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He's gone country: Rock refugee has Paisley gig; Auburn native Glenn Stewart to perform at Tweeter.

Byline: Scott McLennan

At a point in his life when most of his musical peers are slowing down or shortening the scope of their expectations, Glenn Stewart is feeling his career heat up all because he made the switch from rock 'n' roll to country music.

The Auburn native has already performed for record executives in Nashville, made a name for himself among local music promoters, and on Saturday catches a huge break, as he was invited to perform at the Tweeter Center as part of the Brad Paisley show there.

Paisley's Bonfires and Amplifiers tour features Jack Ingram, Kellie Pickler and Taylor Swift. The concert starts at 2 p.m. and includes the Colgate Country Showdown that Stewart is part of.

"Every day is something different," said Stewart, who began his trip down a country road before he even had a proper band together.

But Stewart will have a crack crew with him when he takes part in the showdown. In the time between recording the basic tracks that turned into his self-titled album and becoming a first-call country artist around New England, Stewart pulled together the band South Station - which incudes guitarist Josh Kleiner, bass player Ron Mominee, drummer Mikey Rorick, acoustic guitar player Chris Martin and fiddle player Cathy Day. Like Stewart, a good bunch of his band mates are rock 'n' roll refugees. Mominee plays bass in dream-pop outfit The Curtain Society, Rorick logged time in pop-rock band Waltham, and Kleiner played in Radio Earth, a popular cover band around Worcester.

Given the roots of this project, Stewart has taken to calling his music "country that kicks."

"I started out in the '80s in a hair-metal band and we had some success on an indie label and got played on MTV, but it didn't last. Then I was on the cover circuit. I was the original bass player in Uncle Wally and I played in Spit Shine. When that sunk, I took time off," Stewart said. "Then my mom passed away, and that got my juices flowing to write again. I was getting into country music. The heavy stuff was over for me, but I liked what Jo Dee Messina and Montgomery Gentry were doing."

The first song Stewart released as a commercial single was "Hey Sadie," a song about missing his mom. "Forever Home" is the next single, and that, too, is drawn from Stewart's life.

"The song was inspired by my 6-year-old son, Jordan, who we adopted. There are so many kids in the DSS system that get bounced around. I just felt it was something to write about," he explained.

Shortly after he started writing and recording rough tracks, Stewart rung up an old music-biz acquaintance, Steve Berger, who handled some of the legal doings of Stewart's old band, Roxxi.

"We sent some stuff back and forth, and he called me up and said, `Glenn, I have some bad news and some good news. The bad news is I can't be your attorney anymore. The good news is I want to be your manager,'" Stewart said.

From that point, Stewart built an efficient indie-artist business model, getting a foothold into the country music machinery based in Nashville while maintaining a presence in his home state. Stewart's legal and PR teams are in Nashville, yet he recorded back home with Jim Foster in Framingham. The strategy is proving successful, as Stewart has landed some nice jobs around here, such as the slot on the Paisley show, which local country-music radio outlet WKLB-FM (102.5) is promoting, and an appearance last month at the Professional Bull Riders event in Manchester, N.H. The winner of the Colgate Country Showdown Saturday moves on to the next stage of the national competition. Win, lose or draw, Glenn Stewart and South Station will be performing Sunday at Harper's Ferry in Allston and June 16 in Lancaster at Oak Ridge Farm Stand's Strawberry Festival. Ahead of the Paisley fest, Stewart is also unveiling his new Web site - www.glennstewart.net - tomorrow (those hankering to hear some of his music online right now can still check out his MySpace page).

"When Kenny Chesney can sell out Gillette Stadium in 28 minutes, it's time that New England gets a different reputation. We're not only the home of Aerosmith. For a long time, country artists were afraid to pursue the market here, but it's been eye-opening to me just how huge this market is," Stewart said.

And Stewart, 39, is going after that wide swatch of fans that makes Chesney such a popular touring artist. To do so, Stewart simply had to adjust a bit of what was already natural to him.

He pointed out how he got his singing chops down by playing 45-minute acoustic interludes in between sets by Spit Shine, and he learned his way around the acoustic power-ballad, such as "Every Rose Has Its Thorn." Take that Poison hit, bend some of the guitar sting into more of a twang and swap bass-y for brassy in the vocal section, and voila, you have the makings of a country croon-along. For something more upbeat, Stewart, like a lot of modern country acts, builds on the boogie foundation ZZ Top and Southern rockers delivered to rock radio years ago and refits the groove with lyrics that are more down home than Top's downtown perspective.

"My dad was a country-western fanatic. But I didn't really get along with him and I rebelled against whatever he liked. But I guess it made its mark," Stewart said. "A lot of country music just tells a good story."

And right now it seems Glenn Stewart is living a pretty good story himself.

Scott McLennan can be reached at tgmusic1@yahoo.com

Brad Paisley's Bonfires and Amplifiers Tour

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

Where: Tweeter Center, Route 140, Mansfield

How much: $40, $30 and $20

ART: PHOTOS

CUTLINE: (1) Glenn Stewart, third from left, and his band South Station: Manager Steve Berger, Josh Kleiner, Stewart, Mikey Rorick, Chris Martin, Cathy Day and Ron Mominee. (2) Glenn Stewart
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Title Annotation:TIME OUT
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 7, 2007
Words:1012
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