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Taylor named state's country music artist of year

Cuthbert’s Cole Taylor was named Georgia Artist of the Year and Male Artist of the Year.

Cuthbert’s Cole Taylor was named Georgia Artist of the Year and Male Artist of the Year.

Carlton Fletcher

MARIETTA — Southwest Georgia artists dominated the recent GeorgiaCountry.com awards, held at the 120 Tavern and Music Hall here, with Cuthbert’s Cole Taylor claiming the coveted Artist of the Year award as well as being named Male Artist of the Year.

Taylor, who plans a move to Nashville in February in search of the dream that propelled Leesburg’s Luke Bryan — who was named National Artist of the Year at the GeorgiaCountry.com ceremony — to stardom, called his victory a stepping stone.

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Albany/Dawson-based band Highway 55 earned state Band of the Year.

“This is definitely a stepping stone to where I want to be,” he said in a phone interview. “At this point five years down the road, I hope I can look back at this night and say, ‘That’s what got me to the Grammys or the CMAs.’

“(The GeorgiaCountry.com recognition) is definitely a reward for all the blood, sweat and tears I put into this. It’s the results of five years of hard work.”

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Bryan

The Albany/Dawson group Highway 55 joined Taylor and Bryan in the winners’ circle at the awards ceremony, claiming the state Band of the Year trophy. Other winners included Female Artist of the Year Lauren Ashley, Teen Artist of the Year Jordan Grassi and Regional Artist of the Year Blackberry Smoke.

“This is definitely a big step for us,” Highway 55’s Cody Smith said. “To be at this only three years and then be named the best country band in Georgia is big. It great for exposure, which is important in this business.

“As much as music is art, it’s a business as well. And like with any job, you build a resume. This is a nice addition to our resume.”

Taylor, who is 18 hours away from finishing requirements for an accounting degree at Valdosta State University, said he and his girlfriend, Lacy Bradshaw, will start looking in January for a place in Music City. He says, though, that he will complete work on his degree online.

“I’m one of those people who never starts something and doesn’t finish it,” he said. “As I get further into my (music) career, I feel that the business courses I’m taking will help me. Lacy (a paralegal) and I are really excited about the opportunities in Nashville.

“I’m headed up there with a fire under me, and I won’t quit until the Lord tells me to.”

Nominations for the GeorgiaCountry.com awards are posted on the Web and voted on by fans. The Entertainer of the Year award is voted on by a panel from the entertainment industry.

“Knowing I have a broad enough fan base that’s willing to vote for me makes this all that much sweeter,” Taylor, whose recent album, “Cab of My Chevy,” propelled him to the state awards, said. “Those are the folks who make me drive harder, who make me get up in the morning ready to go to work.”