Returning to his roots: Southern Illinois native will perform in Harrisburg Saturday

SALINE COUNTY - Though his touring schedule has gotten busier since he released his debut album "Lowdown and Lonesome," Kendell Marvel still finds time to come back to Saline County a couple times a year.

On Saturday, Marvel, along with Nashville songwriter Danny Myrick and Eldorado musician Travis Beasley, will play an acoustic set at Morello's Restaurant and Catering in Harrisburg.

"I've been pretty busy lately," he said. "I'll be in Harrisburg Saturday, then we go to Springfield, then on to Colorado. We've also got shows coming up in Pittsburgh and Alaska. I'm doing a lot of flying."

He discovered his love for music at an early age.

"My dad taught me how to play guitar at about age 5. He put the bug in me," Marvel said.

Marvel grew up between Galatia and Thompsonville and spent a good deal of time performing across southern Illinois before he moved to Nashville in 1998. His first day in Nashville, he wrote the song "Right Where I Need to Be," which became a Top 5 hit for Gary Allan. Since that time, he's written hits for Chris Stapleton, George Strait, Jamey Johnson, Blake Shelton, Lee Ann Womack and Jake Owen, among others.

Marvel said his early musical influences continue to help shape his music to this day.

"Hank Jr., Waylon and Willie turned me on to singing, and they continue to be an influence," he said. "Later on, guys like Kris Kristofferson and Steve Earle, who were a little deeper lyrically, had an impact."

Those deep country roots are evident throughout "Lowdown and Lonesome," whether it's the foot-stomping title track, the lament of unrequited love that is "Gypsy Woman," the unabashed honky-tonk sound of "Untangle My Mind" or the heartbreak felt in "Hurtin' Gets Hard." The album is a life soundtrack for the pure country music fan.

Marvel said he's felt proud any time a song he's written becomes a hit, but he knew he was doing something right when George Strait recorded his song "Twang." The song was the second single and the title track of Strait's 2009 album.

"When I found out George cut one of my songs, that was the highlight of my career at that point," he said.

However, he's also happy for the success of Stapleton, who's been a friend and collaborator for about 15 years. In fact, Stapleton, the Country Music Association Awards' Male Vocalist of the Year for the last three years, helped write three of the songs on Marvel's album.

"It's kind of cool when somebody you've known for a long time becomes an overnight sensation," he said.

Though Marvel said he's written or co-written about 1,000 songs now, he occasionally will have a touch of writer's block. It doesn't last long, though.

"You just keep writing," he said. "Maybe you come up with it the next day, or maybe tomorrow you're working with somebody and they might have a melody, something they've been working on."

It's that perseverance that is the key to success in the business, he said.

"I always tell people, I learned the hard way. I commuted (to Nashville) for a long time, but like anything else, you must be present to win. You can't play golf once a week and expect to be a pro golfer."

Eldorado country musician Travis Beasley, who will open the show, said he's looking forward to playing with Marvel.

"I hate it, but I've been on the bill three times with Kendell at the Harrisburg Bash and never got to see him," Beasley said.

Each time, extreme circumstances were in play, but Beasley said he's looking forward to Saturday.

A veterinarian by day who specializes in horses, Beasley has been playing music for some time. He got his first guitar in junior high school, he said, though he didn't get serious about playing until a few years later.

When Beasley went to college in Champaign in 2007, he eventually became involved in a band called White Trash Rodeo. Later, he formed another band called High Low Drifters.and played with them until he moved to Texas for a year. Eventually, he found himself back in southern Illinois and starting from scratch again. He said he greatly appreciated Morello's owners Mike Sumner and David Dennison giving him a chance to play several venues there.

"I think It's worth mentioning how good Morello's has treated me," Beasley said. "I can't say enough nice things about working with them."

At this show, he'll play a mix of his own songs and some crowd favorites.

"Saturday night I plan to play and sing a few songs I wrote and several songs I wish I wrote. I've been writing more lately and trying to work on that craft," Beasley said. "Honestly, I've never played these I've written at a show. I was planning on saving them all until I had almost a full set of originals, but when opportunity knocks, you gotta open that door."

Marvel also said he enjoyed the opportunity to play again at Morello's.

"I usually do a Morello's gig a couple of times a year," Marvel said. "It's a lot of fun in Harrisburg and Mike and David have been really good to me."

Marvel's album may be found electronically on most popular online venues. He can be contacted through . Beasley has some High Low Drifters merchandise available on his Web site He can be contacted through his Web site or on Facebook. The doors open for the show at 6:15 p.m. Saturday at Morello's. Tickets, which are almost sold out, are $10 each.

Kendell Marvel plays at the Harrisburg Downtown Summer Bash in 2017. TRAVIS DENEAL PHOTO