The gently rolling hills of Eastern Kentucky are rich with musical history. Many of the ancestors of today’s Appalachian people came to America with barely the clothes on their backs. Very often there was one prized possession nestled among those sparse belongings: a cherished mandolin, a beat up guitar or banjo. To the people who had so little, music meant so much.
Music is life in rural Appalachia. When there aren’t many entertainment options available, people are forced to create their own fun. While teenagers in urban cities take things like weekly movies and trips to the mall for granted, outings like that can be rare treats for kids in the mountains. This is something that David Tolliver and Chad Warrix of Halfway to Hazard are now, in hindsight, very thankful for.
“I grew up riding ATVs and dirt bikes, tearing up those winding mountain roads, camping out with friends, and playing music, those are things I wouldn’t trade for the world. I think my upbringing inspired me to be creative,” Warrix says. Tolliver concurs, adding, “We really appreciated the little things, going to Hazard to see a movie on a Friday night was a big deal!” The “Hazard” he’s referring to is the county seat of Perry Co, KY, a bustling metropolis compared to the small towns of Jackson and Hindman where Warrix and Tolliver were raised respectively.
In fact, the very words “Halfway to Hazard” were the first ever penned by the duo. The phrase not only inspired their name, but also serves as a symbol of the musical journey their lives have taken; the journey from tiny rural towns hidden in the mountains to huge arenas filled with thousands of screaming fans. “That’s what I love about music, it bridges the gaps between people in so many ways and can even make distances seem closer,” Warrix remarks. Halfway to Hazard is more than a title; it’s a state of mind.
Both Tolliver and Warrix came from musical families. While Tolliver’s upbringing led him to develop a taste for classic country, Warrix, on the other hand, embraced his inner rock star by fronting an edgy alternative band called Sodium. The two had always been friends, but started writing songs and singing together in Nashville after Sodium disbanded. Their two distinctive styles blended effortlessly, creating the characteristic sound of Halfway to Hazard.
As they began playing out together in Nashville clubs as a duo, they soon created a buzz in Nashville’s music community. This attracted the attention of producer Byron Gallimore and country superstar Tim McGraw; who, sensing the potential of the two, steered them into the studio. With those two powerful engines driving the H2H train, the KY boys were on their way. In 2007, they released their self-titled album and opened for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill on the Soul to Soul II Tour (the highest-grossing tour of the year).
2008 was another successful year for H2H as they again opened for their self-proclaimed biggest “fan” Tim McGraw along with Jason Aldean. Other highlights of 2008 included: a nomination in the Academy of Country Music’s coveted Best Duo of the Year category, several NFL national anthem pre-game appearances, and singing the national anthem at Rupp Arena for their beloved UK Wildcats. The first Annual Halfway to Hazard Charity Trail Ride and Concert in September 2008 was another high point for H2H, allowing them to give back to the region that means so much to them. The event raised over $100,000 for the Buckhorn Children’s Center and Family Services and helped secure the East KY Leadership Award for the pair.
Commercially, the single “Daisy” has been the group’s biggest success to date. Not only did it chart respectively on the Billboard charts, but it also scored high praise from critics and fans alike. “Daisy” struck such a chord with fans that it spawned its own grassroots fan club, who call themselves “Dukes and Daisies.” “Daisy” was also selected by iTunes as the download of the week, exposing the band to an entirely different demographic.
In the seventies, some of their musical predecessors (and influences) like the Eagles and Lynyrd Skynyrd made questions like “are they rock or are they country” seem irrelevant. Great music crosses boundaries with ease, and, in doing so, brings people together. Now back in the studio further refining that particular H2H synergy, a multi-textured sound that pays as much homage to George Thorogood as to George Jones; H2H is again prompting listeners to ask, “Is it rock? Is it country? Does it matter?”
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