We’re down to six. Six performers made it through two rounds of voting to reach the final round in AMPED: The Augusta Chronicle Music Contest. They’ll perform their original songs beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15, on the Global Stage at the Arts in the Heart of Augusta Festival. Here’s a closer look at the top six:
GENE & ROY
Wade Teston didn’t start writing songs until he was in his 40s after an unlikely career change helped him tap into his creative side.
“I’m a gasoline tanker driver,” he said. “I had office jobs that people would give their right arm for, but I never had the peace and freedom. I write a lot of songs.”
Teston classifies his music as folk-Americana. He has been influenced by “classic country” songs of artists such as Willie Nelson and Guy Clark.
“I like to keep it simple and have something to say,” said Teston, who would likely have kept his songs to himself without the urging of his biggest fan, his wife, Pam, who prompted him to enter the contest.
She has looked for other opportunities for him to play. When she first organized the monthly Pick’n and Praise’n event about three years ago with the purpose of giving singer-songwriters a place to perform, her husband was at the top of the list.
Teston’s entry in the AMPED competition is called Gene & Roy and is about Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.
“In the ’60s, the world was in a mess. The president was assassinated; Martin Luther King was assassinated. People would go to their TVs as a retreat, an escape from reality,” he said.
LEAVING ME HANGING
Therapy isn’t exactly what Celia Gary has in mind with her music, but people have told the University of South Carolina Aiken psychology major that there is something soothing about her music.
“ ‘Relaxing’ and ‘mellow’ are words I get a lot,” said Gary, an acoustic guitar player and singer who’d like to make a career out of music but is finishing her degree just in case.
Gary writes music from her heart and thinks that may be the reason people connect with it.
“I share personal things,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s about people I know. I feel like I’m inspiring people to know they are not alone. I use music to let people open up. They click with something through a song.”
Her AMPED song, Leaving Me Hanging, is about a close male friend.
“There may have been some feelings there, but he kept blowing me off. I had to write it,” she said.
Jesup Dolly’s music and name reflect each other.
Feelings of disenfranchisement, poverty and the outlaw element are part of Jesup Dolly’s sound, according to band member, Brian Allen.
The band is named for a character, Jessup Dolly, with a slightly different spelling from the 2010 Indie film, Winter’s Bone. In the film, Dolly, who is known for his expertise as a meth cook, turns up missing before his court date. He’s put the family’s house up as a security for his bond, and if he doesn’t show up to court, then the family is homeless. His teenage daughter sets out to find him. The film is based on a 2006 novel.
Its Americana-infused rock sound has its roots in other forms including punk. A few of the band members played with punk bands at one time.
Bill Quattlebaum said influences include Jim Croce and Bobbie Gentry’s Ode to Billie Joe.
“It’s all about the story,” he said.
Jesup Dolly’s entry in the Amped competition is Evangeline.
Members of The Farris-Owen Project had an “aha” moment during last year’s Arts in the Heart of Augusta.
“We play for fun,” said band member, Julie Farris. “Last year, we heard the bands up there, and thought ‘we could do that,’ ”
She and Debbie Owen had been playing together for several years, and they added Debbie’s daughter, Laura, a Westside High School junior, who plays upright bass, to round out the trio.
The group performs a lot of covers in addition to its own music.
“We play everything from the Judds to Elvis,” said Farris.
She wrote their band’s song, Delia Jones, as a response.
“It’s a story song. A friend wrote two other songs, but no one told the wife’s side of the story,” said Farris.
RESULTS MAY VARY
Results May Vary blends a variety of styles together to form one unique sound.
Band member Justin Epps calls it “pop, punk-alternative rock,” while Benjamin Kokko terms it “power pop.”
Whatever it’s called, it brings with it a positive message.
“We are Christian guys,” said Drew Norris. “We will never go against that. Our songs will never have ungodly things in them.”
The band members met through church and school, and while they don’t know where their musical future will take them, they try to keep things in perspective.
“All those people who are in it for fame and money, we just like to get together and play,” said Norris. “We are doing what we love and having fun with it.”
Results May Vary’s entry is called Best Shot.
STUCK IN TIME
Jefferson County High School senior Bethany Kathleen has been singing for as long as she can remember.
“I’ve sung in church choirs and at church events,” said Kathleen, who would like to pursue a music-related career, possibly music therapy.
Influences on the 17-year-old’s music include Taylor Swift, Michael Buble, Frank Sinatra and Colbie Caillat.
She’s been writing songs for several years, but says not all of her songs are for the public. Some are just for her.
“I’ve written a lot, but I consider seven or eight to be good songs,” Kathleen said.
One of those good songs is Stuck In Time, her entry in the AMPED music contest.
“It’s about a relationship I didn’t want to end, and I wanted to be stuck in the moment of it,” she said.