The ‘Country Soul’ Duo, Exit 216 (named for the exit that takes drivers to Nashville International Airport) is the most diverse pair I have come across in country music. But what surprised me the most was not their ethnicity, but the age difference. Born in Savannah, Georgia, Steven Battey is a 35-year-old Grammy award-winning songwriter who got his start in Los Angeles.
Cole Burkett is a 21-year-old burgeoning songwriter from Smyrna, Tennessee, just outside of Nashville.
Battey won a Grammy Award for his contributions to Madonna’s Revolver record and has two Grammy nominations for his work on Justin Bieber’s certified Platinum album My World 2.0, and Flo Rida’s Top 5 Billboard Hot 100 hit, “Sugar.” But in 2014, he moved to Nashville to pursue country music and helped co-write the #1 Billboard Country hit and 2019 ASCAP Song of the Year, “One Number Away” by Luke Combs. (Listen to their cover here.) Battey has proven to be an innovator with undeniable talent and vision.
Reared in traditional country music, Burkett recently graduated high school and was offered several full college scholarships to play baseball. But has he stated, “My heart wasn’t in it,” and he turned them down to follow his dream of being a country music singer/songwriter.
So how in the world did these two get together to form a duet? It turns out that The Voice’s Keegen Ferrell (formerly on Team Blake, but recently “stolen” by Nick Jonas) introduced them.
Battey was looking for someone like Burkett to form a duo. Despite his youth, Burkett had a natural “soul” vibe in his southern vocals. Once Battey heard him, they recorded several songs together. Battey went back to LA for a while. Then COVID hit.
“It put a hold on everything we had going on. We were going to shoot a lot of videos, a lot of cool content had exciting meetings and then COVID hit,” Battey recalls.
He continued, “But then we noticed that the world was hurting and then, me and Cole realized that we needed to put out what we have now. The United States and the world, in general, needs to see this. They need to see two people from different backgrounds that don’t look alike coming together and singing together and letting people know that we are all in this together.”
Something that happened to set them back actually moved them forward. They released their debut single, “Brother” in the summer of 2020. They felt compelled to release the new song to enforce positivity, encourage others, and stimulate change.
On the track, Battey and Burkett sing about finding common ground while acknowledging their differences and starting a dialogue.
With the words We’re not the same color, but we all bleed red…Maybe we need to discover a little more about each other/ We might have grown up on a different track, but you’re still my brother…it is what we all need to hear.
Battey wrote the song with fellow country singer/songwriter, Drake White. Although he has a publishing deal with Anthem Entertainment Group and is mainly known for his songwriting skills, the song “Brother” sung with Burkett, proved that Battey could be an accomplished performer as well.
Produced by David Mescone and co-written by Steven Battey, Nikki Williams, and David Mescone, “Robbery” is about carrying the unique and unmistakable style of confidence. Williams, Battey, and Burkett sing of entering and commanding a room and being entirely unapologetic. Make heads turn, let them stare, and don’t be sorry for it. Exit 216 and Williams want to spark inspiration for others to approach life in the same way.
Exit 216 is currently working on a Mixed Tape album with several prominent country artists that they will be putting out soon. They are trying to keep the momentum going, building up what they are working on.
“We are grateful for interviews like this to showcase who we are as people and artists”
Though at this point, they can’t officially talk about it, they have big plans for the remainder of 2021. After having interviewed dozens of new artists, I can assure you that their star is just beginning to rise. With Battey’s extensive experience and Burkett’s innate musical ability, Exit 216 will soon be taking America and the world by storm. And I will be on the front row cheering them on.