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and original CRAIG HAND webpage!
While this is not an official up and running fansite, Craig is family, and I like to let folks know about him. Look for his music on iTunes.
Visit Craig's MySpace page for all the latest info
BIOGRAPHY (from Category 5 Records webpage)
"Whenever you're talking about musicians there are going to be egos involved," Hand says, referencing his first move to Nashville more than 10 years ago. "I was never that way. If someone was better than me I figured I better shut up and learn something."
That first attempt at Music City fame and fortune was quite an education, one that eventually convinced him to return to his native Florida and get better. A lot better. And that's exactly what he did. No excuses. No complaints about the system. He simply took it upon himself to develop as a recording artist.
And then, just as Craig was getting ready to take another shot at his big break, a funny thing happened. His big break found him. You might even say a force of nature led not just to a record deal, but to his signing as the debut artist for a new and very ambitious Nashville label, Category 5.
But there's more to Craig Hand's story than hard work. There's talent, of course, because all the work in the world can't pull that out of thin air. And then there's an unwavering love of country music. Both can probably be traced back to Craig's mother.
Born and raised in St. Augustine, Florida, Craig heard plenty of traditional country growing up. "My mother loved Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Marty Robbins, all kinds of classic stuff," Hand says. "So early on, that's what I heard." She also played guitar and introduced her son to the instrument at the age of six.
At 15, Craig started playing in bands while pursuing another passion -- bull riding in local rodeos. The two quickly converged. "I was fine playing guitar, but I was always shy to sing in front of anyone," he says. "But I started playing and singing at the rodeos and people would gather around telling me I was really good. I actually started working as entertainment in exchange for not having to pay the entry fee."
He also began to develop a taste for country apart from his mother's influence. "I liked Garth Brooks and remember being really amazed at how big he was," Craig says. "Even at a young age, I understood how significant a superstar he was. I was also listening to a lot of Hank Jr., Marty Brown, Ken Mellons and Randy Travis."
After high school, he worked a local Opry opening for Bill Anderson, Roddy McDowell, Stonewall Jackson, Mel Tillis and more. Soon, Nashville beckoned.
"I thought I was a really good singer and songwriter
before I got there," he says, "but actually getting to
town and seeing those guys do it...I wouldn't say it was culture
shock because I knew everyone in Nashville was going to be good.
But I didn't know they were going to be that good."
Returning to Florida, he poured himself into performing, first with a band and later as a solo acoustic act. "I made a really solid living doing those solo shows up and down the coast," he says. "Mostly cover tunes, but working some of my originals in, too."
Determined to try his luck in Nashville again, he called songwriter and producer Charlie Craig. "I had a bunch of demo tapes, but nothing I liked," Hand explains. "Finally I decided to put together some investors and record a whole album."
A Long Way From Town, finished in July of 2005, quickly drew interest from Nashville's major labels, several of which asked him in for a showcase. A week before the show, Mother Nature intervened.
Raymond Termini, a successful New England entrepreneur with deep country roots, was called to move his boat from the path of an oncoming hurricane. The executive just happened to find safe harbor in St. Augustine, and the diner he stopped in for a bite just happened to have a hometown performer booked that night.
"This guy comes up to me after the set and asks what I'm doing with my career," Craig smiles. "Says he's been thinking about opening a record label. I'm like, great. Here's this song and dance again."
But Termini wasn't blowing smoke. Primed with a copy of the album, he showed Hand a detailed business plan, put together a team of seasoned label execs and, eventually, signed the singer as the first artist on the aptly named Category 5 label, despite growing major label interest.
"This worked out better than I ever would have thought," Hand says. "My first time through town all I wanted was a deal on a major label, but looking at it from this side I'm not sure a major can match how hungry I am.
"The determination these guys have to make it work at all costs -- let me tell you, Ray Termini isn't the kind of guy who settles for not quite good enough. And that's kind of been the story of my career to this point."
Shooting straight and never settling have carried Hand this far, and those traits have spilled over to his album. The debut single, "Direct Connect," was a last minute addition Hand wrote because he wasn't satisfied with another cut. "Big Time" is an unflinching, self-penned timeline of aspiration, while "Committing Sin" is a haunting revelation of misplaced suspicion.
He balances the serious material with plenty of fun including "She Gives It To Me Over Easy," "Little Country Girl" and "T-Shirt." And his mother has to be proud of core country themes on "Pulled A Hank," "I Don't Want To Be Wanted," "Is It OK To Cry Now" and "Dancing With The Devil."
When a performer offers a bald faced "man, I sucked" as he discusses finding an old demo tape, it adds a bit more meaning to other self assessments. "I'm really proud of this album," he says. "I listen to it all the time, which I've never been able to do with my own stuff. It's a good feeling.
"I guess I've just gotten to a point where I don't see the need for sugarcoating," Hand says. "I just want to keep it country. No apologies. Because if you're going to put this much effort into something, why be anything other than real?"