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Soldier Graces The Stage, Serves His Country
by U.S. Army Sgt. Gin-Sophie De Bellotte
April 25, 2019

More than a decade ago, a small-town boy in America’s heartland listened to country music on the radio with big dreams in his heart. These dreams came to fruition on stage during an annual music awards show.

Inspired by country music artists like Zakk Wylde, Vince Gill and Brent Mason, Sgt. Chris Munson, a Paratrooper in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, displayed his talent on the stage of the Carolina Country Music Awards at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on January 26, 2019.

January 26, 2019 - Sgt. Chris Munson sings his country single of the year “Keep Me Saying Yes” at the House Of Blues in the Carolina Country Music Awards in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Munson was nominated for two categories of the competition as male artist of the year and country single of the year. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Gin-Sophie De Bellotte)

Munson, a Kellyville, Oklahoma native currently serving in 2nd Battalion, 501st Infantry Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, was nominated for two categories as male artist of the year and country single of the year in the Carolina Country Music Awards.

The CCMA is a program that is designed to help new and upcoming artists whose work must be authentic in nature. The purpose is to help the artists get to major radio stations and potential record label signing, leading to a career with their craft.

“As early as I can remember I fell in love with country music,” said Munson.

In Munson’s early childhood, his mother‘s radio beamed classic rock and a hearty serving of country music.

“It was always on the radio, you just couldn’t escape it,” said Munson. “You’d get out of the car and hear country singers from the 1990’s era of music.”

When Munson was 11-years old, his 16-year old brother received and began playing their grandfather’s guitar.

“Of course, being the little brother, I followed him everywhere and when he would set the guitar down I’d play it,” said Munson. “He’d yell at me ‘Quit playing my guitar!’ but eventually he got distracted with other things.”

Each ingredient, the music on the radio, his grandfather’s guitar, and an intrinsic interest in music, fueled Munson’s current recipe for success. He began to self-teach himself on music theory, diving through the pages of Guitar World and studying DVDs of his favorite artists.

“Country guitar players are some of the most technically skilled musicians on the planet,” said Munson. “You learn to appreciate that when you start to learn about some of the legends.”

When he was 19, Munson befriended a man named Chance Anderson. Together they formed a band and Munson started singing during regional performances.

“I have always kind of dabbled with singing, but I never tried to step out and do it until I met my friend Chance Anderson in the band that I was in back in the day,” said Munson.

The group started small, but eventually expanded the areas where they played. This included part of Oklahoma and Texas, eventually landing the group performances in Nashville.

Munson’s passion as an artist took a backseat when he enlisted in the U.S. Army.

“My family actually has a huge history of military service, all my uncles served in the various branches and I’m the first one to really do any combat arms stuff,” said Munson.

Munson started off by joining the Army Reserve. As his own family grew, so did his passion for serving others. He joined the active duty force, which led to an assignment at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Even with the changes in his career, Munson says he never lost the desire to perform music. Balancing his responsibilities and his desires became a challenge.

“If my wife wasn’t as supportive and tolerant of my addiction with my music, I don’t know how I would balance everything,” said Munson as his dark brown eyes sparkled holding back his overpowering emotions. “I can’t stop thinking about music or guitars I’m always pitching a song to her.”

Even with past success, Munson said his music really didn’t kick start until after his last deployment in 2017.

Munson said he would compose songs whenever he had personal time during the deployment. It was during this deployment where he wrote his song “Keep Me Saying Yes,” a song dedicated to his wife.

“My wife sent me a book while I was deployed because she proof reads books for authors and she said ‘You’ll like this, read this,’” explained Munson. “There was a line in the book that said ‘keep me saying yes and I won’t tell you no,’ and from there that’s when I brought my experience into it and wrote my song.”

When Munson returned from his deployment, he was networking his way around when he met a retired veteran and Fayetteville, North Carolina-bar owner named Bear.

After a few conversations with Bear, Munson had a place to play his music again. On the third Friday of every month, Munson performed at Bear’s bar.

It was through his performances and Bear’s connections that Munson was linked up with Christy Andrulonis, the executive producer of the CCMA, also known as “Sweet Tea.” She told Munson about the CCMA and asked him to send whatever music he had recorded.

At the time Munson hadn’t spent any time in a recording studio. He was apprehensive that his lack of recorded songs would be a problem.

“After getting off the phone with Sweet Tea, Bear looked at me and said ‘Don’t worry about the studio time I’ll take care of it,’ and he sponsored me to go into the studio,” said Munson.

Fighting a tight deadline, Munson recorded his song and sent to Sweet Tea. A short time afterward, his song was on the radio.

“I almost jumped out of my car!” said Munson excitedly.

Shortly after his song began playing on the radio, Munson was nominated for CCMA’s Male Artist of the Year and Country Single of the Year.

Sweet Tea learned of Munson’s talent through a tip and a YouTube video of Munson singing in his garage. Distracted by other projects, Sweet Tea did not follow up on Munson.

It wasn’t until Sweet Tea visited Fayetteville and Bear reintroduced Sweet Tea to Munson’s talent that she reached out to Munson.

“With Chris’s music there is a story that can be relatable and we do look for that,” said Sweet Tea. “He has a pure-toned country sound to more of a traditional-country sound, and he’s cute!”

Sitting in the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina before his end-of-January performance, Munson said that he couldn’t believe that he was about to perform for thousands, including his family members, wife and kids.

“As a dad this is how you want your kids to see you, as a hero, and I hope that they do,” said Munson.

Going forward, Munson plans to work on his music and intends on producing more songs.

“Being in the military helped with my music,” said Munson. “Believe it or not, the Army Values is something you can apply to every area of your life and being in the Army has allowed me to develop that discipline, work ethic and the ability to adapt to anything without complaining.”

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