Love and Theft’s latest single “Whiskey on My Breath” is the antidote for today’s glut of drinking songs. Instead of celebrating booze, it takes the approach of old-school country music and casts a harsh light on what it’s like to be in the grip of alcoholism. And the video for the song is just as stark.
It’s also in contrast to Love and Theft’s last video, for the raise-your-cup anthem “Night That You’ll Never Forget.” This time, the duo of Stephen Barker Liles and Eric Gunderson are bathed not in party lights, but in somber shadows, as they sing about meeting their maker with “whiskey on my breath.”
“It’s an alcoholic’s struggle. He’s comfortable with where he is, and it doesn’t matter about the rest of his life, but he doesn’t want to embarrass himself in front of Jesus,” Liles told Rolling Stone Country. “His mindset is he knows he’s going to die one day, but even though he lost everything on this Earth, he’s not going to give up liquor. It’s that inner battle that an alcoholic faces. And it never resolves. It shows the darkness of being alone.”
Directed by Paul Cain, the “Whiskey on My Breath” video follows a father in the throes of both depression and addiction. He chose the bottle over his loves one and it shows. He’s bearded, unkempt and hollow-eyed. At one point, he ominously contemplates a razor blade — but then finds redemption. At least for the time being.
“That’s how it is, for an alcoholic it never resolves, even if you go to AA or not. You’re always struggling with that,” says Liles. “And that’s the irony of the song, which gives it a little more depth.”
After being dropped by RCA Nashville, Love and Theft retreated to the studio and cut a new album, also titled Whiskey on My Breath. Released independently in February, the project has been getting radio promotion support from Thirty Tigers, the launching pad for acclaimed albums by Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell and other buzz acts. Love and Theft will perform at CMA Music Festival in Nashville later this month.