Needle in A Haystack

needleSometimes, finding music outside the mainstream is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. There’s just so much music out there that it can often seem overwhelming to find something new, or at least new to me. However, as a constant and compulsive music consumer, it’s a task in which I eagerly indulge.

There are, of course, a myriad of ways to discover music, including the simplest way these days, the internet. But a process, a place to start, is still necessary in order to avoid overload.

One of my favorite ways to do this is to start with an artist that I already enjoy. For example, I’ll use Vince Gill. Big surprise, I know. Using Vince is cheating in a way, of course, since he’s so prolific as a guest artist. Nevertheless, I periodically do an Amazon, Emusic and Barnes & Noble search with his name and have discovered or got on board with many interesting artists, albums or specific songs as a result. People like Sonny Landreth, Fernando Ortega, Leslie Satcher, Julie Lee, Jamie Oldaker, Jeff & Sheri Easter, to name a few, have found permanent spots on my play lists due to their connections with Vince. Likewise, I’ve found terrific compilations such as Voice of the Spirit, Gospel of the South that in turn, lead me to other artists that I might not have otherwise discovered.

As I have already acknowledged, Vince is an easy search, since he’s involved in so many projects, but I have used this process with many other artists as well and have been significantly rewarded for my diligence.

What process do you typically use to discover music and who or what have you found as a result?



  1. I like using the site (9513 has it, can we get a group for Country Universe as a way to get this site more socially active in the twitter, facebook, myspace, digg universe?). I can just type in an artist and listen to music based on what is similar. It’s quite handy when I’m in the mood.

  2. I’ve never had a ton of luck with automated recommendations for some reason. As for finding music on Myspace, I can only really confirm whether or not I like an artist that I’ve already found another way.

  3. The website CD Baby used to have a search feature, “sounds like” and you would type in Vince Gill’s name, for example ( I know, I know, maybe not the best example since Vince has an especially unique voice..).So anyway, the site would give you a list of up and coming artists who are stylistically similar to the artist named, if not actual sound-alikes.

    I have also discovered many fine singers through MySpace. Friends of musical friends kind of thing. My Space musicians use their full name more often than not, so that is an indication..if you see another musician on one of your favorite artist’s MS site friends list or in the comment section, chances are that artist will have something in common with the artist that you already know and enjoy. I think it was from Sara Evan’s myspace site that I discovered an awesome singer named Holly Bakehorn. She also has a very expressive, velvety voice, with some tonal qualities like Sara’s. (She does a killer rendition of Patsy’s Sweet Dreams, by the way).

    And Country Weekly’s “Who’s New” feature can provide some good leads. Check out Emma Mae Jacob, for example. She reminds me of a young Martina, only a little more Country.

    But I’m with you on good old fashioned research, liner notes, songwriter credits, studio or road musician credits, and artists interview recommendations are all excellent, as you know. I discovered Tim Hensley though his connection to Patty Loveless, to name one example. And Patty in comments regarding Sleepless Nights explicitly recommends her fans and listeners do a little research and check out the original versions of the songs she covered for SN.

    And on a side note, there is only one problem with that. Patty spoiled me with her amazing interpretations, and some of the originals covered on Sleepless Nights don’t come close to Patty’s vesions, in my opinion. But she is far too humble to ever admit that, or make that claim.

    Anyway, those techniques have worked very well for me, hope that helps.

  4. Good ideas, Steve. I do some of those too.

    I didn’t mention it in the post, but another way I find music is through blogs, of course. There are certain bloggers that I know have tastes that are similar to mine.

  5. I could name a few of those bloggers that have helped me as well, lol…past and present company included. I have learned so much right here. ;)

  6. Lee Ann, Dave Barnes (while not a country artist) has featured Vince on a track or two during his career. I’d recommend him if you like an acoustic pop/r&b/rock hybrid.

  7. Thanks, Matt. I’ve run across Barnes as a result of my routine Vince searches in the past. He doesn’t really do anything for me though, probably because of the R&B thing that you mentioned.

  8. I’m pretty heavy into using the same technique Steve mentioned; I often utilize the “friends of musical friends kind of thing.” I’ve noticed it is especially effective if you concentrate on younger/newer artist as they often have other talented artists that are not already well-known.

    Starting with Nickel Creek and branching off I think I discovered about 15-20 artists I currently still really enjoy. That was the biggest goldmine I think I have ever run into.

  9. I have some new stuff on country blogs like this one and Roughstock.

    When I’m listening to songs on YouTube, I take a look at the related videos, which often have some different artists that can be interesting.

    And finally, I just listen to the American Country Countdown top 40. Some of the stuff on the lower portions of the chart are lesser known and usually not as known to me.

  10. Actually, back when I listened to the top 40, I liked to catch the lower half too, for the same reason. It hadn’t been overplayed yet, unless it was on its way down, of course.

  11. Sites like this one and The 9513 have been the biggest factor in my musical discoveries in the past year or so. Whether it was a direct recommendation in an article or review or even someone personally saying ‘hey you might like this too’, I’ve seriously upped my collection and streamlined it at the same time after I started reading the country music blogs regularly. The streamlining stems from ridding myself of a lot of the mainstream stuff to make room for some of the fabulous obscure stuff.

  12. I have discovered a lot of new music (or, at least music that’s new to me) on I like the idea of “if you like this artist you might also like this”. I’ve also checked out recommedations from sites like CU and The 9513. I also try to check out opening acts when I go to concerts. I found Billy Falcon when he opened a show for Don Henley years ago, and while he never had huge success, to this day I remain a fan of his music.

  13. Being the big Linda Ronstadt fan I am, I have looked for other like-minded female artists like her and Emmylou Harris. This was how, through a process of Internet searching, I came across Tift Merritt seven years ago. Her 2002 debut album BRAMBLE ROSE was being very favorably compared to Linda’s HEART LIKE A WHEEL and Emmy’s PIECES OF THE SKY–Americana, but also with that “old school” country-rock feel to it. Since then, she has made two more studio albums (TAMBOURINE; ANOTHER COUNTRY) and a couple of live ones; and her genuine spunk and intelligent, heartfelt songwriting have really caused me to name her my favorite female artist of this decade in ANY genre.

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