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article imageInterview: Love and Theft Special

By Adrian Peel     Jun 4, 2014 in Music
Stephen Barker Liles from the hit country duo chats to Digital Journal about the pair's upcoming headline show, the 'Buckin' Wild Music Fest'.
One of country music's biggest success stories of the last few years, Stephen Barker Liles and Eric Gunderson, collectively known as Love and Theft, have seen their popularity soar since their debut album World Wide Open (released when the band was still a three-piece with Brian Bandas) rocketed to number 10 on the US country charts in 2009.
A well-deserved number one hit, "Angel Eyes," was all over country radio in 2011 and a wildly successful self-titled follow-up to World Wide Open hit the shelves a year later. Despite this whirlwind of success, the pair still found time to start families and both welcomed their first-born children into the world in 2013.
I caught up with Mr. Barker Liles on June 3rd a few hours before a show in Charleston, South Carolina and began by asking him what he and his 'other half' have been up to recently.
"Well, Eric and I just put out a new song called 'Night That You'll Never Forget' and that's the first single from our new album that's going to be out later this summer. Eric and I co-produced it with a guy named Josh Leo and it's the first album of the three we've made that we've actually co-produced.
"We had Timothy B. Schmit from The Eagles sing a couple of songs too, which was cool. We don't have a release date, but it will be out later on this summer... Also we're doing a bunch of shows - we've got CMA Fest this week and then me and my dad are putting on the Buckin' Wild Music Festival out there in Oklahoma. So we're just staying busy..."
Love and Theft
Love and Theft
Heather Blankenship
The Buckin' Wild Music Fest is to be the first event of its kind in the Sooner State and will take place on the 18th and 19th of July at the Lost Creek Arena on Route 66, west of the town of Erick, which also happens to be the hometown of the late, great Roger Miller.
"Well my dad's been to so many of my shows at these festivals and there's never any of them near Oklahoma, in the vicinity that he lives in," says the proud son, explaining how Mr. Liles Sr. initially came up with the idea.
"So he did some research and realised that there weren't any festivals in the Oklahoma area. He has a connection with the P.B.R., the Professional Bull Riders Association, so he started making some calls... and we had some friends that were willing to let us use their land, so it just kind of came together naturally.
"What he wanted to do was make it real Red Dirt country, a lot of local Texas, Oklahoma acts. So that way it feels more like a local event, and the reason we're going to play on it is because we're helping him put it on.
"We're bringing a bus load of some of our songwriter friends from Nashville to come play, which is gonna be great. It's just gonna be a really good vibe. It'll be different from everything else because we'll be incorporating bull riding and country music. The camping's gonna be awesome... It's gonna be really fun."
As well as a stellar line-up that includes The Great Divide, Cody Canada and The Departed, Granger Smith and Red Dirt Rangers - and of course Love and Theft at the top of the bill - festival-goers will also be able to choose from a wide variety of 'country' pursuits such as bull riding and barn dancing.
The Buckin  Wild Music Fest logo.
The Buckin' Wild Music Fest logo.
Heather Blankenship
"The bull riding competition, there'll be a big grand prize for the winner," reveals the proficient singer-songwriter, who co-wrote the Martina McBride hit "Wrong Baby Wrong." "There's a lot of Red Dirt country bands there, some bluegrass bands...
"There'll be a late-night DJ in the bar, so once the music's over outside, just go right inside and keep the party going. It's gonna be a real good time, a great vibe, real laid back. We're praying for great weather and we believe that's gonna happen."
As most of the artists scheduled to perform are hardened purveyors of Red Dirt - a less commercial, rockier form of country music primarily based in Oklahoma - I wondered whether Stephen felt that there were elements of that style in Love and Theft's music?
"Yeah, I think we have elements of that. I think we have certain songs that lean towards that style. Of course we're not gonna be as Red Dirt as someone like The Great Divide, but our harmonies lean towards that and definitely our presence on stage and the way we look at life - and the way we love country music."
How many songs off the new album will the duo play in their Saturday night headlining slot?
"We'll probably play five or six new songs from the upcoming album. It's always fun playing new songs 'cause a lot of times you've been playing the old ones for so long. We do 200-plus shows a year..."
In answer to the question of how his dad put together the line-up, Stephen replies, "He asked a lot of people around town, just because he knew that was a good way to see what were the local bands that everybody liked. That way it was something more local that people could relate to."
And if the event is a success, will it be staged every year?
"Yeah, we're gonna make it an annual thing... The land donated to us is a prime location for a music festival... The first year is always gonna have glitches, but we'll make improvements on those and hopefully we'll get it even better next year."
Tickets for the first ever Buckin' Wild Music Fest are available here.
For more information on Love and Theft, visit their official website.
More about Love and Theft, stephen barker liles, eric gunderson, red dirt country, Country music
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