The duo Love and Theft has been battling through the valleys and enjoying the peaks of country music for seven years. All the hard work has finally started getting the performers mentioned in some important conversations.
Thanks to act-breaking single “Angle Eyes,” which was released in late 2011 and slowly climbed to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Country Singles chart in August, Eric Gunderson and Stephen Barker Liles have been nominated for New Vocal Duo or Group of the Year by the progressive Academy of Country Music.
The winner will be announced during the nationally televised award presentation April 7 from Las Vegas.
Before the duo makes the trek to Sin City, local fans will have a chance to view their high octane stage production. Love and Theft will perform Wednesday, Feb. 6, at Copper Dragon in Carbondale. Doors open at 7 p.m. Opening act Canaan Smith takes the stage at 8 p.m.
Tickets are $15 in advance and can be purchased by calling 618-549-3348. Admission is $18 the day of the show. Patrons must be at least 19 years of age.
The ACM heavily involves fans in the voting process for selected awards.
There are three categories of new artists, and fans can vote until Feb. 4 to crown winners among new male artists Brantley Gilbert, Hunter Hayes and Lee Brice; new female artists Jana Kramer, Sunny Sweeney and Kacey Musgraves; and new duo or group Thompson Square, Florida Georgia Line and Love and Theft.
“We have been through a lot in our seven years together,” Gunderson said. “We are thrilled to be nominated and we are so grateful to fans for accepting us as this new incarnation of Love and Theft. Your votes would mean the world to us.”
Love and Theft is in the Top 40 with current single “Runnin’ Out of Air.”
Perseverance and optimism are characteristics permeating the souls of Gunderson and Liles. They spent a few years getting repeatedly knocked into the dunk tank, but enthusiastically kept climbing back out instead of throwing in the towel.
Founding members of Love and Theft, Gunderson and Liles watched their creation rapidly climb from obscurity to industry prominence. Assembled in 2006, the band accepted an offer to tour with Taylor Swift in 2008, then played the Grand Ole Opry and signed a major recording contract with Lyric Street Records the following year.
Everything the band touched was turning to gold. Debut single “Runaway” reached No. 10 on the national charts and follow-up “Dancing in Circles” was perched at No. 25 in early 2010. Then, the career that took five years to build started to crumble.
The first blow was Lyric Street going out of business. Originally formed as a trio, the group became a duo in 2011 when founding member Brian Barnas left the band after a final New Year’s Eve 2010 concert in Virginia. Barnas remains an aspiring songwriter and has started a T-shirt merchandizing company.
Liles and Gunderson looked at the departure of their close friend as divine intervention. Instead of breaking up the band, they interpreted it as a sign that Love and Theft was destined to be a duo. Their intuition was proven accurate as the new twosome quickly signed a new record deal with RCA Nashville and a self-titled album was quickly released.
Both singers lauded the product’s 11 tracks, which has already spawned two hits and the energetic crowd favorite “Girls Look Hot in Trucks,” co-written by Love and Theft and the Warren brothers.
“The record represents the way we sound live,” Liles said.
The pure, almost blood-like harmonies, were learned at an early age. Both singers are sons of church pastors. Growing up, they were prohibited from listening to rap and rock music, but country, gospel and oldies were permissible.
The Copper Dragon will be busy next month.
Corey Smith will perform at the establishment on Feb. 7. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Doors open at 8 p.m. and opening act Adam Ezra Group takes the stage at 9 p.m.
On Feb. 14, Eden’s Edge will be at the Copper Dragon. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Doors open at 7 p.m. and music begins at 8 p.m. The opening act has not been announced.
VINCE HOFFARD can be reached at 618-658-9095 or email@example.com.