Not many bands win a national song contest and procure two national TV appearances before they’re even technically a band – but South 62 did. This six-piece group from Pennsylvania combines their love of traditional country lyrics and themes with a progressive musicianship honed from years of mastering their craft on stages and in recording studios....
South 62 is Jeff Lewis, lead vocals; Rich Alcorn, lead and acoustic guitar/vocals; Anthony Brown, keys/acoustic guitar/vocals; Tom Hodges, mandolin/Dobro/pedal steel/vocals; Brad Kendzior, bass; and Darrin Payne, drums/percussion/vocals. Most had known each other for a couple of decades and had crossed musical paths many times. They named the group after the route that brought them all together to record their debut album. “It just seemed fitting, since South 62 was the road we all had to take to get to the studio where we were making the music,” says Lewis. “That’s where it all happened.”
The band’s formation had many twists and turns, as each multi-genre musician took a different path to finding country music – but for Lewis, country was always the bedrock. “My father has been a musician for my whole life,” he says. “His group was the big band around my hometown through the ‘70s and ‘80s. I grew up listening to them play Merle Haggard, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash. It was in my blood. As a teenager, I listened to Metallica, Guns N’ Roses and Mötley Crüe. But I dropped all of that when Garth Brooks hit.”
It was Brooks’ passion for the music that Lewis connected with – and tries to convey himself when he’s performing. It’s a feeling he never takes for granted, because he knows the ups and downs of the music business all too well. In the ‘90s, Lewis went from playing hometown venues like the Frewsburg Legion, Samuel Derby Post 556 to singing on big stages, opening for artists including George Jones, Diamond Rio, Patty Loveless, Toby Keith and Brad Paisley. But one disappointment after another, including a record deal that never materialized, caused Lewis to step back and take a 10-year break from music. “We were so close to success,” he recalls. “It just beat me up. I think my pride got in the way.”
Lewis points to his family as one of the reasons he decided to give it another try. “My parents have had my back 1,000%,” he says. “That entire 10 years, they were like, ‘What are you doing? God wants you to sing. It doesn’t matter if you have a record deal or not. That isn’t what it’s about.’”
In 2016 Lewis’ friend, songwriter Norm Cady, asked him to record a song he’d written, “Land Of Dreams.” Unbeknownst to Lewis, Cady entered it in the Constituting America contest – and it won. By 2017, Lewis, who’d nearly given up on his dreams, was on his way to Houston, TX to perform the song in front of 30,000 people.
Cady went to a taping of The Huckabee Show in Nashville in 2018 and handed a CD of “Land Of Dreams” to the producer. “Pretty soon they were calling us to be on the show!” says Lewis. “Old Normy, he’s a mentor of mine who has definitely helped create a lot of the luck we’ve had.” The band’s luck continued with a 2019 performance on the Montel Williams-hosted Lifetime show Military Makeover: Operation Career.
“What a great high,” says Lewis of the television spots. “It’s the rollercoaster of music: we were just on national TV, and then we had to go back home to our day jobs. We had people from all over the country emailing and reaching out to us. All the momentum we were gaining was just slipping right through our fingers because we didn’t have an album. At that point, it was just Rich, Anthony and me.”
Once Hodges, Kendzior and Payne joined the band, they focused on finally making a South 62 album. The 12-song collection draws upon each member’s wide range of musical influences, from progressive rock to bluegrass. “There’s an eclectic blend on this album,” says Lewis. “There’s something for everybody. If you like new country, there’s a hint of that on there. And if you like the old power ballads and three-chord country songs, those are there, too.”
The band’s debut single, “Talk Of The Town,” is an upbeat tune with unforgettable musical and lyrical hooks. “If you grew up in a small town like all of us in the band have, your neighbors know what you’re doing, the postman knows what you’re doing – everybody knows,” says Lewis with a laugh. “And everybody has to take their turn in the barrel where they’re getting talked about.”
South 62 is more than ready to be the name on everyone’s lips and more than grateful for the success that has already occurred. “I never dreamed in my life that any of this would have happened,” says Lewis. “We just love playing music and hearing the crowd. We love that person in the back screaming, ‘One more!’ when we tell them we’re done. It’s the camaraderie of being onstage or in the studio, feeding off of one another. It feels like we were meant to be a band. No matter what happens, we already have some of the coolest stories ever.”
'Land of Dreams' Documentary
Talk Of The Town
Land of Dreams(Official)