Backroad Anthem on Life After Singer’s Death: ‘It’s Hard to Talk About’
“For the most part it’s knowing that this is what [Craig] would want us to do for sure,” he says. “He would not want us to stop. He would not want us to take one second to think about it, and we never did, honestly. We just carried on.”
Backroad Anthem also has to contend with the issue of association. For many people, Strickland’s death was the first time they’d heard of the band and thus the two will be inextricably linked. There is also the very delicate tightrope walk of trying to honor his memory but not resort to leaning on it for their gain.
“We’ll definitely always have a part of our show and part of us that will always honor Craig,” says bassist Robold. “Because he was so influential — this band was his idea. He started putting the pieces together.”
Freeman understands the potential risks inherent in their decision to keep going. “It’s hard sometimes to talk about it, but I think what we’re just trying to accomplish is to have his legacy move with us forward and for everybody to remember him as this guy who just loved life,” he says.
While “Torn” has yet to chart, its poppy, radio-friendly nature fits well with the band’s name and a particular sound that has dominated country radio for the past couple years. The Torn EP, released in September 2015, may well be the final recordings featuring Strickland’s voice and establishes the band’s aesthetic as nearer to Dan + Shay than Florida Georgia Line — polished and approachable, without being too squeaky clean. Pulling from diverse musical backgrounds, they felt like they had something special from the time they formed.
“I think one of the first times we ever played together, we heard that,” says Dysart. “Even if we couldn’t label it, we wanted to have that sound.”
More than anything, that original feeling may be the thing that is still driving Backroad Anthem. Through the unimaginable loss of their bandmate and friend, they’ve found solace and comfort in continuing to make music together — the way they did when Craig Strickland helped set it all in motion.
“We’re all doing music to try to keep us going,” says Freeman. “All the family support, all the fan support really helps too, but I think the main thing is just being really busy and staying really busy with the music. Because it’s that great reminder of everything he strived hard for.”