Some of country music’s brightest stars are converging on Rogers for the annual Poultry Festival. The star-studded entertainment, featuring headliner Chris Janson and special guests Ray Fulcher and Southerland, will take the stage at Walmart AMP on June 10.

 

A native of Missouri, Janson is no stranger to The Natural State. The award-winning singer-songwriter has played a number of Arkansas gigs in his career and said he was looking forward to the festival experience.

 

“Heck yeah, I love Arkansas,” Janson said. “Good people, real people, real deal heartland. I’m so looking forward to the concert and seeing everybody happy. I love my fans.”

 

Dubbed a “live legacy in the making” by Rolling Stone, Janson is a platinum-selling recording artist, celebrated entertainer and multi-instrumentalist. Known for his raucous live shows, Janson hit big with “Buy Me a Boat,” a quadruple-platinum number that earned iHeartRadio Music Awards Country Song of the Year honors. Another effort, “Drunk Girl,” was a Country Music Association Song of the Year nominee and winner of the Academy of Country Music Video of the Year. Both tunes were included on the Nashville Songwriters Association International’s “Ten Songs I Wish I’d Written” list.

 

“I have always written songs for myself first,” he said. “I’ve always had the mindset of if they make me happy, I figure there’s a good chance they’ll make somebody else happy too, hopefully anyway.”

 

Currently on tour, Janson is also looking forward to the release of his latest album, “The Outlaw Side of Me,” due out June 16.

 

poultry festival

Chris Janson

 

“There are some amazing collaborations on this album: Darius Rucker, Brantley Gilbert, Dolly Parton and Slash, the latter two joining me for ‘21 Forever,’” he said. “This is hands-down my favorite album to date. I wrote every song; it’s fun, it’s upbeat, it’s outside the lines and rules of standard protocol. The album was made with heart and soul and is 100 percent authentic in every way.”

 

Joining Janson at Walmart AMP is Ray Fulcher, the pride of Harlem, Georgia, who first rose to prominence as a songwriter, co-penning eight of the 12 songs on Luke Combs’ debut, “This One’s for You.” The two artists have continued to work together; Fulcher contributed three songs for Comb’s “The Prequel” and co-wrote additional tunes for “What You See is What You Get.”

 

“I moved to town to be the guy on stage, to be the artist, and it just kind of was one of those things where, without planning it this way, the writing side of my career took off before the thing that I actually moved to town for,” Fulcher said.

 

Ray Fulcher

 

“I still see myself as that guy, as the artist that also writes for other people. I still get a ton of fulfillment out of that. It’s two very different hats that I wear. I would definitely say I’m an artist first and writer second.”

 

The success of the collaboration, including the chart-topping “When it Rains, it Pours” and “Even Though I’m Leaving” has boosted Fulcher’s performing career. He’s released three EPs, the latest, “Somebody Like Me,” included the hot single “Anything Like You Dance.” Previous EP efforts include his debut,, “Turn it Up” in 2013 and 2016’s “Here We Go Again.” Notable singles along the way have included “That’s My Thinkin’” in 2014 and “Song of the Summer” in 2015. Every gig he plays these days is building a fan base, one country music fan at a time, including at the upcoming festival where he’s playing the AMP for the very first time.

 

“It’s definitely a grind, but this is the dream, right? You get to go around the country and play your songs,” Fulcher said. “I think the coolest thing for me is when, as you’re playing the shows and meeting new people and somebody new finds your music, then you may get a message from them later going, ‘I listened to your album, and this song right here really spoke to me. I went through this exact same thing.’ You know that person is going to go tell 10 people about the song because of that, and those are the fun moments to me.

 

“I’m excited about playing the AMP; I’ve heard a lot of great things about it. I played in Little Rock with the Josh Abbott Band, in the Rev Room, and I played a couple other things in Arkansas but never got to play the AMP. I’m pumped to play there.”

 

Fulcher, like Janson, represents the new breed of country music stars raised on a mix of classic influences and more contemporary performers. They’re also a part of a creatively collaborative community, where performers cross paths as songwriters and guest stars on projects. Just as Janson’s songwriting chops enhanced Jason Aldean and Tim McGraw’s catalogues and Fulcher’s talents helped launch Combs, that same cross-pollination led Fulcher to introduce songwriting pal Chris Rogers to fellow up-and-coming performer Matt Chase.

 

poultry festival

Southerland

 

The resulting friendship and creative sympatico led Chase and Rogers to form the country duo Southerland, which is also on the Poultry Festival’s slate of musical entertainment.

 

“We played a lot of shows just as two buddies coming up, before we were ever a duo,” Rogers said. “Been a lot of long car rides back to Nashville. We had kind of tossed around the idea after we’d been playing together for a while, like, if we were to be a duo, what would we even do? We’d always come  back to, it would have to be something authentic and genuine.”

 

The duo released two EPs, 2021’s “Boot Up” and a self-titled effort released earlier this spring, and are now making the rounds building name recognition through relentless touring. It’s all part of the process for achieving their goals in the music industry.

 

“The best part of right now where we’re at is just experiencing the firsts,” Chase said. “Even with us being in Nashville for a while, we are still a relatively new band. It’s fun to watch your songs connect with people in real time, watching you turn that someone into a fan. And it’s fun to play the bigger festivals. My fiancée is from Greenwood (Arkansas), went to school at U of A; they spent their entire college years going to AMP, and now we get to play that stage. Stuff like that excites us.”

 

Rogers said for those who have yet to experience Southerland’s music, to expect a nice blend of old-school musicianship with a modern, multigenre flair.

 

“That’s always a tough question, ‘What do you sound like?’” he said. “It’s real instruments, a lot of guitar-driven stuff. We’ve got a lot of riffs in our songs. It’s definitely country, but I grew up listening to a lot of rock as well, so we have a lot of moments in our live show where we take it in a different direction. I think we do a great job of keeping everybody engaged.”

 

POULTRY FESTIVAL MARKS 63 YEARS

 

Now in its 63rd year, the annual Poultry Festival welcomes thousands of guests to its events celebrating the contributions of the poultry and egg industry, its producers and the companies that bring those products to the masses.

 

Arkansas enjoys a particularly robust poultry and egg industry, nationally ranking second in turkey production (26 million birds, representing 556 million pounds); third in broilers produced (1.1 billion birds, representing 7.4 billion pounds); and seventh in egg production value (4.2 billion eggs with a production value of $912 million.) Last year, these three product segments supported about 158,000 jobs in Arkansas and combined for total economic activity of about $39 billion.

 

poultry festival

 

All told, there are more than 6,500 farms in The Natural State that produce some kind of poultry, with the top five poultry-producing counties being Benton, Washington, Madison, Carroll and Yell, respectively.

 

Even the festival itself is a major economic event; in 2022, 4,500 festival tickets were sold, drawing federation members and friends of the industry from across the country. Last year’s two-day celebration impacted the Rogers economy to the tune of $4.2 million.

 

Food, fun and frivolity await festival goers at the 2023 Poultry Festival in Rogers.

 

In addition to the concert, the 2023 event – a Las Vegas-themed celebration dubbed “The Chicken Strip” – will also host a number of fun offerings including a golf tournament, fishing contest, trap shoot and multiple barbecue contests. The event will also host a women in poultry luncheon and awards ceremonies to recognize the best in the poultry and egg business as well as a scholarship program to seed the future of the industry.

 

The Poultry Festival, slated this year for June 9 and 10 at the Rogers Convention Center and Walmart AMP, is put on annually by The Poultry Federation (thepoultryfederation.com). Headquartered in Little Rock, the group represents the poultry and egg industry in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.

 

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