By Steve Wildsmith stevew@thedailytimes.com

It doesn’t roll off the tongue like the Grammys, but in the world of independent, unsigned artists, the Akademia Music Awards seem to be a big deal.

It’s an even bigger deal that a collection of country boys from Monroe County have been named as winners of the Best Country Album category. Randy Woody, frontman for Randy Woody and Southbound, is still wrapping his head around the announcement, which caught him by surprise last week, he told The Daily Times.

“It got brought to my attention through a guy named Nick Statton, a deejay out in Phoenix, Ariz., who got in touch with us and said we needed to submit our album to Akademia,” Woody said. “I didn’t know anything about them other than they service a whole lot of radio stations out West. I didn’t think it was a big thing, and then all the sudden, my previous manager, Bryan (Wayne Perry), called and said we’d won. I was like, ‘You gotta be kidding me!’”

Given the near-misses and almost-made-it opportunities that Woody and Southbound have experienced over the years, he was initially skeptical. He asked his lawyer to look into it and received no red flags, so he’s waiting on additional details; the organization’s website states “The Akademia owns and operates a vast network of radio stations, press syndicates and other media sites designed to take artists from relative obscurity to commercial success.”

In the meantime, it’s created renewed buzz around “Sing Me Back to Dixie,” the Randy Woody and Southbound full-length released two years ago. One song, “I’ve Seen Me Do It,” is getting radio play in Texas, and Woody and his bandmates are hustling to get the music in front of new fans every weekend and often on weeknights as well: They’ll perform Saturday at Two Doors Down in Maryville, a regular Southbound haunt, and Woody hosts an open mic night every Wednesday at 8380 Bar and Grill, a downtown Maryville club.

“This local scene — 8380, Two Doors, Mike’s (Bar and Grill in Louisville) — is blowing up right now,” Woody said. “We do what we can to keep East Tennessee recognized.”

The boys are nothing if not loyal — to their community, to their fans and to the traditional country music they’ve played since Woody put together the group with friends who started out playing around bonfires and at parties in his hometown of Madisonville. The lineup has fluctuated over the years, but Jason Harris has been with him almost since the beginning; the current lineup includes bassist Jeff Gantt, drummer Mark Barnhart (a veteran of glam-rockers The Dirty Gunnz) and steel guitarist Lucas Garner. Maintaining a steady lineup has been one of a number of stressors Woody has to endure for the sake of the music, but he’s not lost his desire to keep fighting.

“All those old-timers who warned me about the music business, they were right,” he said. “It’s a rough business, and this award was a brief moment of where I could sort of breathe a sigh of relief. But at the same time, you’re always looking at your next step. You don’t get to revel in what you’ve accomplished. I’m not greedy, but I want as many plaques on the wall as I can get.”

And whether this Akademia thing turns out to be a feather or a con, it won’t stop the boys from pushing on. They’re making plans to go back into the studio with fellow musician and production wizard Aaron Kirby at Kirby’s under-construction home studio, and they’re headed beyond East Tennessee for a number of out-of-town dates over the summer, Woody hopes. In the meantime, he can’t help but hope that next year, he and his bandmates will be climbing out of a limo and walking up a red carpet to receive an award they certainly deserve.

“My biggest concern is that in all those videos of the parties, all I saw was champagne,” he said with a laugh. “I didn’t see no ice-cold Budweiser. We might have to do something about that.”

Steve Wildsmith is the Weekend editor for The Daily Times. Contact him at stevew@thedailytimes.com or at 981-1144, follow him on Twitter @TNRockWriter and “Like” Weekend on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dailytimesweekend.