The music of country duo Fast Ryde serves as the perfect soundtrack for Saturday night. With their catchy melodies, irresistible beats and soulful country voices, Fast Ryde captures the youthful anticipation of a night when anything can happen, fun is the only goal and a man is still largely defined by his potential. "See these are the days/ ain't gotta work, got plenty time to play/ My favorite station blaring everything good, bright sunlight shining off my hood," they sing in "Top Down."
By fearlessly defying conventional musical boundaries, James Harrison and Jody Stevens have created a cutting-edge sound that isn't easily definable. These artists and their music are truly a product of their age, a time when the younger generation is influenced more by diverse iPod shuffles than a single radio format.
"I often refer to it as new country and I've also called it party country," says James. "It's a hybrid of a classic American tradition mixed with the sensibilities of the information age. Most kids today listen to Tim McGraw, Jay-Z and Nickelback, all in the same CD player. We're a filter of all of our various influences filed down into a pure American sound. It's in the country genre because we tell stories with our songs and connect with listeners. This is the values of country, the effect of country, but with a slightly larger pool of influences."Our stuff is very forward; we don't use a lot of hidden meaning," James says. "The title of the song is what the song is about. It's straight forward fun, sleek, youthful and fast. We have some songs about cars and girls, things that red-blooded American people can get into."
The duo wrote all of the songs and played all of the guitar parts on their self-titled debut project, which they co-produced with Jody's father, Nashville songwriter/producer Jeff Stevens. "Cashville" pays homage - or "throws out props," as James says-- to Music City, "a great place for young people because you can meet like-minded people and forge your dreams and alliances." The anthemic "Crunk" is a party song depicting a young act that convinces their fans to let go and throw caution into the wind. "'Riding Dirty' is probably going to be one of those songs that people with trucks or people who go mudding will really like," says Jody. "It's very fun, got a great youthful energy and it's just very rockin.'"
As much Southern as they are country, they have blended their own individual styles, which have been influenced from artists ranging from George Strait and Lynyrd Skynyrd to Conway Twitty and Stevie Wonder, to create a distinctive new sound that benefits from the duo's Yin-yang relationship of complementary opposites. They explore the best aspects of pop, rock and R&B and experiment with various technologies heretofore unheard in country. For instance, "Top Down" breaks ground by introducing country music to the auto tune effect, a technology that affects the vocal pitch that's usually found in pop and rock.
"We made a record that sounded like nothing else anybody has ever put out," Jody says. "I'm not sure if that was the goal, but it happened accidentally. That's just how we make our music."
Jody, who was born in West Virginia and moved to Hendersonville, Tenn., at age 5, listened to country radio every day while growing up because his father was a recording artist on Atlantic Records. Later on, Jeff became a successful songwriter, penning "Carrying Your Love with Me," "Carried Away" and "True" for George Strait, as well as "Back When" for Tim McGraw and "All My Friends Say" for Luke Bryan, whom Jeff produces.
"The reason I didn't decide to be a country artist until a few years back was that I was trying to fight doing what my dad does," Jody says. "That only lasted so long."Jody began playing drums at age seven and guitar a few years later. "My dad would have some of his stuff lying around and I would play it," he says. "When I got old enough, I would just inherit it." His first public performance was in fifth grade, when he delivered a drum solo to "Life Is a Highway." From sixth to ninth grade, he played drums in the school band, but chose sports over music while attending Hendersonville High School, where he won several wrestling medals.
But music eventually won out, and he studied audio engineering at a Nashville school and then engineered tracks for other artists. "I would play all the instruments on there and they would have something to sing to," he says. Inspired by his father, he began writing songs almost obsessively, sometimes creating as many as six in a day.