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Making waves in Nashville

By ANDY GRAY

Staff writer

Bobby Ocean is counting on the talents of several Nashville veterans to rise his tide in the country music world.

The 1992 Warren G. Harding High School graduate, whose real name is Bobby Schell, will release “All My Life,” the third song from his upcoming album, on Friday to streaming sites. Joining him as a featured artist on the track is Jenee Fleenor, fiddle player and vocalist in Blake Shelton’s backing band and winner of the 2019 CMA Award for musician of the year.

She isn’t the only top famous musician who has been part of the sessions at Nashville’s Hilltop Studios. Lonnie Wilson played drums for George Strait. Guitar player Jeff King has worked with Reba McEntire and Brooks & Dunn.

“I’m knocking out some songs with the best of the best down there,” he said.

Co-writing with Schell and playing guitar on the sessions is his childhood friend Jason Murphy, who plays locally as Jay Byrd.

“He and I have been writing together since we were young,” Schell said. “We’re finally making some noise.”

Schell’s love of country music started with the southern gospel he grew up hearing in the church. He got his first guitar at age 5, started singing at age 6 and has played country, Southern rock and classic rock in various bands.

His original music started getting attention before the trip to Nashville. “Coal Miner’s Way,” recorded locally, is approaching 300,000 plays on YouTube. “By Your Side,” a song inspired by the death of a friend’s child, has close to 100,000 plays on YouTube, and all proceeds from the video go to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“I have a daughter who’s 11 and I couldn’t imagine being in the same situation,” he said. “I wanted to raise awareness for people to get on there and donate.”

After the success of his locally produced songs, a friend living in Nashville encouraged him to come down and record at Hilltop, which is billed as the longest continually running studio in Nashville. In its 50-year history, it’s hosted everyone from Buck Owens and Merle Haggard to Alan Jackson and Alison Krauss.

Fleenor was at Hilltop recording a fiddle part for a Jon Pardi song, and she got involved after hearing one of the songs Schell had recorded.

He described “All My Life” as a country song with a bit of bluegrass, which made it well-suited for Fleenor’s fiddle skills.

“Jay and I did a scratch recording, and it (the final product) didn’t vary too much much from original, just the overdubs and everything these musicians put on it,” he said. “The musicianship down here is insane.”

Fleenor appears on other songs as well, but her prominence on “All My Life” led to the “featuring” credit on the song. He’s also hoping her stature in the music industry will draw additional attention to the song.

It will be the third song released from his Nashville sessions. “Started with Me” and “I Like to Drink” are available online. The latter was released last month around around the time the bars were reopening after being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a throwback to older country,” Schell said. “It’s a fun song and tells a story.”

Schell is looking forward to the opportunity to start playing these new songs live. A couple of high-profile opening gigs this summer already have been canceled. He hopes by fall he’ll be able to bring up some of the Nashville players he worked with for a hometown show.

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