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Growing Everyday

RUSSELL, Ky. — He shuts his eyes, clenching his rhythm guitar as the ballad washes over, crystal-clear, stirring up powerful memories. Swaying, he recalls rocking his son in his arms 15-years-ago. After all, he is Larry Pancake’s purpose, composition, and harmony.

At 34, the local country singer is still growing, both as a songwriter and as a Dad. In fact, the title track of his album, “Everyday” is about facing young parenthood head-on.

“I was 19 when I became a Dad. I was young and reckless,” the single parent conceded. “Back then, I had no idea what I was going to do. Things don’t always work out the way they have for me. I have been blessed. This song is that story.”

The first time Pancake sang “Everyday” on-stage, his boy, Aaron was alongside. Tears welled up in the proud father’s eyes, overcome by the lyrics.

Singing his heart out, the Russell vocalist is fostering his fan base while garnering Nashville attention after the releases of his CDs, “Lonely” and “Everyday.” With a seasoned, Grammy-winning band — many of whom traveled on world tours with Billy Ray Cyrus as Slydog — they are meshing various musical styles and sounds, creating country-rock concord with Pancake’s original verses.

On the flipside, Pancake is cultivating character in his tunes, creating a distinctive style, but never forgetting where he came from.

His musical roots are pure, built by the gospel tunes his mom and dad belted in local houses of worship and the church piano keys his sister plunked growing up. He listened to his mom’s Elvis LPs, lip-synched to Kiss, Bad Company and Eddie Money on the radio, and looked to locals like Cyrus and Mike Murphy for inspiration to sculpt his upbeat tempos.

It’s coming around, as the Flatwoods native finds himself sharing the stage with childhood idols.

“I enjoyed playing with Eddie Money and I made a friend in him. … I looked up to a lot of local musicians and now when we play together it’s great. There’s a following that comes out to see us play,” he went on, with a laugh.

“But, I do feel bad for them when we’re playing outdoors and it’s cold or wet, but they always stick around afterwards. It’s exciting to know they’ve discovered my music, just like I always listened to theirs.”

When Pancake was a student at Russell High School, Cyrus just hit the big-time and visited his alma mater for a school assembly. Pancake listened intently in the bleachers.

“He stood and told the whole student body to ‘follow your dreams,’” Pancake continued. “It sticks with me to this day.”

His sophomore year, Pancake received a standing ovation after crooning in the Beta variety talent show. Friends and family knew he had talent.

Barely out of high school, Pancake and a few friends ran an ad in the newspaper, hoping to start a rock band. Aftershock was born, playing gigs at The Country Music Highway Café in Ashland “for exposure and a free meal,” Pancake joked.

As crowds grew, Aftershock played Tri-State clubs throughout the ‘90s. Pancake later teamed with a well-established local band in 2000 as their lead singer — becoming Larry Pancake and the Pride.

By 2004, Pancake was already hard-at-work, recording his first album at the famed Hilltop Studios in Nashville, working alongside John Nicholson who produced recordings for Loretta Lynn; Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, and Dolly Parton, Pancake touted.

Today, Pancake can be heard playing large and small local venues, on Top 40 and international Indie radio stations, and on a national commercial for VAM — one of his endorsers.

When he isn’t rocking regional fairs and festivals or playing intimate, acoustic engagements, he’s busy filming local TV spots.

A perfectionist, Pancake’s always looking for ways to improve his vocal skills.

“When I need advice, I call Jamie Vendera. He’s a local guy who has trained a ton of stars and broken glass on national television with his voice. He’s wise to the voice. He has written books on it.”

He doesn’t rest on his laurels and takes the bull by the horns when it comes to success.

“I’ve learned along the way that nobody is going to do it for you. Nobody will do the work like you. You can’t give up.”

He never stops writing. A new CD is already in the works.

“There will be more CD’s long as I’m around,” Pancake promised.

Honestly, it took a while to write the 10 pieces on “Everyday,” released last June.

“Some of these tunes I’ve been writing on for sometime. Some came to me while writing the others or while I was sleeping,” Pancake detailed. “When I write, it’s not like I can make myself. It just happens.”

All of the songs on “Everyday” have personal meaning to Pancake and are true stories.

One track is about a friend’s dad who died. Another song relays the tales of the many years playing clubs — and the bar fights and beer-drinking that goes along with it, while one is just for fun, singing about the Harley-riding-woman who frequented Pancake’s Portsmouth performances.

It’s gratifying to Pancake, seeing his fans love his work.

“I look out and see people mouthing the words to a song I’ve written and that’s really cool. A lot of people tell me that I’m on their iPods. … Our number one goal is to please and have the crowd leaving the show wanting to see us again.”

Of course, it wasn’t always this simple.

“The first time I played a gig I was nervous and the place was packed with kids my age. It was a rush. But, at the same time, I knew then that I wanted to play. It’s normal now. I don’t think about the crowds. The bigger, the better.”

Those youthful experiences paid off. Pancake performed with country music legend Loretta Lynn in 2008 and opened for numerous celebrity acts.

To prepare to take the stage, Pancake waits inside his trailer or bus before the show and gets pumped-up by listening to his iPod. He has rituals – like not dressing in his show clothes until 10 minutes before the concert starts.

“Then, I’m ready and I burst out with energy. First impressions are very important.”

Pancake hopes youngsters look to him as a musical role model — just as he was mentored by the talents who also call the Country Music Highway home.

“Kids learn music from the time they are young and we need to keep music programs in schools so it gives kids an out. It stimulates the mind and the creative side of people. …Every kid is good at something musically. They just need to find what it is.”