By Loretta Gillespie
The Cullman Times
‘Country — scattered, covered and smothered in rock and roll," that’s how Jacob Stiefel is branded. Not a bad brand, either, for a sound that transcends both genres and brings them together in a way that gives a special spin on both.
His sound is kinda reminiscent of Lynyrd Skynyrd, a little bit Alan Jackson, with some Alabama thrown in there somewhere, but mainly because he and Chance Gray write most of his music, he sounds like himself. In fact, he sounds like the kind of music that gets in your head and comes back when you are driving, when you need a pick-me-up, when you fall in love, or when you fall out.
"To me, what separates Jacob from other musicians is the kind of person he is off the stage,” says his cousin, friend, and band manager, Chance Gray. “He's one of the most kind hearted, non-selfish, loving, hardworking and positive people as I've ever met. It's a blessing every day for me to be a part of his life and growing career."
The two played together as kids in Ft. Payne, where Jacob is from, and in Fyffe, which Chance calls home. They lost touch until college when they became roomies and started collaborating on some music.
Jacob started out on piano but switched gears about the age of nine, when he decided that the guitar gave him more freedom to make his own music. He cut his teeth on classical guitar, but as he progressed he leaned more toward acoustic guitar and as he developed his own sound, he began to write music.
Jacob credits his grandmother’s love of Elvis and his mom’s love of Willie and Waylon with his affinity for country music, but he discovered Skynyrd and the Black Crows for himself and lately has been influenced by Joe Cocker and Ray Charles.
Their journey began in earnest in August of 2005. They played acoustic gigs in Tuscaloosa, Fort Payne and wide places in the road in between.
As they progressed, Chance realized that his writing abilities far outweighed his playing abilities so he began to concentrate on writing lyrics. He got his degree in journalism in 2007, then went into pharmaceutical sales for a while, working some of the medical offices in and around Cullman.
Jacob graduated in 2009 with a degree in civil engineering, but that career took a back burner to his music, and directly after graduation he hit I-65 North, Nashville bound.
In August 2010, Chance followed Jacob to Nashville, and that’s where they both are today, working Music Row for all they are worth.
“I love being based in Nashville,” said Jacob this week in an interview with The Cullman Times. “It’s where we need to be to do what we do.”
But he also admits that tough doesn’t begin to describe the frustration sometimes, the ups and downs of the music industry, the rollercoaster life of musicians everywhere.
Yet, even with its hard knocks and its incredible highs and lows, this is the life Jacob has chosen. It’s make it or break it, and the tide seems to have turned in his favor. In the words of one of his songs, if he hadn’t experienced the lows, he might not appreciate the view from near the top.
Every bump in the road has been a real education for the boys from Alabama. They learned the ropes in Nashville and they enjoyed the ride, bumps and all.
“What I really love is playing music and sharing it with people, hanging out with good folks and eating great food like at Moe’s,” he laughed. “I’m lucky to get to do this for a job.”
Jacob and Chance met one of Moe’s owners, Jacob Fralic, while they were all in T-Town together. The friendship has continued over the years and they are excited to be coming to Cullman to share their music with Moe’s guests.
Arab native, Kelly Jo Townsend, met the guys while she was doing a stint at the Fort Payne Times Journal. She was impressed then, and more impressed recently when she had a chance to hear them perform on New Year’s Eve.
“Jacob Stiefel and Chance Gray are two of the most intelligent and hardworking men I know,” said Townsend. “The Main Street Deli in Ft. Payne was booked beyond capacity and the music was outstanding as usual. Knowing that Chance Gray, who was also a colleague of mine when I worked at the Times Journal, helped write several of the songs, made listening to the music and being a part of the event even more special.”
Townsend says that she was also ecstatic to learn that the group would be playing in Cullman at Moe’s Original Barbecue Friday. “I can’t wait for my Cullman friends to hear them, to see and understand the talent that I continuously brag about.”
She encourages others to listen to their music, especially their recent release, “We Bleed Crimson.”
“To me, this song is a wonderful illustration of what tradition and loyalty is all about,” said Townsend. “Even though I am an Auburn fan, loyal to the end, this song defined what being a true fan is all about, no matter what school you may cheer for.”
Townsend says that seeing Jacob and Chance realizing their dream has encouraged and inspired her in pursuing her own career dreams. “The music isn’t just defined to one generation, it expands to all,” Townsend said.
The guys have compiled their songs into two CDs. Most of them were co-written by Chance and Jacob, some in conjunction with other songwriters. Some are Jacob’s own.
The first CD is titled, “Jacob Stiefel and The Truth” and the second is simply titled, “Volume 2”. The CDs are filled with original lyrics and music that will make you stop what you are doing, sit down and really listen for a change.
And you’ll get a chance to do just that at Moe’s Original Barbecue tonight from 8 to 11 p.m.
WHEN: Moe’s Original Barbecue tonight from 8 to 11 p.m.
You can listen to all the songs for free at