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Keyboardist Gregg "Hobie" Hubbard was in fanboy heaven when he and other members of country music band Sawyer Brown played on the same bill as hard rocking Grand Funk Railroad, Aug. 10, at the Michigan International Speedway.

"I was a kid who grew up listening to music on the radio," Hubbard, an Apopka, Florida, native, explained. "Back then, I loved listening to Carole King, James Taylor and, yeah, Grand Funk Railroad.

"Man, I still have stickers from their 'We're an American Band' album," he added, during a phone interview from Nashville home. "To meet them and hear Grand Funk Railroad perform live was so memorable and so cool."

You see, Hubbard loves to watch music in a live setting. And as one of the founding members of the Country Music Association Award-winning Sawyer Brown, he still loves performing, too.

"I think I can speak for my bandmates and say that touring and performing live are still our favorite things to do."

Country fans will be able to see Sawyer Brown, live in concert at 8 p.m. Friday in the WinnaVegas Casino Resort Event Center, 1500 330th St., Sloan, Iowa.

According to Hubbard, the band will be playing many of their hits, which include "The Walk," "Some Girls Do," and "I Don't Believe in Goodbyes."

"We have an obligation to the fans who've been following us for the past 38 years," he said. "People like hearing music that they know. And they feel a connection with us through our songs."

But old fans and new fans will, inevitably, ask Hubbard or his bandmates Mark Miller, Jim Scholten, Shayne Hill and Joe "Curly" Smyth the same question.

Who the heck is Sawyer Brown, anyway?

"When we were naming the group, we wanted it to to sound like a person's name, but not be one of our own names," Hubbard said. "So, Sawyer Brown became our name since it was a name that five guys of the band could agree upon."

OK, not withstanding the quirky name of the band, Sawyer Brown must've seemed pretty conventional to folks in Nashville back in the day, right?

"Nope, when we started, everybody thought we dropped onto the scene from Mars or something," Hubbard said, laughing. "In their eyes, we were too young and moved around too much when we performed. On top of that, we didn't wear cowboy hats or cowboy boots. How can you be a country act and not wear cowboy hats or boots?"

Luckily, Sawyer Brown auditioned for the then-new TV talent competition show, "Star Search," in 1983 and won the Ed McMahon-helmed program's best vocal group category.

Their prize: a $100,000 check plus a recording contract.

"That was our big break," Hubbard said. "It got us noticed."

Since then, Sawyer Brown has released 60 singles, of which more than 50 have charted on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. In addition, the band has recorded one live album, been featured on five compilation albums and has had 18 studio albums under its belt.

Hubbard said studio album No. 19, is likely to be released in the fall or the the first part of 2020.

During its peak years, Sawyer Brown would be on the road for as many as many as 250 shows a year. Now, it is at a much more manageable 75-100 gigs-a-year pace.

"I don't miss the stress of constantly being on the road," Hubbard said. "But I never take for granted how much I enjoy performing for an audience.

"When you're performing for an audience, you're making a connection," he said. "You're connecting them through a song that takes them back to a time in their lives."

Hubbard never takes it for granted because he can definitely relate to the guy in the audience.

"I love all types of music," he said. "Just recently, I've seen the Foo Fighters and the Rolling Stones perform live. I've gone to see John Mayer in concert, probably five or six different occasions. I've probably seen Tony Bennett in concert an equal number of times."

Bennett's still performing and he's well into his 90s. Would Hubbard like to see Sawyer Brown have similar longevity? 

"Making Sawyer Brown a success was a dream of mine," he said. "Being able to live out that dream for so many years has been gratifying. As long as we're able to perform at the same caliber, we'll be performing for many years to come."

After all, for Hubbard, it is all about making a connection with the audience.

"Even when you're performing a song you've been doing for 30 years, it is still special," he said. "You're drawing a different reaction from different audiences."

"Our fans have made Sawyer Brown what we are," Hubbard said. "If they're willing to come out and see us perform, we're gonna put on a show." 

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