I spend way too much time comparing myself to other people. Insecurity and jealousy that I didn’t even know existed seeps from the corners of my heart and drives me deep into a canyon where the only thing that I know how to do is surf the internet, watch TV, build up walls, and silently or verbally compete with other people who are going through the exact same struggles that I am. That’s not exactly how I want to live the rest of my life.

7 days until the release of HEARTS ON FIRE. Glad to have yall on this journey with us.


Paste Magazine Premieres Lyric Video for Where We Stand

We’ve got another new song for you! “Where We Stand” is the opening track off of Hearts On Fire, due March 11th.

Big thanks to Paste Magazine for the premiere, and to Loch & Key Productions ( for creating the lyric video!



This song started coming together in October 2012 after a close friend of mine told me the heartbreaking story of her 25 year marriage getting torn apart by the addiction and drug use of her spouse. A couple of their kids still lived at home during this tragedy and had to witness not only the drug use, but also the accelerated screaming and fighting that ensued when divorce eventually came into the picture.

I kept thinking about how one day I would have a few kids of my own, and how the two parents in this story were once young just like me… with hopes and dreams and tons of uncertainty ahead of them. What drove the husband in this story to becoming a junkie? How many years of poor communication did it take to get there?

There is no solution offered in this song. Only pain and disappointment is expressed. However, the MLK speech at the end of the track does offer an alternative.

Thanks for listening.



This isn’t a love song, but it is a song about hope.

If you’re like me, then you probably make a ton of mistakes. You do things that you wish you didn’t do, and in your lowest moments you promise yourself that you won’t do them again. The bad news about these demons and these vices is that they never stop. Most of us won’t admit to our struggles and so instead we just keep ourselves really, really busy and we avoid any conversation that has actual substance or value to it. We fill up our brains with social media, alcohol, gossip, sarcasm, competition. We’re weak. I’m weak.

Somehow amidst all of this obvious weakness, we believe that we have the strength and mental stamina to mute the noises and voices that run around in our head. We don’t. These noises can’t be stopped on our own. The only hope we have is when we share these struggles with other people.

This song is me admitting to you that I can’t do it by myself any longer. It’s the drum that I’ll beat until the day I die.


NEW MUSIC TUESDAY: Tarwater (The Fighter)

I met Davis Tarwater sometime around 2004 and his story of persistence and triumph are what inspired this song.

He grew up in Knoxville and started swimming competitively at age 7. Coaches noticed that he was gifted from an early age and his personal dedication to becoming faster and stronger eventually propelled him to a state title in high school and an opportunity to swim collegiately at the University of Michigan alongside teammate Michael Phelps. The opportunity was incredible, and Davis grabbed it by the horns. While at Michigan, Davis broke all kinds of records, got named an All American multiple times, and he qualified for the Olympic trials. Most interesting to me though is that while at Michigan, Davis switched his competitive focus from the freestyle to the butterfly.

All of these honors were huge achievements, but the paragraphs that follow are what inspired me to write this song.

Tarwater qualified for the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials and finished fourth in the 200-meter butterfly, missing the Olympics by less than half a second. (The Top 2 Qualifiers from each event make the Olympic team.) He was heartbroken, but knew that he could give it another run in 2008 so he continued to train for 4 more years alongside Phelps and other Olympians.

In 2008 he qualified for the US Olympic Trials once again, and Tarwater was quoted by the Knox News Sentinel as being “stronger than ever.” In the prelims and semi-finals he swam two of his fastest times ever, placing him in the finals where he needed to place in the Top 2 to make the 2008 Olympic team.

Tarwater swam his personal best time ever, but he fell short and placed 3rd… missing the Olympics by 6 tenths of second.

Heartbroken again, Davis formally announced his retirement from swimming and decided to attend graduate school at Oxford.

But sometime around 2010, he got the itch one more time… and he decided that he wanted to compete at the 2012 Olympic Trials not only in the butterfly, but also in the freestyle.

It was definitely the best decision of his life. Davis trained harder than ever, and swam faster than ever.

In 2012, Davis Tarwater made the Olympic team as a member of the 4 x 200 Relay Team.

Upon hearing this news, I got so pumped up that the lyrics to this song literally just flowed out of me in an afternoon. Michael crafted all of the music and recorded a demo. We sent it to Davis while he was in London prepping for his Olympic race, and according to Davis he listened to it right before he got in the pool to swim the race of his life.

If you’re wondering, that big heavy thing around his neck is an Olympic Gold medal.

American Songwriter Premiers Three Little Angels

Thanks to American Songwriter for premiering our new song “Three Little Angels” today! Another track from Hearts on Fire, “Three Little Angels” features guest vocals from Amy Helm. Check it out below and let us know what you think!

Click Here to Hear Three Little Angels


Sometimes you think that a song is finished, but in reality it’s still a long way’s off. Such is the case of Lovin…. which might be more appropriately named “Lovin 3.0”.

This song started as an acoustic riff that Jenkins had been playing for a while and we thought that it was going to have that “Beast of Burden” / Rolling Stones vibe to it. Originally the chorus to this song was the sexually charged:

“Your sweetness really turns me on,
making me the weakest man you’ve ever known”

and the outro to the song was the repeating phrase:

“I’ll make a living out of lovin you.”

We started working up some demos and we realized that this song had a lot of potential but that honestly it wasn’t really hitting any of us as hard as we had hoped.

A few months later a friend of ours suggested that we move the “Your sweetness really turns me on…” chorus part to the front as the intro and to move the “I’ll make a living out of lovin you” part from the Outro to the chorus… so we did.

Confused yet? So were we… the song just wasn’t done.

Well, the good news is that sometime last summer we were throwing some wiffle balls around the backyard when Jenkins said to me, “What if something bad happens in the story at the end of this song? Or there’s some kind of confrontation between the couple that is having this sweet romance story?”

Thus…. the turning point. We dropped our wiffle ball and plastic yellow bat and ran back inside to chase down the inspiration. Luckily, we found it… I ran into the vocal booth and we recorded the melody and most of the words that filled out the outro to Lovin. It was an absolutely fantastic afternoon.

Truthfully, completing a song is really all about capturing a moment. It’s about cutting to the bone of a situation that you’re in, and letting the honesty bleed out. If I knew how to do it on cue at any time then I would, but I think the only answer for a songwriter is to be ever open to the creative muse and the opportunity of a song.


National Release Day For Youth Is In Our Blood

Today is the day.  The national release of “Youth is in Our Blood” is finally here.

The making of this album has taken up the last year of our lives.  It’s crazy to look back at the amount of time and work that went into getting this thing done.

We had just finished playing at Bonnaroo last June when we were approached by someone with a connection to Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, NY.  They asked us if we would be interested in recording up there if something could work out.  Naturally, we said yes, even though we had just released our self-titled CD six weeks earlier.  When you get an opportunity to go to a place like Levon’s, you just make it happen, whether or not you actually are ready for it.

Shortly thereafter, we booked a couple weeks for December 2009.  At this time, the reality sunk in that we didn’t really have any new material and that it would be a long fall.  Then comes Michael Jenkins to save the day.

Michael, as many of you know, is the source for the majority of our music.  During this time, he was living in a cabin by himself and relentlessly writing. We knew that, but weren’t aware actually how much he was writing.  He came to practice one day and gave me a CD of 10 instrumental full songs (him playing all the instruments).  Many of these ended up being on “Youth”.

We had a show that next week down in Atlanta opening for Band of Skulls on a Tuesday night.  I remember having to drive down separately to meet the rest of the band because of some sort of conflict.  Anyway, I played Michael’s instrumental CD the entire way down and the entire way back to Knoxville afterwards.  Six hours worth.  I loved it. My wife was with me and she didn’t even get sick of it. It was that good to us.

It was at that time that I thought for the first time, “this is going to be a great album”.  I saw the potential in these early cuts, particularly in what is now “Wide Awake” for some really special music. I knew that it would be hard, but that if we worked like crazy on this thing, we could make an album that we were extremely proud of.

As the fall went on, our days were spent in cubicles and classrooms, while our nights were spent working on the new material, arranging, writing, and playing together.  Cozmo joined on in October and it was full steam ahead.  This album was our life.

By the time December came around, we were ready to jump in head first and record these songs for the world to hear.  We thought they were great, but we had to get them out to you all.  As many of our long time readers know, our time in Woodstock ended up being very difficult, but equally great.  For whatever reason, we had a hard time getting going up there.  Many of us ended up being very sick.  We were frustrated.  Songs weren’t tight.  Things were generally not good.  But we fought through, had a breakthrough day, began to heal, and worked like mad to get as much done as we could.

After two weeks in Woodstock (and being stranded in Hershey, PA on the way home, thanks to SNOWPOCALYPSE), we were back home with the skeleton of this album.  However, there was still much to be done.  James spent his evenings in between shows and practices re-doing vocal tracks.  Many other overdubs had to be done, whenever we could find any time at all. Everyone was extremely tired, and at times we wondered if this thing would ever be finished.

We began testing out a few of the songs live around this time.  People responded very positively to the new songs, giving us more motivation to keep working hard.  We knew we had to keep pushing through and that it would be worth it in the end.

So, as you know, we did finish.  We fought through.  We got this thing done.  And we couldn’t be more proud of it. We sincerely hope that you all will enjoy it.

The last year has been a year full of sacrifice.  We have devoted hundreds and hundreds of hours to this because we truly believe in it.  It’s been worth every single minute we have spent, because we think it is a big step forward for us. Most everything that you care about involves sacrifice, and we deeply care about this band, each other, this music, and our fans.

So today, July 20th, “Youth is in Our Blood” goes from our heads to your ears.  We cannot thank you enough for your support.

– Justin

NEW MUSIC TUESDAY: The Country / Recovery

[audio: | titles= The Country] [audio: | titles= Recovery]

This is the LAST New Music Tuesday before the national release date (Tuesday, July 20th) of Youth Is In Our Blood…. sadness. I know. But never fear, the Guv’nahs machine is rolling along at full steam. Have you already gotten your copy of the new album?

We SOLD OUT of the Limited Edition copies last week, but a new shipment came in and we have lowered the price to $12… which includes shipping and handling. The last two songs to talk about on the CD are The Country and Recovery. Recovery was written by Aaron Hoskins, Guv’nahs drummer fandango, so he’ll be chiming in about that tune.


Recovery was the last song we completed before going to Woodstock.  Its about going through a difficult point in your life, and feeling like you’re not yourself.  When you feel lost, its tough to find a way out.  Ultimately, we aren’t bound to the past, and we do control our future.  Things are hard for all of us, but if we’re smart, we don’t go through them alone.  This song is about the importance of community, faith, and family to get through the rough parts.  Alone we aren’t much.  Together we’re loud.



The Country. I’ll keep this short and sweet. Sometimes people love each other but they just don’t live at the same speed, and it’ll never work out. Fact: Not all relationships last forever. This one ended on the side of the road at a rest stop between Nashville and Birmingham. Big thanks to Jill Andrews for singing harmony on the last half of this track. If you haven’t heard her yet then you might need to take 5 minutes and download everything she has right now.

In closing, let me say your emails and facebook messages of encouragement have been PIVOTAL in encouraging us to move forward with this band. We are having the time of our lives, but the honest truth is that it is really tough to work all week and then be on the road Thursday – Sunday playing shows all of the Southeast and Northeast. Hearing from you guys really means more than you can understand… so thanks.

I want yall to know from the bottom of our hearts, that following your dreams is absolutely worth it. Even if you fall on your face. You learn a lot about yourself and about the world when you put all of your skin in the game. We believe that music still matters, and we won’t give up until we see this trashcan dream come true.

Over the next 6 weeks, we’re playing shows in 8 different states. See you there!


NEW MUSIC TUESDAY: Seeds On The Rise/ Song For My Beloved

[audio: | titles= Seeds On The Rise] [audio: | titles= Song For My Beloved] Happy New Music Tuesday! This week both Chris and James will be talking a little about the new songs. If you didn’t check out the music video for “We’ll Be The Light” yet, make sure you do here!
I wrote “Seeds on the Rise” one afternoon in the Fall of 2009 while I was visiting my family’s farm in Townsend, TN. This song is about the struggle of loss. Loss takes on a dual meaning in “Seeds”, and the listener is exposed to lyrics that address the loss of a relationship, as well as the struggle of losing faith. The loss of anything in my life usually forces me to deal with the issue of control, and this is where I started with “Seeds”. In my experience, we are all told from a very early age (over and over again) that our destiny lies in our ability to control it. We must take control of our relationships, take control of our financial security, take control of our direction, lest we lose that control and thus lose our ability to dictate our lives. This, of course, is a myth, and we’re reminded of that truth when we see our control disappear. Lives change, relationships, jobs, etc. all come to an end for reasons outside of our control, and we’re left silently asking ourselves the same question – what is the meaning of this? If we recognize the truth that we can’t control everything we desire to, is there something or somebody who does? Or is all of this just a random sequence of events that transpire without any real meaning or purpose? Are we like the seeds that float over a farm’s field in East Tennessee, thrown to a directionless wind to land wherever it blows us? Or is there something else outside of our control that cares about what happens here? Is there someone or something that guides us to places without catering to whether or not we can recognize or understand where we’re going? These are the questions I wanted to ask when I wrote “Seeds”. If we’re honest, I think we can agree that an unhealthy pursuit of control leads to bitter loneliness. If I spend too much time buying into the idea that “it’s all up to me”, I eventually find myself feeling like “It’s only me.” Life becomes very lonely and brief. But as I wrote the lyrics to “Seeds”, I was reminded of another truth – there is hope. The songs ends with this realization – there is hope for everyone plagued by the guilt of not mastering this illusion we’ve created called control. Our hope in part lies in the love that we have for one another, and more importantly, the love that exists for us by the “someone or something” that does care about what’s going on here.

I hope you enjoy it.


“Song for My Beloved” was written during one of the most tiring weeks of my life. It’s a story of one lover radically pursuing the other and reminding the other that it is impossible for her to run away from his love. Without explaining too much, I’ll just say that it was written a couple days after Thanksgiving 2009 and I had been reading Henri Nouwen’s “Life of the Beloved” while relaxing for a couple days at my parent’s home in middle Tennessee. I was really inspired by Nouwen’s musings about “resting in knowing that you are loved and then living out of that restful place.” This is one of those songs that just felt like a complete gift… like something that I didn’t create and didn’t have much control over. On November 29th I was dog tired, so I laid down to take a short nap… when I woke up from taking the nap, these are the words and the melody that came out.