The heart of Nashville comes to Southwest Florida Dec. 3 when the up-and-coming, honky-tonk crooner, James Carothers, takes the stage at The William H. Wakeman, III Cultural Center Theater in Port Charlotte.
He’s known for his stone-country originals and spot-on impressions of traditional country’s greatest icons — Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.
This is Carothers first time to the Southwest Florida area. In fact, it’s his first time to Florida.
“I’ve been fortunate to travel to lots of cool places over the last few years, but oddly enough, I have never been to Florida in my life,” Carothers said.
Carothers is a regular in Nashville with a large fan base of fiercely supportive followers who love real country music.
“The shows in Nashville are mostly in bars, so I’d say they’re a cross between music and background noise,” Carothers said. “We have fun playing in the bars, but we want to come to Florida and play in some places where the folks are there to listen to the music.”
Carothers has become one of the most sought after up-and-coming country artists in Nashville after first being endorsed and hired by George Jones’ wife Nancy four years ago, at The George Jones Nashville.
Since then, he has been picked by Alan Jackson to open multiple dates on the “Honky Tonk Highway Tour” and will be making his “Grand Ole Opry” debut with Jackson later this year.
“Playing in Nashville has taught me that there are regional strongholds of traditional country music and it’s appealing to be around people who think the same way because we’re all going to have a good time,” Carothers said.
“The lessons you learn in the Nashville honky tonks … that could be its own book,” Carothers said. “Certainly, you learn a lot about playing music from all the great players that are in Nashville. If you want to get better at something, you should surround yourself with people who are better than you (and) it’s really easy to find people who are better at music than you are in the Nashville honky tonks.”
“I sneak my original music into my bar sets, but most of the bar music we play has to be covers because bar managers want the songs to be familiar to patrons so they can sing along,” Carothers said, referring to some of his singles called “Back To Hank” and “Papaw’s Little Truck.”
“Both original songs have very traditional feels musically and pretty easy-to-follow words,” Carothers said.
It’s the local and live connection with fans that makes his career possible.
“Our fans become our friends and our friends are what keep us playing,” Carothers said. “When we play, we’re trying to be there in the moment with those people in the room. We try to sing and play with our live crowd like we’re all in it together. I want to talk with them, not at them.
With every show, Carothers works to keep traditional country music at the forefront.
“Traditional country music connects us to the past and brings us together, in person (and) in the present,” he said. “If we copy a Merle Haggard show, there’s going to be people singing and dancing together, as well as waiting in line for drinks and bumping into each other.”
“In contrast, if we keep going more and more modern, there will be less of a human connection and you end up on an entirely different wavelength. For me, the traditional “wavelength” is more fun.”
When it comes to his upcoming shows in Florida, Carothers sees nothing but a positive wavelength.
“I look forward to making new friends and I know it’ll be easy because the folks that come see us are already gonna love country music,” Carothers said. “So, we’ve already agreed on all the important stuff. I also am really looking forward to the weather, scenery and the possibility of seeing some gators.”