For Backroad Anthem members Toby Freeman, Eric Dysart, Josh Bryant, Brandon Rebold and Isaac Senty, the last few months have been the hardest as they grieve the loss of bandmate Craig Strickland and try to pick up the pieces and soldier on.
The band took the stage Saint Patrick’s Day evening in Nashville and wowed the crowd with originals like “Torn,” “No Show” and “Disco Ball,” while also covering the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Fishin’ in the Dark,” Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ smash “Uptown Funk” and even Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy” for fans partying on the dance floor at the Wildhorse Saloon.
But Strickland, who died with a friend when their boat capsized during a December hunting trip in Oklahoma, is always on their minds.
During their set, the guys performed Vince Gill’s “Go Rest High on That Mountain” in perfect harmony as a tribute to their brother. (They even keep his microphone and guitar onstage to honor his memory during their shows.)
Lead vocalist Freeman says they’re still taking it all in and taking it day by day.
“We’re doing pretty good,” he told me backstage after the show. “Just playing music has really helped us a lot. It’s been very therapeutic for us. Playing shows and continuing on is what Craig would want us to do.
“Every day is a process. Obviously, we have our days when we’re on the Sprinter bus and we have a memory that comes to mind and we think of him. It still hits us. It doesn’t seem real sometimes, but we’re doing pretty well right now.”
But in the midst of the tragedy and sorrow, there is a little light for the band. They’ve independently released their single “Torn” to country radio to great reviews while the music video is currently playing on CMT. Both things would thrill Strickland, they say.
“We always talk about how Craig would be going crazy right now being on the radio and having the video on CMT,” lead guitarist Bryant said. “It’s been amazing.”
It’s particularly amazing how they’ve done it all without the help of a big record label behind them. And though they’re proud of their accomplishments as independents, they admit they wouldn’t mind a label deal.
“We would love a label,” Bryant added.
“We’re not denying anyone,” they all chimed in with a laugh.
A label deal: something else that would also no doubt make Strickland very happy.