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December 5, 2013

Our Neighbors: ‘An instant connection’ to music

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — “In the past three or four years I moved between Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama somewhere around 16 or 17 times,” said Jo Jo Stephens, 24, of Corbin.  “I would just pack all my stuff into my car and would move various times throughout the year.  One time, my dad said ‘Son, you’re like a kite in the wind.’”

Being called a ‘kite in the wind’ stuck in Stephen’s mind and eventually transformed into what he and three other like-minded individuals would call themselves as they came together to do what they love — perform music.

Kites is made up of four friends who have shared similar life experiences, including Stephens; his younger brother Nick, 16, as the lead guitarist, pianist, mandolinist and bassist; DJ Allen, Stephen’s friend and former college roommate as the drummer; and Leah Hatmaker sings with Stephens.

To Stephens, Kites is more than just a band. It’s a representation of overcoming adversity and hardship, it’s about four people trying to find their way through the rough patches in life and finding the people who make that struggle a little easier.

Kites started with Stephens fighting to overcome heartbreak.

“At the beginning of this year, I was in a really, really bad place,” he said.  “I was really depressed over a past relationship.”

Stephens said during this time he was coping the only way he knew how – by writing and performing music.

“I remember I was in Nashville and I was trying to make it in the music industry,” Stephens recalled.  “I wasn’t in a state of mind to be successful.  I was playing some of the same songs we do now, but my heart just wasn’t in it.  I wasn’t in the right state of mind to make it.”

Stephens planned on staying in Nashville to work on his career, despite knowing that something was missing.

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