As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same, especially in the music business. Just ask country-rock duo LoCash Cowboys, who’ve found there’s no substitute for good, old-fashioned hard work.
Although Chris Lucas and Preston Brust come from different backgrounds and different time zones, both found their way to Nashville.
Lucas grew up in Baltimore playing football and listening to ’80s rock and R&B, singing whenever he got the opportunity and eventually teaching hip-hop dance. Brust hails from Kokomo, Ind., where he spent Sunday mornings singing in his father’s church.
“We were an a capella church,” Brust told Pollstar. “You had to learn how to sing all four parts or you weren’t allowed to sing.”
A love of country music united them when they met in 2002 at Nashville’s Wildhorse Saloon, where Lucas spent six years DJing and teaching dance.
“We hit it off and we were like brothers,” Lucas told Pollstar. “We were like, ‘Do you sing?’ ‘Yeah, do you sing?’ ‘Yeah. Why don’t we try something together?’”
The first order of business was putting together a band.
“We used to go out and watch the different bands play in all the different venues,” Brust said. “We were biding our time and hand-picking the drummer or the guitar player.
“Then when it was time to pull the trigger, we invited all those guys to go do a show. We didn’t even have the money for a rehearsal at the time – we went straight to a concert.
“There was a lot of pressure that first gig, but there was also kind of a loose feel to it. That’s one of the things that LoCash is known for – just going out and having a good time. And trying new things on stage, because we read our audiences every night. We don’t really have a set list. We just go out and make it fun every single night.”
It wasn’t long before LoCash Cowboys’ genre-bending blend of country, rock and hip-hop won over Buddy Lee Attractions’ Tony Conway, who was introduced to them by mutual friend Kitty Moon Emery.
“I actually met them at her office,” Conway told Pollstar. “They were telling me that they were a duo and I asked them to sing a couple of songs a capella for me. I saw something that I hadn’t seen very often.”
Conway signed them on the spot and went to work crafting a career for the band built upon touring – lots and lots of touring – which is just fine with Lucas and Brust.
“We’ve always believed in that, even six years ago,” Lucas explained. “Artists are gonna make their money from touring. They’re gonna get their fans from touring. Radio is very important also, but we’ve always been the touring guys. And Buddy Lee has been great for that.”
The duo started small, playing anywhere they could, often two or more shows a night. Now the touring has worked its way to a fever pitch.
“They’ve been doing more than 200 dates a year for the last two years,” Conway said. “That was part of the master plan, to hone the live show and to develop a grassroots fan base.”
Speaking of fans, Lucas and Brust also discovered that guidance sometimes comes from an unexpected source, like Pollstar’s Gary Smith.
“Gary pulled us aside one night in Nashville about four years ago,” Brust explained. “Chris and I were really eager and so impatient. You know how it is in the early days. You just really, really want to get your music heard and you want to be seen on TV and you want your video out.
“Gary said, ‘You guys have got something really special,’ and we said, ‘Man we’ve gotta hurry though because another Chris and Preston are going to come to town and we’re gonna sit back and watch another duo take what we want.’
“He said, ‘Let me tell you guys. There’s never going to be another Chris and Preston. You guys have something so special and so unique that when the moment comes, it’s gonna be perfect.’ I’ve always held those words Gary shared with us close.”
Although the LoCash Cowboys have been slowly building steam among country fans the past few years, everyone involved believes that’s about to change.
“At first the country music realm was kind of nervous about us, because we are kind of crazy,” Lucas explained. “We’re kind of like Mötley Crüe meets Garth Brooks. It’s a different kind of country. We’re like some new kind of rebels.
Chris Lucas & Preston Brust
“I think the rest of the world is ready with people like Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban going after a younger crowd. I think now is perfect timing.”
The band recently brought tour manager Ed Workley on board to help take things to the next level because, as Lucas explained, “You can only wing it for so long. You have to stop and say, ‘OK, we’ve gotta put someone very professional in this position.’”
Thanks to all of that hard work, the LoCash touring calendar is beginning to load up for 2009, with shows on the books through December.
The duo is also sure to get a boost from country, bluegrass and alternative rock shindig BamaJam, which has picked LoCash to be the face of the festival and is sponsoring their tour this year.
No matter what happens, Lucas and Brust won’t be discouraged.
“No one can really take away what Chris and I have created to this point. There’s nothing that can stop that. So the next level will just be icing on the cake.”