By Anthony J. Machcinski
While country music can’t be listed as one of the more popular music genres today, a resurgence in country music, led by artists like Toby Keith, the Zac Brown Band, and Lady Antebellum is creeping onto radio airwaves. A country band from an unconventional Northern home hopes for this trend to continue.
Tequila Rose, based out of Central Jersey, was created in 2001. Since that time, it has been one of the bands taking an underground approach in the latest country movement.
“I go to Sirius radio and I can hear a new country hit every day,” said Tequila Rose vocalist/guitarist Rick Newport. “There is just so much great, new music written. Since we are a cover band, it’s the stuff people ask for.”
Country, however, was not something that came naturally to Newport. A rock ‘n’ roll guitarist before the creation of Tequila Rose, Newport was initially reluctant to switch genres, but rose to the challenge.
“I was a little hesitant at first because a guitar player, when you get into country, it’s a lot more challenging,” Newport said. “There’s a lot of fast guitar playing. I spent a couple of years really studying country guitar playing. It’s a completely different style and I put a lot of work into it. It’s certainly paid off very well.”
Tequila Rose, which initially had two girls in their lineup, switched to a four piece, four-man lineup a few years back and has performed at gigs all over New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
The band has made its name performing with a modern country style and staying true to the covers that it performs.
In the popular song “Toes,” written by the Zac Brown Band, Tequila Rose provides the same relaxing feeling as the original. The band’s range is demonstrated in its performance of Blake Shelton’s, “Hillbilly Bone.” The song is much edgier than “Toes” and Tequila Rose is able to make the transition between the two songs a seamless affair.
Newport and the rest of the band even manage to pour a little Tequila Rose into Jimmy Buffet’s “Margarittaville.” With the ability to perform vastly different songs in its repertoire, Tequila Rose has become one of the more popular cover bands in the area, playing gigs in both South and North Jersey. Even so, their musical career isn’t yet something that the band can make into a full time job.
“None of us are making a living strictly off of (performing),” Newport said. “If you were trying to make a living, you would struggle. There just aren’t enough places that have live bands at night. Even if you were playing modern rock, it’s not like it was 15 to 20 years ago.”
Despite the difficult climate for all musicians, Tequila Rose still manages to get a full slate of shows for the summer months. Whether it’s at a festival in Pennsylvania or New York, or performing in front of a small crowd at a local summer concert, Tequila Rose puts on great shows for their dedicated fans.
“Country music crowds are by far the most responsive and dedicated fans I’ve ever seen,” Newport explained. “There are dedicated fans who try to make it to every event. Quite often, they’re traveling an hour to an hour-and-a-half to see us.”
While Whiskey Café is one of the band’s favorite spots, there are plenty of other places that Tequila Rose hopes to get to.
“One place we would love to play is the Colorado Café (in Watchung),” Newport explained. “They have a huge hall in the back where they have a lot of line dancing. We’d all love to bring our band in there.”
Wherever and whenever their next show takes place, the band hopes to continue playing in front of its fans and to continue to gain exposure for modern country music.
“Our future plans are to play bigger and better festivals and more summer concerts,” Newport said. “We hope that a country radio station will appear in New York so more people can become exposed to it. We just hope that it continues.”
After having played the Whiskey Café in Lyndhurst on Feb. 9, the band will head to another favorite spot, Prospector’s, in Mt. Laurel. For more information on Tequila Rose, visit the band’s website at www.tequilaroseband.com.