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The Shootouts take aim with ‘Bullseye’

The Shootouts hit a “Bullseye” hiring Chuck Mead as producer of its second album.

Mead is a founding member of BR5-49, a band that played a pivotal role in introducing a new audience to Western swing, classic country and other genres The Shootouts mine for inspiration. He’s continued to explore those sounds as a solo artist.

“Obviously, The Shootouts were heavily influenced by BR5-49,” frontman Ryan Humbert said. “It’s not surprising that when we started this band, we looked at different influences that fed our sound, and BR5-49 certainly was one of them.”

Humbert, who works as a contractor / consultant for The Summit radio station in Akron and hosts the Sunday morning show “Shooter Sharp’s Americana Roundup,” had a chance to interview Mead at the station when he came in with singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale and Jason Ringenberg (Jason and the Scorchers). He gave Mead a copy of The Shootout’s first release “Quick Draw” and ran into him a month later in Nashville. He asked Mead if he’d be interested in producing the follow up, and Mead responded, “I think I would.”

“He has a deep understanding of the genre,” Humbert said. “He was so enthusiastic, keeping things moving, keeping things in line. He knew when to cut the whip, when to tell you a dirty joke. He’s a really great producer.”

The smoothness of the sessions is even more surprising considering the Shootouts — Humbert, lead vocals and guitar; Emily Bates, backing vocals; Brian Poston, lead guitar; Dylan Gomez, drums; and Ryan McDermott, bass — arrived in Nashville on March 6, 2020, just a couple of days after a tornado tore through the city and damaged Mead’s home and cars. When the band left Nashville on March 16, the country was entering into a lockdown due to COVID-19.

“He could have easily canceled the sessions, but he was in a good mood, enthusiastic,” Humbert said.

The result is an album seeped in vintage sounds, and songs that find a new take on traditional country topics, from mamas to moonshining.

“Bullseye” already is in the top 30 on the Americana Radio Albums Chart, and the band has been added to the playlist for Sirius XM’s Outlaw Country station. Humbert said he pleasantly was surprised by the radio support, as long-haired outlaw country is more in vogue in the Americana realm, and the members of The Shootouts look more like Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton than Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.

Humbert released several albums that were more in the singer-songwriter / rock vein as a solo artist before forming The Shootouts.

“In 2015, when we played our first show, it felt like I got hit by a lightning bolt,” he said. “Everything I’d done up to that point clicked, it made sense. This is what you’re meant to be doing. It took me longer to figure that out, a lot of experience, a lot of learning, but I’m happy where we are right now. Never say never, but I don’t intend to go back to doing anything but The Shootouts ever again.”

The Shootouts had a full slate of concerts and festival gigs booked for 2020 that were postponed or canceled due to the pandemic. With no live shows to play, Humbert turned his attention to the things he could do, creating music videos for several songs (check out the animated video for the song “Rattlesnake Whiskey”) and new merch for the band (www.shootoutsmusic.com).

“We have about a dozen shows on the calendar, largely staying somewhat close to home this summer,” Humbert said. “It seems a little too soon to jump back full force. We want to play as much as anyone, but we’re still figuring out a lot of things about this pandemic. 2020 was going to be our busiest year. We were going to Los Angeles, Chicago, Iowa, Texas — every bit of it got canceled. But every place that canceled us (in 2020) has confirmed us for 2022.”

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