“The booze cruise, summer groove/ I wanna see your booty move/ looks like you need another/ so let me mix you up a Redneck Margarita/ you know the one just straight tequila/ all aboard we're cutting loose/ so come on jump on/ the booze cruise.” - Booze Cruise - Noll Billings-Jeff Coplan-Chuck Jones

Multi-national country band Blackjack Billy owe its initial success to a video featuring fellow hit writer Earl Bud Lee who penned one of Garth Brooks most famous hits.

It was Youtube and satellite radio that launched the band and brought them to Australia for the seventh CMC Rocks The Hunter festival.

The band filmed the video in Panama City during the American college spring break and it went viral with more than a million views - an amazing feat for an unsigned indie band.

“Earl Bud Lee's wife Patsy's a big music fan who saw us play in Nashville and said she liked us and going to come back,” Jeff Coplan told Nu Country TV .

“We were huge fans of him as writer and they come to see us in Panama City . When we were shooting the video in Panama City . We had the idea for Bud to be in the video - no-one else could do it like him. He was not acting at all. That's just Bud, give him a bottle of Jim Beam and let him cut loose. He just loves life and having a great time and is constantly writing songs.”

The success had a chilling start.

“We chose Panama City because of spring break with all the college kids, for three weeks had a booking,” Coplan recalled.

Oddly enough it was freezing, for the entire time it was raining except for the two days we had booked to do the video. They were just beautiful.”

The huge success landed the band a deal with the Bigger Picture Group - home of frequent Australian tourist Craig Campbell and Chris Jansen - and an EP Get Some .

Shortly after our interview Bigger Picture closed its doors.

It's roster also included Ryan Kinder, Rachel Bradshaw, Smithfield and Chelsea Bain.

Prolific producer and singer-songwriter Keith Stegall was an original founder of Bigger Picture but left the label long before the closure.

Stegall produced albums by John Anderson, Novocastrian Catherine Britt, Alan Jackson and fellow Georgians - the Zac Brown Band who released their first major album The Foundation on Bigger Picture .


“I'm a bullfrog sitting on a log/ watching them flies like a bone to a dog/ hey yup the sun done coming up/ bait, pole and a coffee cup/ it's alright if the fish don't bite/ I can sit here all day all night come on/ ain't nothing gonna bring me down/ cause I got a feeling and it sure feels good.” - Got A Feeling - Jeff Coplan-Noll Billings-Tim Hicks.

Success was a double edged sword for Blackjack Billy whose increased live workload has delayed recording of the album.

But a second single was released on the eve of the Bigger Picture closure.

“Our new single is Got A Feeling ,” Coplan revealed of a song that featured the band backing Ontario singer and co-writer Tim Hicks.

“We're gonna shoot a video for that. Canadian singer Tim Hicks put that song out and we did shoot a video on that. It's on Youtube. Technically we haven't started the album. Unfortunately haven't because we're so busy working. We haven't been able to sit in one place and finish it in one chunk - every chance we get when we're home we'll do some. I've got a little porta studio I take with me where we do vocals - imagine have it done in next couple of months.”

Coplan also produced Hicks album Throw Down .

“Tim came down to my studio in East Nashville,” added Coplan who was born in Montreal and worked as a producer, engineer and songwriter in New York City before heading south to Music City .

“In back yard of my house I have a little separate building. It's a two car garage size building that I built the studio in. I love to be able to hang out. It's low key but very well equipped. I was living in New York City before and taking trips to Nashville but New York is so segregated and cliquey. Everybody keeps their projects to themselves while Nashville is so collaborative. People want to know what you are doing – the whole town is based on collaborating. I started taking trips down in 2002 and 2003 and there is so much energy there - it's so great for music and growing. New York is declining and Nashville is blossoming. People are moving there - it's the new mecca of music.”


“Hey girl, you're under my skin/ the way you move ought to be a sin/ that pretty thing got me all worked up/ breakin' it down and kickin' up dust/ and all these boys love watchin' you move/ you're a crazy train just doing your thing/ like there's no one in the room.” - Get Some - Noll Billings-Rob Blackledge-Jeff Coplan.

That mecca enabled to meet fellow members of Blackjack Billy through song-writing.

Coplan produced Mississippi born Rob Blackledge's solo album Inside These Walls and Love & Theft's debut disc World Wide Open.

“I produced a solo album with Rob after we first started writing together,” Coplan recalled.

But it was the Love & Theft disc that was his biggest earner.

“I produced their first album and wrote their first #1 single Angel Eyes ,” Coplan confessed.

“It was pretty good - a wonderful thing to happen for me and Eric Gunderson from Love & Theft . You write a bunch of songs with people – you never know which are going to be successful. We were super excited that one made its way through. It was Eric's first single out - he was thrilled to have his song come out and be successful. We were very blessed.”

So blessed that Blackjack Billy loaned their Nashville born drummer Brad Cummings to Love & Theft for their Australian tour when their drummer failed to score a visa on time.

Coplan's prolific production and song-writing adorned projects by fellow Canadians The Moffatts, Carolina Rain , Kim Wilde, Serena Ryder, Laura Bell Bundy, The Bahamen , Amber, Bowling for Soup , Nick Carter, She Moves and Disney movies.

“I'm somewhat responsible for Lindsay Lohan having a brief music career,” Coplan confessed.

“She did a movie called Freaky Friday a little over 10 years ago. In the last scene she does a song Ultimate I wrote with Robert Ellis Orrall. I became good friends with him after making trips down to Nashville from New York . It became a big hit on the Disney radio channel. She started getting all these record deal offers because she played the character in the movie that sings the song. She actually sang it but her music career didn't last long.”

More memorable musically were his work with singing actress Laura Bell Bundy and Serena Ryder.

“Laura was great, we had a lot of fun,” Coplan says of the Broadway belle.

“Serena Ryder was also great. We're lucky to have opportunities to write with different artists and songwriters - you just have a few hours with them. It's so strange you have to sit in a room with someone you just met. But with Serena we connected really well. I got five hours with her. We wrote a really cool song Mary Go Around on her fourth album Harmony.

Fellow Blackjack Billy writers Blackledge and Missouri born Noll Billings have also been successful outside the band.

Blackledge wrote Love & Theft's debut Top 10 single Runaway with Stephen Barker Liles and Canaan Smith.

And he also penned Texan Kevin Fowler's recent #1 hit How Country Are Ya with Billings .

Ironically, Fowler is a leader of the Texan Red Dirt musical movement, not to be mistaken with Blackjack Billy being dubbed Redneck Rock by their marketeers.

Redneck Rock , of course, was the seventies Texas sub-genre created by Shotgun Willie Nelson, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Jerry Jeff Walker and the recently deceased Steve Fromholz.

“We through redneck rock sounded good,” Coplan revealed.

“We have two down home country boys in the band and three rockers with a rock background. Redneck rock seemed accurate - like Red Dirt .”

So who else is in the band?

Bassist Patrick Cornell is from Ohio .

“Noll and Rob and I met as songwriters, that's why we started a band,” Coplan explained.

“We never thought we would want to be in a band but we clicked so well as songwriters and did a show for fun. We found Brad and Patrick and hit the road.”

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