John Ballantyne's Crazy Heart/ Miles Maxwell/ Michelle Billingsley

The Outta Space, 6840 32nd St., Berwyn

JOHN BALLANTYNE' CRAZY HEART More often than not, the road to country music stardom originates in Texas, Tennessee, or another time-honored Southern destination. John Ballantyne’s story arc reads way different.

Fast becoming recognized as one of Chicago’s premier country singers and songwriters, Ballantyne was born and raised in Scotland, though you’d never know it from his earthy vocal delivery and immaculate lead guitar. Both resonate with the twang and raunch of classic honky-tonk country, also known these days as Americana. A frequent presence on the Chicago club circuit, John and his band Crazy Heart will take their musical exploits to a whole new level this year, building on a recent hugely successful tour of Scotland , the highlight of which was two mainstage appearances at the prestigious Tiree Music Festival. Ballantyne’s highly unusual saga commenced in southwest Scotland. “Music was a big part of local culture. I grew up in a small mining community. What would typically happen is, on weekends, people would socialize in bars, having a few beers, then taking turns to sing with the band,” John says. “Bars at that time closed at 10 p.m., and then they would make their way to each others’ houses to continue with the party. So that was the backdrop to my childhood.

In his 20s, John grew enamored of singer-songwriters Kris Kristofferson, Guy Clark, and Jerry Jeff Walker., but John Prine remains his favorite. “He’s a master songwriter. That’s what he’s famous for. The kicker is, you think, ‘What a great song! I want to sing this, but I bet it is really hard to learn,’” he says. “You print out the lyrics, look at it, and you go, ‘Is that it? There’s two verses and a chorus. How can that be? There’s something wrong with the computer!’ This guy has painted a whole picture, a whole movie, and contained it in two verses and a chorus. And that’s the magic of John Prine. Other people do it, but he does it like no other.”

MILES MAXWELL Miles Maxwell started in February 2017 after lead singer and songwriter Miles Baltrusaitis decided he wasn't quite finished sharing his emotional and darkly humorous songs with the world.

Inspired by a thirty-something suburban life rattled out of cruise control, he wrote a dozen new songs and enlisted the help of old friends Matt and Dan Stankiewicz to bring Miles Maxwell to life. With their respective vintage keys and drums, the boys began to play the Chicago club scene and eventually hit the studio to tell their tale.

In late 2017, bassist Steve Kingwell joined the fold to round out the lineup and prepare for the album release and the summer 2018 live circuit.