Opelika native launches music career
By Morgan Bryce
Up-and-coming blues-rock artist and Opelika native Trace Pridgen did not choose music; music chose him.
At five years old, prodded by his grandmother, Pridgen started taking piano lessons, and played all the way through high school, until deciding that “baseball was way cooler than piano.”
A 2008 graduate of Opelika High School, Pridgen went on to Auburn University to pursue a business degree. In the middle of finals week during his first semester, his diversion from studying would prove to be a significant part of his life.
“I was procrastinating on studying for finals, and I thought to myself, ‘Eh, I don’t want to study. I took a couple of guitar lessons back in high school. Let’s say I pick this guitar up and play?’ A couple of months later, I was doing open mic nights at places around town,” Pridgen said.
His first performance was at Toomer’s Coffee, and said it was a performance he would like to forget.
“It was awful. After that, I considered never doing anything like that again and that I was done with music,” Pridgen said.
But his love for music did not die, and after seeing a show at Shakey’s Pizza, he said he wanted to try performing again.
“I talked to somebody about playing, and eventually, me and a couple of guys started playing together some, and they grew to be some of my best friends on the planet. That’s where I like to think this whole music career of mine started,” Pridgen said.
In 2009, Trace and his friends started a band called Adrift. Over time, band members came and went and the band would become known as the Trace Pridgen Band.
Pridgen graduated in December 2012 from Auburn with his business degree, and in April 2013, began working with Auburn-based electronics manufacturer CoachComm. He still played music on the side, both solo and with his band.
Another important aspect to Pridgen’s life is his Christian faith, and over the years, he has served as the lead guitarist for the worship groups at First Baptist Opelika and Cornerstone Church. He said keeping his music clean and appropriate for all audiences has always been key.
Music would also connect him to his wife Annie, meeting her during the music service at Cornerstone.
“We were talking back and forth about songs one Sunday, and I enjoyed talking to her. Pretty soon after that, we had our first date was at the old Overall Company, and things went from there,” Pridgen said.
Now a fixture in the band, Pridgen said performing with Annie is “like a date night every night.”
Pridgen, in talking about his band’s style, described it as a sort of “musical potpourri,’’ but said their biggest influences are taken from blues and folk music.
“John Mayer, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, The Civil Wars, in particular John Paul White, B.B. King, Eric Clapton and my favorite guitarist on the planet, Stevie Ray Vaughan, are people who I listen to and that inspire my music,” Pridgen said.
Pridgen’s band has had the opportunity to perform in large venues and serve as show openers for well-known country acts like Montgomery Gentry and Justin Moore at the Hudson Family Foundation Concert in the Auburn University arena this February. Looking back on his band’s best moments, however, Pridgen said their April performance of the Prince classic “Purple Rain” at the Atlanta Braves’ Turner Field was a showstopper.
“We were playing at Turner Field two days after Prince died, and as a tribute, I texted all the guys and said, ‘Hey, let’s play Purple Rain.’ We practiced it the morning of the concert and did it that night,” Pridgen said. “Everybody that came in during our performance stopped and watched us play Purple Rain. There were people crying and getting into the song. It was one of my all-time favorite moments as a musician.”
The current Trace Pridgen Band line-up consists of the following: John Snellgrove or Time Spicer of Spicer’s music playing drums, two lead guitarists, Montgomery-based Jason Givens and Nashville-based Zack Terry rotating as the two lead guitarists, Jonathan Hendrix on the bass, Taylor Holt on the keyboard, Pridgen playing guitar and he and Annie splitting vocal duties.
Because of other jobs and distance, the band does not play together often, so Trace and Annie perform shows by themselves intermittently.
Next on Pridgen’s radar is the release of his first album called “Songs from the Road.” The album, according to Pridgen, contains songs inspired by his travels and from his time being on the road for work. Pridgen started recording songs for the album last summer, and the first single to be streamed from the album on iTunes and Spotify was “Annie Sue,’’ a song that came to him while on a business trip.
“Annie was on a mission trip to Bolivia, and I was on the road in some hotel room in South Carolina. I was bummed out because I hadn’t heard from her in four days,” Pridgen said. “I sat down and played my guitar, and I wrote the song based off of how much I was missing her.”
The cost of recording an album in today’s music world is expensive, so Pridgen has launched a KickStarter campaign to help fund the album, with $3,000 as a base goal, and $5,000 being enough to cover the total cost involved with the album.
For now, Pridgen’s current plan is to keep working for CoachComm, and possibly, one day, serve as a worship minister. Annie is in veterinary school at Tuskegee University, with dreams of one day having her own practice. Pridgen said that pursuing music full time will be a possibility, but opportunities and prayer would be the prominent factors in making that decision.
No matter where Pridgen’s life path takes him, he said having the chance to grow up in Opelika laid a solid foundation for his life.
“Opelika’s a big family. You go to an Opelika high school game on a Friday night, and you’re going to see three-fourths of the community there. Opelika loves Opelika, and the people here will do what they can to support their own,” Pridgen said. “If my music career takes off, I hope to be one of those people that come back to Opelika from time to time and have people go, ‘you know, that guy’s from here.’
For more information about Pridgen and his music, or to donate to his Kickstarter campaign, visit www.tracepridgen.com.