle Al, and MC Shy D rapped fast and kind of established the Miami sound. My rapping style is all “305,” but Miami is an international city – a gumbo of cultures – so that made my transition from local to international rapper pretty seamless.

CS: At just 38 years old, where do you hope to see yourself in the next 10 years? What are some must-do, bucket-list goals you hope to accomplish?

FR: I pray that I’m still creating. My passion remains the same. I’ll probably be producing and developing other artists on my International Music Group Label (IMG). I’m also looking to do more film. Bucket list? A big budget action film co-starring with my brother, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Musically I’d love to collaborate with Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Dr. Dre, Pharrell, The Weekend, or Bruno Mars.

CS: What can the Riverbend audience expect from a live Flo Rida performance?

FR: Aw man, energy! The show is non-stop ENERGY. My band Flo Fusion, my DJ Kronik, and my dancers “The Wild Ones” all have their own cult followings. I’m the “leader of my band” so you know I’m the livest one, but I can’t tell you everything … It’s a surprise.


(above) photo by Raphael Simien

Switchfoot  

Coca Cola Stage  /  Tuesday, June 12  /  9 p.m.

 


With nearly 22 years in the music industry, 10 original albums, over 30 awards including a Grammy, and hits such as Dare You to Move and This Is Your Life, Switchfoot has carved their own path with conviction to redefine alternative rock. With deep themes laced throughout their lyrics, Switchfoot uses their art as a way to challenge fans’ thoughts and seamlessly cross genre lines with provocative questions. We spoke with drummer Chad Butler about the band’s sincere approach to making music, their latest album, and what they enjoy about Chattanooga.


CS: You guys have been going strong for over 20 years and have seen several metamorphoses – most recently by taking a well-deserved break for the first time. What does playing Riverbend represent to you guys?

CB: Yes! We have been home in San Diego lately, and Riverbend is one of a few shows we’ll be playing this year. We love Tennessee! We’ve had some really fun shows in Chattanooga over the years. I remember last time at Track 29, the crowd was amazing!

CS: As a group, you’re very open about your Christian influences, yet, as your website explains, you tend to “defy classification.” Can you tell us your thought process behind avoiding labels?

CB: I think your worldview always influences your art. Our approach has always been to make honest music and to ask big questions. No one likes to be labeled or put in a box. We’ve been called a “rock band for thinking people,” and I don’t mind that one.

CS: Your lyrics are also usually quite introspective, often full of questions. What is a driving influence behind your music?

CB: We don’t take ourselves seriously, but we do take our music seriously. In music, you have an ability to explore the world through a song, to talk about things that might not be so easy in everyday conversation. We gravitate toward challenging themes of hope, faith, doubt, love, loss, and the human condition. Those are issues we wrestle with and the questions that keep us up at night.

CS: For your latest album, Where the Light Shines Through, you guys teamed up with producer John Fields again. (Fields helped Switchfoot produce their groundbreaking megahit albums, The Beautiful Letdown and Nothing Is Sound.) What brought about the reunion with Fields?

CB: Working with John Fields is amazing! He has so much energy – it’s contagious! We reunited at a show in Minneapolis and started talking about getting the dream team back together. We’ve all learned a lot since we worked together last, so this record was a really enjoyable process.

CS: Is there anything in particular that you’re looking forward to about playing Riverbend?

CB: Rock ’n roll in the summer in Tennessee? Yes, please!


(above) photo by Chris Hershman

Dustin Lynch artist at riverbend 2018 in chattanooga

 


Dustin Lynch

Coca Cola Stage  /  Wednesday, June 13  /  9:30 p.m.

 


Since breaking onto the scene just six short years ago, Dustin Lynch has gone from promising up-and-comer to one of the hottest talents in country music today. Touring with Brad Paisley, he released his third studio album, Current Mood, in September of last year, and it debuted at #2 on the Billboard Top Country Music Albums chart. With eight hit singles that have all been certified either gold or platinum, the sky is the limit for Lynch. We spoke with this country stud to get his thoughts on the future of country, what his live performance is like, and his recent, unconventional gift to Brad Paisley.


CS: Just six years after the release of your first album, how does it feel to look back to your college years playing the Bluebird Café in Nashville and think of how far you’ve come?

DL: Gosh, honestly we’ve just been reflecting on this because we just got a nomination yesterday for Top Country Song at the Billboard Music Awards, and it’s amazing to think back. It’s been a fun ride, and it seems like it happened overnight. I graduated from college in 2007, and 11 years later I’m still getting to live my dream. There have been a lot of shows and songs recorded to get to this point. There have been a lot of people that have believed in me and my music and have put in so much hard work to get to this point. It’s just such a blessing.

CS: Your latest album, Current Mood, really shows a next-generation approach to country music that blends several styles. Can you tell us a bit about where you see country music heading?

DL: Right now it seems like country music is absorbing a lot of different influences, and it’s great. It allows you to develop your own voice and sound. This album was developed over the course of a few years, and when a melody or a line hit, I would go in and record it. It’s very autobiographical – I’ve lived through all of these songs. So it’s always great to see other people in the crowd connecting.

CS: You’ve been touring with Brad Paisley this year on the Weekend Warrior World Tour and recently thanked him by giving him a baby goat on stage! Tell us what inspired the choice of a goat.

DL: I mean what can you give Brad Paisley? The guy has everything! But I figured I really needed to give him some sort of thank you gift for taking me on tour with him. So when I took her out on stage I told him that he’s one of the greatest of all time, and I thought a G.O.A.T. needed a goat. I named her Tele, short for Telecaster guitars (which are Brad’s favorite). She’s a 12-week-old Nigerian dwarf goat. I’ve been following Brad and his wife on social media since then, and she’s made a couple of cameos on their stories.

CS: You’ve gained a reputation as a high-energy live performer. What can fans expect from your Riverbend performance?

DL: It’s going to be a dance party! We live to be on that stage, and we love to have fun and get everybody dancing and singing. I’m sure there will be new music played. I’m constantly writing and recording, and we’re currently designing a new stage show right now, so yeah, there will be some new stuff too!