Whiskey Falls describes its musical style as a mix between "Hotel California" and "Sweet Home Alabama"—Calibama, in shorthand. If that combination sounds like a commercial winner, that's because it is.
Without the support of a label, the country quartet has sold 41,000 copies of its self-titled album in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Whiskey Falls has garnered major exposure opening for acts like Montgomery Gentry and Alan Jackson and has played pre-race concerts for NASCAR, with agency support from William Morris. More recently, it has been omnipresent at the Toughest Cowboy rodeo events across the country, which are being filmed for the newly launched Mark Burnett reality TV show of the same name on Spike TV. Whiskey Falls' track "Hellbilly" serves as the theme song.
"That song says everything we are as a group. When people hear that song, they think, 'Those are our kind of boys,' " says guitarist/vocalist Damon Johnson, formerly of Southern rock group Brother Cane.
Johnson was the last member to join the crew, which already featured Buck Johnson (no relation), Wally Brandt and Seven Williams. Brandt and Williams had long worked together at their own California-based music production house and publishing company We 3 Kings, where they've crafted tracks for projects like "The Simple Life" (the theme song) and an AAMCO commercial. Buck, who is also a studio keyboardist, wrote the track "Just Feel Better," which Steven Tyler performed on Santana's 2005 album "All That I Am."
After an up-and-down experience as a rock artist in the late '90s, Damon Johnson was happy to find a new project that better fit his lifestyle.
"Buck called me to join while I was on the road playing guitar with Alice Cooper," he says. "I had dreams of being a rock star my whole life and when I finally had it, I found that you had to feed everybody's demand for attention. I just found I was more blue collar than rock is. Country music supports family and performs for audiences on a Thursday through Saturday schedule. Whiskey Falls was so special, considering all four of us were lead singers, and I could sling my guitar all I wanted to. We put my rock background together with the music we all grew up on."
The band was signed to Midas Records briefly before "the wheels came off," as Hartley puts it, and the group opted out. Now, as Whiskey Falls adds the finishing touches to its new album this spring, the crew hopes to find a label with radio connections or a radio promotions group to fill the last gap in its well-oiled marketing machine.