Five years after meeting in Nashville and forming King Calaway, band members Caleb Miller, Chris Deaton, Simon Dumas and Chad Michael Jervis have – with the help of country superstar Zac Brown – honed their exclusive mix of unmistakable vocals, fearless, thoughtful song choices and fresh-yet-familiar production that is destined to make them contemporary country music’s new ride-or-die band.
King Calaway showcases their personal and creative evolution in the group’s new 16-song album Tennessee’s Waiting, much of which Zac Brown produced. The collection builds on their debut album Rivers and often combines the group’s brawny harmonies with threads of Southern rock and California country. Tennessee’s Waiting is the band’s first new full-length album in four years.
“It’s only natural when you spend so much time with a group of people that a lot of the filters are going to come off,” Chad says. “We’ll say whatever we need to each other in a respectful way to get the music where it needs to be. We all have opinions, and we have honesty with each other. I think that’s a big part of the growth.”
Named as one of seven ‘new Country acts to watch out for’ by Billboard, King Calaway has commanded attention in country music since their 2019 arrival. The band made an emotional Grand Ole Opry debut, the excitement of which might only be rivaled by their opening spot for Garth Brooks on his stadium tour. They have performed on national television shows including “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” “TODAY,” “The Kelly Clarkson Show” and the internationally acclaimed show “Neighbours.”
Their 2021 EP, “Midnight,” heralded a more organic sound that featured “hooky songs with infectious melodies and big, harmony-rich choruses” (People). Then came Tennessee’s Waiting. The collection includes their Zac Brown duet, “When I Get Home,” which they performed with him at Nissan Stadium, their catchy, danceable, high-energy track “I’m Feelin’ Good (Steve Miller Band)” and the tender, nostalgic Hailey Whitters collaboration, “Let It Flow.”
“As soon as we heard ‘When I Get Home,’ we were all in,” Chris says. “The song is about grace and overcoming challenges to better yourself. I think anyone can relate to the lyrical message, and it was incredibly inspiring to have Zac there with us.”
Inviting Hailey to sing with them was also an easy choice for the group.
“When we were thinking of people, all of us immediately went towards Hailey because we were all such big fans of hers,” Chris says. “We sent the song to her, and she immediately jumped on and came in. She just absolutely crushed it and filled the role the song needed so well.”
The album opens with their guitar-driven, up-tempo love song “Best Thing About Me Now,” a happy tribute to their romantic partners for making them better men.
After all, the band became men together. When they formed, everyone was single, and Caleb was still in high school. He recently got engaged at Simon’s wedding. And Chris is also now married.
“We’re all kind of growing up,” Simon says. “With that and our experiences on the road, it felt like we had some different stories we wanted to tell through our songs.”
The sounds on the album vary almost as vastly as members’ hometowns. Chris (drums) is from Nashville. Caleb (lead guitar) grew up in Portsmouth, Ohio. Chad Michael Jervis (guitar/lead vocals) is a Wilmington, Delaware native and Simon Dumas (guitar/lead vocals) grew up in Gibraltar.
Members fuse their backgrounds with blues, rock and country influences – and a heavy focus on harmonies — as the album progresses.
Simon wrote “Dive Bar” alongside Justin Morgan and Lonnie Fowler. The songwriting appointment began with the co-writers sharing stories, and they realized that people remember the same milestones – like a first kiss or their first big night out – regardless of where they’re from.
“There were so many things we had in common in terms of just life experiences,” he says. “‘Dive Bar’ came about by us realizing people have a lot of different backgrounds and a lot of different views on things, but when it comes down to it, if we were all just gathered in a bar drinking a beer, we probably find that we have so many more similarities.”
The title track, “Tennessee’s Waiting,” is also meaningful to the band. Chad, Chris and Caleb wrote it with Adam Craig, and the song explores the group’s relationship with its adopted home state as well as its years-long trek to the country music spotlight.
“It finally feels like Tennessee is starting to feel like home for us after five years of being here,” Caleb says. “That song is just about our journey as a band — just driving late in the night from gig to gig for months on end and waiting to finally go home. It’s like, ‘Oh wait, Tennessee is our home. It feels like home now.’ It’s why we named the album ‘Tennessee’s Waiting.'”
King Calaway teamed with Grammy-nominated Americana artist Marcus King on the passionate, melodic “Heathen,” combined with “Denim Jacket,” the songs showcase the band’s dazzling musicianship.
Because they wanted to stay true to their roots as a vocal group, King Calaway leaned into their distinct, artful harmonies in “High Cost of Loving You.” The mid-tempo, which flaunts Caleb’s lead guitar licks and the unrivaled combination of their voices, recognizes the dangers of heartbreak in a relationship.
Members wanted to add another vocal moment to the album and turned to Vince Gill’s breakthrough hit “When I Call Your Name” for inspiration.
“We felt there’s no point trying to recreate what Vince did, so let’s try and do our version,” Simon says. “And that’s why Caleb just got in there and laid down the acoustic guitar, and then we put the vocals on it.”
The men had CMA Musician of the Year, fiddle player Jenee Fleenor, play on the song, and Paul Franklin, who laid down pedal steel on the original.
“He’s like, ‘I don’t want to just do a carbon copy of what I did the first time around, so let’s really try and think this through,'” Simon recalls. “It just felt really special.”
As for what Zac brought to them in the studio – the men say decades of stories, priceless knowledge, and the desire to give back to other up-and-coming artists.
“It was really interesting to see him work from behind the board and see his creative decisions and his process in the studio,” Chris says. “And it also was really inspiring because Zac is at such a level where he doesn’t have to help out a new band like us, but he did. And now he has taken us out on the road too, we are beyond grateful for his incredible support.”
Caleb adds: “Working with Zac brought out the most genuine form of King Calaway’s musicianship. He dug into each of our strengths and brought out the best in us.”
With the help of Zac and the opportunity to mature, King Calaway has grown into one of country music’s most promising new stars. The members’ unfaltering musicianship, distinct harmonies and bold, exposed storytelling ensure this band of friends is just getting started.
No one is waiting on King Calaway – they’ve arrived.