The sixth annual Overdrive-Red Eye Radio Trucker Talent Search received more than 50 entries from talented truckers who love to sing. A panel of judges reviewed all the entries, and Overdrive featured 10 top contenders before the judges selected three finalists.
Those three finalists — who will compete live for the contest’s grand prize at The Great American Trucking Show in Dallas in August — are: Jason Henley, Ken Freeman, and Taylor Barker.
The first-place winner receives a full professional recording session. The contest will be emceed by trucker and recording artist Tony Justice, who will also perform during the event. Here are their three entries and a brief backstory on each finalist:
Jason Henley of Jemison, Alabama
Company driver, Indigo Fluids
Has been trucking for 15 years
Song title: “Nebraska Drop n Hook”
What is music’s significance to you? My favorite part about singing is bringing people together. Singing is a therapy and a connection to the spiritual realm for me. I have started writing thousands of songs but have only recorded a few. I’m a much bigger fan of playing live and playing with new musicians than I am of writing and recording.
How do you keep music in your life with a career like trucking? My wife, her mother-in-law and I — as well as a host of longtime friends — are a part of the musical community in central Alabama. We open our home up to host musical events as well as practice for my band. We have about 20 acres and are currently working on building a stage in the field and creating a boutique private music venue. We’d eventually like to make it into a regular festival a couple times a year, as well as doing other work such as weddings and photography.
What’s your daily haul like? I drive regional and am my company’s main over the road driver, hauling industrial cleaning products in a tanker. I leave out early Monday morning and return on Thursday afternoon.
Ken Freeman of Centreville, Mississippi
Company driver, Transport Service Company
Has been trucking for 23 years
Song title: “Truckstop”
What is music’s significance to you? I think I just “have to” sing, haha. It’s a form of stress relief. It’s hard to stay in a bad mood while singing, and when you sometimes get the chance to sing for others and get a positive reaction, well … how can you not love that?
How do you keep music in your life when busy on the road? I love to write songs. I usually keep ideas running through my head while driving, then at the end of the day, I try to spend an hour or two with my guitar and notebook to see what works. This is probably not an ideal method, but it keeps me occupied throughout the day and helps me unwind when the driving is done. I’ve also gotten to play at a couple of truck shows over the last year, and that’s been a real treat as well.
What’s your daily haul like? I pull liquid bulk chemicals (tanker). I run all over the U.S. and Canada, but I am dedicated to one primary shipper. This means I usually run ‘out and back,’ which allows me to be at home most weekends even if only to get a 34-hour restart.
Taylor Barker of Kingsport, Tennessee
Owner-operator, 2010 Peterbilt 386, leased to Heniff Transportation
Has been trucking for 22 years
Song title: “Preacher and the Stranger”
Why is singing’s significance to you? My favorite thing about singing is being able to share a story with music and make people feel that the song was written about them because they relate to the lyrics. The best reason I can give as to why I sing, write and play music is because it allows me to escape reality and live for a moment in a place in which my problems are forgotten, as are the listeners’ problems. It’s been a very powerful drug to me. I also like to use music to help others by playing for charities and raising money for people who could use a helping hand.
How do you keep music in your life when busy on the road? On the road, I make time during my 34-hour resets or 10-hour breaks. I have been known to stop on the clock when that lyric in my mind is begging me to stop so it can mingle with the music.
What’s your daily haul like? I drive over the road, hauling hazmat chemicals in smooth bore tankers. I prefer driving at night but our customers require early appointments, so our hours fluctuate.