Make us your home page
Instagram

County duo Kari & Billy bring love and music to the Strawberry Festival

Kari & Billy have played colleges, casinos and bars, but nothing beats the crowds at a big festival.

When the country duo of Kari Nelson-Arnold and Billy Arnold take the stage in the Borden Dairy Strawberry Tent at the Florida Strawberry Festival at 6 p.m. today and Saturday, they want their audiences to feel like they're longtime friends.

"They can feel like we're all just sitting around a campfire somewhere," Billy said. "That's the kind of shows we like to do."

They've both been to the festival before, Kari as a performer and Billy as a festivalgoer.

Billy, 36, was born in Tampa and lived in Plant City until the age of 10. He recalls going to the festival with his brother and cousins to see musicians like Conway Twitty.

"We thought we were super cool walking around there. We would get our wristbands," he said. "We loved it."

Kari, 25, grew up in Roseau, Minn., and moved to Nashville in 2006. She played at the Strawberry Festival in 2007 and 2008 as part of the Dennis Lee Show.

They both enjoy the family-friendly atmosphere of festivals and fairs. "Of all the places I've played it's definitely the most conducive environment to playing music," Kari said.

Billy moved to Nashville in 1999. The two met when they were both working as musicians, about six years ago. They hit it off right away, and Billy hired Kari to play fiddle for him in some shows. They became good friends, and though they both traveled a lot and didn't see each other often, they kept in touch.

"There was a real good chemistry. We're both Christians, neither one of us ever drank or smoked, so we generally stand out in a crowd," Billy said. "It was really refreshing to find somebody who didn't think I was a weirdo."

Billy kept his feelings for Kari to himself for a while. She was always kind to him, and they got on well, but "I figured it was obvious that she was out of my league," he said.

He finally came clean about his feelings during a phone conversation. They talked for eight hours, dated for two years, and were married in Kari's childhood church in Minnesota in January. The wedding was filled with music. They both sang during the ceremony. The first band Kari played with in high school played at the reception.

They wrote their first album, Whole Lotta Love, in 2010. Billy wrote the lyrics and Kari wrote the musical hooks. They produced the album themselves.

Writing and playing music with her husband is a source of inspiration, Kari said.

"We've both put a lot of miles on. When we used to travel in the past, it was hard to be out there and not really have anybody to share it with," she said.

They try to keep their relationship off the stage, and focus instead on the crowd, but the audience sees it anyway.

"They always feel like it's a really sweet and genuine thing," Billy said. "We always felt like we kept our romance off the stage but people see through it."

Kari started playing the violin at the age of 7. Billy had grown up listening to country music, but it wasn't until he was about 22 that a friend overheard him singing in the shower and encouraged him to try it for an audience.

"I thought he was just teasing me, because I thought I sounded really awful," he said. But he started entering some karaoke contests and eventually started playing professionally. For a long time, he thought of it just like any other job.

But writing and playing his own music, first as a solo artist and now with Kari, has convinced him that music can mean something.

"Music does mean a lot to people," he said. "A lot of times you never even knew you made a difference to someone, until years later somebody points out a moment in your show that was a turning point for them."

Keeley Sheehan can be reached at ksheehan@tampabay.com.

County duo Kari & Billy bring love and music to the Strawberry Festival 03/07/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 4:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Prep meals for a week with tacos, pork tenderloin and rosemary chicken

    Cooking

    Some see a resemblance to Japan's popular bento boxes. Some just call it meal prepping. And some prefer to think of it as bringing lunch to work in Tupperware containers.

    For simple meal prep, you can’t go wrong with this classic: ground beef tacos, black beans and homemade Spanish rice.
  2. 'Swag Surfin' producer: 'It's very weird… they're still playing the song' eight years later

    Music & Concerts

    TAMPA

    Kevin Erondu doesn't often go to night clubs. Yet, across America, he drives people to the dance floor. He's 31 years old, but he still has the ear of college students, and while he's no pro athlete, they leap to their feet when he joins them in the gym.

    Originally from Dade City, music producer Kevin Erondu, 31, rose to prominence after creating the beat to Swag Surfin’, a 2009 club hit that still inspires viral videos today.
  3. 5 things to do under $5: Type artists, shuffleboard, toy train show, Wildflower Walk

    Events

    1 Letterheads Typefest: The muralists who run Illsol Space, a gallery in Tampa Heights, said their respect for handmade fonts and sign painting techniques moved them to curate this exhibit featuring type-based muralists, hand-style lettering designers, sign painters, letterpress studios and type designers. …

    Colm O’Connor, a Dublin sign writer, is among the 22 artists featured in the Letterheads Typefest exhibit at the Illsol Space gallery.
  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Aug. 23

    Events

    The Art of the Brick: An elaborate display of more than 100 pieces of Lego artwork including the life sized sculpture of a man ripping open his chest, a 20-foot-long T. rex skeleton, a giant skull and replicas of famous works including Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night and Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona …

    Nathan Sawaya with a sculpture from his The Art of the Brick exhibition coming to Tampa June 23- Sept. 4. It will be open for free Wednesdays through Sundays,  from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 802 E Whiting Street, Tampa. No tickets are required.[Courtesy  of the Art of the Brick]
  5. I give you a fish, you give me back my man

    Blogs

    The B-52s are a band with such a distinct visual look that you could tell it was them with just a glimpse of a picture. But was it always beehives and bright clothes for the hipsters from Athens? You can find the different looks of the B-52s in their video for the irresistible Give Me Back My Man.