Steve Seskin is a successful songwriter who has written seven number one songs, including Grammy-nominated “Grown Men Don’t Cry,” recorded by Tim McGraw, and “Don’t Laugh at Me,” winner of NSAI Song of the Year and Music Row Magazine Song of the Year in 1999 as recorded by Mark Wills. His other #1 hits are “No Doubt About It” and “For a Change,” both recorded by Neal McCoy, “No Man’s Land” and “If You’ve Got Love,” both recorded by John Michael Montgomery, and “Daddy’s Money,” recorded by Ricochet.
Other chart toppers include “I Think About You,” recorded by Collin Raye, and “All I Need To Know,” recorded by Kenny Chesney. The video for Raye’s “I Think About You” single was named the Academy of Country Music’s Video of the Year in 1997, and the song and video were also given an award by the Tennessee Task Force Against Domestic Violence.
In 2014, Steve was nominated to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Recent recordings of his songs include “Pictures,” by John Michael Montgomery, “We Shook Hands,” by Tebey, “I’ll Always Be There For You,” by Brian McComas, “This Too Shall Pass,” by Sinclair and “Standing Still”, “Proof”, “Lift You Up” and “Electricity” by Seth Glier.
While Steve is best known for writing hits, he is also a successful performer and recording artist. His 20th album, Some Sunsets, released in 2014, is filled with inspiring, hopeful songs, and features Steve and the talented Julia Sinclair.
“Don’t Laugh at Me” was recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary and became the impetus for the Operation Respect/Don’t Laugh at Me project, a curriculum designed to teach tolerance in schools. This program has already been implemented in more than 20,000 schools across the country. Steve now enjoys performing at school assemblies in support of this program. The song is now available as a children’s book, Don’t Laugh At Me, which was featured on PBS’s Reading Rainbow in September 2002.â¨â¨
Steve is also an active keynote speaker and songwriting teacher for the West Coast Songwriters Association, the Nashville Songwriters Association International, the Swannanoa Gathering, The Song School at Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, and several NETN events. He has also been the director of the Kerrville Songwriter’s School since 2012.
With his unique gift for finding the extraordinary in ordinary life, Chris Wallin has established himself as one of Nashville's most sought-after songwriters. For the past several years, Wallin has topped the charts with classics-in-the-making for the industry's biggest stars: “Love Me If You Can” by Toby Keith, "Don't Blink" by Kenny Chesney, “I’m Tryin’” for Trace Adkins, “Something To Be Proud Of” and “Speed” by Montgomery Gentry.
Raised in the small town in East Tennessee, Wallin was influenced by the likes of Jim Croce, James Taylor and Merle Haggard, as well as his own musical family – especially his mother, a singer herself. She recorded and performed in Nashville for a time, and the experience made an indelible impression on the seven-year-old Chris.
He began writing songs at age 12 and, perhaps inevitably, moved to Music City several years later, making the dues-paying rounds of writers nights and songwriting contests. He caught a break when his songs caught the ear of a small publishing company (co-owned by eventual Taylor Swift collaborator Liz Rose), helping to launch him on a professional career that has led to award-winning collaborations with fellow hit-makers like Jim Collins, Craig Wiseman, Tim Nichols and Jeffrey Steele.
Wallin has worked hard to achieve his place on the “A List” of Nashville songwriters, and doesn't take his status for granted: Chris says “Back then I used to buy 50 or so McDonald's 29 cent hamburgers a week and freeze them solid. I could eat all week on $15 … They weren’t bad, except the last few get a little crusty from freezer burn.”
Artists who have cut Chris’s songs include Lorrie Morgan, Montgomery Gentry, Sammy Kershaw, Tommy Shane Steiner, Trace Adkins, Michael Peterson, Anthony Smith, Jeffrey Steele, Confederate Railroad, Neal McCoy, Brian Mccomas, Brad Paisley, Joe Diffie, Diamond Rio, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith and many more.
Gary Nicholson is a #1 hit songwriter, two time Grammy winning producer, recording artist, world traveling performer, and session guitarist.
In 2006 he was nominated to the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, and in 2011 he was inducted into the Texas Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. There are over five hundred recordings of his songs in various genres including country, rock, blues, folk, bluegrass, and pop by such diverse artists as BB King, Garth Brooks, Bonnie Raitt, George Strait, Fleetwood Mac, Willie Nelson, Vince Gill, Etta James, John Prine, Dixie Chicks, Don Williams, Stevie Nicks, Buddy Guy, Emmylou Harris, Keb Mo, Ringo Starr, George Jones, The Neville Brothers, Reba McEntire, Robert Plant, Waylon Jennings, Patty Loveless, Kenny Chesney, Guy Clark and the list goes on.
“I’ve never found it difficult to ‘shift gears’ between different musical styles,” Nicholson says. “I let myself be dictated by the needs of the artist or of the writer I’m collaborating with. A lot of these guys are just looking for good lyrics. Songwriting is songwriting. A song is a song.”
As a guitarist, Gary Nicholson has brightened recording sessions and/or concert stages with the likes of Guy Clark, Billy Joe Shaver, Bobby Bare, Delbert McClinton and Tracy Nelson. During his long career, he has also played lead guitar in at least 10 of his own bands.
His musicianship led him into a career as a record producer. Gary Nicholson has produced two Grammy Award winning albums for Delbert McClinton. He has also guided projects by artists as diverse as “blue-eyed soul” singer Wynonna, Americana singer-songwriter Chris Knight, blues rocker Jimmy Thackery and Grand Ole Opry star Pam Tillis.
And then there’s the entertainer side of Gary Nicholson. Make that sides. He is actually at least three entertainers. A typical solo show will begin with him singing familiar hits he has written for others. After intermission, he reappears in the white suit, sunglasses and cap that are the uniform of “Whitey Johnson,” his bluesman alter ego. On other occasions, you might find him blistering a nightclub stage as a member of the rhythm-happy Fortunate Sons rock band.
Gary Nicholson signed with the powerful Sony-ATV Tree publishing firm and adopted a strict work ethic that he maintains to this day. He came to the office daily, prepared to work with a variety of songwriting collaborators.
Songs like “One More Last Chance” (Vince Gill, 1993), “The Trouble with the Truth” (Patty Loveless, 1997) and “She Couldn’t Change Me” (Montgomery Gentry, 2001) brought Gary Nicholson to the front ranks of Nashville’s songwriting army. After 14 years at Sony-Tree, he formed his own company, Gary Nicholson Music, in 1997.
He got his feet wet as a record producer by co-producing his own 1995 CD The Sky Is Not the Limit. In 1997, albums for River Road and Delbert McClinton furthered Nicholson’s producing reputation.
“I’ve had an awful lot of fun,” says Gary Nicholson. “Nashville is so cool. I’m booked to co-write with someone almost every day. I have my ‘Whitey Johnson’ gigs. I have the Fortunate Sons. I have the studio work. It’s all good.”
RareSpark Media Group Owner and CEO Suzanne Strickland is the daughter of a high school band director who grew up on a chicken farm in northeast Florida and started singing before she could talk. Strickland was born and raised with a love for music and the craft of songwriting. She studied vocal performance at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Fla. and spent nearly 12 years touring the country as an independent artist and songwriter while raising her two kids with husband (and high school sweetheart) Andrew, eventually returning to her Florida roots in 2002 to start A&M Recovery Services, Inc., a joint business venture with her husband and brother-in-law that provided property management and maintenance services in seven states throughout the Southeast. As the company’s COO, Strickland ran the A&M Recovery Services operations for nearly 10 years while she continued to write songs, commuting between Florida and Nashville as she cultivated her place in Music City’s creative community.
The success of A&M Recovery Services, Inc. ultimately allowed Strickland the freedom to make the transition back to music full time, and she and Scot Sherrod launched RareSpark Media Group Inc. on April 9, 2012, as a full-service publishing and artist development company.
“Launching RareSpark was my way of continuing to build on what we learned as entrepreneurs in developing A&M Recovery Services and it has been one of the most emotionally challenging, yet wildly fulfilling experiences of my life,” says Strickland. “We’ve been in the publishing business for five years now and are starting to see successes happen, which is exciting. It’s a huge risk, but the rewards have definitely been worth it. We’ve gotten to hear our songs sung by some of the best artists in country music. We’ve heard our songs on the Grand Ole Opry stage and Nissan Stadium, and we even got to hear one of our songs in the LEGO Batman movie! I get to listen to great songs every day and invest in the careers of brilliant artists and songwriters, and that’s a pretty fun job, if you ask me."
Always surrounded and supported by the people she loves best, Strickland looks forward to what the future brings for the RareSpark family. “There’s a quote I saw recently that I believe sums up my philosophy in life and in business, 'Forget following those who think it can't be done, and lead those who think it can!'"
Strickland lives in Nashville and also maintains a family home at Kingsley Lake in Florida, where her husband’s family settled in the 1800’s. They have two grown kids, Thomas and Carly; a daughter-in-law, Valerie; and a cherished grandson, Jax.