What exactly is ESOEBO? It’s an acronym for the band: Eclectic Selections Of Everything But Opera, formed in 2005 by Chuck McDowell (guitar) and Gail Burnett (cello). The two are the heart of the group and most often play as a duo, but also crank things up with a full band with drums, pedal steel guitar and bass. Chuck has played and recorded with some heavy-hitting Nashville songwriters, but still fondly recalls the early days.

Humble Beginnings

“We were playing in coffee shops, Boudreaux’s Cajun Restaurant and other places,” said Chuck about the early days. “We didn’t really have a name.” People were enthusiastic, so one evening at a show he made up the name on the spot, just off the cuff, half jokingly. “I hadn’t heard of Americana music at the time,” he continued, “and we didn’t really have a name, so Gail just said ‘Why don’t we use that ESOEBO name?'” The rest is history.

Born in Louisiana, Chuck moved to Sandy Springs as a child, and later to Decatur. After graduating from Auburn University, he moved to Duluth. “I liked the vibe and the small-town feel. There used to be a bait shop on the corner of Buford Highway and 120. You could go there on a Friday night and there’d be 15 people playing music, just jamming, until way past midnight.”

Duluth, How You’ve Grown!

How times have changed. Eddie Owen’s Red Clay Music Foundry is now where musicians gather, and his twice-monthly open mic nights draw amateurs and professionals for the chance to perform head-to-head, the winner taking home $100. Those finalists are invited back in November for the Songwriters Open Mic Shootout with a chance to win a $1,000 grand prize.

Chuck considers Eddie Owen a close friend. “Eddie and I met at one of his open mic nights. I’ve played it 127 times, and I think I played 30 times before I got invited back to be a finalist. I love what he does. He loves people and he loves songs.”

Musicans Welcome

Chuck hosts an ongoing Wednesday Writers Series at Red Clay, featuring two national and one local act playing in the round, trading songs. “We want to promote Georgia and Red Clay in particular as a music destination. We want to promote the artist, and at the same time promote the community. Nashville can be an expensive place to live, and we want musicians to know that Georgia can be their home as well.”

As for the lightning, concrete block and slim jims, they’re only a part of Chuck’s active imagination and sly sense of humor.

Go to ESOEBO.com for upcoming shows, video clips and previews of their four albums.