Love and Theft broke onto the country music scene with their debut hit, ‘Runaway,’ back in 2009. They immediately won fans over with their unique three-part harmony, gifted songwriting talent and movie star good looks. They found themselves on the road with the likes of Tim McGraw on his Southern Voice Tour last summer, but things quickly started to unravel for band members Stephen Barker Liles, Eric Gunderson and Brian Bandas. They lost their record deal, and months later, Bandas bowed down from being a part of the trio.
Liles and Gunderson decided to put the pieces back together, conforming Love and Theft into a duo. They're back in the studio working on new music and anticipate inking with a new label home soon.
Taste of Country recently caught up with Love and Theft to talk about the new music and their new "fearless" approach to handling the sometimes rocky music business.
You guys are currently in the studio working on new music. Can you give us a teaser as to what we can expect?
Stephen Barker Liles: Since we’re a duo now, we’ve changed a lot of things. We went through a lot of transition and a lot of figuring out what the next step will be. We have a new producer now, Josh Leo. He produced Restless Heart, Alabama, Emerson Drive, Don Henley from the Eagles … so we’re super excited about that. The new stuff that we just recorded is a lot more organic. It’s really, really exciting. For us it’s been really exciting to get to make a record the way that our influences made records -- Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley -- real organic and in the studio not doing too much extra stuff, even with the post production. It was probably one of the best experiences of my whole life. It was awesome. It’s been really fun.
Obviously the last time you were in the studio recording, you were a trio with the addition Brian. How has this experience been with his absence?
Eric Gunderson: It makes it easier, actually, because there’s one less opinion and one less voice. Granted we miss Brian and we wish him well, but it was cool. It was cool to try a new thing, and it worked really, really well. We couldn’t be happier about how it turned out. We are really thankful for the experiences that we spent with Brian in the band, but we sort of feel it was always meant to be this way.
You guys are always talking about how you are passionate songwriters. Did you write all the material on this album?
Gunderson: Actually, for the first time, two songs came along that we were incredibly passionate about. They are two songs that we wish we had written. We’ve always said if a song comes along that beats one of ours, we’ll cut it. And that happened. We’ve done two outside songs and two songs that we wrote so far.
Liles: We’re picking a single from those, and then we’ll finish the rest of the record while that’s at radio. We’re pretty stoked about it. I wouldn’t have written them, just because they’re a little more sexual than I go, but our new vibe’s a lot more mature. We’ll see how that goes. It will be fun.
Eric, have you noticed much of a change in the topics of your songwriting now that you’re a married man?
Gunderson: I think it’s added a different dimension to my songwriting because there are new experiences, and obviously I’m feeling different feelings and having different emotions than I was before. But, the overall approach to the songwriting hasn’t changed much.
In the past year, Love and Theft have been through many ups and downs -- touring with Tim McGraw and Lady Antebellum to finding yourself without a record deal and losing Brian … Was it difficult to adjust to all these drastic changes as they kept happening?
Gunderson: It gives us a totally new perspective. There are acts that go through a lot of different things and lose record deals, but we’ve had two record labels close on us, we’ve had a single die just because no one would promote it, we’ve had someone quit the band … just every bad thing that could possibly happen to us has happened to us. The duo was meant to be and we’ve learned so much. We kind of feel like there isn’t much more that could happen that we wouldn’t be able to handle.
Liles: It’s crazy to think sometimes how things can really suck, but we kept the faith and kept on working hard and kept on believing in the art that we’re making, and everything seems to be working out awesome. We’re kind of fearless now, like Taylor [Swift]!
Was it pretty tough to keep positive through all of it at first?
Gunderson: Yeah, because of the fear of the unknown and not knowing what was going to happen. That was probably the most frustrating side because we don’t want to lose any momentum that we’ve gained over the last few years with radio and stuff. Luckily, we’ve made some long-lasting relationships and have some great relationships with country radio. We’re fortunate in that regard, but there’s going to come a time where they’ll say, ‘Oh they’re has-beens and their time has run out.’ We’re anxious to get something back out on the radio. The fans are anxious to hear new music, too. I guess there’s always that anticipation of what’s going to happen next. You always want it to happen faster than it does. What we’ve realized in this business is things happen slowly. We’re fortunate though. We’re very blessed. We can’t wait to see what this next year is going to hold for us.
What is something you guys have learned by being out on tour with someone like Tim McGraw or Lady Antebellum?
Gunderson: I think they’re all a lot of fun to watch onstage. Lady A’s show is very thought out and almost theatrical. Hillary and Charles gaze into each other’s eyes and look like they’re about to cry. They kind of channel a little bit more emotion than Tim who just gets up there and has a good time.
Liles: Tim McGraw is one of the reasons all of us moved to Nashville. Collectively we have a lot of influences, but for me, he’s one of the first things I heard on country radio, and I just gravitated toward it. The songs he does and his art is the main reason I moved here to become a country songwriter. He picked us because he believed in what we were doing and he loves the art we’re making.
What kind of tour plans do you guys have in the works for 2011?
Gunderson: As of right now, there will be lots of fairs and festivals. Hopefully we’ll spend a majority of the year promoting our single, which will hopefully come out this spring. We’re going to work that as hard as we can and as hard as we need to, and play as many shows as we can just to get out there and promote the new music and let people see us as a duo, because we’ll be moving forward like that for as long as the music will have us.
Watch the Love and Theft 'Runaway' Video