From left, pictured are: Caylee Hammack (Photo courtesy of umgnashville.com); Matt Stell (Photo courtesy of unitedtalent.com); and Jordan Feliz (Photo courtesy of jeffroberts.com).
From left, pictured are: Caylee Hammack (Photo courtesy of umgnashville.com); Matt Stell (Photo courtesy of unitedtalent.com); and Jordan Feliz (Photo courtesy of jeffroberts.com).
Although the 2020 Festival of the Bells has been canceled due to COVID-19, members of the Festival of the Bells committee announced Tuesday the 2021 concert lineup, along with some exciting changes planned for next year’s event.

According to the festival committee, all three musical acts originally scheduled to perform at the 2020 festival have agreed to return in 2021, with next year’s concert lineup set to include Caylee Hammack, Matt Stell and Jordan Feliz. The 2021 festival will be held July 1-3.

The committee also announced that the festival will be returning to uptown Hillsboro in 2021, after being hosted at Southern State Community College’s Central Campus in 2018 and 2019. Festival of the Bells committee president Rick Williams thanked Hillsboro mayor Justin Harsha, safety and service director Brianne Abbott, police chief Eric Daniels and public works superintendent Shawn Adkins, as well as Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District chief David Manning, for their support of the festival’s move back to the uptown area.

“The committee met a couple times, and the 2020 festival was going to be back uptown,” Williams said. “We can’t say enough good things about the administration. Our hats go off to all of those people.”

Committee vice president Tom Zile agreed, saying that the administration was willing to listen and “change ideas because of some of the things we brought up that they hadn’t thought about.”

“We have tried to listen to the community and tried to hear what they wanted,” Zile said. “The change originally wasn’t necessarily what we wanted, but to keep the festival alive, it was necessary.

“Now we feel like we’re back home, and we’re looking forward again to the community rallying.”

Another change announced to next year’s festival format is the contemporary Christian artist, Feliz, will be performing as the Saturday night headliner, while the country music concerts will include the first two days.

The Thursday, July 1 entertainer, Caylee Hammack, is an ACM New Female Artist of the Year nominee. According to her biography on the Capitol Records Nashville website (umgnashville.com), “Hammack constantly felt like a self-described ‘hippie in a hillbilly town’ in her tiny hometown of Ellaville, Ga.

“Hammack is indeed refreshingly different,” her bio says. “She’s a country expressionist, a grungy firebrand and a spiritual seeker. And at only 25, she has already packed a full life into just a few years, using fake IDs to get gigs around South Georgia, turning down a college scholarship for a love that burned out just a few months later, sleeping in her car when she arrived in Nashville and then losing her home in an electrical fire.

“Tested by the fire, Hammack has been molded into an artist with incredible depth and a powerhouse voice that can effortlessly veer from fiery and demanding to quiet and vulnerable. Her life experience and relentless curiosity have coalesced into a country cocktail that’s rooted in tradition but expands with shards of modern pop and rock. Her self-penned songs tug on her own life story – bad decisions, secret affairs, broken hearts, a quirky family lineage – as she invariably turns the lemons of her daring life into sonic lemonade.”

Hammack’s song “Family Tree” was a Billboard Top 40 hit in 2019, according to Billboard.com. She was also one of several guest vocalists on Miranda Lambert’s cover of “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” which was released as a single last year. Her other recordings include “Preciatcha,” “Just Friends” and the brand-new “Small Town Hypocrite,” with her debut album yet to be released. She has “also had songs placed in RAM truck advertisements, movies and shows such as ‘Nashville’ on CMT Network,” according to her Facebook biography.

Also according to her Facebook, Hammack has been honored with the ASCAP Sammy Cahn Award for her songwriting. She has appeared on tour with Lambert, Dierks Bentley, Brothers Osborne and Reba McEntire and is next set to perform with Luke Bryan’s “Proud to Be Right Here” tour.

Matt Stell, singer of the No. 1 hit “Prayed for You,” will perform Friday, July 2, 2021. According to his website (https://www.mattstell.com/), Stell is described as “both an artist and an athlete, a soulful Southern vocalist and a worldly wayfarer. He’s a deep-thinking academic and a live-for-the-moment dreamer. And he’s a writer whose passion for the page is only equaled by his addiction to the stage.”

Still, a former college basketball player, is best known for the aforementioned “Prayed for You,” which according to his biography “has racked up more than 45 million digital streams and is now spinning on country radio, while the music video has been viewed more than 4 million times.” His latest EP, “Everywhere But On,” includes “seven self-penned tracks which trace the contours of his eclectic artistic identity,” including the title track, which has also been released as a single on country radio. The album marks his debut on a major record label.

According to his Wikipedia page, Stell also has released three independent albums. His other accolades including being named a CMT Discovery Artist in 2018 and a Taste of Country Artist to Watch in 2019, and he also debuted on the Grand Ole Opry last year, where he continues to perform periodically.

“He’s had a number one, and that ‘Everywhere But On’ song of his is climbing,” Williams said.

Williams thanked Rick Modesitt and Chuck Lipps of RMA Presents for their assistance in rescheduling the country music artists for next year.

Contemporary Christian artist Jordan Feliz will perform Saturday, July 3, 2021. The annual Christian night show is sponsored by the Hillsboro Ministerial Association and local churches and businesses.

“Jordan Feliz has had kind of a hard row to hoe,” Hillsboro Ministerial Association spokesperson and concert organizer Brian Robinson said. “When God called him to Nashville to actually sing, he didn’t have enough money to get any farther than Phoenix, and his wife was pregnant. He actually lined up shows along the way at churches.

“God continued to make a way to get him to Nashville to use his talents and gifts. He’s very spiritual, faith-based and family-oriented, and he really pushes that as believers, we need to be grounded in the Lord.”

According to Feliz’s Facebook page, the singer “launched his career as a hard-touring heavy metal singer, then switched gears to become a church worship leader, before finally signing a Nashville record deal and making his mark as a songwriter and soulful R&B-groove-pop artist.” He grew up listening to R&B music and performed in the band A Current Affair after high school.

“After his move from California to Nashville, Jordan was invited to participate in an unsigned artists retreat hosted by Centricity Music,” according to Feliz’s Facebook page. “It was the combination of Jordan’s nuanced vocal abilities, the freshness of his retro-influenced melodies and songwriting and his warm, enthusiastic personality that spurred label execs to take a closer look and ultimately sign him.”

Felix has released three albums on the Centricity label: “Beloved,” “The River” and “Future.” His songs include No. 1 hit “The River” as well as numerous Top 10 hits, such as “Faith,” “Beloved,” “Witness” and “Never Too Far Gone.”

“He’s very upbeat and very positive,” Robinson said. “We’re excited to have him and look forward to the spiritual energy with him sharing what God’s laid on his heart.”

Robinson thanked the concert’s church and business sponsors “who supported us to make this happen the last 15 years, and we hope that they’ll all be able to support us next year in 2021.” He also thanked the Festival of the Bells committee for hosting the Christian concert night.

The Festival of the Bells committee includes Williams, Zile, Bev Carroll, Connie Williams, Diana Grooms, Tara Pendell, Alex Butler, Jodi Murarescu, Taylor Eversole, Jordyn Robinson, Tiffany McCoy, Scott Gallimore, Nyhla Carey and John Willis. Williams said that anyone interested in joining the committee or sponsoring the 2021 Festival of the Bells can contact any committee member.

As the committee members pointed out, a lot of time had already been devoted to planning 2020’s festival, with the committee now looking ahead to an even better festival next year. “I think it’ll be good and something for everyone to look forward to,” Williams said.

Zile said that “especially after us being not able to have it this year, next year it should come back strong and be bigger and better than it’s ever been before.”

“I’ve always thought of this as being a rally time or a homecoming-type setting for all the community. It’s a time to draw people together,” he said. “That’s our goal, that it’ll be top-notch and back where it needs to be next year.”