In March, the guys of country quintet LANCO were gearing up for their acoustic love song “Greatest Love Story” to hit country radio. Little did they know that seven months later, they would be celebrating a top 10 single on the Country Airplay chart and providing the soundtrack to countless proposals, weddings and love stories around the country.
The five guys in the group (frontman Brandon Lancaster, bassist Chandler Baldwin, drummer Tripp Howell, keyboardist Jared Hampton and guitarist Eric Steedly) are all from the Southeast, hailing from Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia. But while their music is rooted in country, their overall sound spreads into rock and pop as well, something that’s been proven with “Greatest Love Story” breaking outside the country genre into the all-encompassing Billboard Hot 100 — currently sitting at No. 61 (chart dated Oct. 28) and rising.
“It’s been cool because [“Greatest Love Story” has] opened up a lot of people’s eyes to the country music community and our music,” Lancaster tells Billboard. “This song has kind of changed the course of our career. It’s opened the door to people not just discovering the song but discovering what LANCO is all about in our entirety.”
Lancaster wrote the song by himself several years ago, before LANCO landed a record deal with Arista Nashville and before being on the radio was even a feasible thing. “It’s kind of vindicating not just for me but for all songwriters,” Lancaster says. “It inspires me, and I think that if anything it should inspire anybody — they could literally be in any circumstance, put a pen to paper, writing something that could be a song that millions of people are going to hear and people are going to respond to.”
Things have clearly changed in a major way for Lancaster and Co. (hence the name, LANCO), as outside of music the singer has reached the pinnacle of a “Greatest Love Story” himself: He and longtime love Tiffany Trotter were married last month. As LANCO continues to see success with their breakout hit, Billboard caught up with Lancaster about why he thinks the song is connecting so widely, how his marriage plays into the meaning of the song and what it was like to hear it on the radio in the town that inspired it all.
Why do you think “Greatest Love Story” is resonating beyond country fans?
I think a lot of people don’t realize they could be country music fans. To me, country music has always been the real stories of people’s lives and “Greatest Love Story” is really a story that so many people can relate to and there’s reality in it. There’s love, there’s heartbreak, there’s trials, there’s overcoming trials all in the song — and people can relate to that, no matter whether you’re a country music fan or not. That’s been a really special thing, representing a genre that strongly that you’re introducing people to it.
Is there a part of the song that means the most or stands out to you?
In the chorus where it says, “I was what you wanted, you were what I needed and we could meet in between,” I think that’s a special line. That’s the song’s message in and of itself — it’s talking about compromise, it’s talking about two people meeting each other where they need to meet each other. It’s not about specific characters, it’s more about what the message is and I think the message of the song is going through different trials in life and two different people, through thick and thin, through their strengths and weaknesses, meeting each other in the middle and finding love through that.
Do you think that plays into why it’s connecting with fans of multiple genres?
Yeah, and that’s the thing — the majority of the people that come to us, it may be their first dance at a wedding or it may be the song they propose to. That story [in the song], it’s not exactly the way their life played out, but they understand the overall message of the song and what the song is trying to say about the journey of love. At the end of the day, real love is not just a feeling, it’s not a moment. It really is a journey. And the longer you’re on that journey, the deeper the love goes, so that’s what the song is about. It’s cool that people have discovered that.
Speaking of proposals — if you had to guess, how many do you think you’ve seen at just your shows alone?
Honestly more than I can count. It’s usually maybe every other show. We see it on social media — we just got tagged in a post where this couple was on a beach and she thought she was taking a picture with her friend, and then her boyfriend was behind her with a sign that said, “Will you be my greatest love story?” and the song started playing.
We’ve [also] heard military families that they were reunited after his deployment, and that’s really special. And then you hear people that got together in high school like the song and then we had an older couple that had known each other decades ago and had gone off and done life on their own and came back together and now they’re engaged and married. It’s a thing that’s going nationally around the country, people integrating the song into a special moment in their life.
You just got married yourself. Did that change the meaning of the song for you?
Being married, it’s kind of the end of one story and the beginning of another. This song tells the story of meeting each other and falling in love, falling apart and then finding each other throughout the journey of life. But now that I’m married, I’m honestly looking forward to the next story. Now for me, it’s, “Well, what makes this the greatest love story?” “How did you persevere?” There’s more stories to tell and I know that I’m going to discover more about love and what it really means to know somebody — and to experience happiness and heartache with them. I think if anything, now I’ll have a greater understanding for what love is so that only means there’s going to be more stories to tell.
It’s funny, because I’ve written more songs and they’re songs that would definitely come after a “Greatest Love Story.” It’s kind of an overarching story; every verse of that song has a story inside of it. And even in the album, there’s more detail — there are songs about what it means to go on a first date, what it means to question yourself and question the decisions you’re making. I think “Greatest Love Story” only opens up the door to the rest of the stories that we’re going to tell through our music.
Did you play the song at your wedding?
You know, I did not play it [Laughs]. I didn’t really have any intention of playing that song at my wedding, mainly because my wife and I have been together for years. She’s been with me through this whole journey — she was with me before I was in LANCO, when I was just playing bars and coffee shops for anyone that would let me play. She was with me when I wrote that song and she was one of the first people I played it for. And I had a moment with her and that song on an acoustic guitar way before it was ever on the radio, so that was kind of our moment with the song. Now I’m letting other people have their moment with the song.
But it was played at my wedding, just not at my request [Laughs]. Someone had a few beers and thought it would be great if I danced to myself singing at a wedding. I moved my shoulders a little bit — I dance to that song every night, so it wasn’t a big deal for one more night.
You recently shared a video hearing the song in your hometown. What was that like?
That was early on in the radio process. I had dinner with my parents in Smyrna, Tennessee, and was just driving back home to Nashville and heard it come on the radio. I was literally driving by the factory I had worked [at] out of high school that inspired the part of the song saying, “I spent my days working 9 to 5.” Hearing your song on the radio is surreal in and of itself and hearing it for the first time in the town that actually inspired the song is a whole new special thing.
Have you heard it in any not-so-conventional places?
I play in an adult hockey league in Nashville, and they have a radio station playing over the speakers in the lobby. After the game me and the guys — a lot of the guys don’t even know that I’m even in a band, I’m just trying to be a normal guy playing hockey — I remember we were all sitting there after the game drinking a beer and that song came on. One of my buddies was like, “Oh, this is him singin’!” They thought it meant like a karaoke thing or something, but he was like “No he’s in LANCO, this is his song.” [Laughs] That was probably the most real-world situation where I was like, “Oh I did not expect that.”
That’s what’s cool about [the song] — even in that moment, these tough hockey players related to the song as much as some of the girls in the audience at a concert.