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Backroad Anthem Talks Pushing on Without Craig Strickland & Honoring Him as They Go

Backroad Anthem
Liza Hippler

Backroad Anthem

Nearly two months after Backroad Anthem singer and acoustic guitarist Craig Strickland was killed in a severe storm during a hunting trip in Oklahoma, his bandmates are carrying on keeping their fallen brother in their hearts. 

Strickland's presence is an integral part of the Arkansas-based band's just-released EP, Torn, which is led by a single by the same name. Speaking with Billboard at the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville last week, the band's singer and electric guitarist Toby Freeman said, "He's on every track, singing some lead parts -- 'After Midnight' is a song that he co-wrote. He also does harmony on a few of the other songs."

Craig Strickland Mourned by Backroad Anthem Bandmates: 'Today We Lost Our Brother'

Fiddler player Eric Dysart said the band has been deeply affected by the loss of their partner and friend, as well as uplifted by the response from their fans regarding Strickland's passing. "It's been awful. We still can't believe it," he said. "The outpouring of prayers through it all has been simply amazing. When we found out about it, it was definitely surreal. It still is and it always will be."

Bassist Brandon Robold said that the group members -- who met in Church -- credit their spiritual side for getting through things. "First of all, our faith in God has been one thing that has helped to keep us strong and kept us together," he said. "Without that assurance and hope that we're going to see him again in Heaven, I don't know where we would be. Our fans, family and even the people who have never heard of us before, but know the story -- their love and support has been incredible. We've gotten Facebook and Twitter messages from people all across the world. Those wishes have definitely kept us going."

Craig Strickland's Memorial Service Will be Live-Streamed

Though Strickland is no longer with them physically, the band is carrying on with the blessing of Craig's family. "They're doing as well as they can," said guitarist Josh Bryant, when asked about Strickland's family. "They're a part of us, too. His dad was at almost every show doing merch.... We've done a couple of tribute shows to Craig right after it happened and they've come to those and have been very supportive of us going forward and everything. They will always be a part of the band."

With the EP and "Torn" out at radio, Freeman said the goal is to take their music to new heights in honor of their fallen teammate. "We want to try to push it as far as we can and do it for Craig.

He continued, saying that "Torn" is a particularly special song for the band and he's glad to see it starting to get some attention. They wrote the song about six months about with Luke Bryan's producer Jody Stevens, Tommy Cecil, Jay Brunswick and Thomas Archer, and he said he remembers its creative process being about as infectious as the tune itself. 

"We were at Jody's studio in Nashville and were kind of messing around with the melody. There were a couple other writers in the room and they wanted to be in on it. The next day, people kept being added and our cut kept getting smaller," Freeman said with a laugh, adding it was well worth it. "We spent so much time working on the demo and I'm glad we did that.... We honestly didn't know what we had, because at 5 a.m. -- when we got done -- we were dead to the world. Tommy came back into the studio the next morning and pulled the track back up and called us and said, 'Oh my God, guys, I think we've got a smash.' We must have listened to it 10,000 times, over and over and over."

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