By Colin Foster
A few months back, up-and-coming country musician Clark Manson ran into Cole Swindell at Paradise Park in Nashville. They hung out for a little while, swaped stories and drank a few beverages … Later on in the night, Manson found himself on stage with Swindell, helping him perform his top 10 iTunes single “Chillin’ It.”
Manson — a 2009 Covington High School graduate — described the moment as one of the coolest experiences he has ever had …
The experience he will get next month, however, might top that.
On the night of his birthday (Feb. 15), Manson will appear as the opening act for Joe Diffie, Sammy Kershaw and Darryl Worley at 8 p.m. at the Schuster Performing Arts Center in Dayton.
“You can’t turn down a chance to play a show with three legends at the Schuster Center,” Manson said. “I have some shows coming up with some new guys that are pretty big, and I’m excited about them, but this show … these are three guys that have been around forever. I guess opening up for one of them would be cool. I grew up listening to all of them — sharing the stage with them is going to be something cool.”
Manson will be performing a three-piece acoustical set that night. Fellow Covington High School alum Nick Christian will be alongside Manson slapping the bass and Jason Rhoads plays lead guitar.
“My style and their style is kind of different,” Manson said. “We’ll be doing a three-piece acoustic set, that’s what they wanted from us. That will help it blend in a little more with what they’re doing, kind of old-school country.”
Diffie, Worley and Kershaw will perform acoustic versions of their hits as part of the “Roots & Boots Tour.” The trio have combined to place more than 100 songs on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
Diffie, a Grammy Award winner, has charted six Billboard No. 1 singles, including “Home,” “Bigger Than the Beatles,” and “If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets).” Kershaw scored a No. 1 hit with “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful” 20 years ago. He has 10 other Top 10 hits since then — including “Cadillac Style,” “Haunted Heart,” and “Anywhere But Here.” Some of Worley’s hits include “I Miss My Friend,” “Have You Forgotten,” and “Awful Beautiful Life.”
“I’m looking forward to meeting them and talking to them, maybe seeing what kind of advice they have to offer me,” Manson said.
Manson’s career has been picking up steam since the summer. He released his debut album “Runnin With The Night” in the fall. The album peaked at No. 30 on the country iTunes chart and climbed all the way to No. 5 on the regional Billboard chart.
“There was a point when I was sitting right in front of George Strait and right behind George Jones,” he said. “I mean, I grew up idolizing Strait, so it’s a pretty cool feeling when your album is sitting next to legends.”
Manson recently gained sponsorship from Jägermeister, his first single “Love It When You Drive” got radio play, and his Twitter account (@ClarkManson) has reached more than 30,000 followers. Manson and song-writing partner Dusty Blythe, also from Covington, are currently working on tracks for follow-up EP, which is due out in June.
“I really want to take it to No. 1 on iTunes — that’s the goal we’re working towards,” Manson said.
To see Manson’s upcoming show dates, to purchase his album or to buy Clark Manson merchandise, visit www.clarkmanson.com.
Ticket prices are for the Feb. 15 show range from $65, $49, $39 to $29. Tickets can be purchased by phone at (937) 228-3630 or online at ticketcenterstage.com.