“We’re top 10,” Chris Lucas bursts out at the end of a 30–minute conversation. “Every answer we say is just, ‘We’re top 10, we’re top 10, we’re top 10.’ “
It’s a joking oversimplification, but it would be hard to blame him for the enthusiasm. It has been 13 years since the duo — LoCash — signed its first contract with a booking agency, it has had a couple of record labels wilt beneath it, and yet here it is in 2015, in the top 10 of the Country Airplay chart, with a record label, Reviver, that has never reached that level before. The pair has two bottles of wine — Shipwrecked, its own brand — ready to be uncorked to mark the achievement. But it’s not the first time LoCash has popped a cork during the ascent of the song in question, “I Love This Life.”
“We’ve actually celebrated this whole journey,” says Preston Brust, the other half of the duo. “When we hit top 40, we celebrated. When we hit top 30, we celebrated — 20 and now 10. And we can’t wait to celebrate nine and eight and five and go on.”
The optimism isn’t just an excuse to party, and LoCash doesn’t have a naive, Pollyanna approach to its career. The act has been challenged numerous times on the way up, doggedly touring and writing songs while its career as a recording act had it seeking mountaintop experiences, though it often felt like cave dwellers.
“There were some dark times,” says Lucas. “Unfortunately, probably more dark times than there were good, and it was really hard to be positive when it happened.”
The worst batch of trouble came in 2011 and 2012. Lucas’ father died; LoCash’s label, R&J, shut down its marketing and promotion departments; the act’s single “C.O.U.N.T.R.Y.” tanked in the shuffle; and its fiddler, Ryan “Troop” Jones, died after an ulcer turned into a bundle of health issues.
“I remember sitting in the back of the bus going, ‘Man, what’s going on? Are we not supposed to do this?'” recalls Lucas.
In the middle of that mess, Keith Urban released the LoCash-penned “You Gonna Fly,” which reached No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart dated March 3, 2012. Four months later, Tim McGraw released another LoCash-written song that would hit the top 10, “Truck Yeah.” Subsequently, it became a little easier to see the value in the hard times.
“You have to build those failures together to create success,” Brust now says philosophically. “They’re all building blocks. They’re all obstacles that are designed to teach you something, and we’ve grown up a lot in this industry over the last 10 years, and we’ve learned how to not only get around the obstacles but to use them to learn.”
One of the most important lessons was a bit of skepticism. They had plenty when Reviver president/CEO David Ross came calling. He had heard several songs and wanted to sign them to his label, and he flew in from New York within a couple days to meet. His speed impressed them, as did his promise to sign them and roll out the big guns behind “I Love This Life.” It sounded nice, but they had already had five singles stall on the chart between No. 34 and No. 54.
“We looked at him and said, ‘What are you going to do differently? We’ve been in this position before,’ ” recalls Brust. “We knew that we were going to have to have a real team to make this happen.”
Team-building is exactly what Ross proposed. Reviver launched the single with the independent Star Farm Nashville promotion team, founded by Michael Powers and Matt Corbin, and the label then assembled its own in-house squad. In the ultimate show of belief, Ross sought LoCash’s opinions about the staff, which was exemplified when he brought in national director of promotion David Shaw to handle the Northeast.
“He’s a hard worker, he’s always believed in LoCash, he’s been our friend,” says Brust. “We stay in touch like brothers, even when we don’t have record deals. We told him about David; the next thing you know, David is on the staff. And it was so cool to see that happen.”
Brust and Lucas know a thing or two about hard work, and a little about salesmanship, too. They met in 2002 at the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville and formed a partnership, not as musicians but as onstage hosts. Within a month, they signed a deal with Buddy Lee Attractions, and for the next four years, they did their public schtick while taking notes and honing their craft. They talked then-Buddy Lee Attractions president Tony Conway into booking them as an act, then hired a band on the fly to back them.
LoCash mixes old-school harmony with new-school production, and it all took hold with “I Love This Life,” the first single they recorded with producer Lindsay Rimes, an Australian musician they recognized rather quickly had a feel for their attitude.
“This guy just interprets musically who we are and what we want to do,” notes Brust. “We don’t have to say too much. He knows already.”
“I Love This Life” is the title track for a six-song EP that was released Oct. 30. The duo plans to turn it into a full album in 2016, but the timetable isn’t exact. With their first top 10 in tow, they’ll be discovered by a large number of fans for the first time, so they’re more concerned with quality than with a deadline.
“We don’t really feel a lot of pressure to have the full album out yet,” says Brust. “We’re focused now on ‘I Love This Life’ getting as high on the chart as we can.”
It’s already in the top 10.