Cliff Hudson
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Cliff Hudson


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"U.S. Soldiers Let Their Music Tell The Story"

Weekend Edition Sunday, December 30, 2007 - Cliff Hudson started playing guitar in college. He was passionate about playing, even after graduating and enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps. While serving in Iraq in 2005, his father-in-law sent him the perfect care package.

"He sent me a Martin backpacking guitar, because he had heard somewhere that another guy had bagpipes, and he said, 'If that guy can have bagpipes, my son-in-law can have a guitar to take over there.'" Hudson says. "I didn't realize how much I had longed to play guitar, and to write music and do things like that, until I actually had the smell of the cedar and the feel of the six strings on my fingertips."

Hudson's guitar became a rallying point and source of much-needed distraction for his fellow soldiers.

"I'd sit there and we'd play stuff and just take requests," Hudson says, "and nine times out of 10, it turned into guys making up little songs to berate one another with and just sit there and have a little comical moment out of the stress of the day."

Nearly 160,000 American troops spent Christmas in Iraq. And they'll tell you: If you haven't been there, you can't understand what it's like.

But some of the soldiers have found a way to communicate their experiences to the folks back home — in music. And some of the music is very good.

Last year, an album of hip-hop by U.S. service members was released on To the Fallen Records. This month, rock and country compilations went on sale.

Josh Revak, another soldier, turned to music for a different kind of therapy: He used it to mourn. Just two weeks into his first deployment, one of his good friends, Timothy Hayslett, was killed by a roadside bomb.

"It was just a blow, a hard blow," Revak says. "The guitar has always been there when nobody else was. It was all I knew how to do — it was almost like a reflex."

Revak wrote a song for his friend and played it at his memorial. Everyone was touched — so much that Revak was asked to play at the next memorial, and the next one.

"It wasn't just another Army event where you just sit at attention and choke your way through it," Revak says. "It was more like an outlet, like I think it's supposed to be."

Many artists on the To the Fallen label say the power of their music had little to do with skill. Their guiding principle is a simple one.

"You can know all the chords and know all the riffs and know all the jams and that's fine," Hudson says. "When it all comes down to it, three chords and the truth is really all you need. Just that simple kind of ethic, pour your heart out, put yourself out on the line, and [it] works out pretty well."

Revak says the approach can help people understand what it's like on the front lines.

"People want to relate," he says. "They want to empathize. They don't know what to do when they see soldiers who have experienced these horrible things. Music has been huge for people; it tells them a story where a conversation wouldn't. It speaks from the heart."

"Shaking off the sand"

Cliff Hudson There is no need for Cliff Hudson to tell anyone he is living the dream. He wears it. It’s in his wide smile, infectious laugh and easy-going demeanor.

Over the course of a 30-minute chat, the country music singer/songwriter is comfortable and relaxed as he talks about his musical career, what has brought him to this point in his life and what the future holds. In a world full of complainers, he’s a man who appreciates his lot in life, and why shouldn’t he?

He’s been married for one year to Ashley, a woman whose name brings a smile to his face. He’s recording songs for a debut album to be released sometime in January, blending his rustic country sound with straight-ahead Southern rock music. And he’s playing gigs around Little Rock and as far as away as Maryland.

“That’s what I love to do,” said Hudson, 30. “I love playing and singing. I really love it. It’s a really beautiful moment when you make that connection with the audience.”

But considering where Hudson was just 18 months ago, it’s even easier to understand his happiness.

Between March and October 2006, Hudson was a corporal in the Marines with the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, patrolling the streets of Ar Ramadi when the Iraqi city was a hotbed of terrorist activity. Ashley — his fiancee at the time — was nine time-zone hours away.

“I’ve always considered myself to be appreciative,” Hudson said. “But after coming back from Iraq, there’s a new level of appreciation. Just an appreciation of being here, of having air in my lungs.”

Born in Chattanooga, Tenn., Hudson signed up for the Marines in February 2003, as war with Iraq became imminent. He had already graduated from the University of Tennessee, majoring in psychology. No immediate member of his family was in the armed services. Yet, it was something he needed to do, he said.

The first half of his four years of active duty were spent mainly in Spain and Africa (“I got to see the world,” he said.), but in March 2006, the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment was deployed to Iraq and Ramadi, a city inside the Sunni Triangle where the number of insurgent attacks were extremely high.

How dangerous was Ramadi? A fellow Marine had a set of bagpipes, and the first time he played them, the commotion started a firefight between Marines and the insurgents. After hearing the story, Hudson’s future father-in-law sent him a brand new Martin steel-string Backpacker guitar, and Hudson and his fellow Marines had an escape — however minor — from the hell raging around them.

“I just picked up the guitar and started playing,” Hudson said. “I think that everyone needs an outlet and mine is music.

“Everyone has a gift and a service they can do. I feel as though [music] is mine.”

While Hudson grew up in a musical household in Chattanooga — his mom was a DJ on a country radio station and his dad was a DJ on an AM rock ‘n’ roll station — Hudson didn’t totally focus on music until he was a sophomore in college.

“I started writing, singing and playing music ’cause I got dumped,” he said. “It was the most horrific thing that had ever happened to me at that point. Looking back, I’m glad that girl broke up with me.”

While stationed in Ramadi, Hudson turned to writing songs about his life as a Marine and the experience of being in a war zone, half a world away from the people he loved. One of the songs to emerge from Ramadi was “Send My Love,” a gentle acoustic ballad describing his yearning for Ashley.

“I wrote it for my wife when I was stationed in Ar Ramadi,” he said. “It wasn’t a pro- and anti-anything song. It was just me missing someone.”

It wasn’t until Hudson returned from Iraq that Ashley first heard the song and, even then, it wasn’t right away. At the couple’s wedding reception in November 2006, with Tragikly White as Hudson’s backing band, Hudson performed the song for Ashley.

“Everyone was crying,” Hudson said. “I knew it was either the greatest thing or the meanest thing to play, but she loved it.”

The song also has helped out others who are dealing with loved ones in the military. Following a show at The Afterthought in September, Cliff and Ashley were approached by a young woman whose brother was shipping off to Iraq and needed reassurance about his safety. The couple offered what comfort they could.

The song also has furthered Hudson’s musical career, as it is part of To The Fallen Records Presents Country: Volume I. The record label To The Fallen Records was founded in 2006 by Sean Gilfillan and Sidney DeMello as a military-only record label that lends active-duty servicemen, National Guardsmen, reservists and veterans a nonpartisan and unfiltered opportunity to showcase their talent. The compilation albums started as hip-hop CDs but have since branched into rock and country.

Hudson also is recording new songs at a studio in Conway, as he focuses on his music full time.

“I want the music to support myself and my family,” Hudson said. “I think right now that is why I’m here, to use my music to help people, lift people up and give them what they need.

“The songs have kept coming. I guess it is my way of trying to get all the sand out of my blood. They are not really about the military or anything like that. They are really just about me having an appreciation for life.”

The appreciation starts at home with Ashley, a love affair that began three years ago when the pair met in London. Ashley had just graduated from Vanderbilt University and was on an internship before entering the University of Arkansas School of Law (from which she has since graduated).

“We met — as every perfect romance begins — at a pub around the corner from Piccadilly Circus,” Hudson said. “I was done in 15 minutes; I didn’t stand a chance.”

In the year Hudson has been back from Iraq, his life has settled down from where it was in the dusty streets of Ramadi, but Hudson also is careful to remember the men and women serving the country and is hopeful his songs help out a little along the way.

“I think my wife and I show that there are happy endings that come out of the war,” Hudson said.

“Whether you are for [the war] or against it, you just need to remember that right now there is an empty spot at the kitchen table, an empty spot in someone’s heart, an empty spot in someone’s family, because there is a young person standing their post.”
- Sync Magazine

"To The Fallen Records and Cliff Hudson"

I'm going to ask you to do two things here. First, grab a tissue and go to Cliff Hudson's MySpace page. Listen to his beautiful song, Send My Love, a song which was written for Cliff's wife Ashley, while he was in Ramadi. Tell your friends about the song and help make this song a favorite for military spouses everywhere. As I understand it, the song will be available for purchase at TTFR's site when the rock/country CD is released.
The beauty of this song, for me, is that it focuses on both the wife (then girlfriend) who was left behind, and the Marine who left her. Beautiful, beautiful song. When I played the song on the show, the chat room froze. After it was played, the chatter began again and I saw messages like, I have chills. My eyes are full of tears. WOW
Wow is right!
Next, we need to raise awareness for To the Fallen Records, the record label which will soon feature Cliff's song on their new CD.
To the Fallen Records is a record label which exclusively features military artists. They have already released their first CD, which is a Hip Hop CD. You can find the CD in your local AAFES or MCX stores, or you can order it straight from TTFR's site. They will be releasing a rock and country CD on December 1.

When I received an email from TTRF, I went straight to their site and listened to the work of some of their artists. I was hooked, and not just on the music, but on the concept.
To The Fallen Records exclusively showcases military artists and their music as a strictly non-partisan entity, as our tagline states, "it's not about politics, it's about music." The purposes behind the label are to provide American citizens insight into the men and women that serve their country and to give American service members an outlet for expression. Through powerful lyrics military artists tell the world about their lives in a way that few have heard.
The tattoo on Sean's back, which paid tribute to the men he lost while in Iraq, became the inspiration for the logo of TTFR. In fact, it is their logo.

The military community is our community, and owe it to our community to promote products and businesses which do things that recognize and respect our lives, and the sacrifices of our families. TTFR showcases our voices. Unfiltered and raw. As Sidney told us last night, one thing we can do is to call our AAFES and MCX stores and let them know we want this record label in our stores. While you have them on the line, you might also want to let them know that you'd like to see them book these musicians for CD signings in AAFES and MCX stores. Another thing we can do is to buy the music and show how much we appreciate the troops who are making this music. Let's make this happen.
Please tell your friends about TTFR and Cliff Hudson. I always feel good about spending my dollars on people and products that are military friendly. I'm determined to have Cliff's song reach as many military spouses as possible because we can all relate to the lyrics and it's just a beautiful song.
I want to thank Sidney and Cliff for joining us last night. It was a great show, they were great guests and they are doing great work on behalf of the military community. Cliff and Sidney were gracious as I put them on the spot about SpouseBUZZ LIVE Ft. Bragg/Pope. What did they say? You'll have to listen to the show to find out.
Thanks also to all of you who were in the chat room last night. It was really busy and we had a lot of fun in there.
Technorati Tags: Cliff Hudson, Send My Love, To the Fallen Records
- SpouseBuzz

"Doing it the old-fashioned way"

Album takes an un-Nashville approach to country music.

By Shea Stewart (Contact)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Through the sand — Time in Iraq was foundation for Cliff Hudson’s debut album, Outside the Wire. It’s said absence makes the heart grow fonder, but what emotions does the heart endure during the actual time apart? It’s definitely a fickle existence being apart from a loved one where sentiments alternate between love and anger, fear and joy.

Little Rock via Tennessee country musician Cliff Hudson captures those differing emotions in the acoustic guitar-propelled ballad “Send My Love.” A sentimental expression of pining for his fiancée, Hudson wrote the tune while stationed with the Marine Corps in Ramadi, Iraq, during 2006 at a time when the capital of the sprawling Anbar province was a dangerous hot spot in the Iraq war. For nearly five minutes, Hudson’s tune is a heartbreakingly beautiful tale of longing — “Tired of seeing sunsets without you/Tired of this rifle being the only thing I hold onto on these lonely nights” — tempered with the joy of a promised homecoming.

The tune is the centerpiece track of Hudson’s debut album, Outside the Wire, an album that doesn’t wallow in the saccharine-heavy pop country Nashville passes off these days as workingman’s music. Instead, Outside the Wire is a quick (with 10 tunes clocking in under 35 minutes), joyous and lively interpretation of modern country music that holds more in common with the Red Dirt scene rather than the polished sheen of Music City USA.

Hudson wrote four of the tunes while stationed in Ramadi between March and October 2006 with the use of a Martin steel-string Backpacker guitar. Recorded by Ty Sims at The Recovery Room in Conway, Outside the Wire features Hudson on vocals and guitar backed by members of Tragikly White: Rick Martin (Hudson’s brother-in-law) on guitars, vocals and banjo, Gerry Smith on drums and Luke Tibbett on bass with Dr. Bill Fiser guest-spotting on harmonica. The Tragikly White boys brandish their chops on the album, especially on the album’s roisterous opening double shot of “A Life Well-Lived” and “Doin’ Fine Tonight.”

It’s an album stripped of the mind-numbing Nashville production; more relaxed and laid-back with a Friday-night, front-porch party sound to it swerving between bluesy workouts and acoustic ballads. There’s no hokey country lyricism but a strong lyrical imagery throughout, and even a little Caribbean flavor thrown in with “So Long, Goodbye.”

Hudson’s toed the front line, but instead of forcing a fabricated patriotism on people with Outside the Wire, he only wants to share in the jubilation of simply being alive.

Good: The 30-year-old Hudson has the pedigree to be a successful country musician: He was born into a musical household in Chattanooga, Tenn., where his mom was a DJ on a country radio station and his dad was a DJ on an AM rock ‘n’ roll station. The childhood influences merge on Outside the Wire, with the Bruce Springsteen rock storytelling in “Takin’ Back My Life” colliding with the toes-in-the-sand country music of Kenny Chesney in “So Long, Goodbye.”

The playful kiss off of “So Long, Goodbye,” with a breezy guitar solo by Martin, Smith’s military drumming and Tibbett’s lazy bass line powering it, is a gem. The tune combines Chesney’s calypso country with impish lyrics such as “You didn’t like my drinking/Now I got one in each hand/Hated when I wouldn’t wear my shoes/Well, that’s dress code here in the sand.” It’s easy to imagine the as-yet-to-be-filmed video for the tune: Hudson barefoot in the Caribbean sand with Tragikly White and Fiser dressed as Jose, The Captain, Jim and Jack.

Bad: A couple of songs on the album could use a little refinement. The rowdy bar anthem “A Life Well-Lived” is burdened by a second verse that only details how many shots it takes to feel great. And while the beer-and-a-shot rambunctious of “Country Fried Pedigree” is certainly infectious; it’s the one tune on the album that sounds the most like a contrived pop country hit — as the University of Tennessee alumnus Hudson even throws in a “Woo, Pig! Sooie!” And while there’s nothing wrong with writing hits, Hudson has the gift for writing country hits the old-fashioned way: writing the truth from a personal perspective.

Must haves: “Doin’ Fine Tonight,” “Takin’ Back My Life,” “So Long, Goodbye,” “Send My Love,” “Let It Rain”

Rating (out of five): 4
- Sync Magazine

" Blogs"

Tuesday, February 03, 2009
TTFR Artists to Play Salute Our Troops Event at Houston Rodeo

TTFR Artists Chad Van Rys, Cliff Hudson, and Keni Thomas to perform at the 2009 Salute Our Troops Event at the Houston Rodeo

On March 18, 2009 Salute to Our Troops Houston Texas, underwritten and organized by private donors, will honor and embrace our military community at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

The event will begin with an Appreciation Ceremony of music, commemorative tributes by special guest speakers, the Marine Corps Color Guard, Show Pride’s rendition of the national anthem and U.S. Air Force Fly By.

Troops, military guests and military dependents will then make their way into Reliant Stadium to enjoy an evening of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo's unparalleled show featuring the 2009 RODEOHOUSTON™ BP Super Series 101 and star performances by Gary Allan and To The Fallen Records artists Chad Van Rys, Cliff Hudson and Keni Thomas.

The family-centric experience is designed to express appreciation to our troops and their families who demonstrate selfless dedication and service to our country.

You can visit the official website here.

Chad Van Rys:

“When I was on Active Duty, I used to play the guitar with some of my buddies, but then it changed a little. Instead of playing with my buddies, somehow I ended up playing for my buddies, and they were making requests and asking me to learn their favorite songs. I don't know what they would say, but as for me, the music was such a blessing out in the desert. It could have been a miserable day, but once I started playing the guitar and some of them started singing along, it almost felt like I was back home at the lake with some friends, just relaxing by a campfire. It was therapeutic.”

Chad Van Rys is currently prominently featured in "Born Again American" video launched by Norman Lear and Declare Yourself. Declare Yourself is a non-profit dedicated to encouraging people to serve their country, including military service. Visit him on his MySpace.

Cliff Hudson

Cliff Hudson is a singer/songwriter from Chattanooga, TN. He's written songs and played for about seven years now, however, the last four were spent across Europe and Africa with a final stop in Ar Ramadi, Iraq as an Infantry Squad leader with 3/8.

He has now found himself in Arkansas with his beautiful wife Ashley and is now able to give music its proper attention. He wrote four of his songs in Ramadi, and the rest have come as sort of a therapy in the past year since he returned home. Hudson explains, "The situation I was in had the fortunate outcome of giving me one hell of a level of appreciation for life and music, and I think that shows itself in the songs I write. Mostly I want to simply try and convey the joy in feeling the air in your lungs--everything else is workable."

Hudson hopes these songs help you all as much to hear as they helped him to write. He says, "To all of mine still out there you know what to do. The final step is coming home."

Visit him on his MySpace.

Keni Thomas

Whether standing on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry or entertaining the troops in Iraq, the southern country-rocker is indeed using his God-given gifts to deliver a message through his words and his music. His undeniable charisma and tremendous talent as a singer, songwriter and performer have firmly established him as one of country music's brightest new stars.

Keni's new album, Gunslinger, is a collection of insightful songs that live and breathe the stories of life. Gunslinger is the follow-up to Thomas's critically acclaimed debut album, "Flags of Our Fathers." The first single "Shreveport 2 LA," produced by Thomas and co-written by hit writers Billy Montana and Mike Plume, is an infectious rocker that spent 4 months in the Top 10 on GAC.

"This catchy single is a terrific introduction to his finely crafted sophomore album," commented Billboard Magazine. "Thomas is an engaging vocalist and insightful songwriter with tons of personality onstage and off."

A dynamic live performer, Keni and his band, Cornbread, tour steadily both nationally and abroad opening for top artists like Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Trace Atkins, Montgomery Gentry and Wynonna. They have traveled for years to the Middle East, volunteering their time as part of the USO's "Hope and Freedom" holiday show. Keni and Cornbread even made the jump to Hollywood as the featured band in the Disney/Touchstone blockbuster, "Sweet Home Alabama".

As a songwriter, Thomas is quickly gaining recognition nationwide for his talent. His southern fried scorcher, "Alabama Home" was chosen as the official theme song for Talladega Superspeedway and was used in all national TV spots for the 2007 season. And there's more in store. Like the haunting title track Keni wrote for the upcoming feature film "Circle on the Cross" premiering in 2009. Music Row will tell you that as a songwriter, "Thomas weaves a powerful spell with understated elegance".

Visit him on his website. -


To The Fallen Records
Outside the Wire
Sync Magazine
USA Patiotism



Singer/Songwriter Cliff Hudson has been playing music for over ten years, with a musical styling ranging from standard country to a “boot through the door” style of new country that blends together for a sound all Cliff’s own. Cliff takes the personal experiences that have helped shape him and writes with an honest outlook and appreciation for the simple act of being alive.

The ballad “Send My Love” was written by Cliff for his wife while he was in Iraq as an Infantry Squad Leader in The United States Marine Corps. A poignant song explaining the longing Cliff had for his wife while he was overseas, it has in turn helped others dealing with the experience of deployments and separation from loved ones. It has also given Cliff the opportunity to perform for and share his music with fans and military families at venues and military bases across the south and east coast. Opening for such acts as Gary Allen, Luke Bryan and Jake Owens, Cliff’s opportunities continue to grow along with his fan base.

Family is vital to Cliff. When asked how important having the love of his family is to chasing his dream, Cliff said, “Without the support of my wife and daughter I would never have been able to do this or even have a reason to sing in the first place. They are the reason I can truly, honestly, and joyfully, write and sing.” When asked about “Country Fried Pedigree” and its two versions honoring both Tennessee and Arkansas Cliff replies laughing, “My whole life is rooted in Tennessee, but when I met my wife I promised her that if she put up with the separation and dangers involved with me being a United States Marine that I would go anywhere she wanted me to, so she brought me back to her home in Arkansas. The Arkansas football chant of ‘Woo Pig Sooie’ was included in the Arkansas version to say thank you to my wife and a state that has been wonderful to my family”.

From the exuberance of “Country Fried Pedigree” to the simple celebration of “Doin’ Fine Tonight” Cliff’s outlook is clear: “Say thank you Lord, we’re alive and doin’ fine tonight.” Cliff brings the attitude, appreciation, and sound that makes you raise your drink, whatever it may be, and appreciate the moment…all the while screaming at the top of your lungs.