Love and Theft are back with new music -- but they sure went through a lot of struggle to get there.

Just a couple of years ago, the duo seemed to be flying high with the success of 'Angel Eyes,' which reached No. 1 in August of 2012. But several follow-up singles failed to ignite at radio, and by the time they released 'Night That You'll Never Forget' last year, it looked like their time might be up.

Eric Gunderson felt like the song just wasn't a priority for RCA.

"It was the most format-friendly song we've ever released. It touched on all the buzz words that people are wanting to hear these days, and it was written by two hit songwriters, in Dallas Davidson and Ashley Gorley," he tells Rolling Stone. "But as soon as they met any resistance, and the song had a couple bad weeks, it was, 'Sorry, have to work the Garth and Trisha singles now.' Shortly after that, for whatever reason, they decided to cut ties with us."

In true music business fashion, they received the news from their manager, Ken Levitan, instead of getting a meeting with label head Gary Overton.

"Ken sent us an e-mail in big capital letters -- GARY IS DROPPING YOU -- and that was it," Gunderson recalls. "We weren't surprised, because we had always had a very strange relationship with Gary anyway. He was always really hard on us, and maybe he had a different idea of what we should have been and what we were. I'm not really sure what it was. But for some reason, we never connected with him."

The duo were in for another rude awakening. The album they'd already recorded for RCA is not going to see release, but they also can't use the songs elsewhere due to rights issues.

"They want 13 grand a song, and we can't re-record the songs, even if we wrote them. We have to wait five years," Stephen Barker Liles relates. "So that music is on a hard drive in a basement."

They're bouncing back with a new release funded in part by RED distribution, who will help bring it to the marketplace. The project's title song and first single, 'Whiskey on My Breath,' returns Love and Theft to a more stripped-down acoustic sound that puts the focus back on their signature harmonies. Though they acknowledge they face a struggle at radio as a now-indie act, the pair are poised to do very well from any success they achieve, since they own their masters this time around.

Though things ultimately didn't work out with RCA, the pair look at their time with a major label in a positive light. "It was awesome and it really catapulted us onto the country music scene with a No. 1 hit," says Gunderson.

Liles agrees. "It definitely put us on a new level," he finishes.

Watch Love and Theft Play Chubby Bunny

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