The Great Big Hug is a Roots Rock and Blues Fusion band from Southwest Virginia. Including Singer-songwriter Melissa Johner on lead vocals and guitar, Chase Johner on lead guitar and vocals, Bob Ballengee on Drums and Justin McFarland on Bass. These guys have been together for years, in some way or another. They just never seemed to be together all on one project. But that has all changed now. They had a vision to approach this band as a group of friends making music they love. They've found a way to bring together each of their musical tastes to form a groove of epic proportions. Don't be surprised if you find these guys going on a musical trip mid show. It's a blast to watch them create together. You don't want to miss it!
Melissa Johner was recently chosen as a finalist in the 2023 Tennessee Songwriters Week Competition for her song "Someone Else." Her songwriting began at age 14 following her love for music. With her Powerhouse vocals, she quickly became one of the Southeastern United States youngest touring Bluegrass artists; With 2 Solo albums and a full-time band by age 16. Melissa's taste evolved with age, and she leaned heavily into the feel of blues music. One could understand that, being that bluegrass music itself developed along the sorrowful veins of the Blues and Roots Genre. Melissa has a way of taking ordinary instances and dramatizing the sorrows into song. Her method of developing the lyric and melody that drives this band, is solely from the heart. Not only is she a must see for her songwriting ability, but her vocals carry a strength that is far beyond her years. It's easy to feel influences from Etta James and Beth Hart and yet refreshing to hear Melissa's southern Alabama roots paired alongside that. She is not a Singer Songwriter you will soon forget.
For over the 30 years, Bob Ballengee has been involved in various forms of music performance and education. From public performances with live bands to Theatre productions, Orchestra and even Marching Bands. He has proven that a traditional drum kit is not his only companion. He is a multifaceted percussionist with Degrees in both Education and Performance. He has shared his love of music and its theory with over 5,000 students over his years as an educator. All the while juggling his busy schedule as a member of many ensembles. With his vast understanding of music theory, he brings a unique perspective to The Great Big Hug. As an onlooker, you may find subtle nuances he brings in their take on the Roots and Blues Genre.
Like many other musicians, Justin McFarland began playing and performing in his early teens. Later becoming a member of the Award-winning Americana/Country band Ravencliff. They topped the iTunes Americana charts at #1 with their album "A Different Kind of Yellow Rose." From 2012-2019 he toured alongside acts such as REO Speedwagon, Shenandoah, The Bellamy Brothers, and Wynonna Judd. With his touring history, Justin is no stranger to the stage. He is comfortable and seems at home behind his bass. As a spectator, you can tell that he has a vast number of influences, no doubt introduced to him through his years in music education and performance. Using his degrees and talents, Justin has had the opportunity to educate and instruct people of all ages.