Former Top-Flight Athlete Heading
to Top of Country Charts
By PHIL SWEETLAND
NASHVILLE – For a guy who didn’t start playing guitar until age 18, Kyndon Oakes looks and sounds like an artist and songwriter who’s been singing and playing his entire life.
That’s a rare gift, one that shows the natural ability, incredible work ethic, and competitive nature of this former 3-sport star from Independence, Kansas who also just happens to look like a movie star.
In a country radio format with an overwhelmingly female audience, that’s always a good thing. So is Kyndon’s ability to write and sing radio-friendly country songs such as the new rocking country anthem “Drive” or the romantic “Boardwalk.”
One of Oakes’s frequent co-writers is Susie Brown of the breakout Warner Nashville star duo The Janedear Girls.
“Independence had a small-town feel. It has maybe 9.000 people,” Kyndon says of his hometown in a September telephone interview. “Everyone in my family is in banking except me. I loved hunting, fishing, and playing sports.”
Singing was another passion for Kyndon, who received scholarship offers for baseball, football, and choir out of high school. Several Ivy League schools expressed interest for the true student-athlete.
“I always grew up singing,” says Kyndon, who was both in the school choir and the elite Indy Ensemble.
Independence, Kansas, is a town with a proud artistic and creative tradition. It was the hometown of the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright William Inge (1913-1973), whose plays included Come Back, Little Sheba; Picnie; and Splendor In The Grass, all three of which became huge Hollywood hits in the 1950s and early 1960s.
Inge’s legacy is carried on at Independence by the William Inge Center for the Performing Arts and an annual festival.
Kyndon listened to all kinds of music through high school, from country stars such as his personal favorite Tim McGraw to the rock trio Goo Goo Dolls. He even played starring roles in school musicals such as Grease, showing a natural comfort and confidence on stage.
“Growing up, I loved to sing all genres of music,” he says, “but nothing got my adrenaline going and pulled on my heart strings like country music could.”
Anyone who hears Kyndon sing country knows that that is where his heart lies. Some fans liken his style to McGraw in the soulful country vocals, others to Keith Urban as a songwriting influence for the natural guitar-based drive of his songs, but in point of fact Kyndon Oakes is very much his own musical man.
After a couple years playing college baseball and studying exercise science and personal training in Kansas, he moved to Pueblo, Colorado, where his college football career ended with a broken ankle.
His natural business sense kicked in as he began playing clubs in Colorado and building a local following. But his dreams by then were focused firmly on Music Row.
Oakes relocated to Nashville three years ago, and to say he has hit the ground running would be an understatement. First of all, he continued his education at Lipscomb University, all the while developing his craft and passion for songwriting.
“I love songwriting,” Kyndon tells us. “It’s just the best way to express your feelings. My writing has significantly changed since I came to Nashville. Before then, I didn’t understand writing. Now I try to play out as much as I can and have become so much more comfortable, and I’m surrounding myself with amazing people.”
Susie Brown is one of those. So is frequent co-writer and guitarist Mark Vikingstad. He has also recently co-written with Josh Gracin, the former U.S. Marine and American Idol finalist who burst onto the country scene with the No. 1 Billboard single “Nothin’ To Lose” in 2004.
Don’t be shocked if Kyndon’s own first hit radio single is the irresistible “Drive,” which he co-wrote with Brown and Vikingstad.
“That’s my most commercial song. It’s powerful rock country,” Oakes says. “Writing is kind of a very random thing. Mark and Susie were here at my place around midnight, and Mark just started playing that groove. I said, `that makes me think of driving down that road in a ’65 baby blue Ford.’ ”
The other two quickly got Kyndon’s vision. Once he came up with the hook “drive, drive, drive,” they were on their way to what may well be his breakthrough song as he heads towards a recording and publishing deal.
Kyndon says: “Susie is really good with melodies, and she’s an amazing mandolin player. Mark and I met in church. He sings harmonies and comes up with cool melodies. Plus Mark’s a terrific guitarist who has a very different style than I do, which makes our songs even stronger.”
Oakes and Gracin wrote another song, “I’ll Never Run,” in just an hour.
So as with everything else in his life and career, Kyndon Oakes loves making a lot of exciting stuff happen in a short period of time. Now that he’s in Nashville, he’s at last found the perfect opportunity to grow his music and his writing.
And once country radio gets hold of songs like “Drive” and “Weather Man,” don’t be surprised to see a couple million country fans become Kyndon Oakes fans at the drop of a hat.
Updated September 12, 2013