It’s been a year of discovery for the members of American country staple LANCO — and they’re not taking a minute for granted.
Consisting of frontman Brandon Lancaster, Chandler Baldwin (bass guitar), Jared Hampton (keyboards), Tripp Howell (drums), and Eric Steedly (guitar), the 2019 ACM winners for New Group/Duo are known as much for their high-energy performances as their highly relatable lyrical stylings.
Now, the multi-platinum group has released their latest track, Near Mrs., penned by Lancaster, alongside noted songwriting heavyweights Shane McAnally and Jeremy Spillman. The track features a gentle slow-burning sway and full-circle theme. Fact is, it’s a roots-rock anthem bathed in the big-picture wins made possible by life’s little tragedies.
Recently, we jumped on a Zoom call to chat with Lancaster about the band’s single, that ever-expanding LANCO family, and how much the guys are missing their Canadian fans.
Let’s kick things off by talking about the new single, Near Mrs. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
It’s always been a one of our favourites — it’s got that country blues, rock, sonic thing. So, as a band, we always love playing it. We would play in soundcheck and just jam on it, forever. And then on top of that, the lyrics always really stood out to me.
It all started just as this fun idea, but honestly over the past year, it’s taken on this new meaning — which is one reason we really wanted to start this year out with it. In the song, he’s talking about going through past experiences, and thinking they were going to work out but then realizing they didn’t but that’s OK because he would’ve have missed out on where he’s at now.
Over the past year, we’ve all had a lot of time at home with our families and it’s made the song more meaningful in the sense of appreciating the life we have. Just that idea of, man, thinking of that time, we would have missed out on has a bigger meaning. You really have to look at that. It’s always been a track we knew we were going to release, it’s just been a timing thing, and now the timing feels better than ever.
Your writing credit just appears all over everything the band has put out. Sometimes it’s just your name solo, which is so rare in the industry today. What is your writing process like?
Oh man, it’s different every time. Sometimes it starts in this room at 2 a.m. Sometimes it’s about being alone for a little bit and just playing guitar or sitting at that piano right there and playing it and going to that space. Or it’s about just getting into one of your melodies and humming and seeing if there’s any words that come.
Sometimes we start with a melody, sometimes it may just start with a word. But for me, I definitely have to have some kind of idea, or some theme at least. It may even be a musical thing. I’ve gone in to write and been like, man, I just love four on the floor thing and this melody that lifts up. If I’m doing that then even musically I know the kind of lyric that might match up. That’s when you get the other piece of the puzzle — based on whichever one it starts with. It’s about knowing how to fuse them together.
Once I have that, I’ll get together with some of the guys in the band or maybe some of my writer friends in Nashville and start piecing things together. This is what I want to say, this is how I’m saying it. That’s one great thing about being in Nashville, you get to be friends with people that have outside magnifying glasses on it, to make sure the right lyric is being expressed the best way possible. You get to use them as human wordsmiths. Then it’s all about where do I go from there?
I know a lot of artists write for other people, or maybe they’re not always the writer on their own songs. How important is it for you personally to be part of the process?
I’ve always said, and I tell my friends, if there’s a song that you think speaks to you and you could hear us performing it, send it along. I’ve never been afraid to cut an outside song.
When we were touring a lot, we were on the road 200 days a year. That’s 200 days of interviews and soundchecks and meet and greets. So, if in those moments there’s some kid in Nashville that is going through something I’ve been through and is framing it in the way that I would want to sing, I’m game. That’s the beauty of songwriters.
But on top of that, there are definitely songs I’ve heard that if they would’ve been sent to me, I would’ve rushed to the studio to sing them. But I do think it’s important, especially at so early on in our career with just one album out and some singles, to be a part of the songwriting process. I’m a little delicate with that because we want to make sure our identity is coming through. There are a million songs out there, and it’s important to me that the band is shining through each track, and sometimes the quickest and easiest way to do that is writing yourself.
You said yourself you’ve only released one full album, Hallelujah Nights, and some singles; so, in today’s day and age — pandemic or not — with everyone consuming music so quickly, do you think you’re moving more into a single-heavy kind of situation? Or is putting out complete records still really important to you?
You know, it’s funny, I talk with a lot of artists about this. Not to name drop but I was talking to Sam Hunt about this the other night. I ran into him randomly and we started having this exact conversation. Not being on the road, we don’t see each other anymore, so when we do see each other it’s like small talk, and then immediately into — What are you doing? Where’s your head space? And we had that conversation because we’ve all taken notice of the data. People are consuming music so quickly, and honestly people’s attention spans are shorter right now — that’s just the way technology is.
I’ll say this as an artist; it’s important, at least mentally for me, to have a full body of work. Probably the best way I can say it is, if I’m trying to put together a body of work and I pick a song about celebrating my hometown, I know that’s going to be one chapter — whether it’s released in a few weeks or whether it all comes out all at once. I believe in a full body of work however that happens. Sometimes that comes down to label strategy, and what they think is best. But just having a complete body of work at some point for someone to dive into is really important for your fan base. Now, if you’re just trying to be on someone’s playlist and be one song that’s a part of 100 songs that someone’s listening to partying on their boat, whatever. But, for your fans that want to get to know you and they want to hear your perspective, a body of work is really important.
I would absolutely agree. There’s nothing better than just sitting down on the couch and listening to a full album front to back. That’s a really cool thing to do and something I can definitely get behind.
Absolutely. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the label’s strategy. They’re like OK, well, if we put your whole record out, who’s going to listen to Track 7? But, if we put out just Track 7 independently, we get more eyes on it. I do get that, but at some point you’ve got to be able to look back see what you have as a whole. There are people, groups I’m a fan of that I sit down and listen to for 45 minutes and let them have a conversation with me through their music and their lyrics. It isn’t always about attention spans. That connection is still important, especially for fans.
Have you ever been playing a show and maybe get into one of those tracks that isn’t a single, and everyone sings it back to you? Has that ever surprised you?
Oh absolutely. That’s why it’s confusing when they don’t want to put a record out. With our first record, even when we just had a couple singles out on the radio, people were singing back Track 10. We would introduce the song, and everyone would cheer. Now, were they just cheering because they’re being polite? But then they start singing the words, and we’re thinking OK people, that’s what I’m talking about.
Now, I don’t know about the person on the street who knows a single from radio, but our fans are listening. That’s when you know they’ve identified with us and believe in what we’re doing. So, when you’re playing in front of a sold-out show for a few thousand people, you better believe those people who bought the tickets are listening to it on the way to the show and maybe it’s been their soundtrack and so on and that’s just the coolest thing. Those songs are important to them and that just keeps you going. They want to hear you; they want to hear that honesty.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe your first Canadian date ever — because of course I’m going to talk about Canada — was in 2018, here in London at Trackside Music Festival. And then we were lucky enough to get you back with Luke Combs, and then Boots & Hearts. How do you find Canada? How do you find Canadian fans?
I love it. I’m not just being cliché, but they’re really polite. We had no idea what to expect. Now, we know people who have been to Canada before, obviously, and you just don’t expect bad things. We knew the people were going to be cool. But there was, I don’t know, a passion up there for country music. They’re just all about it and really give you their attention and their time. They believe in you, and there was a contagious energy. You could feel it throughout the crowd. People are just truly in that moment and experiencing the show and the music and giving you their all, with their hearts and their ears and their minds. When it’s like that, you put on a better show. I mean, you try to put on a great show every time, but we honestly always have really great shows in Canada.
The personal relationships, the people that we meet up there, other artists — there’s wonderful people and we love going up there. We were on the Miranda Lambert Tour and had some dates and everything got shut down right before that. That was a huge bummer, so we definitely have to make it back ASAP.
This year has obviously been a little different as far as touring and getting on stage. I mean, you’re in the States, we’re in Canada. And I know countries are kind of dealing with the pandemic in a different way, but how have you been spending your time this year, other than, of course, welcoming a new little lady (daughter Elora) into your life?
Yeah, she’s definitely been a big, big part of it — the main part. You always have these pillars in your life, like your wife and your music. And that just gets bigger with a kid, especially a baby. That’s becomes the centre.
But other than that, it’s definitely been a lot of writing. My parents are in their 70s, and so I’ve been very mindful, we’ve all been safe and taken all the precautions.
As a band, we established our own quarantine circle, very early with our families because we realized we didn’t want to see each other just over screens. We have to be able to work and we’ve found it’s been really cool for writing and creating. We’ve been doing that a lot, and honestly, it’s felt like when we first started in the sense that for years you’re just on the road.
When you get back, you’ve got to write, you have studio time, and everything fits into the schedule. Now, being able to get together on a random Thursday, just because you’re bored, and you have a good idea, and you want to hang out — there’s no clock. That’s how it was when we first started and being able to dive back into that has been this fresh new energy. So, it’s kind of been this blessing in disguise creatively and we’ve actually been creating and writing even more than ever before.
I once had one of our Canadian artists say that once you get to a certain point where you’re on the road all the time and there’s album cycles and all these things, you end up writing about a life you don’t get to live anymore. Clearly with you guys, it’s been a chance to get back into that normal life again.
Absolutely. Before, we’d be on the bus all the time, and to be honest, when you start talking about your day, you’re like wait, that doesn’t apply to anyone anymore. So, you start diving into your memories, and you find that you’re going on like a book author, in the sense. You’re just making stories and that’s fine, and that’s still a talent that we try to have. But when something real happens, it’s so much better.
Just the other day, I walked into a write and had a lyric I wanted to run with. On the way there, I was really running low on gas and that just got us talking about being tired and running on empty and trying to throw that metaphor into the song. That would’ve never happened on the road. You can imagine it, but it’s cool to walk you right back. There was a chance I was going to break down on the side of the road. It’s truly great getting to write about those experiences again that everyone goes through, experience it firsthand. That’s definitely been a real thing, and I’ve loved it.
Finally, I’m dying to know. On your socials you had asked fans what they think LANCO stands for, and I’m curious if you got anything really clever responses back.
There was a definite – a No. 1. There were hundreds of responses in just a matter of hours. I never want to underestimate fans, but, man, people’s creativity is crazy. Like, half y’all should become songwriters. But the No. 1 answer for sure — because it was funny, and the most relevant since three of us in this time period have had kids or are having kids and one of our crew members too — was LANCO: laying around naked creating offspring.
Latest song First Beer, check it out and other news at lancomusic.com