Heath Sanders spent nearly a decade in Arkansas on natural gas before embarking on a whirlwind journey with his music.
He grew up in a single trailer in Marshall – a small town in a region of Arkansas called the Ozarks that’s made up of mountains, caves, rivers, and hot springs. His father logged in in winter and built fences in summer and cows milked year-round.
“I’ve just had a good, solid start in life. I had an amazing grandpa who was really into music and always loved music, ”Sanders told MusicRow during a recent virtual visit. “When I was six months old, he gave me a guitar. I don’t know how I didn’t learn until I was 21, but he sure tried. “
The day Sanders turned 18, he was offered a job in the oil fields. He enjoyed starting out because of the unlimited hours he could muster. “You could work a hundred hours a week if you wanted,” he said.
When gas prices fell in 2017, Sanders’ hours were reduced to 40 per week. “As the money person I was, I lived well past my 40-hour average, which put me back a lot financially,” said Sanders. “So I decided to do a side gig and the only thing that made sense to me was that I could play some songs on guitar and get through it.”
Sanders started playing bars and restaurants to make some extra money. “I never really saw myself as anything other than just the guy sitting in the corner playing a song or two while everyone was eating their steaks.”
In September 2017, Sanders created a Facebook page to promote his art and book appearances. Shortly afterwards, a friend dared him to publish a cover of Chris Stapleton’s “One Way or One”.
The video went viral. With the confirmation he got from the video’s success, Sanders decided to try something he had never done before: write a song.
“I had never written a song before. I had learned three chords in my early twenties and I sat down and tried to write some songs. They were awful so I just put the pen down and never really tried.
“I picked up my pen on a Sunday morning and sat down to write. It took me all day to write a verse and a chorus. That song ended up being ‘Bloodline’ which was my first single. But the crazy thing is, I’m sitting there with my pen in hand and my guitar in my lap, writing my first song ever, and the phone goes off and it is Bobby Bones. ”
Bones, a compatriot from Arkansas, invited Sanders to play on his morning show and asked him to bring in an original song to play. “I panicked,” joked Sanders. He finished the song with his mate Jamie Jonesand played it on the Bobby Bones Show shortly afterwards.
“Needless to say, my whole life changed after I left the studio.”
Nashville music managers called after his appearance on the radio show. The artist from Valory Music Co. has found a partnership with Scott BorchettaBig Machine Label Group.
“I was really lucky,” said Sanders. “A lot of people come into town and work their tails off for 10 or 15 years before anything really happens to them. I just feel blessed. I feel like I cheated on the system a little, but everything happens for a reason. “
Sanders co-wrote all four songs on his recently released EP Common Ground.
Sander’s first single, “Old School’s In,” celebrates his upbringing and officially hits Country Radio on March 8th. “Time is still creeping up, the flag is still waving / Mama is still cooking and God won’t die / Dogs still hunt, men open up / A little red just runs into your blood,” Sanders sings in the melody.
Common Ground’s influential title track spreads a message of unity and acceptance despite differences. “We all find our own way / We all live, we all learn / From the cradle to the grave / We are all weak, we are all strong / We are fine, and we are all wrong / And when the time runs out / We all end up / similarities, ”sings Sanders.
“I have to share a little perspective here, or here a little story about what this opportunity to see the world did to my worldview and perspective. I had never been north of Missouri three years ago. I’ve never been west of Texas and I’ve never been to South Louisiana. As soon as I signed up with the label, they sent me to Cancun.
“Since I’m from where I come from, there are obvious stereotypes on an old dirt road that are imposed on people in cities and so on. When I was able to travel and see places like Chicago and go to California, I was glad to find that there are as many people in these cities as the old men who sit in their overalls and drink coffee at the gas station in the morning. There are good people everywhere. And I think we all really want the same thing: we all just want to strive for life, freedom and happiness. We just want to live our lives. I’m really proud of this song, it’s one of those songs that you step back from and you say, ‘Golly, I just can’t believe I was part of it.’ “
LB Cantrell is Director of Content at MusicRow magazine. She oversees all MusicRow-related content, including managing the editorial team. Cantrell manages MusicRow’s social media accounts, leads specific major projects for the company, and supports day-to-day operations. She also manages all MusicRow memberships and hosts the company’s annual events, including the MusicRow Awards, CountryBreakout Awards, and Rising Women on the Row. Cantrell completed the Recording Industry Management program at Middle Tennessee State University.
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