Country music performer Greg Bates is the featured entertainer of this year’s Union Fair and will perform on the Grandstand stage Friday, Aug. 23, at 8 p.m., rain or shine.

Bates is that rare find of an artist — one born and raised in Nashville. In the most genuine sense, he is a true product of Music City, motivated not by the trappings of country-music stardom but by the reward of a well-written lyric.

Traditional ‘90s artists such as Randy Travis, Dwight Yoakam and Alan Jackson were an inspiration to the young Bates and he soon discovered that some of the songs he enjoyed hearing on the radio were composed by his classmates’ parents.

“There were a lot of writers whose kids I went to elementary school with,” he said. “They would have writers’ rounds as fundraisers at the school and play their hits. Looking back now, I was really lucky to get to do that so early on. I was going to writers’ rounds before I ever went to a concert.”

The first time Bates figured out he could tell a story with three chords in three minutes and grab listeners emotionally, he was hooked, he said. The stories are what really drew him to country music and, eventually, drew him to the stage as a performer.

The 25-year-old recorded his self-titled debut EP with hit producer and songwriter Jimmy Ritchey, who also oversaw his original demo. The iTunes-mastered result is a tight and often twangy collection of songs, all written or co-written by Bates.

“For me, this album is about getting back to country music,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with what’s on the radio nowadays, but I think there is a huge hole where that traditional sound used to be.”

The project includes the recent Top 5 hit, “Did It for the Girl,” which pays homage to one of Bates’ idols, George Strait, and made Bates one of the few new artists to crack the Top 5 with a debut single. The second single, “Fill in the Blank,” hit country radio in February and was the No. 1 most added song during its release week. The up-tempo, flirty song was recently featured on the ABC series “Nashville.”

Bates has shared the stage with Darius Rucker, Willie Nelson, Alabama and, most recently, Alan Jackson. He currently is headlining shows across the country. His Union Fair concert is sponsored by The New Country Bear and is included in fair admission.

Union Fair runs through Saturday, Aug. 24, at the fairgrounds off Route 17. For a complete schedule and admission options, visit

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115 or