Why LANCO Will Have A Mainstream Breakthrough With Debut LP 'Hallelujah Nights'

LANCO bassist Chandler Baldwin realized his life was about to change this past Labor Day, at the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul. The rising country quintet was closing out its set opening for Sam Hunt with its single “Greatest Love Story,” which was beginning to climb the country charts at that point. “I swear, all 13,000 people in the crowd started singing it,” recalls Baldwin. “My wife was at that show and she got it on video. [During] that first chorus, I looked over at her like, ‘Oh, man, this is working.’”

“Greatest Love Story” reached the top of Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart three months later, thanks in part to the midtempo ballad’s affecting imagery and story construction. Frontman Brandon Lancaster says he aspired to not just score a hit when he started songwriting, but to deliver something that was stop-you-in-your-tracks memorable, and ultimately timeless. “I remember hearing [Randy Travis’ song] ‘Three Wooden Crosses’ when I was 18 and being really moved by it,” says Lancaster, now 28. “It’s one of those songs I had heard before, and for some reason I stayed in my car in a parking lot and listened to the whole thing. I remember thinking, ‘If I could ever do that, it’d be so cool.’” Four years after forming LANCO in Nashville along with Baldwin, 25; drummer Tripp Howell, 28; guitarist Eric Steedly, 27; and multi-instrumentalist Jared Hampton, 26, Lancaster (the band’s name is short for “Lancaster and Co.”) has done just that as the leader of a collective.

LANCO’s combination of boy-band looks, Music Row songwriting chops and classic-rock musicianship establishes the group as a country act built for more than one single. The mainstream arrival may come this month with debut album Hallelujah Nights, out Jan. 19 on Arista Nashville, along with an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Hallelujah Nights is a sprawling collection of stadium rock, bluesy country and intimate singer-songwriter pop that showcases the band’s disparate musical influences, all tied together by Lancaster’s voice. LANCO workshopped its melting-pot sound with producer Jay Joyce (Little Big Town, Eric Church) and by playing sparsely attended, covers-heavy shows in Nashville. “Every guy in the band has something they listen to that they’ve exposed me to and vice versa,” says Lancaster. Baldwin grew up listening to AC/DC and the Eagles, and Howell says he’s influenced by drummers like John Bonham and Dave Grohl; meanwhile, Lancaster possesses more of a pop sensibility and has led the group through renditions of songs by Whitney Houston and Walk the Moon.

As LANCO preps its first album release -- the band will soon push Hallelujah Nights’ second single, “Born to Love You,” to radio and embark on its first arena tour, opening for Chris Young -- its members acknowledge that it has been a few years since a country group has reached the mainstream. They believe they can be the ones to end that drought. “You have five guys, and we have five different lifetimes of music taste to bring to the table,” says Baldwin. “I think that’s what most people like about us, honestly.”

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 13 issue of Billboard.