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Chris Cairns was born playing the banjo. Almost. His interest in bluegrass and folk music was kindled at an early age when he began playing guitar and banjo in the 2nd grade. At age 10 he was performing for his schoolmates at special concerts alongside his teacher. At 11 years old, Chris performed on live TV in the Statue of Liberty Celebrations Closing Ceremony in Giant’s Stadium. By age 14 Chris had started his first bluegrass band, The Yankee Bluegrass Boys, playing at McNulty’s Ice Cream Shop for enthusiastic audiences. Chris continued to teach banjo lessons while persuing his undergraduate degree from Cornell University. After graduation, Chris moved to Santa Barbara, California and started his second bluegrass band, Wild Sage, in 1998. Wild Sage’s popular success included taking 3rd place at the esteemed Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Competition in 2000, performing on the mainstage of the Strawberry Music Festival in 2001 and numerous radio and concert apperances throughout California. Their first CD “Endless Detour” sold 1500 copies and their follow up CD’s “Live at Strawberry,” “Fresh Produce” and “Live at Painted Sky” sold 2000 copies.
In 2003, Chris founded the independent record label FireHeart Records. As a record producer, Chris helped produce, manufacture and distribute over 5000 albums by songwriters Kenny Edwards, Pete Goble, Ivan Rosenberg, Pat Milliken, Wild Sage and instrumentalist David West. Chris started The Chris Cairns Band in 2003 and recorded and produced his debut album “Runaway Train” to rave reviews in the U.S., Europe, Australia, and Canada. In addition to fronting The Chris Cairns Band, Chris performs with The Porch Dogs and Whiskey Chimp. As a songwriter, banjo teacher and record producer, Chris makes his home in Ventura, California.
Tom Corbett’s superbly clean and laid-back mandolin pickin’ can be deceiving to listeners. If you pay close attention, there’s no doubt those fingers are flying as Tom creates beautiful melodic lines that thread their way through the bluegrass, country, swing and folk-style songs the band performs. It was his father’s Vega banjo-mandolin that inspired 11-year-old Corbett to start picking on old-time standards and absorbing the sounds of Bill Monroe as well as newgrass mando gods like Sam Bush and David Grisman. Those seminal influences can still be heard in his soulful playing. After relocating from his native Ohio to California, high-profile stints with acclaimed folk-bluegrass festival faves the Acousticats and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band multi-instrumentalist John McEuen’s entertaining String Wizards band earned him accolades and a loyal following. He’s consistently active on L.A.’s acoustic music scene, playing mandolin and guitar with numerous acts onstage and in the studio; he recorded several tracks on Social Distortion frontman Mike Ness’ rootsy solo album Cheating at Solitaire and joined McEuen, Jimmy Ibbotson, singer Jennifer Warnes and Laurie Lewis in the award-winning 2002 DVD Nitty Gritty Surround. More recently he took on one of those only-in-L.A. jobs: teaching TV/film star Tom Selleck how to play ukulele for a role in a play. Tom participated in the recording of Chris Cairns’ debut album “Runaway Train” and is featured on the band’s newest album “Cannonball Run.” For more information on Tom and his solo material, please visit Tom’s website at www.tomcorbett.net.
Mahala Fortner is the prettiest member of the group. Her superb vocal style seamlessly blends with Chris’s mellow baritone lead for that old-time bluegrass style duet and trio harmony. “Haley,” as she is know by, has performed and sang with such vocal sensations as The Starlighters and the all-girl ensemble Lillywater. She has also been an actress performing improve comedy as part of the Murder Mystery Series on the Fillmore and Western Railway. Haley lends her unique vocal flavor to a few classic country songs that affectionado’s describe as “three chords and the truth!”
Tom Lee lays down a rock-solid foundation for the band on his string bass. He has played bluegrass, folk, modern and traditional jazz, blues, country rockabilly and “beatnik cowboy” music – for starters. Tom’s first professional bluegrass gig was as a street musician at Knott’s Berry Farm in 1972. He was a touring member of the sensational bluegrass group, The Bluegrass Cardinals in 1976 and joined the Cache Valley Drifters in ’79. In the early 90’s he lived in Oregon, performing with Sam Hill, New Cut Road and Seafood Mama. Recently he’s played with Peter Feldmann and The Very Lonesome Boys, the Dixieland group Ulysses Jasz as well as being the administrator of the Song Tree Concert Series. Through the years, Tom has performed and recorded with countless artists; countless being an exact number that he can’t quite remember at the moment. Tom was the featured bass player on “Runaway Train” and makes his glorious return on the new album “Cannonball Run.” Check out “Go Go Gadget Boogie” and “Groundspeed” to hear some serious string bass thumpin’ from Tom Lee.
Bill Flores is a multi-instrumentalist of considerable note. A native of Ventura, California, Bill has been a touring musician most of his life and has performed at just about every venue on the West Coast at least once. Bill Flores is accomplished on dobro, guitar, saxophone, pedal steel, mandolin, button accordion, fiddle and banjo. Influenced at a young age by his father, who was a steel guitarist, Bill has now played professionally for over 25 years. He is well versed in a variety of styles including blues, country, Cajun, Cuban, Klesmer, old timey, bluegrass, Celtic, Norteño and the exotic art of Eskimo nose singing.
Over the years Bill has performed with a variety of musicians, including Wanda Jackson, Lowell Fulson, Big Joe Turner, Rosie Flores, Mike Seeger, Fernest Arceneaux, Albert Lee, and Charlie Musslewhite. He currently performs with The Rincon Ramblers, Little Jonny and the Giants, Cory Sipper, and Louie Ortega of The Texas Tornados fame. Bill has extensive studio experience. Over the course of his career, Bill has toured across the United States, Canada and Europe. He has appeared at such festivals as the Strawberry Music Festival, the Kerrville Folk Festival, Live Oak Festival, Peer Blues Festival (Belgium), Nice Jazz Festival (France), Vienne Jazz Festival (France), the High Sierra Festival, Sacramento Blues Festival, Wild Iris Festival, Bowl Full of Blues Festival, Columbia River Gorge Mixed Bag Festival, and more.