Hometown dreams

The Dixie Highway Band moves from Festival audience to center stage

The Dixie Highway Band is poised to take the stage at the Foothills Fall Festival. From left are Justin Reynolds, Derek Jones, Bret Jones, Kris Jones and Brian Jones.

The Dixie Highway Band is poised to take the stage at the Foothills Fall Festival. From left are Justin Reynolds, Derek Jones, Bret Jones, Kris Jones and Brian Jones.

The Dixie Highway Band is opening for Foreigner at the 2008 Foothills Fall Festival.

That statement alone is enough to give five Blount County guys big smiles.

The Dixie Highway Band, better known to fans as DHB, is finally getting to take the stage at the Theater in the Park after years of sitting in the audience, wishing they could to perform for their home crowd.

Band members Brian Jones, Kris Jones, Derek Jones, Bret Jones and Justin Reynolds say they are excited about playing for a hometown audience at 7:15 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10.

“Playing Foothills Fall Festival is one of the big deals for us,” Brian Jones said. “Ever since it’s been going, we’ve said, ‘Next year we’re going to play it.’ “

They aren’t going to think about it too much about this dream come true before the show starts, however.

“If we think about it, we’re all going to get sick,” said Kris. “It’s different than playing the Rogersville show with Diamond Rio. We can’t run from anybody around here.”

Friends in Maryville will tell them the truth about their performance, said Brian, even if it wasn’t what they wanted to hear.

Derek Jones plays keyboard and said DHB enjoys the crowds they entertain. “We feed off the crowd. If they’re into it, we’re into it,” he said. They’ve also been known to convert fans who didn’t think they liked country music. People hear their music and have a change of heart about disliking country, said Kris. “We change people’s minds about country. We have fun,” he said.

Except for lead singer Justin Reynolds, DHB is a family affair, with the Jones boys all being cousins.

Bret said they’ve been playing together since he visited Blount County as a child. “We were jamming with everything from Johnny B Good to Buddy Holly. We played anything we could,” he said.

They played Gospel music together before they started performing country tunes and then formed Dixie Highway Band. The band members said producers Frank Green and Steve Jones, Brian Jones’ father, have been instrumental in their success.

After a local Gospel artist coined the name Dixie Highway, the band members learned there were already 20 to 30 other Dixie Highway groups. Rather than change their name completely, they added “Band” to the end of their name, then shortened it to DHB.

“Like the CDB, Charlie Daniels Band,” said Derek.

They all agreed that it is obvious to fans that they like each other and have fun playing with one another. And they work at their craft, said Derek, no matter how big or small the venue.

“No matter how many people are there, you play up to your potential,” Derek said.

Bret said DHB usually always connects with listeners at shows. “We’re looking for a fan base, but we’re also looking for a friend base. We’re meeting people,” he said.

“A lot of people bring family members, and, out of respect to them, we wind up talking to them, too.”

Derek Jones said meeting people is one of the aspects he likes most about playing on the road.

The band has and is paying its “dues” and is learning patience as they take each step in their career.

“We’re really, really patient,” said Brian. “We’ll even play a goat-roping.”

“We have played goat ropings,” Kris added, with a laugh.

Derek said they aren’t taking anything for granted with the Foothills Fall Festival appearance and are working hard in practice. “You can’t expect to wake up at the top. You’ve got to play your heart out. We’ve played for years to get where we are,” he said.

“Not everyone gets to turn their dreams into reality,” Kris said. “We live ours everyday.”

As for the festival appearance, the band members said their promoter in Nashville helped make the deal after they had sent in demos of their music but hadn’t heard from anyone.

“When we got the call, it blew my mind,” said Bret. “It was unbelievable. Talk about a good practice night.”

“It’s a sense of accomplishment,” Kris said of the group finally getting picked to play their hometown festival.

“We always had dreams of playing Foothills Fall Festival and hoped we would make it there. What we have now is a great start,” Bret said.

He is also mentally preparing himself to be onstage instead of in the crowd. “I picture that lawn covered up with people,” he said.

“It’s a cool festival but it’s even cooler because of all the people,” agreed Derek. “You put on your show face. We feed off the crowd’s energy.”

“Count on having a good time, “ Brian Jones said. “Be ready to stand a lot.”

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