Big city dreams 

I Nine heads to Bonnaroo

It's a familiar, time-worn story. Band grows up in small Southern town; grows ambitious and moves to Atlanta; gets major-label contract. Band goes to Bonnaroo 2006.

That, in a nutshell, is how I Nine's career developed. Composed of childhood friends Carmen Keigans, Bryan Gibson, Brian Whitman and Matt Heath, I Nine moved to Atlanta from Orangeburg, S.C., in September 2004. "We actually moved into a one-bedroom apartment in Norcross. All four of us were living on top of each other," says I Nine vocalist Keigans, laughing at the memory. "It was four of us trying to make it in Atlanta because we had never been there before. None of us had jobs."

But by February of the next year, the band was gigging regularly. During one acoustic concert at Eddie's Attic, I Nine recorded a self-titled EP that somehow made its way to New York, eliciting interest from several major labels. "It got into the right hands, I guess," says Keigans. I Nine signed with J Records last summer.

Shortly afterward, I Nine landed a song, "Same in Any Language," on the Elizabethtown soundtrack. The group is currently working on its debut album. "It's really our first chance in the studio," says Keigans. The band now includes a drummer, Benji Lee, making for a much more dynamic rock sound than what's heard on the I Nine EP.

In the meantime, I Nine is headed to Bonnaroo next week. It's a major coup for the fledgling band, considering the quartet is one of a handful of Atlanta artists (along with the Wood Brothers and the Codetalkers featuring Col. Bruce Hampton) at the four-day festival in Manchester, Tenn. "I'm not sure what strings he may have pulled," says Keigans, referring to the band's booking manager, Creative Artists Agency representative Scott Clayton. "But when I heard we had that gig, I was ecstatic."

If you're going to Bonnaroo, too, watch out for I Nine. The group plays "This Tent" on Thurs., June 15, and the "Sonic Stage" on Fri., June 16.

Tree grows in Norcross: Tree Sound Studios is already famous in music industry circles for hosting artists like OutKast. Now studio owner Paul Diaz and producer and singer/songwriter James "Groove" Chambers (best known for working on Nappy Roots' gold-selling Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz) are forming a new record label, Tree Leaf Music.

"We've got a couple of things that we're working on already," says Diaz. Flagship artists include Chambers, Jim Ibbotson (from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), bluegrass/reggae band CX-1, and Jamaican roots group the Overtakers. Other potential additions include Perpetual Groove and Nappy Roots. "There's a few other artists that we're talking with, but nothing's confirmed yet," says Diaz.

Diaz describes Tree Leaf Music as an environment-friendly imprint. "One of the things that we're emphasizing is Earth-friendly, sustainable products, like recycled paper in the CDs, recyclable plastic, hemp clothing [for T-shirts]," he says. It remains to be seen if Tree Leaf Music can make green, however. The label plans to issue its first products sometime this fall.

Random news: Congratulations to the Modern Society, which triumphed at 99X and Miller Lite's "Taste Rock Live" battle of the bands May 25. Among the band's prizes are $2,500, new gear, studio time and, most importantly, free Miller Lite for a year. ... EarthLink Live is reverting back to its original name, Center Stage Atlanta. ... It's rumored that beloved instrumental-rock group Man or Astroman? will reunite during Touch and Go Records' 25th anniversary block party Sept. 8-10. Nothing is confirmed yet.

CD releases: Hip-hop duo Intellekt & Dirty Digits announces a new 12-inch single, "Phenom Mental," via a Thurs., June 8, concert at Drunken Unicorn. Several "special guests" are slated to appear in support. ... Dub reggae band Dubconscious celebrates Realization with a Fri., June 9, show at Smith's Olde Bar. Sojorn opens. ... Spastic rock group Cinemechanica plays a concert for The Martial Arts Sat., June 10, at Drunken Unicorn. Bring Back the Guns and Textbook open.

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