By Chris Yow
PINSON — Friday night at the annual Alabama Butterbean Festival, the Johnathan East Band will take the stage, and the band’s lead singer and namesake Johnathan East is looking forward to the event.
The real country singer with a real country accent said he was excited to play the festival for several reasons, including the chance to play for a different crowd than he’s used to while travelling the bar scene.
“You see a different kind of crowd at festivals,” East said. “You usually see families and a larger variety of fans there, and they pay more attention than people in bars.”
When he plays live, East loves to mix in some of the songs that influenced him as a kid with songs he’s written. East said Hank Williams Jr. and Charlie Daniels really played a big part in curbing his musical taste as a teenager. He got his first guitar at 13 years old and began writing songs as a teenager. East put out his first album “Grits and Gravy” in 2007.
As far as hits go, East hasn’t seen the radio airwaves much, but 1.8 million people have viewed his video on YouTube for the song “A Little on the Redneck Side”.
“That’s my big hit. That’s my ‘Free Bird’,” he said. “We had a ball shooting that video. We just had a lot of fun. I told them if we’re going to be out there all day, let’s be doing something fun.”
The video has garnered plenty of attention, and East has ridden that little bit of fame to four albums, and his fifth will soon be released with the new single “Act Like a Man” which will also come with a music video.
“The name of the new album is ‘Free Advice’ which is one of the songs on there. It’s a 15-song album,” he said. “It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done.”
East said his albums have progressively gotten better as he has learned more about the process, and that’s something he’s prideful about.
Describing Johnathan East’s music, however, is not an easy task. He’s a traditional country singer with a little rock and roll that he can carry a long, long way — which coincidentally is the hook in one of his songs.
“I like the traditional country better,” he said. “But not everything is real traditional, but more of it is like the early 2000s, 1990s.”
His style of music has led him to open for several large acts, including a spot at Rock the South two years ago. He’s embarking on the country cruisin’ tour with Neal McCoy, Trace Adkins, Parmalee and Thompson Square soon as well.
Getting to that point in his career, he’s paid a lot of dues and had a lot of help along the way. He credited his wife and manager Patrick McCarty for helping him get to this level of success.
“I just kind of show up and sing,” East said. “I’m really lucky to have (his wife and McCarty) taking care of the business side of things.”
East takes the stage at the Alabama Butterbean Festival at 8 p.m. with his band, of whom several members are local.
“I’m looking forward to playing Pinson because most of my band comes from that area,” he said. “It’s really neat to get to play something where our band is kind of based. And any place that’s got funnel cakes I’m pretty excited about.”