NGU’s Driskill Named Solo Artist of the Year by Upstate Music Awards
Tigerville, SC (June 21, 2021) The Palmetto State is known for a variety of things — its rich history, its popular tourist destinations, and its tropical climate — but there is another, less-spoken quality of South Carolina: its music.
A variety of groundbreakers have come to the music scene in South Carolina. There are the obvious people, such as Darius Rucker, Chubby Checker, James Brown, Peabo Bryson, Josh Turner, or The Marshall Tucker Band. Still, new people, especially in the hip-hop and folk genres, often go forgotten.
“Looking at the landscape of the state, I think we have more musical talent than we have coverage of it,” Vince Harris, a freelance writer, and co-founder of Upstate Music Awards (UMA) said.
The UMA is an annual event that recognizes local Upstate artists and musicians.
Jeremy Theall mentioned the idea to Wes Gilliam in passing, but Gilliam said it wasn’t until months later he actually began the project. Having forgotten who said it to him, Gilliam turned to Facebook to find out Theall had coined the idea. He reached out, and the Upstate Music Awards were born.
“I was like, ‘This is such a good idea; we should totally do that,'” Gilliam, the co-owner of Radio Room and co-founder of the UMA, said.
Although the awards have only been around since 2019, the turnout and sponsorship are undeniable.
“The online reception surpassed last year. We had maybe around 10,000 votes last year total, but this year the votes almost doubled,” Theall said.
Sponsorship also increased drastically. Even with its growth, the award show wants to maintain its local feel, according to Theall.
This year, one of the hundreds of nominees was NGU senior history major Seth Driskill, graduating this December. Driskill, from Greenville, was nominated for both Best Music Video and Best Solo Artist by his fans. He was recognized as Solo Artist of the Year by the selection committee.
“Fortunately, my small group of supporters put the work in to vote for me every day, and I made it to the finalist spot. From there, the committee of judges reviewed my music and live performance footage and made a majority decision that I should win the award,” he said, “They presented it to me at the ceremony, much to my surprise. [It was] very humbling and [an] encouraging experience.”
Driskell learned about the competition from a post the award show made on Instagram last year. He found out too late and missed the nomination deadline but set his sights on this year’s competition and worked hard to create a good portfolio of content to have a good chance at winning.
“The award is a token of credibility that gets my foot in the door with the local music scene. This award has already paid off in great lengths as it’s allowed me to get a lot of gigs, some of which will feature me opening for fairly big artists in the future,” he said.
The event featured the UMA red carpet, a photographer, vendors and food, and the main room, capturing performances and video projections. The actual event is hosted on a big stage with a podium and large screen, with finalists coming on stage to receive their “shiny trophy and the gratitude of the Upstate,” Harris said.
Even though Driskell is not involved in music at NGU other than in chapel services, he plans to pursue music after graduation. He also plans to seek a master’s degree in counseling.
“I chose NGU for the positive environment and the smaller, close-knit community it provides. It has allowed me to build a small local fanbase through the relationships I have formed at the school,” Driskill said.
Based on a voting system of nominees strictly from the 864 area code, Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Greenville, Greenwood, Laurens, McCormick, Newberry, Oconee, Pickens, Saluda, Spartanburg, Union, and York counties, anyone is allowed to enter nominations.
Voting on the website started in January. Once voting ended, finalists of the 12 categories were announced and winners recognized at the award show in May.
Categories included Artist of the Year, Best Album, Best EP, Best Single, Best Music Video, Best New Artist, Best Solo Artist, Best Collaboration, Best Studio Producer/Engineer, Best Album Art/ Visual Design, Write-In Vote, and the 864 Award.
Harris said the representation of the state and the talent blew him away this year.
“It was almost a complete turnover of last year’s nominees … hundreds of nominees, dozens of musicians that I had never heard of,” Harris said.
Driskell said the most gratifying part about receiving the award is its recognition for what God has gifted him with. His music intends to reach those that are suffering, the silent crowd of people that get ignored.
“My content focuses greatly on introspection and struggle as I seek to give purpose to my pain by putting it in my art to help others. This award is just a material thing that will pass away, but it represents so much more. It means that God has a plan for my past suffering, and my music is used to help others find hope, and I am forever grateful for that. Glory be to God alone,” Driskill said.
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