Modern Day Drifters
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Modern Day Drifters

Waco, Texas, United States

Waco, Texas, United States
Band Americana Country


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Drifting into a future of music"

By Carl Hoover

Tribune-Herald entertainment editor

They haven't left their day jobs yet, but with a new CD out and an upcoming showcase at the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, members of the Waco country band Modern Day Drifters hope for a fully musical future.

"We're blessed to be doing what we're doing, but, in a year, I'd love to be doing nothing but music," said Kristen Kelly, the band's lead singer and co-founder with lead guitarist Joe Churchill.

The Central Texas band debuts its first CD, The Highway Is My Home, at a release party planned for Saturday night at a favorite venue, the Horny Toad Bar and Grill in Cranfills Gap and on March 14 will play before an Austin crowd at the South by Southwest Music Festival.

Churchill, 30, and Kelly, 27, are no newcomers to music, though Modern Day Drifters formed only two years ago. Churchill, a Piersall native, moved to Waco in 1998 to study in McLennan Community College's commercial music program and has stayed here since, performing full time with the band Hog Legg Ellis for three years.

Kelly grew up in Lorena and played with the classic rock cover band Big Dave and the Freaks for about three and a half years. The two crossed paths during that time, and when they found themselves between bands decided to put one together that could feature their original songs.

They started as an acoustic band playing at The Slippery Minnow Marina on Lake Waco, then chose to go electric and expand, adding bassist Seth Holobaugh, steel guitarist Luke Bishop and drummer Cody Berry. All but Bishop have come through McLennan Community College's commercial music program.

They recorded their album The Highway Is My Home, which features 11 original songs and one cover, over seven months at Waco's Direct Resonance Recording Studios. The album will be available at their shows as well as at

Modern Day Drifters will play a 45-minute SXSW set at Austin's Waterloo Icehouse as part of a six-band showcase. The opportunity fell into the band's lap, said Kelly, whose sister Kimberly also is a country singer. "Brad Beheler is our booking agent and, God bless him, he does way more than a booking agent usually does," she said.

- Waco Tribune Herald

"Galleywinter 20 Questions"

Modern Day Drifters are a band making waves in the Texas and Americana scenes with their diverse blend of styles. Led by co-lead vocalists, Kristen Kelly and Joe Churchill, the Drifters weave their way through highways both literal and metaphorical. They inhabit and express all the places people visit in the highways of their mind and the backroads of their good times. Survivors of other bands, Kelly and Churchill learned as backing members what and what not to do with a band. Their experiences helped them create a vision for Modern Day Drifters. Thusfar, that vision has been steadily realized through hard work, determination and talent. The contrast of Kelly's bluesy vocals and Churchill's laid back yet wise vibe have combined to make them a band to watch.

1. What's new and exciting in the world of the Modern Day Drifters?

We have a debut album out The Highway Is My Home – now available at any of our shows, and Please request the first single from the album "Tired Of This Town" at Radio Free Texas and any radio station you listen to.-Kristen

2. The two of you produced the new record yourself. Was this by design, or out of necessity?

By design. When you are establishing your sound, who better to do so than yourself? -Joe
Coming from other bands, we knew we had a specific vision and sound in our head for our first record as the Modern Day Drifters.-Kristen

3. Name association:

-Drew Kennedy- I like his songwriting and ability to construct melodies…which set the mood for the songs that he writes.-Joe
-Rich O' Toole – Puts on a very energetic show – love the song "Kelly" - Kristen
-Josh Grider – Very gracious. A fellow survivor of the Waco music scene.-Joe
-Billy Joe Shaver – Papa Joe... one of the most influential singer/songwriters ever and my godfather in more ways than one.-Kristen
Will never forget the night he played my guitar for his whole show, unreal. - Joe
-Randy Rogers-Love the way he balances melody and lyrics.-Joe
-And the way he treats his band as equal partners in everything is how it should be done!-Kristen
-Pat Green – One of the reasons the Texas Music Scene is where it is today. – Joe.
-Wade Bowen-Super nice guy, has been willing to help us from day one.-Kristen
-Jason Boland – Cheap bourbon whiskey and pearl snap shirts.- Joe
-Larry Hooper – He's funny … first met him at the Big O Katrina Benefit at George's back in '05, and he's been a trusted musical ally ever since.- Kristen
-Bo Cox – Drinking plenty of Miller Lite while pickin and grinning in the garage after his show at George's – Joe

4. You graduated from the prestigous McLennan Community College commercial music program led by Dick Gimble. Other notable alumni include Drew Womack and Ruthie Foster. What made you want to pursue your education there? How beneficial do you feel it has been for you?

I happened upon the music program at MCC and was pleased to find that it was a Commercial program and not a transfer program. It helped me hone the skills that I had built on my own. It has made my musical progression a lot easier, and I'm a much better musician than when I was prior to going through the program. -Joe

I never liked school … and when I realized I could go to school for music … I jumped on the opportunity, because I didn't feel like I was going to school. I had a lot of trouble with harmonies and feel that my vocal lessons with Beth Ullman really helped. I learned theory and things I probably would not have applied myself to learning otherwise. Most of the guys in the band went through the program too, and I think it gives us an advantage stepping on stage and being so well-rounded. -Kristen

5. You are based out of Waco, which at times can be a very fickle live music town. Yet, you guys seem to have made it work for you. You've developed new venues and created a hardcore and loyal home fanbase. What is the best thing about being based from central Texas? What are the drawbacks?

The fact that we are centrally located within the state, would be the best thing about being based from Waco…we are just short drives away from DFW or Austin…or just about anywhere else for that matter. The only drawback of being out of Waco is we get all the silly, "Oh, y'all are from Wacko" jokes and stuff. Then you have to explain that all that actually took place in tiny Mount Calm about twenty miles outside of town, but whatever. (laughs) The pros definitely outweigh the cons.-Kristen

6. While starting out in the music industry, all musicians must support themselves with day jobs they are not huge fans of. What have been the worst day jobs you've had to endure?

Tire delivery man…lots of long drives and late nights. It is hard to be out changing tires in the middle of nowhere at the same time you'd rather be gigging. (laughs) -Joe

Waiting tables. The hours weren't very conducive to gigging and there are way too many crappy tippers out there! You know who you are! (laughs) -Kristen

7. Stories behind the following songs:

-Tired of This Town – Drunk in the garage - I had the verses and Joe had a chorus. We started meshing them together and they seemed to fit…then again - it could have just been the alcohol. (laughs) -Kristen
-Rock Bottom – Relationships suck. (laughs) - Joe
-Gypsy – It is what I am, it's what I wanna be. Being a musician is either in your blood or not. I crave the road and the adventure as much as the show itself. - Joe
-Nature To Run – You know those times where you wish you could turn back time, this is about one of those times. - Joe
-Broken White Line – I was delivering tires in that job I hated. I was somewhere between Hico and Stephenville middle of the night and the radio didn't work … a song was born - Joe
-Shades of Gray – I had the lyrics, and a melody. Joe helped me make the song happen by adding the music…and I think it came out really cool. - Kristen
-Gone – "Hey Kristen, help me finish this song!" - Joe

8. Kristen, you wrote "Down in Flames" with Stoney LaRue and Brandon Jenkins. What do you find most difficult about co-writing? What is the best thing about writing with others?

I actually have always found it a welcoming task…and it always helps having outside ears. It's kind of like putting together a puzzle. Each person puts in their pieces. I like collaborating with everyone I can. I have slips of paper and journals that are almost ten years old that I still keep around and share, because you never know when someone will have that missing link to your song.- Kris

9. On this album, you cover "Angel From Montgomery" by John Prine. What made you want to cover that song in particular? Were there other songs you considered covering for the album instead?

We never really considered covering any other songs. The Prine tune is one I had been singing for a while and we felt compelled to include it after recording it. It always gets such an amazing response at the shows, that I knew it must go on the album. - Kristen

10. Favorite touring memory of the following towns:

-New Braunfels – Late nights by the campfires at a cabin right on the river … copious amounts of alcohol (laughs) - Joe
-Stephenville – Lots of things come to mind…LJT Fest…Mandatory FM Stage … naked band members … crawfish … way too early in the morning … need I say more.-Kristen
-Ft. Worth – Bad house PA…free beer…Chuck Taylor. –Joe.
-Houston- A hard town…sometimes I feel like Bingham…"Houston gets me down."-Kristen
-College Station – Keg party before the show, so drunk I fell down on stage. But, actually ended up playing one of the best shows ever. Funny how that works sometimes. - Joe
-Dallas –Justin Frazzell rocks my face off.-Kristen
-Austin – SXSW Showcase at Waterloo…any show where Drew Kennedy talks about a pinata massacre on I-35 is memorable.-Kristen

11. Every band has a gig memory that could be a horror story. Without giving away the details…describe the worst gig you've ever had?

To drive all the way down to a gig and find out the place is closed. Then turn to find someone pulling in to ask us "Hey, when did they open this place back up?" -Joe

12. On the flip side of that question, tell us about the coolest gig you've played to date as Modern Day Drifters?

Our album release party at the Horny Toad in Cranfills Gap was awesome! – small place but lots of love. The Galleywinter/Americana Roots South By showcase was super cool too. We're big fans of Mando and DK and the energy in the room that night was good for our set.-Kristen

13. Kristen, your sister, Kimberly Kelly is making quite a name for herself in the scene as well. Can you describe what y'alls relationship is like, and talk about how your family has supported the two of you. Also, to what do you attribute the musical prowess in your family?

We have a great supportive relationship. We equally spread the word about one another and share contacts, road stories, etc. Our family is very supportive, although I don't think I'll ever get used to hearing one of them talk about us. Our grandfather was a musician and our father and uncles all played in his band. Music has been a part of our family for as long as I can remember.-Kristen

14. Prior to being in this band, you have all participated in other projects. What do you think makes the chemistry work so well as the Modern Day Drifters?

We are partners in crime, as cliché as it sounds, we are like brother and sister … without all the fussin brothers and sisters tend to do. The people we have working with us and all the guys that have joined the band fit right in and we're all just enjoying the ride. -Kristen

15. If they were to make a movie of your lives, who would play each of you in the film…and why?

I think Joaquin Phoenix would play the role of Joe well. – Kristen
James "Jaime" King for the role of Kristen..because nobody puts baby in the corner! (laughs) – Joe

By the way, if you haven't seen the movie Lone Star State of Mind, you must purchase it immediately and watch it religiously!– Kristen

16. There seems to be a growing wave of quality bands in this scene that feature a male and female lead working together. Such as The Gougers and Blake & Fallon. What is the biggest benefit of sharing lead vocals? Are there any drawbacks?

Our fans get the best of both worlds…male and female perspective on life and music.-Joe

I think it is just a reflection of society and modern music. Acts like Sugarland and the Gougers and other male/female duos seem to connect with their fans on a very passionate and personal level because they are making music from the heart. And, that's what we do too.-Kristen

17. If you could erase one song from the public's collective consciousness what would it be and why? What is one song everyone should have on their Ipod and why?

Nothing should ever be banished completely, because it can be learned from even if you hate it. That being said, I am tired of hearing that Ashton Shepherd song about the cold beer and wedding band every five seconds. (laughs)-Joe

Everyone should have "Heavenly Day" by Patty Griffin…she's one of my heroes and this is my favorite song of hers. We cover it when we play acoustic and I hope we do it justice! - Kristen

"Horseshoe Lounge" by Slaid Cleaves is one of my all-time favorite songs, and one that surprisingly a lot of people don't remember or know about. - Joe

18. Rapid fire:
-Favorite hobby? – Anything outdoors-Kristen; Hunting and fishing!-Joe.
-Favorite restaurant? - Pacho's in Dilly, Texas. I've tried to describe this place to people, but words alone don't do it justice. Seek it out, you'll be glad you did. – Joe
Any restaurant that serves steak and potatoes…and let me drink my wine out of a Dixie cup.- Kristen
-Any hidden talents? – Joe does some pretty spot-on impersonations.-Kristen

19. What is your favorite George Strait song?

"Fool Heated Memory". I'm a huge fan of that era of country music, and this is one of my favorite songs from that time.– Joe

"Unwound"…still great to this day.- Kristen

20. What do you think sets your music apart from that of mainstream country music?

Simply put, it's homegrown.-Joe

We make music from our heart and soul wherever the inspiration or motivation takes us. We don't try to focus on a predetermined demographic, or think about what radio will like. We just do what we do, and the more people that dig it the cooler. If that is only a handful of people who truly believe in what we do, then so be it. I'd rather be real and struggle than fake and have it easy. -Kristen
- Brad Beheler

"'s Video Feature"

Howdy everybody!

The good folks over at saw fit to include us in their video feature this week and mention that we are a band to watch this summer, especially at the Rowdy Float. We cannot thank Michael and Betsy enough! Texas Dirt Report feat. MDD! asdirt15.wmv -

"Americana Roots Review"

Waco, Texas hasn't been the hotbed of Americana and Texas music that say, Austin has, but they are making a major contribution with the Modern Day Drifters and their new CD The Highway is My Home. The band is led by the CD's two alternating lead singers Kristen Kelly and Joe Churchill. Sometimes I find constantly changing lead vocalists a bit distracting on a CD but not here at all. Kristen shows off first with a tune that could have been sung by James Dean, Janis Joplin or any of a number of folks that left us too early, Down in Flames, which proclaims "...if you've got the fire, I've got the gasoline..if I'm goin' down, I'm goin' down in flames", (she wrote the tune with Stoney LaRue).

Kelly and Churchill met in 2006 when different projects they were involved in ended about the same time. They met at a show and just clicked. The band says that "there seemed to be a timeless bond that bound the bluesy edge of Kelly to the south Texas country charm of Churchill." The two started performing together as an acoustic duo, but they eventually expanded to a full band.

To really appreciate her soulful, expressive voice, listen to the bands excellent rendition of John Prine's Angel From Montgomery. The band shows their fun, lighter side on the accordion accented honky-tonkin' tune Broken White Line, written and sung by Joe Churchill. The groups initial offering is certainly a winner. I hope they're able to parlay the success I anticipate with this CD into a nice long run!
- 08.18.2008 -- Review by: Don Zelazny

"Modern Day Drifters"

Got to check out the Modern Day Drifters last night at Treff's.
These guys (and gal) are a class act. Kristen Kelly is a phenomenal vocalist, guitarist Derrick Dutton is fleet-fingered yet tasteful and bassist Vincent Bryce, is, well, Vince. You have to know him. (Hint: he's nearly as funny as he is good at his instrument.)

At times stripped-down — but never lacking — MDD flawlessly ranged through Rolling Stones and Janis Joplin classics to some of their own front-porch-pickin' material.

Though they are mainly Texas based, Kelly said they would soon extend their touring repertoire to Oklahoma, Louisiana and beyond. Look for them again at Treff's on December 5.

Do go check them out — truly a Waco gem.
- Van Darden

"Nominated at BEST NEW ARTIST - GWE 09"

The Gruene With Envy Awards are the most recognizable awards in Texas/Red Dirt Music. Modern Day Drifters have been nominated for Best New Artist. The link is below and you can vote once a day. We need all the help we can get so please vote and forward to anyone else you know who can help us out!!

and remember to vote once a day!! - Brad Beheler

"Modern Day Drifters say yes, we can - vote here"

Well, sort of. Band members didn’t use “yes, we can” when asking for fans’ votes, but I figured if it worked once, it might a second time.

The Waco-rooted band is one of eight nominated for Best New Artist in the Gruene With Envy Awards, which carry some heft in the Texas Country/Red Dirt Music/Indie world.

You can check out their competition and vote here; you can also vote once daily, though I can’t find a cut-off date for voting.

While you’re there, notice that Waco native Wade Bowen is up for several awards as well, including Artist of the Year, Record of the Year (If We Ever Make It Home) and Song of the Year (“You Had Me At My Best”). Wade’s curiously absent from the Best Songwriter category; guess his album and nominated song wrote themselves

- By Carl Hoover | Wednesday, December 3, 2008, 12:39 PM


Modern Day Drifters

The Highway is My Home

March 2008



For most people the essential elements of life include things such as oxygen, water, and food. Yet, for the Modern Day Drifters, music is equally as vital. The Drifters, whose current album contains the fitting title of The Highway Is My Home, are a collection of passionate musicians who have a firm belief in the band concept and yearn to create classic American music. With members from all corners of the country, the band is full of a variety of influences and styles that range from stone cold country to hard rock. The brand of music they have developed is one that that stems from the roots of soul and southern rock, to the front porch of the country. Lyrically, the tales the Drifters have to tell are influenced by the hard miles traveled down highways both literal and figurative.

The band is fronted by a dynamic and special lead vocalist in Kristen Kelly. Kelly’s ability to deliver any style of vocal is the groundwork for which the Modern Day Drifters are founded on. Growing up in a musical family, she draws inspiration from a variety of influences, be it country pioneers such as Emmylou Harris, modern blues wailers such as Susan Tedeschi, or classic bands such as Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles. As a dreamer steeped in the realities of the musical education she received from her respected musical mentors at McLennan Community College, Kelly knew exactly what type of band she wanted to form.

Kelly sought a full sound with equal contributions from each member in writing sessions, production meetings, and stage shows. Her career got on the fast track after she co-wrote “Down in Flames” with Brandon Jenkins and Stoney LaRue, as she quickly became a sought after songwriting partner and harmony vocalist. Kelly yearned to do more than just be someone’s co-writer, and together with a friend, they began to perform as an acoustic duo around her hometown. The music they were creating was magical and she began to write and perform constantly. Kelly soon decided she needed to round out the musical vision she’d had in her head all those years. Enter Derrick Dutton, a guitar guru known across Texas and beyond for his blues inspired myriad of tones and sounds. Dutton grew up in Portland, Oregon, the son of a southern rock lead guitarist. After a stint in the Navy, he landed in Texas for college and quickly immersed himself in the Texas blues scene. Through years of gigging, Dutton has been able to take his genetic guitar gifts to the next level. Joining Dutton to help create the Drifters signature twin guitar attack is Joshua Roberts, a talented guitarist who has been playing professionally since the age of 15. The next Drifter to join the fold was Marty Mack on drums, a professional sound engineer from Austin. Mack quickly realized the potential of this project and immediately set about stabilizing the rhythm. The search for a bass player that could match the intensity of Kelly’s vocals and Dutton’s guitar work, yet still lock themselves in the pocket created by Mack ended when the band met Vincent Bryce, a music teacher who displays Cliff Burton-esque virtuosity on the bass.

This amalgam of musical backgrounds and strengths has combined to create something totally unique in the Texas/Red Dirt scene. That unique something is a powerful and unique sound that is garnering MDD praise across the country. With Kelly’s vision now a reality, the band has been hitting the road hard over the past year, playing any stage that would have them. What started in Kelly’s head, transitioned to garage rehearsals and ended up at esteemed venues such as Gruene Hall and Cheatham Street Warehouse, in addition to festivals such as Larry Joe Taylor’s Music Fest and SXSW. Each gig is now a musical sermon, a redemptive call to arms that attempts to shake contemporary music out of the homogenized rut it often finds itself in.