• Charles Kelley

Bio

It was December 2014, and Charles Kelley was getting antsy. His group—the multi-platinum, Grammy-winning trio Lady Antebellum—had released its sixth album, 747, in September, and they wouldn’t be going on tour until February.

“It’s winter,” he thought, “I’m bored and I want to make some music.”

He called up producer Paul Worley and said that he wanted to try out a new song called “The Driver.” Kelley felt that it might be something special, but that it might not be a fit for Lady A; “the perspective seemed like a Crosby, Stills, and Nash story song,” he says.

So they set up in the “kind of ratty” studio in the back of Worley’s offices, just to see what happened. “We went in with no agenda,” says Kelley. “Maybe it’ll be the start of the next Lady Antebellum record, maybe we’ll scrap it, maybe I’ll pitch the song to other singers.”

But after a first session, the singer had a good feeling. He brought in a couple of other songs that he had set aside over the years and started sensing some momentum. What eventually emerged was his first-ever solo album, named The Driver after that first exploratory song—a project that’s picked up some extra wind in its sails as “The Driver” earned a GRAMMY nomination in the Best Country Duo/Group Performance category.

“I knew I wanted to go in a little more raw, gritty direction,” says Kelley. “I definitely had a sound I wanted to chase, getting back to more of a Seventies, Southern rock feel.”

The initial batch of songs gave him a sense that he was going to be diving into some new territory, with a real sense of range—“Lonely Girl” and “Your Love” both had something of a Hall and Oates-style white soul feel, while Kelley’s cover of Tom Petty’s “Southern Accents” had a stark and melancholy feel.

“At first, it was really weird to go in the booth and be like, ‘Where’s Hillary? Where’s Dave?’“ Kelley says with a laugh. “But it was very exciting to be the leader in there and go, ‘This is it, I’m doing this.’ It took me out of my comfort zone, and as artists we sometimes get way too comfortable and start repeating ourselves.”

One thing that Kelley and Worley knew was that they wanted to push the actual sound of his voice back into a lower, grittier key than what listeners have been hearing from him in the group setting. “With the success of ‘Need You Now’ especially, where that song put my voice was a little sweeter than where it started,” he says. “When you’ve got three vocalists, a lot of time we’re each sacrificing our own sweet spot to find the blend. So I wanted to bring out that gravelly part of my voice, get a little bit of Gregg Allman back in there.”

Thrilled with the first studio go-round, they made plans to reconvene a few months later, after the first leg of Lady Antebellum’s Wheels Up Tour. The day before recording, though, Kelley had a sense that he was missing something; he called co-writers Abe Stoklasa and Daniel Tashian and almost instantly, they came up with “Dancing Around It,” adding a shot of sexiness into the mix.

The second session also included “Leaving Nashville,” an emotional powerhouse of a song about the ups and downs, heartaches and disappointments, of life as a songwriter. “It was something we could all relate to,” says Kelley. “Even the session guys said, ‘This is all of our story’—if you’re in the music business, one day you’re the king and the next you’re not. And after that song, I thought, ‘We’re probably on to something special here.’“

Three final songs were cut later in the year, which added to the album’s moody feel and personal focus. “Round in Circles” (with what he describes as a “cool, mesmerizing sound”) marks the first time that Charles and his brother, singer-songwriter Josh Kelley, have recorded together since Josh’s early work.

The last song recorded was a different kind of landmark for Kelley. “The Only One Who Gets Me” marks the first time he has written a song specifically for and about his wife, Cassie. “It’s a story wholly about my relationship with her,” he says. “Each line is so obviously about us—she tolerates me for who I am, which I know isn’t so easy.”

Though mostly recorded live in Worley’s simple studio, The Driver also benefits from appearances by a couple of Kelley’s superstar friends. He wanted a third voice on the title track alongside him and co-writer Eric Paslay, and thought Dierks Bentley might fit the track. “I love that really raw, weathered voice of his,” says Kelley, “and when he said he wanted to be a part of it, it felt like the stars were aligning for this project.”

“I Wish You Were Here” also benefits from the help of a guest. “Miranda Lambert came to a show and said she was proud of what I was doing,” says Kelley. “I thought it would be cool to get her on here—and she sounds like Emmylou Harris on this track, a very beautiful texture that fits so perfectly.”

Tom Petty’s “Southern Accents,” meanwhile, features the presence of true rock and roll royalty, with Stevie Nicks adding her incomparable voice. She and Lady Antebellum had performed together for an episode of CMT Crossroads, and when she heard Kelley’s version of the song, she immediately wanted to contribute. “Just to have her say that she liked my version was enough for me,” says Kelley. “You’re treading on some sacred ground with Tom Petty, and his fans are pretty die-hard, but with Stevie in there, I figure they can’t be too harsh!”

Another inspiration for Kelley was the possibility of getting back to a more stripped-down touring set-up. “Lady Antebellum has gotten so big that we’re playing arenas and amphitheaters,” he says, “and it’s amazing, but as great as those are, I miss those dirty clubs and people grabbing on your legs and being able to see every face. In arenas, it really is hard to connect to someone way up in the nosebleeds. And you’re tied down musically with all the videos and lights, so I’m really excited about being able to scrap the set list and play what we feel like playing.”

Of course, Charles Kelley knows that he faces a very obvious challenge with The Driver—stepping outside of one of the world’s most popular groups and getting people to accept him in a different context. “My biggest fear is being sure that the fans understand that the band isn’t breaking up,” he says. “We love each other and we’re having a blast. This was just a pure musical left turn, to take myself out of my own head and bring in a fresh perspective when we go back in to make the next Lady Antebellum record.

“It’s hard to break away from a group, for the fans to separate that in their minds. But the one thing I know I can do is lay my head down at night and feel like I’ve made a great project that I’m really proud of.”

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DARIUS RUCKER DECIDED TO RECORD ‘STRAIGHT TO HELL’ AFTER SPENDING SOME HANG TIME WITH LADY A’S CHARLES KELLEY.

Darius Rucker has released his new single, “Straight to Hell,” a remake of the 1989 Drivin’ ‘N Cryin’ hit, featuring his famous friends Luke Bryan, Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum and Jason Aldean. Darius recorded the favorite bar singalong once Charles talked him into it, and he enlisted even more star power once he decided to take it into the studio when working on his new album, When Was the Last Time.

“It came out in ’89 when I was just playing clubs with Hootie [& the Blowfish]. It was a big song to us. It was a big song to everybody around us. It was a big Southern song, and I always thought it was a country song,” says Darius from the set of the video for “Straight to Hell.”

“I wanted to cut it and Charles told me I should cut it one day, and I just started calling my friends. I called Charles. I called Jason. I called Luke, and I said, ‘Hey man, I’m doing this song.’ They all loved the song, and we got to do a video for it.”

“It was funny. We were sitting around one night — ‘cause we hang out all the time, we play a lot of golf — we were drinking and listening to Drivin’ ‘N Cryin’ and ‘Straight to Hell’ came on and I was like, ‘Dude, you could do ‘Straight to Hell,’ recalls Charles. “I was like, man, it kind of reminded me a little bit kind of the phenomenon of ‘Wagon Wheel,’ how big that song is. We had the crazy idea of like, ‘Dude you should do this.’ And he goes, ‘If I’m gonna sing it, you’ve got to be on it.’ And so the next thing you know, we start talking and he goes, ‘We need some other people.’ Literally, I think he reached out to Luke, and the next thing you know – I can’t remember how it all happened – but I think Jason was like, ‘Why didn’t you call me and ask me?’ And so all of a sudden, we have this little foursome, The Troublemakers as Darius likes to call it.”

Darius will kick off his co-headline Summer Plays On Tour with Lady Antebellum July 19th in Toronto, Ontario.

Audio / On the set of the video for “Straight to Hell,” Darius Rucker explains how the collaboration all came together.

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Darius Rucker (STH) OC: …great day. :30
“This is an old Drivin’ ‘N Cryin’ song. It came out in ’89 when I was just playing clubs with Hootie [& the Blowfish]. It was a big song to us. It was a big song to everybody around us. It was a big Southern song, and I always thought it was a country song. Drivin’ ‘N Cryin’ is a big rock band, and I always thought it was a country song. I wanted to cut it and Charles told me I should cut it one day, and I just started calling my friends. I called Charles. I called Jason. I called Luke, and I said, ‘Hey man, I’m doing this song.’ They all loved the song, and we got to do a video for it. This is really cool, man. It’s been a great day.”

Audio / On the set of the video for “Straight to Hell,” Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum talks about how The Troublemakers got together for the song.

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Charles Kelley (STH idea) OC: …call it. :58
“It was funny. We were sitting around one night — ‘cause we hang out all the time, we play a lot of golf — we were drinking and listening to Drivin’ ‘N Cryin’ and ‘Straight to Hell’ came on and I was like, ‘Dude, you could do ‘Straight to Hell.’ I said, ‘It’s one of those songs that was such a big regional hit, kind of in the Southeast, you know. I went to the University of Georgia, and it was a huge bar band, cover band type of song. But like people like my wife, who went to Arizona State, never had heard of the song. I was like, man, it kind of reminded me a little bit kind of the phenomenon of ‘Wagon Wheel,’ how big that song is. We had the crazy idea of like, ‘Dude you should do this.’ And he goes, ‘If I’m gonna sing it, you’ve got to be on it.’ And so the next thing you know, we start talking and he goes, ‘We need some other people.’ Literally, I think he reached out to Luke, and the next thing you know – I can’t remember how it all happened – but I think Jason was like, ‘Why didn’t you call me and ask me?’ And so all of a sudden, we have this little foursome, The Troublemakers as Darius likes to call it.”

Audio / On the set of the video for “Straight to Hell,” Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum says it’s “fitting” that the four of them finally do a song together.

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Charles Kelley (STH idea) 2 OC: …together. :13
“You know, we kinda started this whole thing. It’s really fun. I hope it leads to something else too. We’ve been laughing…we’ve been such close friends, the four of us, for so many years that I think it’s only fitting that we finally do a song together.”

Audio / On the set of the video for “Straight to Hell,” Luke Bryan talks about taking part in the vocal collaboration with Darius Rucker, Jason Aldean and Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley.

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Luke Bryan (STH idea) OC: …and Charles. :16
“Darius called me up and asked me to be a part of this song. When I was in college, I’m Going ‘Straight to Hell’ was one of the biggest college anthems that there was, and I was honored to be a part of this with Darius and Jason and Charles.”

Audio / LINER Darius Rucker (Straight to Hell) 1 1

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Audio / LINER Darius Rucker (Straight to Hell) 2

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Audio / LINER Darius Rucker (Straight to Hell) 3

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Video / Straight to Hell video

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DARIUS RUCKER RELEASES THE VIDEO FOR HIS ALL-STAR COLLABORATION FOR ‘STRAIGHT TO HELL.’

Darius Rucker enlisted some famous friends to join him on the remake of “Straight to Hell,” which was released in 1989. Pals Luke Bryan, Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum and Jason Aldean joined Darius on the song and the video, which was just released. The four of them seemed to have a rowdy good time on the set of the clip, which features them in a speakeasy during Prohibition back in the 1920s.

“When you’re friends with people in the business, you see ‘em when you can. If you tour with ‘em, you get to hang out sometime, but there’s never really day where the four of us have gotten to sit together all day. We did just about every scene together and it was all of us together, and we just had, man, there was some funny stuff said that day. I was losing my mind laughing. That was a fun day.”

Hopefully, Darius and Lady A will perform the song during their tour together. They’re set to kick off their Summer Plays On Tour, which kicks off July 19th in Toronto.

Audio / Darius Rucker talks about the video for "Straight to Hell," which also features Luke Bryan, Charles Kelley and Jason Aldean.

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Darius Rucker (Straight to Hell video) OC: …to see it. :57
“I went to Capitol and said, ‘I’ve never asked for anything, but if you guys would just do me a favor. Whether ‘Straight to Hell’ is a single or not, I really want to make a video, and I want it to be a Western video.’ I was thinking horses and stuff. I’m really glad they weren’t thinking that [laughs], ‘cause I don’t want to be riding nobody’s horse out there. I’d kill myself. It was so much fun. The four of us, I mean when you’re friends with people in the business, you see ‘em when you can. If you tour with ‘em, you get to hang out sometime, but there’s never really day where the four of us have gotten to sit together all day. We did just about every scene together and it was all of us together, and we just had, man, there was some funny stuff said that day. I was losing my mind laughing. That was a fun day, and the video turned out, and it was by far my favorite video I’ve ever made in country music. I mean, ‘Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It’ might be a little above it [because it’s the first], but it’s so much fun and I can’t wait for people to see it.”

Video / Darius Rucker's 'For the First Time' video

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MOTHER’S DAY 2018

Mother’s Day is on Sunday (May 13th), and some of your favorite country artists are celebrating the mothers in their lives this weekend. In 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother’s Day, held on the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothers.

Here are some of your favorite country stars honoring all of the Moms out there with stories of their own.

Audio / Brandon Lay says he probably gets his work-ethic from his Mom.

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Brandon Lay (Mother’s Day) OC: …comes from her. :2
“She works harder than anybody I’ve ever seen. She can outwork most 20-year-olds in the yard still. She grew up on a farm, and I think a lot of that just bulldog it and get it done attitude, I probably get from her. She’ll go from sunup to sundown, and she doesn’t complain, and that’s just so rare. I feel like the work ethic, as far as grind it out and get it done, that toughness comes from her.”

Audio / Carrie Underwood says she doesn't really have any Mother's Day traditions, but she sure enjoys being a Mom to Isaiah.

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Carrie Underwood (Mother’s Day traditions) OC: …even more so. :40
“We don’t really have like any Mother’s Day traditions. I feel like I remember me and Dad making breakfast for Mom like once as a kid. I’m pretty sure we just made a giant mess in the kitchen and we never did that again, so. Being on the other side of things, I obviously don’t expect anything from my three-year-old, but my husband’s really good at getting presents from quote unquote Isaiah. It’s really sweet, because he likes to bring me things. He’s such a sweet little guy, and anytime he’s outside, he’ll pick me flowers and things. So, I’m like, ‘You’re learning. You’ve already got me wrapped around your finger, and then you do stuff like that, and it’s even more so.’”

Audio / Clare Dunn talks about the support and undying devotion her mom has for her and her sister.

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Clare Dunn (Mother’s Day) OC: …in the world. :41
“She is unrelenting in her love and her support, and even when we’re crazy kids and we screw up, it doesn’t matter. Her love knows no bounds. And her undying devotion to her kids – to my sister and I – always believing in us a million percent, always backing us up a million percent and helping us navigate life and navigate our dreams and helping us go towards that goal – those are some of the qualities that I hope to have some day as a mother, you know? And I’m so grateful I have THE best mom in the WORLD!”

Audio / Darius Rucker talks about not disappointing his beloved mother, who passed away in 1992.

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Darius Rucker (Mother’s Day) OC: …killed me. :17
“I think that’s the main reason I am how I am…an innate fear of disappointing my mom.  My mom’s not even alive, and I have a fear of her looking down from heaven and going, ‘Man I’m just disappointed in my son.’ She could have said anything in the world to me, but if she would have said, ‘Son, you just disappointed me,’ That would have killed me. It would have killed me.”

Audio / Darius Rucker’s mother, who passed away in 1992, was always the singer’s biggest supporter.

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Darius Rucker (Mother) OC: …in my corner. :44
“My mom was just always great. She worked a lot. She was a nurse and she worked a lot. She took a lot of overtime and stuff to make sure we could live basically, but she always just so supportive, ever since I was a kid. I was always a music kid. Growing up in an African-American neighborhood, I was never that guy who was gonna be pigeonholed to let people say I could only listen to this and I could only do this, because I was African-American. She always supported whatever I wanted to do, whatever I wanted to listen to, wherever I wanted to go, she always had my back. Going to college and everything, she was my biggest supporter and never let my brothers and sisters knock me down or try to tell me I can’t do this or that. All of my success comes because my mother was always in my corner.”

Audio / Dierks Bentley recognizes and appreciates how much work goes into being a mother.

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Dierks Bentley (Mother’s Day – Cassidy) OC: …to have her. :31
“It’s the toughest job out there being a mom, and I know from my life with my wife Cassidy. We work as a team together when I’m home, and it takes everyone to get the job done, me and her, working together. So, when I go on the road, I just have so much respect for her because it’s hard to do it right, if you want to do it great, and she does a great job with it. It’s really rewarding, but it’s also very challenging. I’m so thankful that she takes it on the way she does, and our kids are very lucky to have her.”

Audio / Eric Church says he’s learned quite a bit from his mom.

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Eric Church (Mother’s Day) OC: …as a man. :57
“My mom, even though my dad won’t like this, my mom is by far the toughest person that I’ve met. She’s tough. One of those people that’s been through a lot in her life, adversity wise and never complains, always really resilient with anything that’s happened to her. And it’s just that attitude, the positive attitude, regardless of what has happened that I think is the one thing that I got from her. With career, she’s always been a person that’s been really positive through times that I couldn’t find a positive streak, [laughs] and she was always really positive, and very much believes in tough it out, keep working hard, and that’s her motto with stuff like that. I’ve always been impressed with that stuff. Then musically, she’s where I get my talent from, musically. She sings great, always has, her mom sang great. I owe my musical chops to her. And she still sings some. So, career-wise, I owe her everything. And just in life-wise she’s given me a lot of the qualities that it has taken for me to get me where I am. Not only as a musician, but as a man.”

Audio / Eric Paslay talks about his mother, Donna.

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Eric Paslay (Mother’s Day) OC: …it’s good. :21
“I wanna thank my mom for giving me faith, laughter and pride in the family I came from. She’d be the fun Mom, just goofing off in the sprinklers outside or we’d go out and play in the rain and all that stuff growing up. She’s always good to be around; always happy, and it’s good.”

Audio / Jon Pardi says his mother, Shelly, is an angel.

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Jon Pardi (Mother’s Day) OC: …worrying about me. :29
“My mom’s always been there for me. First of all, she’s a great mom. She’s an angel. She takes care of people that aren’t even in the family. She’s always been like that, and she’s a great mother. She’s always proud, and she’s always there supporting and being a great mom. She’s just a good human being. There’s not one mean bone in her body. And she cries about every time I talk to her. She always worries about me. I have to tell her, ‘Stop worrying about me.’”

Audio / Jordan Davis says he’s a “Mama’s Boy” and hopes he has her kindness and positive outlook.

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Jordan Davis (Mother’s Day) OC: …Mother’s Day. :30 [laughs]
“I’m a Mama’s Boy. I love my Mom, and it’s the way she finds the good in everything. With my Mom, as opposed to finding anything negative, she’s gonna find something positive first. That’s something I really hope I can be more like her on; one of the many things I wish I could be more like my mom on. My mom, she loves flowers, so we’ll get her flowers or take her to, we’re slowly getting her into sushi, so we love to take Mom out to sushi spots on Mother’s Day.” [laughs]

Audio / Keith Urban explains why his wife Nicole Kidman is an extraordinary mother to their two children, Sunday and Faith.

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Keith Urban (Nicole is extraordinary mother) OC: …to see. :45
“She’s an extraordinary mum, she really, really is. Those girls are very, very lucky, and I feel very lucky that the children I should have in this world happen to be with Nic. I don’t know anything about raising kids and Nic does, and that comes in extremely, um, it’s really made for an experience I wouldn’t have had without that. Her patience, her recognizing them as people and not just little kids is really extraordinary. Her attention to honoring their feelings and listening to them right from day one – really being attentive to that is not how I was raised at all, so it’s really beautiful to see.”

Audio / With Mother’s Day on Sunday, Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley explains he and his brothers – Josh and John -- owe their mother a lot for all of their childhood antics.

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Charles Kelley {Mother) OC: …playing music. :23
“We were honestly, at times, pretty hard to handle, both of us. We used to play our music loud up above on the second floor [of the house], bang on the drums and the guitar. And my mom’s just one of those people, she’ll do anything for her family and she sacrificed a lot for us boys. Anytime we needed something, she made it happen. And so, we owe her a lot. She’s definitely the reason we’re playing music.”

Audio / Lauren Alaina says she can count on her mom for just about everything.

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Lauren Alaina (Mom) OC: …same for her. :19
“I honestly would not be able to do it without my mom. I get overwhelmed sometimes, and if she wasn’t there to comfort me or tell me, ‘Look just realize what you’ve got going for you,’ I’d be up the creek [without a paddle]. She’s got my back. My mom would walk through a fire pit for me, and I’d do the same for her.”

Audio / Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild says being a mother to Elijah Dylan Westbrook is the best feeling in the world.

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LBT (Mother’s Day-Karen) OC: …every day. :23
“There isn’t anything that means more to me than sitting on the bench and eating a grilled cheese sandwich with this little guy who calls me Mama. There isn’t anything better than that. He’s just a little miracle. I went from dreaming about him to eating grilled cheese sandwiches and ketchup with him, and I could never have dreamed this up – how good it could be, and it just gets better every day.”

Audio / Maddie & Tae’s Tae Dye said she pulled off a great Mother’s Day surprise a few years ago.

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Maddie & Tae (Mother’s Day-Tae) OC: …was so fun. :25
“To this day one of the best surprises I’ve ever pulled off was on Mother’s Day three years ago. ‘Cause my mom’s birthday always tends to fall on Mother’s Day Weekend – it’s coming up – and my mom and dad were coming into Nashville and I was like, ‘Okay-this has got to be a big weekend. It’s Mother’s Day, her birthday and the weather was going to be beautiful, so I planned this awesome surprise where we would drive first – she wouldn’t know where we were going, and then we ended up going canoeing down the Harpeth River [located south of Nashville] and it was so fun.”

Audio / Shania Twain says it’s such a joy to be a parent.

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Shania Twain (joy to be a parent) OC: …means everything. :14
“It’s such a joy to be a parent. So, I relate to all the mums out there who are getting all their love and appreciation from their kids, and I hope, when you’re a kid, a child of somebody, show your mum you love her, because it means everything.”

Audio / Travis Denning talks about what he and his Mom have in common.

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Travis Denning (Mother’s Day) OC: …like crazy. :29
“You know, my favorite thing about my mom, especially as I get older, is realizing how much me and her have in common. I just love that she’s passionate about music. She loves it. I mean, she’s turned me on to a lot of artists, but at the core like she’s still Mom. She reminds me to do things and does these things which that I couldn’t live without. I love that we get to be friends, we get to be best friends, but at the same time, she’s still Mom and she still loves me and my sister like crazy.”

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