The Story of Smalltown Poets
Smalltown Poets was formed in Atlanta in 1996 by high school friends Michael Johnston, Danny Stephens, and Byron Goggin, along with Nashville musicians Kevin Breuner, and Miguel DeJesus. They burst onto the Christian music scene with their Grammy-nominated self-titled debut on Ardent/Forefront Records (EMI) in 1997 and released two more albums with the Memphis based label. Three number one singles and a total of ten top ten radio hits helped garner two Best Rock Gospel Grammy nominations, seven Dove Award nominations (including Best New Artist) and a Billboard Music video award for the band. Their song Anything Genuine was featured on the platinum-selling WOW 1999 compilation. Two albums would follow on Ardent/Forefront - "Listen Closely" (1998) and "Third Verse" (2000). In 2004. the band released "It’s Later Than It’s Ever Been" on BEC Records (EMI).
The guys ended a six-year hiatus from touring and recording in 2011. Over a year in the making, "Smalltown Poets Christmas" was released November 1st of that year, with their single Good Christian Men Rejoice reaching Billboard’s Top 30 songs on Christian radio. Subsequent Decembers have found them touring with their Yuletide repertoire, and they released a follow-up project, "Christmas Time Again," in 2014. Along the way, a seven-song EP in the fall of 2012 reminded fans that the Poets aren't just a Christmas band. "Under the New Sun" is a collection of new songs and older compositions that had never been put onto an album.
In May 2018, Smalltown Poets released their first full-length, non-holiday album in over a decade. For “Say Hello,” Smalltown Poets returned to Studio C at world-renowned Ardent Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, where their first three albums were brought to life. “Going to Ardent the first time to record our debut album was a monumental moment in our lives,” recalls guitarist Kevin Breuner. “For this new record, we wanted to reach back into the magic and emotion of those formative years."
“When you step into a studio where so many legendary albums were born (think B.B. King, REM, Gin Blossoms, ZZ Top, Big Star), you can’t help but feel inspired,” states Danny Stephens (keyboards). While longtime fans will recognize the signposts of the familiar Smalltown Poets sound, the band took great pains to explore new textures, such as a Memphis horns section (on the song Impossible) and a Gospel choir (on the song Like Home). Song of Hallelujah, co-written with worship leader Aaron Keyes, is an example of the band’s heart for worship through music.
Other highlights include guest vocals by longtime friend Mac Powell (Third Day) on You’re My Shepherd (which he co-wrote with the band), and by Eric & Ruby Montgomery, who join the Grace Choir on the aforementioned Like Home.
A radio campaign to multiple radio formats is under way, and the band will be doing select shows on both coasts (and a few cities in between) in support of the release.
Smalltown Poets is: Michael Johnston (vocals), Danny Stephens (keyboards, vocals), Kevin Breuner (guitar), Miguel DeJesus (bass), and Byron Goggin (drums).