With an average age of 22, The Georgia Thunderbolts are the newest name to thrill fans of southern rock. The quintet, from Rome, Georgia, have spent the past five years sharing stages with the likes of Blackberry Smoke, Black Stone Cherry, The Cadillac Three and the Kentucky Headhunters.
The latter’s rhythm guitarist Richard Young was sufficiently impressed to take them under his management wing. Young brought TGT to the attention of Mascot Records, who signed them up after seeing them play just one gig and planned the group’s debut album.
“And then this COVID monster hit,” sighs lead vocalist, pianist and harmonica player TJ Lyle. Unable to tour, five songs were whittled down into a self-titled introductory EP.
The seeds of The Georgia Thunderbolts were sown by a high-school friendship between Lyle and guitarist Riley Couzzourt, who teamed up with the trio of guitarist Logan Tolbert, bass and keyboard player Zach Everett and drummer Bristol Perry.
The rampant enthusiasm of Richard Young has played its part in getting the group this far. “We played with the Headhunters at an agricultural fair in Georgia,” Lyle explains. “Richard heard us out of the back window of their bus. He jumped off the bus, saw our entire show and invited us to cut a record with him.”
The EP provides a window into not only the influences that feed into the Georgia Thunderbolts – Hank Williams Jr, Neil Young, Little Feat and, most obviously, Lynyrd Skynyrd – but also the band’s blue-collar values. Song titles include Spirit Of A Workin’ Man, Lend A Hand and So You Wanna Change The World. So how would Lyle like to change the world?
“Everybody needs to find their own happiness,” he fires back. “Own up to your mistakes and you’re halfway there. Our positivity comes from within and we write about the things that affect us each day.”
In terms of vocal phrasing and tone, Lyle definitely has that Ronnie Van Zant thing going on, and their song Set Me Free even references Tuesday’s Gone. What if somebody says they’re a little too close to Skynyrd?
“We can’t avoid that, and we won’t deny their influence,” he responds amiably. “We are who we are, man.”
Not only are the Georgia Thunderbolts prepared to jump into a van and leave behind the picturesque foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, it’s something the band members positively crave.
“We can’t wait to go without showers and hit the road, especially to head overseas,” Lyle enthuses, laughing. “In fact we’ve just been confirmed for next summer’s Ramblin’ Man Fair. You’re the first person we’ve told that."
The Georgia Thunderbolts EP is on streaming platforms now.