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Wednesday, 10 September, 2008 5:57 PM

Trailer Choir: From Frat Parties to Concert Halls

Photo courtesy of Show Dog Nashville

Trailer Choir

by Jason Rzucidlo


Trailer Choir is a brand new group on the country music scene. It is made up of Crystal Hoyt, Mark “Butter” Fortney and Vinnie “The Mack” Hickerson, a 400-pound man who dances in the middle of their shows.

Toby Keith discovered the group and signed them on his new label, Show Dog Records. Trailer Choir is now performing on his “2008 Biggest & Baddest Tour.”

The name of the group is very unique. “Butter is the one that came up with that concept,” said Crystal Hoyt of Trailer Choir. “Butter’s our funny front man. It kinda started with this idea with these frat parties that we had been playing. They really liked the idea of being able to stop in the middle of a song and having everybody sing the song with you. That’s the choir concept. Then the trailer part comes in.”

Trailer Choir’s style of music is different than others in country music. It is more fun and edgy.

“Anything that we put out there is simple melodies that people can sing along with,” says Hoyt. “Songs that have smart writing that are still touchy and fun. There’s definitely a serious side to it too to show the public. We call it a three-minute vacation. Leave the troubles behind for a little bit and have a good time with us.”

The group started out by playing cover songs. Then, it made the transition to original material.

“Butter and Vinnie started the college frat party shows,” said Hoyt. “That kinda energy that’s created when people know the song and are familiar with the song. It’s really hard to work an original song into that cause sometimes you lose the crowd if you do that. They started intentionally writing songs that were geared towards that type of crowd. You could still keep the energy up but still a song that people would catch on to quickly enough that they could still sing along with it.

“We made that transition from a being cover show into an all original show in Nashville that broke kinda it’s own following out of that.”

Toby Keith, one of the biggest stars in country music, discovered the group.

“There was a good buzz goin about Trailer Choir,” said Crystal Hoyt. “I knew the boys for years, Butter and Vinny both before actually joining the band. They were getting out really good songs. People were talking about it. Someone had mentioned it to him and he said ‘I wanna go check ‘em out.’ Toby did a show one night last minute, barely caught the last part of one song and came back just after that. He said, ‘Can you come to this bar and play a couple of songs?’ We went in there played two or three songs. Toby said, ‘I’ll talk to y’all tomorrow.’ He did and here we are now.”

Trailer Choir’s debut single is a song called “Off the Hilbilly Hook.”

“We had a friend who is from California and she was on Nashville Star a few years ago,” said Hoyt. “She is just a fun, great songwriter. She had gone to a Trailer Choir show one night and approached Big Vinnie after the show and said ‘I have a hook that I need to write with ya’ll.’ She got together with Vinnie and started writing it. Then, Butter joined in later. That was actually one of the first songs I ever sung with the boys. That’s kinda what brought me into the group. It turned into this really neat anthem for the Beer For My Horses movie.”

The group is currently working on a debut album that will have between 12 and 15 songs on it once complete. The first four songs are available online at digital music retailers such as iTunes.

“We’ve got a good portion of it completed so far,” Hoyt said. “Not all of it yet just because Toby’s producing it. So we’re working around his schedule and the movie schedule and everything else we’ve got going on. We’d like to get it out before Christmas. Around November would be ideal. It all depends on scheduling. We’ve got tons of material that’s been written that we’ve been waiting to record.”

Sonic Drive-In restaurant influenced one of the group’s band members in a big way.

“Vinnie has everything in life because of Sonic,” Hoyt said. “He started working there when he was in high school. Basically, that supported him. He worked there and had a hard time leaving there to go into full-time songwriting. The song ‘Rollin’ Through The Sunshine’, they actually wrote that song, Butter and Vinnie did, over the phone while Vinnie was working at Sonic flipping burgers and taking orders.”

Toby Keith gave the new group some advice on how to be successful.

“Be professional, but be yourself,” said Hoyt of his advice. “He never asked us to change anything. He said, ‘Go out there and do what you do. Sing the way you sing. There’s no real plan yet for what I’m gonna do with ya’ll. I just want you to go out there and be yourself.’ He wants his artists to do what he did which was be yourself but go out there and make your own music, play your own music. He wants everybody to be true artists, songwriters, entertainers, the whole package.”

Trailer Choir has been touring with Keith on his 2008 “Biggest & Baddest Tour” along with Montgomery Gentry, Carter’s Chord and Mica Roberts.

“We got to learn a lot last year, just being on the side stages,” said Hoyt. “But nothing really compares to being on that big stage. We loved the side stages. It was the best learning experience for all of us. This year, being on the big stage and in front of that many people every night is such a blessing. Seeing Trailer Choir posters in the crowd is really cool. Getting to learn from the best in the business. Toby is one of the best, if not the best at what he does. We get to see what he does every night and try to pick up tips and learn how to do what he does.”

Trailer Choir will perform at the DTE Energy Music Theatre on Sept. 14th.



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