Love and Theft Drop ‘Whiskey,’ Come Clean About Getting Dropped by RCA
Notching a Number One single on the country charts doesn’t guarantee a superstar career. Just ask the guys in Love and Theft. After the sing-along “Angel Eyes” hit Number One, the duo had momentum and country radio on their side, and were looking ahead to the next single, a moody disco-infused song titled “Runnin’ Out of Air.”
It barely broke the Top 40.
“If we put it out now, it’d have done better on the charts,” says singer-guitarist Stephen Barker Liles. “It was a Maroon 5 vibe, and now you have Sam Hunt and his stuff is similar.”
Follow-up single “If You Ever Get Lonely” didn’t fare much better on the Billboard country songs chart. But Liles and singer-guitarist Eric Gunderson have refused to call it a day. Taking time to reassess, the pair retreated to the studio and cut last year’s “Night That You’ll Never Forget,” a new party song that was meant to generate buzz while they finished recording their next album for RCA Nashville, under the Sony Music Nashville umbrella.
The single had some initial success and its irreverent video gained traction on the country-music networks, but “Night” ultimately fell like its predecessors. The label dropped Love and Theft from its roster.
“That was in September, right when the song came off the chart,” Gunderson tells Rolling Stone Country. He and Liles are seated in an office at their management’s building on Nashville’s Music Row, ready to talk about their new album, Whiskey on My Breath, released today. But first, they want to explain how they went from a major-label CMA and ACM-nominated duo that toured with Tim McGraw and played LP Field at CMA Music Festival to an indie act that has been forced to get creative in how it delivers its music to fans.
“RCA’s goal has always been to be a Number One label and they’re trying to build their empire. I think we were victims of that in a way,” says Gunderson, pointing out the additions of country royalty Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood to the label.
While both he and Liles are quick to praise the efforts of the RCA radio promotion staff in tirelessly campaigning to move “Night That You’ll Never Forget” up the charts, Gunderson says Love and Theft were ultimately at the bottom of the pecking order. “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 says. “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.”
For Love and Theft, the news that their label home was showing them the door came in an e-mail from their current manager, Ken Levitan, who informed them that Gary Overton, Chairman and CEO of Sony Music Nashville, was ending the relationship.
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