Brookville graduate wins CMA award for Touring Musician of The Year

Brookville High School graduate and Lynchburg local performing at the Grand Ol' Opry. (Photo courtesy by Nathan Barlowe)

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) - A Brookville High School graduate is a small town boy who made his big town dreams a reality by winning a 2017 CMA Touring Award.

Nathan Barlowe, a Brookville High School graduate class of '91, reflects on his more than 25 years "edge of success" journey in the country music industry.

"I always felt like I stood out [growing up in Lynchburg]," said Barlowe, but he felt right at home at Billy Shears Hair Salon because, as he says, "the hip environment filled with artsy people." At one point growing up, he wanted to badly work there.

At 14-years-old, Barlowe would host concerts at a local teen-spot that attracted a large audience in the community and perform both covers and original songs in front of people that were willing to listen to him to his prepared set list.

Fast forward to his later teen years, after one semester at Liberty University (LU), Barlowe decided to change his life and realized music was his true passion since he was 14-years-old performing in the community.

"I met these two guys at LU and we started a band called, Reality Check," said Barlowe. The rap group placed 1st at the 1996 Gospel Music Association National Talent Competition that landed the local Lynchburg band in Nashville, Tn. with a record deal.

However, Barlowe felt he needed to transition into what a genre that Luna Halo offered. Fortunately, they were a hit at music festivals across Europe capturing the attention between 20 to 30,000 people. Their genre was a fusion of hip-hop and rock with a sound comparable to the well-known, rock band, The Killers.

After touring several times in Europe, Barlowe felt he wanted to pursue another genre by moving forward from Christian music thus the existence of the rock band, Luna Halo in 1999.

"Nothing against religion, I just wanted to be more free to write about other subjects that I felt I couldn't do if I continue to stay writing Christian music," said Barlowe. He continue to say, "Life catches faster than you can move. It doesn't become sustainable because people end up with other life responsibilities."

Although the Lynchburg local has been living in Nashville since 1996, he says he didn't appreciate country music around 10 years ago and that living in the capital of country music has helped him grow a love for the genre.

"It was a gradual love and I joke with people, who were in the same position as me, by saying that 'it would get us one day. I'm extremely happy that it's turned out that way," said Barlowe. "I also credit my times with my grandpa who would drive around in his truck in North Carolina playing country music out of his 8-track player."

But, it wasn't success after success in Barlowe's life as a country music artist. With only $500 in his account, he moved from his family's home to Nashville to figure out how he was going to make his dreams come true. His mother was worried, but he knew there were going to be expected moments of adversity he had to overcome.

Barlowe was living, at the beginning of his time, in a two-bedroom apartment with 6 guys in bunk beds. He even found paying $100 rent was a lot at times for someone who was trying to break into the business at 20-years-old.

Now, he is performing side-by-side on stage with legendary country music artist, Keith Urban after joining in 2016. Nathan has written songs for several known artists like Steven Tyler from Aerosmith and so forth.

In January 2018, Nathan won the CMA Award for Touring Musician of The Year. He invented an instrument he dubbed "The Phantom", which is an electronic sampling machine that is played like a keyboard.

The Brookville High School graduate is looking forward to the world tour starting in June of this year that will take him to distant places like Canada and New Zealand.

"[Keith] is the kindest person I've ever met. He's an incredible musician and boss in the industry and takes care of his band and their family. It is an honor to take the stage with him every night," said Barlowe.

His final thoughts to those who want to take a page out of his many lessons in breaking into the country music industry are three things: "some kind of talent, you have to prepare and you gotta have luck by making yourself available by showing up to events where important people are."

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