The Cadillac Three raise a swampy, sloppy toast to their idols with "Soundtrack to a Six Pack," a new track from the band's upcoming record.
Driven forward by slide guitar, over-driven banjo and Jaren Johnston's rapid-fire vocal, the song is a rough-and-rowdy counterpart to "Graffiti," the slick stadium stomper that gave fans their first taste of the trio's long-awaited album in January. It's also a reminder that the Cadillac Three — whose members have spent much of the past half-decade away from home, growing their audience on tour while becoming genuine radio stars in the U.K. — haven't outgrown their roots in Tennessee, where Johnston, drummer Neil Mason and pedal steel guitarist Kelby Ray all grew up as country-loving teens. If "Graffiti" hints at where they're going, "Soundtrack to a Six Pack" details where they've been.
Appropriately, Johnston began working on the song years ago, inspired by a friend's review of a Cadillac Three gig in Nashville.
"I saw them play the Basement in 2012, and they just tore the roof off," remembers Ben Cashatt, a Nashville-based musician who worked as the tour manager for Bang Bang Bang — essentially an earlier version of the Cadillac Three, with one extra member onboard — from 2006 to 2007. "They wanted to know what what I thought of their new stuff, and I said, 'Man, I think it sounds like the soundtrack to a 12 pack.' Neil and Jaren immediately looked at each other with sparks in their eyes and said, 'Did you just coin that? That definitely needs to be a song.'"
Cashatt, Johnston and Mason swapped lyrical ideas over the next few months, with Johnston making the executive decision to downgrade the title's alcoholic intake by 50 percent.
"He called me and said, 'You know, dude, not everyone drinks beer as heavily as you,'" says Cashatt with a laugh. "So he halved it to a six pack instead, because that's a little bit more approachable."
Years later, the studio version of "Soundtrack to a Six Pack" finds Johnston rattling off his ideal playlist for a night of popping tops. Ram Jam, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Charlie Daniels Band and ZZ Top all receive shoutouts, with Johnston singing his mentors' praises in a voice that sounds happily half-lit — which, given the song's title, is pretty fitting.
"We were gonna have Billy [Gibbons] do the low vocal in the second verse," he tells Rolling Stone Country from Australia, where the band attended last night's CMC Music Awards in Brisbane, "but we were in London and he was in Nashville. Just missed each other!"
Additional details have yet to be announced for the Cadillac Three's still-untitled album, their first full-length in nearly four years, although representatives at the band's Big Machine label promise it'll hit shelves in 2016. In the meantime, it's business as usual for Johnston and company, who will make back-to-back appearances at this weekend's CMC Rocks festival in Queensland before returning home for a spring tour that includes headlining shows, festival performances and an opening slot on Florida Georgia Line's countrywide Dig Your Roots Tour.