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Magoffin singer, band record at Sun Studio

A couple of weeks ago Zoe Howard found herself standing in the historic Sun Studio, in Memphis, Tennessee, singing into a classic-style mic, as she and her band recorded in the same studio that has produced hits for some of the biggest names in music, such as Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and so many more.

Howard, a 19-year-old singer, musician, songwriter, and college student from Magoffin County, started singing lessons through the Mountain Arts Center at the age of 6, she was the first high school freshman to ever come in runner-up in the Big Sandy Idol, and in recent years, has been playing shows throughout the region with her band, Yellow Line.

Since she has a long history with the Mountain Arts Center, she was able to come in contact with several guys through the MAC to bring a band together. In 2020 during the pandemic, she banded together with Steve Porter, Clyde Porter, Jason Justice and Connor McGlone. Steve and Clyde both teach at the MAC, with Clyde being her voice instructor since she was 6 years old. Jason was always at Front Porch Pickin’ events with her and works at Mountain Music Exchange – which any musician in the area undoubtedly has spent many hours (and dollars) there. Connor, who is also a college student, played at events held at the MAC, as well, stepping in when she needed a drummer, so the combination of Zoe Howard and Yellow Line just fell into place, playing a lot of gigs before writing some original songs of their own.

Until now, the group always went to the MAC for recording their music, recording last in 2021, but recently they decided to explore their options, which Zoe took the “aim high” approach.

“I checked out Sun Records and saw it was a good deal and just for the experience it would be worth a shot, so I figured ‘what’s it going to hurt to just reach out to them?’” Zoe remembered. “Several people had already told me to apply to record there, so I sent them an email, figuring I’d give it a shot and didn’t expect them to get back to me within the next three months, but they did, and I applied to record. We sent them the setup and they sent us back a list of dates we could record.”

She first reached out to Sun Studio in April this year, and the group went down to Memphis on July 22 to record.

“The reason we got to record that early was someone else canceled,” Zoe explained. “Normally, we wouldn’t have been able to record until sometime next year because they’re already booked up for this year!”

And the experience was definitely something none of them will ever forget.

“It was an out-of-this-world experience, and I had no idea what to expect,” Zoe said. “We left out at 7 a.m. and got down there around 4 p.m. It is a tourist attraction and it’s open to the public for touring during the day, so you record at night. We had to record at 7 that night until midnight. You have five hours to record rough drafts, and we’ve decided to go ahead and let them mix and master the songs.”

Having worked with some of the biggest names, Sun Studio is ranked #2 among the most legendary studios in the world, behind only Abbey Road, which the Beatles made famous, so the group felt the level of significance and importance of their moment in the studio.

“One of the guys looked over at us and said, ‘We’re at Sun Studio. Check that off your bucket list!’” Zoe recalled.

“When you first walk in it’s just, ‘wow, I’m standing where Elvis, Johnny – all these people – stood,’ and I sung into this fancy, old-fashioned mic. They’ve set it all up so you can go anywhere in there and check it all out. They have these stained-glass windows. It definitely has a ‘50s vibe, with black and white everywhere. All the stools each had a famous person’s name on them. It was such a memory to be there, I couldn’t believe myself.”

Zoe said they had the five songs recorded in the first couple hours, then were able to go back and redo any parts they wanted to try, again.

“When recording there, I had no worries of them handling the recordings,” Zoe said. “I felt like they had everything under control. We redid one song four times, adding banjo, tambourine and organ, to add to the feel of the song.”

Since they haven’t released anything new since 2021, Zoe said she knew she wanted their next release to be completely different.

“I knew I didn’t want just county, rock or hillbilly,” Zoe said. “I wanted something different, and we made this one more lyrical than the last one. In the first album the songs were not about myself, but about other people, but this time I tried to have songs from my perspective while relating to others.”

The new album, to be titled Peace-N-Whereabouts, will have some bluegrass, country, lyrical, and blues.

“The first song is a bluegrass song about a car I had and how crappy it was – a good road song,” Zoe said. “The second is a love song like a Chris Stapleton song. It has that feel, so it’s more of a wedding country song. The third one is a blues song with a lot of quotes about life, with a person being miserable and needing company. The fourth is a lyrical song with a lot of positivity to inspire someone and just make you feel better. The fifth song is another lyrical song and it’s a song to take in as you drink a cup of coffee and just listen to the lyrics. The lyrics will seep really deep, and it’s just me with my guitar and some piano. I can’t pick a favorite song, but the guys all like the blues song best.”

While the album, Peace-N-Whereabouts, with Zoe Howard and Yellow Line, is set to drop later this month, Zoe is also getting ready to move back to UPike, where she is a sophomore studying music therapy, sings in the university’s choir and is the percussionist in the UPike band, all while playing gigs with Yellow Line as often as they can.

“The way I see it, you can live your life, especially during the college years,” Zoe said. “As long as I pass my classes, I can travel and gig all I want. I absolutely love Pikeville’s campus, walking everywhere, going to class, making friends. I’m trying to make the best of it, while also making something of myself in the process.”

For her long-term goals, Zoe said she wants to work in music therapy, travel and continue writing and performing her music.

The album will be released later in August and in September you will be able to check out Zoe Howard and Yellow Line on the 16th for Wolfstock (location to be announced) and on the 30th at the Walnut Festival in Royalton, so be sure to follow Zoe Howard Music on social media for upcoming shows.

The SI will continue to update readers of upcoming local shows and, of course, when the album drops, so be sure to subscribe, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or visit for updates. We can’t wait to see where music takes this Magoffin County native!

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