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Statesboro knocks on Athens legendary music door

Grice Connect welcomes Statesboro native Austin Joyner to our team of writers. Austin will be focusing on local artists in our community who entertain, inspire, and encourage others through their art form. He begins with a look at the vibrant local music scene.

Athens, Georgia, is well known for its prolific music scene. With a catalog of popular venues dating back to the early twentieth century, “The Classic City” has spawned a litany of successful acts, such as The B-52s, R.E.M., Widespread Panic, and the Drive-By Truckers.

In recent years, though, Statesboro’s own music scene has begun to develop a resemblance to that of Athens, with a growing rank of performers rising to national fame from our area and many local up-and-coming artists growing in popularity. As the culture of our city continues to develop, could Statesboro one day rival Athens as a breeding ground of new music?

Local Stars

Georgia Southern University alumnus Luke Bryan went on to become one of the most popular names in country music after cutting his teeth around Statesboro in the late 90s and early 2000s. Bryan’s career took off to unbelievable heights after hits “All My Friends Say” and “Country Man” reached the top ten on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart in 2007.

Fellow Georgia Southern graduate and country superstar, Cole Swindell, soon followed Bryan’s success with his debut single “Chillin’ It,” earning the number one spot on the Hot Country Songs chart in 2014. Swindell, who gives the nod to his alma mater by performing in a baseball cap bearing the University’s logo, has released nine singles with seven charting in the Top 5.

Recent GSU grad, Bryce Leatherwood, was crowned the 2022 winner of NBC’s singing competition, The Voice. The 22-year-old’s covers of country songs like Travis Tritt’s “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” and Zac Brown Band’s “Colder Weather” blew judges away, with judge Blake Shelton declaring that even if Bryce didn’t win The Voice, he had already “won a career” in music.

Just this year, Statesboro native Dylan Marlowe (performing Apr. 28 @ the Blue Room) was invited on tour with two of Nashville’s hottest acts: Lainey Wilson and Hardy, in the wake of his song “Record High” gaining serious traction on XM radio. Marlowe has also played stops with Cole Swindell in the past few years.

A Country Town

Being in the deep South, it's unsurprising that country music is by far the most popular genre in Statesboro. While country is likely to remain the most popular style, we have begun to see growing interest in other genres of music as the population continues to grow and develop more diverse tastes.

Dan Larkin, who has been performing in town since moving here five years ago, says he has noticed the beginning of a shift. “When I first got here, anyone that was playing was doing straight up pop-country covers, but now there’s a significant variety of people playing. I see full country bands, but I’ve also seen straight up rock bands and things like an indie-rock-folk duo. It’s definitely changing.”

Frequent local performer, Jon Aktas, plays a wide variety of covers as well as original songs. He often shares the stage with a multitude of musicians, such as Tailer Ransom and Rob Ware, who each lend their own style to Aktas’s sets. Incorporating musicians from different backgrounds creates unique one-of-a-kind performances that are well worth coming out to see.

Scene on The Rise

Local establishments throughout the city are now creating space for live music, generating more opportunities than ever for up-and-coming artists to showcase their talent. Most nights of the week, there are one or more places to go and hear live music in a variety of settings. The Averitt Center for the Arts, Georgia Southern’s Performing Arts Center, and The Blue Room host full-scale concerts, while restaurants like Tandoor & Tap, Vandy’s BBQ, Gnat’s Landing, and The Eagle Creek Brewery host live music in a more laid-back atmosphere.

William Bridwell, owner of The Blue Room, sees diversity as a good thing. “The more options there are, the more places there are to go and explore. That results in more people going out. That results in more people coming to Statesboro, whether it’s just visiting for the night or weekend or moving here. Because we have a culture, an entertainment scene, a great restaurant scene.”

The more artists we have performing, the more unique and interesting the scene becomes. Any and all entertainers now have the opportunity to perform during open-mic night at Wild Wing Café, hosted every Wednesday at 8pm by local musician Myles Willis. Myles says that he hopes to welcome new musicians and other types of performance art such as stand-up comedy or poetry. Eagle Creek Brewery also hosts an open-mic on Wednesdays at 7pm.

Local radio is back

Bryan Steele is helping to foster the growth of our music scene through Foundry Broadcasting, which comprises locally-focused Statesboro music stations 106.5 The ‘Boro and Eagle 94.9.

“I understand how valuable it is for Statesboro and Bulloch County to have a true local radio station,” says Steele. Local radio allows local music to reach a wider audience and exposes people to art they may not get to experience otherwise.

Bryan and co-host Travis Bilger regularly invite new and established artists on East Georgia’s Morning Show (weekdays 6-10 AM, guests appear from 8-9 AM, on 94.9 & 106.5) to share stories and showcase new music. The duo has hosted and premiered songs from up-and-comers Clayton Hackle, Drew & Rachel Wiggins, Cole Goodwin, Will Moseley, Greg Kearney of Parts & Labor, Mitchell Oglesby and many more promising local artists. Tune into Radio Statesboro and East Georgia’s Morning Show to catch the latest music from our hometown artists and learn new names to lookout for.

Know any good artists?

As a Statesboro native and journalist specializing in arts and entertainment, I’m working to shine a light on local music and arts of all kind in our community. Are you or someone you know an artist or musician in our area who would like to be featured on Grice Connect? Let me know! Email