Starnite performers bring eclectic blend of styles
By CARI TROCK | News-Telegram Staff

Aug. 21, 2005 -- This year’s Hopkins County Fall Festival “Starnite” performers are ready to provide Hopkins County with hours of fun, high energy and kickin’ country music.

This year’s musical event, held Sept. 17 on the last night of the festival, features Lantana, a trio of high-energy moms with ties to Sulphur Springs, and John Arthur Martinez, a performer who made his mark on “Nashville Star.”

The women-powered trio of Lantana are not just country entertainers with a lot of energy — they’re also moms. Karol Ann DeLong, Biz Haddock and Lisa Strother all have school-aged children, ranging from elementary school levels to college.

“We have nine kids between the three of us and three husbands,” DeLong said. “We take it day by day.”

Even though scheduling is the most difficult thing the ladies of Lantana do, according to DeLong, the support of the three families couldn’t be better.

“We couldn’t be in this business without them and their support,” said DeLong. “The kids are part of the concerts. It’s a family thing.”

It wasn’t until Bryan Schexneyder, a vocal coach in Plano, heard the three women that the idea of Lantana originated.

“He had a vision to put us together and come up with this trio of women singers,” DeLong said. “He said all of our voices would compliment each other and really thought this would be a good thing.”

The trio started out singing the national anthem at professional sporting events, such as Dallas Cowboy football games. Strother had written some original songs that the group eventually started singing, which then catapulted them into the East Texas music scene.

According to DeLong, Lantana means you take a little bit of the music that you loved when you grew up and you add in the attitude of today’s country music, blend it with some native Texan roots and then season it with some middle age hormones.

Lantana’s music offers a variety of styles compacted into one solid sound that is described by the group as a “country groove.” Each woman brings a piece of diversity within their sound. Strother’s sound contains a lot of R&B, Haddock’s consists of rock, and DeLong brings in the country.

“Another thing that is cool is that we all trade lead melodies in each song,” DeLong explained. “We all sing in all songs, but we trade out the melody line, and so it really does give out a compilation sound because of the diversity of our sounds.”

The ladies of Lantana believe that the group reflects a lot of different views because each woman brings many life experiences to the table. In addition, they firmly believe that dreams have no limit of age or time.

“We love to be one of many examples of that,” DeLong stated. “There are a lot of middle-aged women out there doing what they love. Our kids are watching us and know that we have a love for music.”

In addition to being a member of Lantana and a full-time mom, DeLong, who was born and raised in Sulphur Springs and currently resides in McKinney, sings with the First Baptist Church choir in McKinney. Strother and Haddock, who live in Plano and Coppell respectively, are also active in extracurricular activities. Though the three families are constantly on the run, they are enjoying every minute of it.

“Feeling the energy from the people (at shows) and knowing they are enjoying being a part of what we do makes us feel accomplished,” DeLong said. “Our shows are very high energy, and we like to entertain. If we have entertained someone and have made them escape a little bit through music and have a good time, then we feel like we have done our job.”

Lantana’s seven-song CD, “Life Is Good,” is available at CDBaby.com and CD-Tex.com. More information about the group can be found at their website, www.lantanamusic.com.

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Country crooner John Arthur Martinez made his music career debut when he competed and finished second on the USA Network’s 2003 television series, “Nashville Star,” a country music version of Fox’s “American Idol.” Now he is back performing in the East Texas music scene and loving every minute of it.

Through encouragement and support from his father’s side of the family, Martinez, who was born in Austin and raised in the Texas Hill Country, realized his desire of becoming a songwriter and musician at an early age. A published poet by the age of 9, he eventually turned his poems into lyrics.

The pressures of everyday life, however, put his dream on hold multiple times and led him to believe that a career in the music business might not be the best decision.

“There were several times I tried to remove the safety net of a regular day job, but had to return there to get the bill collectors off my back,” said Martinez.

Martinez graduated from high school and attended college on a tennis scholarship. His dreams of becoming a songwriter/musician were placed on the back burner as he graduated with an English degree. Soon after, however, the singer-songwriter in him surfaced, and he longed for that dream career.

“The first time I realized I had no choice but to be a songwriter was when I dropped out of grad school at the University of Arizona,” stated Martinez. “The final time was when my wife encouraged me to participate in ‘Nashville Star’ — so I had to resign as part-time tennis coach at the local private school. I had already resigned from full-time teaching five years earlier.”

Martinez and his band, Tejas, bring energy and musicianship to every performance and describe their music as “music that involves all of the Texas-related genres like Western swing, Tejano, folk, rock and of course, honky tonk-influenced country music.”

They also credit Texan audiences for their support.

“Texans know how to have a good time. They know when to listen carefully,” said Martinez. “They know when to holler out ‘Yee-haw!’ They know when to waltz and when to two-step.”

Martinez admits it is sometimes difficult to juggle a music career and a family, though his wife and four children travel with him regularly, but he feels his career is worth the effort.

“I love making people smile, cry, think, laugh, dance,” said Martinez. “In other words, I love to connect emotionally with an audience with my songs.”

Martinez has said that he hopes to win a Grammy of his own someday, even though he was a songwriter a few years ago in a Grammy-winning project, Flaco Jimenez, which includes Flaco, Raul Malo of the Mavericks, Radney Foster and Leroy Parnell.

He encourages youngsters interested in the music business to find out all they can about the keys to success and past entertainers.

“Young musicians need to learn all they can about the history of what they do, the legends,” Martinez explained. “They need to learn about sound reinforcement; they need to become the best songwriters possible. They need to learn about music law, marketing. There’s too much competition out there. You have to give yourself all the tools necessary and never burn bridges. If you accidentally burn one, immediately get back out there and rebuild it.”

Music from John Arthur Martinez can be ordered through his website, www.johnarthurmartinez.net. His latest release, “Lone Starry Night,” is available at all major retailers, including Best Buy, Hastings and Wal-Mart.

Lantana is set to open for John Arthur Martinez at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17 at the Hopkins County Civic Center. Tickets are on sale now at the Civic Center and can be purchased for $12.50 in advance or $15 at the door the night of the show. For more information, contact the Civic Center at 903-885-8071.

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