Members of the Sutherlin Tourism Committee will see their hard work come to fruition on Thursday when gates open for the first Sutherlin Country Concert.
“The event itself started with the Tourism Committee basically saying ‘what can we do to bring more tourism to Sutherlin,’” event coordinator Kayla Griffis said. “We decided to go ahead with the concert and it kind of all started in April or May. It has been a really quick turn around, but we have had such a positive response from the community. It is just insane.”
Organizers knew from the beginning that they did not want a big, Billboard No. 1 star. They were thinking of a regional artist. That is where Ben Rue came into play.
Rue hails from Silverton. He grew up the youngest of three brothers on his family’s 2000-acre grass seed farm.
“My mom, she always tried to get us boys to play music, but instead we always wanted to play sports,” Rue said.
Sports, baseball in particular, was Rue’s first love. He earned an athletic scholarship to Concordia University and played a season for an independent professional team before realizing that the major leagues weren’t in his future.
While in college, Rue continued to expand on his music. He learned to play guitar his sophomore year and formed a band with a few members of his baseball team, playing on campus and at local coffee shops.
A friend suggested Rue audition for Simon Cowell’s show X Factor.
“I made it a decent amount on the show, I made it to Hollywood,” Rue said. “But it was really Simon Cowell saying ‘Man, I’m a big fan of yours and I wish we could have worked together.’ That made me think ‘Wow, OK, someone like Simon Cowell likes my voice, I must be on the right track.’”
He moved to Nashville in 2012, where he knew one person. He was signed by Sony Arista in 2014.
“That was my first major, real accomplishment as far as the music industry goes,” Rue said. “I had a song on country radio, my first single called ‘I Can’t Wait.’”
Rue is no longer with Sony. Instead, he splits his time between helping out on his family farm and touring across the country, spreading his music to every corner he can reach. He recalls one time playing for over 5,000 people when he opened for The Band Perry in Nebraska. The next night, he said, he played for 12 people at a dive bar in Indiana.
“I’ve never played a public show south of Albany,” Rue said. “I’m really excited to stretch down to southern Oregon and see if we can draw a crowd.”
Rue said it was the fact that the event was brand new that really drew him in.
“It would be pretty special if my name was tied to this event for a long time,” Rue said. “I would love for this to become an annual thing and I could always be a part of it and know I was there from the beginning. I am a believer of this thing, in Sutherlin, Oregon and the Sutherlin Country Concert.”
The concert, which will be held at the park behind the Sutherlin firehouse, will begin at 7 p.m. Griffis noted that the park, located at 198 E. Everett Ave., is often confused with Central Park. Instead, the concert will be located one block south of Central Park at the same location as the Sutherlin Blackberry Festival.
Steve Benavides and Haywire, a country group from Eugene, will open the concert.
“It’s going to be a laid back, fun, family filled night,” Griffis said. “(Ben) has great music. He is more new country and Steve will be doing a bunch of covers. It will hit every demographic.”
Tickets are $15 for general admission lawn seating and $25 for reserved seating. They can be purchased at www.eventbrite.com, the Sutherlin Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center, 1310 W. Central Ave., Sutherlin, Whiskey Creek Rustics, 368 NE Ward Ave., Roseburg or at the concert. As of
Tacos La Rana Mexican Food Truck and Rolling Thunder BBQ will have food available for purchase. Wine from Henry Estate Winery and beer from Backside Brewing Co. will also be available. No outside food or drink will be allowed on site. Whiskey Creek Rustics will have a booth on site and a photo booth will be available for guests.
“We are going to have some fun,” Rue said. “We are going to play some older country music that I fell in love with that kind of was my inspiration, but a lot of originals. I am excited to see if I can win over an audience down there with my original music.”