Pictured, from left, are Ryan Stevenson (photo courtesy of facebook.com/ryanstevensonmusic); Tyler Rich (photo courtesy of facebook.com/tylerrichmusic); and Ashley McBryde (photo courtesy of qprime.com).
Pictured, from left, are Ryan Stevenson (photo courtesy of facebook.com/ryanstevensonmusic); Tyler Rich (photo courtesy of facebook.com/tylerrichmusic); and Ashley McBryde (photo courtesy of qprime.com).
The Hillsboro Festival of the Bells committee has announced the concert lineup for the popular annual festival, which will be held July 4, 5 and 6 at Southern State Community College’s Central Campus.

Slated to perform this year are Ryan Stevenson, Tyler Rich and Ashley McBryde, according to Festival of the Bells committee president Rick Williams.

The popular concert series will begin with Ryan Stevenson performing Thursday during the Christian music night. Stevenson is a contemporary Christian artist with a number of hits, including his Billboard No. 1 hit “Eye of the Storm.” More recent singles include “No Matter What” and “The Gospel,” both of which were Top 10 hits, and his latest song, “Child in Your Arms.”

According to his website (ryanstevensonmusic.com), Stevenson was originally a paramedic before signing “an exclusive agreement with Gotee Records in 2013 after capturing TobyMac’s attention by co-writing the No. 1 and Grammy nominated single ‘Speak Life.’”

“His first recording for the label was the ‘Holding Nothing Back’ EP in 2013, which garnered the Top 25 single ‘Holding Nothing Back,’” his website biography says. “This was followed by 2015’s full-length album ‘Fresh Start.’

“With three No. 1 singles (two as an artist and one as a co-writer), a Grammy nomination, Billboard Music Award nomination, two K-LOVE Fan Awards nominations and a 2017 Dove Award plus major tour bills with the likes of TobyMac, Newsboys and Matt Maher, among others, [Stevenson] has already distinguished himself as a rare talent whose unique perspective guides his honest lyrics and sonic sensibilities.”

Stevenson is currently on the Hits Deep tour with TobyMac, Jeremy Camp, Jordan Feliz, We Are Messengers and Aaron Cole, which will continue into this spring.

“He went through a lot of struggles growing up as a young person,” Christian concert organizer Brian Robinson said of Stevenson. “I think a lot of people will be able to relate to the struggles he went through and how God is taking him through the next stages of life. His music is very encouraging and very impactful and obviously very popular. We’re really excited to have him.

“God always seems to give us singers that people know or who are getting extremely popular. We’re all excited and hope and pray that he can make the impact and plant seeds like many of our artists who have come through here in the past have.”

Any local churches who would like to contribute to the concert are encouraged to contact Robinson at (937) 402-0353, as the concert series is sponsored by the Hillsboro Ministerial Association and numerous other churches in southern Ohio. For more information on the Christian concerts, follow the Facebook page for the event at http://www.facebook.com/Festival-of-the-Bells-Christian-Concert-273149652824489.

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The country music series will begin with Tyler Rich on Friday night. Rich’s self-titled album was released in the fall, and his hit single “The Difference” has spent the past 39 weeks on the Billboard Country Airplay chart, where it currently sits at No. 26. Williams said that he thinks Rich’s song “11:11” will be a smash hit by the time Rich performs July 5.

“I think's Tyler Rich’s ‘11:11’ song is going to be huge,” Williams said. “It’s just a great song. The other song, ‘The Difference,’ is good, too.

“I think he’s going to be on fire, and I think ‘11:11’ will be hot by summer.”

According to Rich’s website (tylerrich.com), Rich spent his early years listening to classic pop and rock stars such as Tom Petty, The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Creedence Clearwater Revival before his cousin introduced him to country music when he was 8. After graduating from college with an economics degree, Rich moved to Los Angeles to pursue his music career, according to his bio.

“His fanbase has grown from Sacramento supporting his independent release to signing a record deal with The Valory Music Company and publishing agreement with Big Machine Music,” his biography says. “While introducing his amplified sound and infectious energy coast to coast, the 2018 CMT Listen Up Artist has moved to Nashville and become a road warrior, performing alongside some of the genre’s top acts including Dustin Lynch, Sam Hunt, Brett Eldredge, Justin Moore, Cole Swindell and Dan + Shay.”

Rich, who was named to Sounds Like Nashville’s “Ones to Watch” for 2019, has toured with one of the Festival of the Bells’ top performers of the last few years, Brett Young. Young brought a crowd of thousands of country music fans to uptown Hillsboro for the 2017 festival.

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Saturday night will bring recent Grammy nominee Ashley McBryde to Hillsboro, with the “Girl Going Nowhere” singer nominated in December for the Best Country Album Grammy award as well as appearing on many “Best of 2018” lists in the past few months.

“Ashley McBryde is the first time we’ve ever had a person here with a Grammy nomination before they’ve performed at the festival,” Williams said. “We had people who’ve won Grammys after they’ve come to Hillsboro, but this is the first time we’ve had one nominated for a Grammy prior to coming.

“She writes a lot of songs, similar to Taylor Swift, but her music is more about life experiences. She’s getting a lot of play with that.”

According to her biography at facebook.com/ashleymcbryde, McBryde, an Arkansas native, moved to Nashville in 2007. After self-releasing the EP “Jalopies and Expensive Guitars in 2016, she released the critically acclaimed “Girl Going Nowhere” album in March 2018, which was a Top 10 Billboard hit. Her first single from the album, “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega,” was a Top 30 hit on the Hot Country Songs chart, and “Girl Going Nowhere” was No. 55 and rising in its third week on the Country Airplay chart as of Saturday, Jan. 5.

“Girl Going Nowhere,” which McBryde has performed on stage at the Grand Ole Opry and which has even been covered by Garth Brooks, is an autobiographical song, according to her Facebook.

“They're words built from experience: over the course of her life, McBryde's been finding her own way to fill those seats and sway those hearts since the very first time her teacher told her that her dreams of writing songs in Nashville would never see the light of day,” McBryde’s biography says. “Every time she was brought down, she persevered; trusting her timeless tone and keen, unwavering eye for the truth. It paid off.”

Additional information on opening acts, as well as more details about plans for this year’s festival, will be released in the coming months.

“The committee has things booked a little earlier this year than last,” Williams said. “The biggest thing we get asked is ‘why didn’t you book so and so?’ We have to look at who’s available. We had other people we were looking at, too.

“Last year was the first time at Southern State. We’ll probably make some adjustments this year, position things different, try to add some more parking on the Southern State grounds. Hobart was a big help there with their parking lot. There’s always a few little changes we can make, to make things better.”