• Lillie Burke

Freshman orientation bonds Acklen together

Even though Americana band Acklen has strong Belmont University roots, the four-piece group is they never intentionally named themselves after the school’s former landowner.

But when members Casey Benefield, Kyle Burnside, Brent Layman and Jason Kollar were looking for a one-word name which could rise to the top of a playlist, Acklen stuck.

“It also has ties to us all since Belmont is what brought us together,” said Burnside, the band’s rhythm guitarist.

Now, the folk band almost halfway between their first summer EP release and tour and their second they plan for 2013.

Considering the group had only formed the year before, the progress and freedom Benefield said the group has made has been remarkable.

“We’ve been writing songs for a year and a half and we got to have them played just like we imagined,” said Benefield.

That dream began to unfold on the first day of freshman orientation when Casey Benefield offered Kyle Burnside a ride to the Curb Event Center.

“It was a fateful beginning,” said Burnside, the band’s rhythm guitarist.

Since that very first night, the two started writing music and stayed in contact until the semester began in August where they picked up right where they left off.

Burnside and Benefield continued writing and started playing writer’s rounds but decided they wanted to play something big band, said Burnside. Bassist Brent Layman, who was friends with Benefield from his hometown, fit the part perfectly.

From there, the three wanted a drummer to complete the group. They were going to hold auditions for the spot – at least until they heard their friend Jason Kollar play.

“All I remember thinking was ‘Okay, he’s awesome, he’s in,” said Burnside.

By the spring of 2011, they had their band completely together and were ready to start making new music and playing shows.

After a year and a half of writing music, they recorded their first album, “Postcards,” and released it last summer In the summer of 2012. After that, Acklen then began to travel to promote what they had worked so hard on. During fall break, they traveled more than 1800 miles to play small-town venues throughout the Midwest.

“It was awesome to be so well received, the heartland moms’ loved it,” said Burnside.

Since being back, they have continued writing and are optimistic about moving forward, Burnside said.

“We got those songs off our chest and now we can move on,” said Benefield.

Acklen also has no intention of slowing down, said Benefield. They plan on releasing an EP at the beginning of the summer and playing a 10-date summer tour.

“Even if no one was there to listen to our music I think we’d still have to play it. We’ve got a special thing going, I think we’ll be doing this for a while,” said Benefield.

The special thing Burnside said they have is the strong friendship that has been the group has built.

“For me, it’s huge when people tell me they like my music, but I just want to keep writing in a band setting, as long as we do it together,” Kollar said. “I’ve always liked being part of a tight group like this.”

Acklen will play a show at National Underground on March 15 and plan on releasing their next EP by summer.

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