Seriously, did we just do that?

Published 12:06 am Saturday, June 22, 2013

“Did we just do that?”

That’s been the running question for Covington County natives Drew Hassell and Clint May over the last three weeks as the two played as part in Luke Bryan’s Dirt Road Diaries Tour.

Hassell, “who grew up in Andalusia until the fourth grade,” is a 2006 Opp High School graduate. May is a 2006 Andalusia High School graduate. The two played together in the LBW Community College Ensemble.

How they made their way from a small town Alabama community college stage to amphitheater stages across the U.S. is an interesting twist of fate and proves just how quickly life can change.

It went something like this – Bryan, the reigning Entertainer of the Year in the Academy of Country Music, headlined a tour featuring the husband and wife vocal duo Thompson Square and newcomers Florida Georgia Line. When Thompson Square cancelled due to illness, the duo was replaced by Cole Swindell. And who did he bring with him? You guessed it – bass guitar-playing Hassell and backup vocalist and guitar-playing May.

“It’s been pretty crazy,” Hassell said of the experience. Haskell moved to Nashville in 2008 to follow his dream. Since then, he’s been “trying to get to the next level.” He has been playing with Swindell for about a year. But before that, he started playing drums at 15 and over the years worked the college music scene.

“I always knew I wanted to do music,” he said. “I played around Troy, Enterprise, Dothan, Opp and Andalusia, but I didn’t think I could take it further than what I was doing. I had a few friends living in Nashville at the time, and they helped push me and gave me the reassurance that it could be done.”

Hassell said he arrived in Nashville with no money, no plan and a guitar case. He hopes the rest is musical history.

As for May, he said he made the transition to the country music capital at the request of fellow musician and Opp native Martin McDaniel. McDaniel has worked the country music scene for years – with success – and when he called saying he needed someone for his band, May didn’t hesitate.

“I went,” May said. “And let me tell you, playing two nights a week on Broadway, you see how playing in a small town and going to a big city was a radical change. Everyone there can play guitar and sing. It still hasn’t sunk in just how far we’ve made it.

“It’s surreal,” he said. “That first night after the show, I said, ‘Did we just do that?’ The number of people out there in the crowd is unreal. It’s people as far as you can see. I looked under the brim of my hat only once during the show.

“I told Drew one time after a performance, ‘You do realize it’s three or four times the population of Andalusia that we’re playing for right now?’ It was ridiculous,” he said.

The two played seven shows total with Swindell and hope to continue as the country music singer’s career progresses. Hassell said after the tour’s success, Swindell is in negotiations for a record deal, and that will hopefully mean more big things for the local duo.

“You don’t want to get your hopes up,” May said. “But at the same time, it’s so incredible. A record deal for (Swindell) means that whatever tour he’s on, we’ll be there. I’m sure we’re about to be very busy. I feel like the cannon is about to be lit and explode – hopefully.

Hassell is the son of Sam Hassell of Mobile and Leigh Hassell of Atlanta.

May is the son of Ben and Bonnie May of Andalusia. His father – May proudly added – is the preacher at Stanley Avenue Church of Christ.