LANCO is frontman Brandon Lancaster, bassist Chandler Baldwin, multi-instrumentalist Jared Hampton, drummer Tripp Howell and lead guitarist Eric Steedly.
They are among CMT’s artists featured in CMT’s “18 for 2018” Listen Up program. And the beginning of their story doesn’t start with their breakout anthem “Greatest Love Story.” It involves carpet and concessions.
When Keith Urban brought his Light the Fuse tour with Little Big Town and Dustin Lynch to Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena in 2014, that night, Lancaster was working a register at one of the arena’s concession stands. In between orders, Lancaster spotted one of his favorite music makers wandering the concourse. And at that moment, Lancaster decided he wasn’t going to miss his opportunity to say hello to Grammy-winning producer Jay Joyce.
“I shut my register down and approached him,” Lancaster told CMT.com. “I told him I was a fan and a little bit about what I did. We talked about writing and the band, and he ended up inviting the guys and myself out to the studio to play him some music.”
Joyce saw something in the band and ended up producing what became the band’s debut album Hallelujah Nights. At the time of the band’s introduction to Joyce, they were making the most of Howell’s day job at a carpet warehouse. At night, they would sneak in and rehearse when no one was around to stop them.
“It was on the top floor, and so we’d lift all our equipment up with a forklift, and we would practice, get done and put our equipment back in the car,” Howell said. “Eventually that got old, so we just started leaving it up there and covering it up with old carpet.”
Their makeshift practice space was the perfect place to train for performing in extreme weather. There was no ventilation, making summer rehearsals blazing hot and winter practices bitter cold.
“There are still videos of us literally in our underwear practicing and then there are some bundled up like scarves and trying to make music,” Lancaster admitted.
That hard work is paying off. Their breakout album Hallelujah Nights debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s country albums chart. They’re on tour with Chris Young this winter, and then they join Dierks Bentley’s Mountain High Tour with Brothers Osborne this summer. The new opportunities coming their way are partly due to the success of their breakout No. 1 “Greatest Love Story,” a song Lancaster wrote by himself.
The song not only introduced the band to the world, but its mellow groove and its sweet storyline of high school sweethearts that reconnect later in life and get married is also just one of today’s country hits that is drawing new fans to the format. They say attracting new ears to the genre they love is an achievement they have always desired.
“I’m so proud to be in country music,” Lancaster said, “and the fact that we’re not only representing it, but also apparently contributing enough that we’re bringing people into the family, that’s something to be proud of.”
Hallelujah Nights also establishes the band as country music’s OneRepublic. Featuring songs written and co-written by Lancaster, the collection touches on several themes that are universal to the human experience, primarily love. It’s a feeling the band believes everyone was born to experience throughout life. While recording the album, their goal was to highlight the history that made them into who they are today, while capturing universal themes that are timeless. The band’s new single “Born to Love You” echoes these ideals.
“The challenge is putting your past, present and future all in your first record and there’s a lot that goes into making that cohesive,” Lancaster said. “And it’s rallying around what we all have in common and being proud of that. A lot of the pictures that are painted on this album are more than moments, and experiences, and the feelings about what you’re going through in life, and the circumstances you’re in.”
With roots in Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia, the band could call any music city home and do well. But they can’t imagine living anywhere else but Nashville. And they certainly can’t imagine making music with anyone else but with one another. Every member of the group is a songwriter, but they don’t get their feelings hurt if one of their songs doesn’t make the album. They keep a strict policy of letting the best song win no matter who writes it.
“I’ve kind of always been the primary songwriter because when the band started, I had a ton of songs, but I didn’t want to be a solo artist,” Lancaster said. “I wanted to put a band together because I do believe that music is more than just the songs. When you listen to Alabama, there’s something that makes it Alabama. When you listen to the Rolling Stones, there’s something that makes it the Rolling Stones.”