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Music City
JUST A COUPLE OF AVERAGE JOES
12/18/19

By Holly Gleason

Shannon Houchins never thought much about creating a cultural touchstone when he and seminal country rapper Bubba Sparxxx decided to create music that reflected where they lived. Nor was the former Jermaine Dupri/So So Def compatriot thinking about a global entertainment corporation when he founded Average Joes Entertainment with rapper/Southern rocker Colt Ford. A CMA Song of the Year nominee for the Jason Aldean chart-topper “Dirt Road Anthem,” Ford, who’s received multiple gold and platinum certifications, just released his seventh album, We the People, Vol. 1.

Valdosta, Ga., native Houchins wanted to create entertainment for people who exist beyond what the hipsters, mainstreamers and pop jockeys think is cool. With a tone both humble and intense, he explains, “All I wanted to do was make entertainment for people like us, because once people find us and know what they’re getting, they keep coming back. We’re from the South. We know what people like us think is funny, what they’re buying into. It’s pretty basic, but you have to forget what everyone else thinks works.”

For Houchins, it’s recognizing the culture Madison Avenue can’t seem to fathom and giving it music that matches the realities, tastes and textures of the post-rural South as it really is—that is the secret sauce.

With the gold plaque for Ford’s 2008 debut album, Ride Through the Country, presented to Ford and Houchins at the Grand Ole Opry, the integration of Average Joes into Nashville culture is complete. Since Houchins launched his label to release that album, Average Joes has grown to a double-digit artist roster of rappers, unrepentant hillbillies, songwriters, outliers and the popular Mud Diggers series, as well a handful of ancillary projects. Average Joes even has its own series of comic books. Comic books! Eight volumes of the adventures of musical heroes battling evil villains in an Average Joe universe not so far, far away.

But just as importantly, the record company’s success has also provided the wildly creative Houchins with a foundation for Hideout Productions. The scrappy film-and-TV company behind the acclaimed CMT series “Still the King” featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, the slacker comedy SuperZeroes and the buzzy Jay & Silent Bob ReBoot, the latest installment of Kevin Smith’s demi-autobiographical franchise, reflects Houchins’ disruptive independent spirit and conventional-wisdom-shattering drive.

“We make these movies in places like Louisiana, where filming is reasonable and you can finish with a reasonable budget,” he notes. “We lean into the script, what we need to shoot, then we try to make it authentic. For Jay & Silent Bob, we could shoot it anywhere—and Kevin got that.” Like Ford, Sparxxx, Montgomery Gentry, The Lacs, Adam Wakefield, Sarah Ross, Cypress Spring and so many others, Smith appreciates the notion of a guy who wants to create and color outside the lines. Rather than follow the standard operating realities, Houchins lets his staff dream too.

“If you create a place where people are thinking outside the box, you’d be surprised what you can up with,” he says. “I don’t have an office, so I can just wander the halls and see what everybody is doing, what they’re working on. It’s why I always say I’ve never really worked a day in my life.”


Shannon and Colt back in the early days