There is a new band in town, and they are ecstatic to share their heart and soul – via their music – with the world. Backroad Anthem is made up of six members who met at a mega-church in their hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas. After they not only sold out, but had to turn away 300+ fans at a large venue in Arkansas, they knew they were on to something big! I recently spoke with lead singers Toby Freeman and Craig Strickland, as they dished on the formation of their band, touring, and their debut EP, Torn!
Backroad Anthem is a unique band name. Curious as to how they came up with it, they explained to me:
“We have this text thread with the six of us, and we were trying to figure out a common denominator. We all grew up in the country on gravel roads, so we were like, well, we love backroads. Then, with six guys who all sing and play instruments from the fiddle to drums, to acoustic/electric guitar, etc. we all have this full sound, so anthem was a good word for that. We put it together and we got, what we think, is a cool name!”
I would agree that Backroad Anthem is a name that certainly fits this band. They radiate excellent chemistry, and have been told “that we are refreshing because when people look at us, they can see that we’re meant to be together, organically. I think that is what sets us apart, because we are a group of friends doing what we think is country music, in our minds, based off of what we grew up on.”
Backroad Anthem has already tasted the tour life. The past three years they have been playing upwards of 150 shows per year, headlining club/college shows, and opening up for country super stars such as Sam Hunt and Jake Owen. Freeman opened up about his most memorable experiences while being on tour:
“I think it’s getting to play for big artists in front of upwards of 10,000 people who haven’t heard any of our music. Making new fans, seeing our Twitter, Instagram, Facebook blowing up, it’s just such an awesome experience. When we opened for Lynryd Skynryd, we were standing backstage taking it all in, and they came off stage saying ‘one day we will be opening for you’ and that was such an interesting concept to grasp.”
Strickland added that in the future:
“Luke Bryan and Rascal Flatts would be our ideal tour partners. I’ve always loved Rascal Flatts, and when I got together with Toby, he said Rascal Flatts was also one of his big influences, so that would be our dream tour mate.”
The EP Torn is a vivacious collection of well-written, authentic songs that will instantly intrigue you. Craig stated:
“We wanted to capture ‘real’ lyrics. Country music was founded on story telling. I think we would love to say that we grew up on Haggard and Jennings, and sure, we know their music, but in reality, we grew up listening to Garth Brooks, and in high school, Kenny Chesney. I remember driving around, with my girlfriend, listening to Chesney and Tim McGraw. I think that those influences come through in our EP. ‘After Midnight’ was co-written with Cole Taylor (who wrote “Sippin’ On Fire” for Florida Georgia Line) which might be leaning more towards the ‘party’ theme, but, that’s what we did! When you grow up in a small town, parents always tell you ‘nothing good happens after midnight’ but that’s what we did, because there ain’t nothing to do! We would drive way out in the fields, build a fire, and hang out!”
So take that, skeptics of today’s country music!
With increasingly maxed out agendas, I’m always interested as to whether or not artists have the time to write their own music. Members of Backroad Anthem co-wrote “After Midnight,” “Torn,” and “No Show” which all are featured on the EP. While writing songs themselves is a beautiful thing, sometimes an artist will hear something that a talented songwriter has written, and they will connect so well with that concept that it would be impossible not to record it. Strickland relayed:
“When we got pitched the song ‘Disco Ball,’ it was kind of funny because Toby and I looked at each other and said ‘we are NEVER going to play a song called ‘Disco Ball,’ but when we were halfway through the first verse, we were like ‘WE ARE GOING TO PLAY A SONG CALLED DISCO BALL!’ So we put that together and it turned out pretty cool!”
With a dance-friendly, heart pumping tempo and sultry lyrics, I contest that “Disco Ball” was an excellent choice for the EP!
Their current single, and title track of the EP “Torn,” will hook you immediately with its enchanting beat and relatable lyrics. Freeman shared:
“Craig and I started writing the first verse on our own, then we were in Jody Stevens’ (producer) studio and I started playing the melody. Tommy Cecil was like, ‘what is that? I need to get in on that!’ There was just something really special about it from the beginning. It speaks so real to people’s lives.”
“There are so many dudes ( I was one of them), where we really liked a girl, but that girl really liked another guy, and kind of played where she would say we are friends, but then not friends, and back in circles. It’s all about just being torn between the two titles.”
Backroad Anthem had one last thought to share:
“We want our fans to know that when they come to our show, they will get an unreal live experience from us. We are humble, personable, and blessed to be able to do this. We want our fans to know that when they take a chance on our music, and becoming fans, we will be around for the long haul.”