LUMBERTON — Jeff Bates has the perfect resume for a country singer.
He has battled drug addition. He’s spent time inside a jail cell. And he watched his grandfather die — a moment that led to a singing career.
Bates now performs his songs across the world — and annually in Lumberton, at the WKML Singer-Songwriter Showcase. On Saturday, he will return to the Carolina Civic Center for “A Night of Country Heaven with Jeff Bates,” along with solo country artist Tammie Davis and county band Sweetwater Rain.
Bates is noted for his candid songwriting and unique and “traveled” voice. He has had seven chart singles on the Billboard country charts, three of which reached the top 40 — “The Love Song” reached No. 8, “I Wanna Make You Cry” hit No. 23, and “Long, Slow Kisses” topped out at No. 17. His first single as an artist signed to Black River Entertainment, “Don’t Hate Me For Loving You”, was No. 1 on the video charts for nine weeks in 2008 on CMTpure.
An adopted child with eight brothers and sisters, Bates grew up in Bunker Hill, Miss. At the age of 2, he serenaded his dying grandfather with the song “Jesus Loves Me.”
“That’s the song he died to and I’ve been singing ever since,” Bates said.
At the age of 17, Bates got his first gig after performing at a “honky-tonk” in his hometown, and the crowd loved him so much that Bates was asked to perform six nights a week. Bates’ talent eventually led him to Nashville, Tenn., and a new-found rock-star lifestyle led to a drug addiction. In 2000, his addiction to methamphetamine, along with other charges, landed him in jail.
Bates said he was looking at about 10 years in prison, but only spent 96 days in jail. During his time behind bars, Bates said he decided to “give his life to God” — and a year later, he was signed to RCA records in Nashville.
He has been clean and sober for 12 years, and recording for about 10.
Bates said he loves returning to Robeson County because the people are so down to earth and they really “get into the songs.”
“They make me feel like I’m at home when I come there,” Bates said.
“I have stood on stage in our country and in other countries, and the best performance I have ever had was on a stage in North Carolina with a crowd of about 5,000 people,” Bates said. “I performed a song called “River Bank” and the crowd joined in on singing and gave me so much energy.”
Bates said the audience can expect to see “a lot of old, a lot of new and a lot of good.”
Bates speaks freely about his past. He travels to schools, churches and prisons to share stories about addiction, adoption, bullying, self motivation, and overcoming obstacles.
His Lumberton appearance is a part of his tour in support of his latest and fourth album, “Ain’t No Trouble At All,” which will be available for sale at the performance. T-shirts with event logo will also be available to be purchased and signed.
“I’m going to be sharing some new music with some old friends,” he said.
The show begins at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 6:15 p.m. Tickets are $25 general admission and $40 for VIP, which includes a 4:30 p.m. meet-and-greet dinner with artists at Candy Sue’s Restaurant in downtown Lumberton and a 5:45 p.m. early seating. Cut-off for VIP tickets will be 6 p.m. today.
Tickets can be purchased in person from 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays at administrative offices in the theater’s second floor (enter on Fourth Street side), or by calling the Carolina Civic Center at 910-738-4339. Tickets can also be purchased at the door beginning an hour before the performance.