HOG HUNTING AND KISSING IN CARS
“She was always the one/ I'll repeat it again, the one/ no such thing as too young/ red lights flash in the car we're kissing in/ call me crazy.” - Kissing In Cars - Brad Warren-Brett Warren-Rebekah Liles-Stephen Barker Liles.
Landing a song in popular movies can be lucrative - especially when the brother and sister songwriters share the royalties and the limelight.
Love & Theft co-founder Stephen Barker Liles wrote Kissing In Cars with his younger sister Rebekah who sang it with her Bekka Hailey Band in the Country Strong movie starring Tim McGraw and Gwyneth Paltrow.
It's one of many songs penned by the chart topping duo who played the seventh CMC Rocks The Hunter festival in March, 2014.
“My sister was the singer,” Liles, 31, told Nu Country TV during the tour here with fellow co-founder Eric Gunderson.
“We got the song in the movie through Tim and his friends The Warren Brothers (also co-writers.) We have toured with Tim twice and he's a big believer in us and very supportive of us and our music. He liked the song but wanted to help us out as well.”
The Bekka Hailey Band also released the song on their Laughing In The Rain EP.
Penning songs for movies, TV shows and other artists has been lucrative for the duo when not writing for their own three albums.
“We have had songs in TV shows such as Heart of Dixie ,” Gunderson, also 31, added.
“They used our songs a lot. They include If You Ever Get Lonely and Angel Eyes . We were also appeared in another show that has since been cancelled.”
External writing projects are a creative and financial buffer for the duo who arrived in Nashville almost a decade ago as song-writers and toiled in menial jobs like tiling and sales while waiting four years for their recording deal.
Liles, Gunderson and Brian Bandas, who sang lead & played guitar, formed the trio in 2006 but were not signed to Lyric Street subsidiary Carolwood until 2009.
Identity was also a problem - the band name was also the title of the 43rd studio album by Bob Dylan in 2001.
RUNAWAY RECORD LABELS
“It's been a long week/ I've got a slow leak in my left front tyre/ I'm sick of where I work/ my boss is such a jerk, don't care if I get fired.” - Runaway - Stephen Liles-Rob Blackledge-Canaan Smith.
By then Bandas had left the band and they followed with Top 40 hits Runnin' Out of Air and If You Ever Get Lonely penned by other writers.
Although the hiatus was frustrating the duo reverted to writing.
“We have cuts by Canadian country artists,” explained Liles who also wrote Wrong Baby Wrong on Martina McBride's 2009 album Shine.
“ Sawyer Brown recorded one of our songs. Canadian Derek Ruttan has also recorded one of our songs. We just signed a new publishing deal with Sony who are pitching our songs to other artists. We can only fit so many of our songs on our albums. They have to be the right fit. We write all the time.”
Last year Love & Theft was scheduled to play CMC Rocks The Hunter but their debut was waylaid by a premature stork.
“I never made it in first place,” Gunderson revealed.
“My son Camden William was born two and half months early on March 10 so Stephen got to live his dream as a solo artist.”
Liles retorted “but I only sang one song.”
It was important for Gunderson to be with his wife Emily for the birth.
“We do anything we can do to raise money and awareness - we always do that.”
But it wasn't always clear flying for Gunderson in his bachelor days.
There was a small matter of a big knife found in his knapsack at Nashville Airport ,
“We were on our way to the ACM Awards,” Gunderson recalled.
“I had been hunting hogs the night before and grabbed the wrong backpack the next morning. I got in trouble and had to do community service. It's now difficult for me to fly overseas because they think I'm going to take down a plane.”
So the ACM awards weren't that competitive to be packing cutlery?
“You never know who's going to pop up,” Eric joked as they revealed Blackjack Billy loaned them their drummer after their stick man missed the plane from Nashville to Sydney because of a visa problem - unrelated to a knife.
“That was cool, letting us use their drummer because our drummer couldn't get into the country,” Liles said.
“It was very nice of them. We have known those guys a long time - Rob's a great mate.”
So, apart from performing what did they do on their trip here?
“We're going hog hunting when we get to the Hunter Valley ,” Gunderson said.
“I left my knife in Nashville but we shouldn't have any problems. Maybe some kangaroo hunting - that's what we really want to do. But we don't have anyone to take us and we don't want to get hit by a kangaroo.”
PRETTIEST GIRL IN TOWN
“She's got a band on her wrist and a pink butterfly on her hospital gown/ and she's got balloons in her room with some flowers/ and two long days left of this round/ and I don't know why I'm the lucky one/ holding onto her hand/ just give one more day to wrap my arms around/ the prettiest girl, the prettiest girl in town.” - The Prettiest Girl In Town - Canaan Smith-Brett Beavers
So what songs have the duo recorded for their new album due out this year?
They also have a sibling song of Town Drunk from their second album.
“It's a song called Prettiest Girl in Town about a real girl in a hospital who doesn't have much time to live written from her father's perspective,” Gunderson said.
“We have a song called The Blade ,” Liles revealed of a tune with no relation to hog hunting.
“It's about a relationship too, a song about a relationship. It's about having your heartbroken. The tag is you caught it by the handle and I caught it by the blade – the way they see life after the break-up. It's a pretty emotional song. Eric's singing lead on it and I'm singing on the harmonies. It's cool and emotional melody. We're excited to have those songs that give us some depth. There's also some party songs.”
But neither are the first singles from the album.
“ Night That You'll Never Forget was written by one of our friends Ray Stephenson,” Liles said.
“He's one of our friends and nice enough to let us record it. It's the lead single off our latest album coming out this summer. We have never had a fun party song to put on the radio before. We haven't decided title of album yet – we might name it after one of the songs. It's a tough choice. We're making a video clip in April. We're putting it out as soon as it's finished.”
Not on the album is Try To Make It Anyway that Liles wrote about superstar Taylor Swift after she penned Hey Stephen to him for her debut disc Fearless .
“That's not likely,” Liles said of the song that initially went viral.
“We just put it out there acoustic - let it be what it is. Taylor believed in us and helped kick of our career. We're grateful for that - she's awesome. We see her at awards show and events and she's always cool with us. Back in 2008 she was like, ‘Hey, I wrote a song about you. And I was like, ‘That is so weird. I just wrote a song about you like a week ago!' But she didn't say whether it was a nice song, so I waited like four months to see if it was going to be a mean song! I knew in my heart it wasn't going to be, but her track record is like all mean songs.”
Love & Theft have also recorded Taking It To The Street for the new Doobie Brothers tribute disc.
“It was a huge hit for them,” Gunderson said.
“To sing a song that Michael McDonald is on is obviously a big honour for us. He's one of the greatest singers ever - it's definitely an honour to be there when he was recording and get to sing on such a great classic.”
Love & Theft walked the plank at Sony after releasing single Night That You'll Never Forget that peaked at #38.
New CD Whiskey On My Breath on indie label Hate & Purchase Music came out on February 10, 2015 and reached #26.