Gainesville native Philip Pence graduated from Gainesville High School in 1994 and set out to find a career in music. Seventeen years and a couple of bands later, Pence has found himself in Nashville playing bass for David Oakleaf & The Open Road.
An alternative country band with a strong following in the Midwest, The Open Road just released a new album and is currently on tour. The next stop: Pence's hometown of Gainesville.
The Times caught up with Pence for a few questions about the band.
Question: Tell me a little bit about how you met up with David Oakleaf after leaving Gainesville?
Answer: My wife, Mary Ann, and I moved to Nashville in 2004 so I could pursue my music career. I am a songwriter as well as a bass player, and it seemed like a logical step to move to Music City, USA. I met David through a mutual friend, late guitarist Bruce Holloway. Bruce and I played in a band together and felt I would be a good fit for the empty bass chair in David's band. Soon after our introduction, we recorded five songs at Warner Bros. Studios on Music Row in Nashville. The band was David Oakleaf, Bruce Holloway, Michael Adams and me. Two weeks later, Bruce was fatally hit by a drunk driver while riding his motorcycle. The recording project was never finished.
Q: You just released a new album. What was the inspiration behind it?
A: David and I decided to get together and write some songs. The first song we wrote was "Ride Cowboy Ride," a song about ... a Native American rodeo star that was racially discriminated against and was killed while riding. We kind of felt the writing of this song, in a way, was a tribute to Bruce, and it also helped us begin healing after the loss of our friend. "Ride Cowboy Ride" is track 10 on our record.
We realized we were creating country/rock music that was inherently unique. Naturally, we called Michael Adams to play drums. Michael and I had just met Ben Thompson while playing a show with another artist. We formed David Oakleaf & The Open Road and began pre-production on our self-titled debut album, which was released independently in the summer of 2010.
Q: How long will you guys be on the road, and where is the tour taking you?
A: We have toured extensively playing clubs, fairs and festivals across the Midwest and the South from Georgia all the way up to North Dakota. Many radio stations are playing our music - our debut single is "Heartbreak Town," track 2 on the record-including Pandora Radio online. We have done shows with Pat Green, Little Big Town, Gloriana, Jake Owen, Josh Abbott Band and will be on the bill with Brad Paisley and Blake Shelton at the Country Stampede festival this summer in Kansas.
Q: How has it been cooped up with three other dudes for days on end during a tour?
A: Touring comes naturally for us. Being in a van is easy being that we're all really great friends and share a common vision: play great music, have fun doing it and, hopefully, move some people in the process. It also helps that there's only four of us. We all get our own seat.
Q: How do you feel about coming back to play in your hometown?
A: Coming back to Gainesville to play is really cool for me. I get back a couple of times a year, mainly around the holidays. don't ever have time to hang out while I'm here, though. This will be a great opportunity to hang out with some old friends and share the band's music with them, as well. I keep up with a lot of friends through Facebook, but it will be fun to see everybody. David, Michael and Ben are excited to see where I grew up, too.