Cole Deggs & The Lonesome Biography


Cole Deggs & the Lonesome photo by Chapman Baehler, courtesy of Sony BMG.

Fifteen years in the making, Cole Deggs & The Lonesome is a genuine "band of brothers." Individually, they are accomplished musicians and songwriters. Collectively, they are a rock steady, look-you-in-the-eye song craft, and their debut album for Columbia Nashville is a fusion of country rock and southern soul from a five-man band as real and genuine as the music they make.

Call it country with an edge, if you like, music that’s country to the core but also rocks and blends in touches of the blues as well as the special seasonings of their Texas and Louisiana roots. Add to the mix road-honed musicianship, songwriting sharpened by top-flight experience, and then brotherly harmonies in a tradition that stretches back in country through the Everlys and Louvins — and in this case, multiplied times two sets of brothers for masterful harmonies — and you’ve got a new country band with the confidence, chops and charm of time-tested veterans.

Which in a way, they are. In a spiritual, almost fated sense, Cole Deggs & The Lonesome were already a band for long before they finally all united in one place. And when that happened, it literally took just one song for them to seal their deal with Sony BMG Nashville’s Columbia label. And it should likely take just about as long with their debut album, produced by Mark Wright and Rivers Rutherford, for listeners to know that something special has arrived on the country music landscape.

Cole Deggs & The Lonesome boast two pairs of brothers on the front line, singer/guitarist Cole Deggs and bassist/singer Shade Deggs and keyboard player/singer Jimmy Wallace and lead guitarist/singer David Wallace, along with drummer Brian Hayes (now unofficial brother to all four). Cole Deggs is an experienced songwriter from Lake Jackson, TX who wrote the signature Kenny Chesney song "Live Those Songs Again," and brother Shade co-founded and played with the popular Texas indie country-rock band Honeybrowne (and is an accomplished visual artist whose love of music ultimately won out over his other passion). Jimmy Wallace played keyboards with blues-rock sensation Kenny Wayne Shepherd from his start in the Wallace brothers’ hometown of Shreveport, LA to hit records and sold-out arena shows, while David led a popular Gulf Coast blues band and then made a good living playing a gumbo of musical styles along the fabled Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Brian Hayes hit the road just of high school in Clearwater, FL and prior to joining the group was an in-demand drummer on the rock scene.

The two sets of brothers grew up living parallel lives on either side of the Texas and Louisiana border, playing together in bands in their teens, and both intending to someday form the country group that would also harness in all their musical influences and abilities. The Deggs brothers grew up with a mother who played piano in church and the country music their parents loved. Cole’s earliest musical memory is the Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard album Pancho & Lefty playing over and over in the car on family drives. "It never got old for me, and is still not old to me. I’ve listened to it a million times," he says.

High school found the Deggs brothers playing in rock bands and digging on groups like Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Metallica. "I still listen to them," Cole says, "but I started getting back into my country roots and began to write songs." His aunt and uncle gave a tape of his compositions to their hunting buddy, hit country songwriter and singer Ed Bruce, who invited Cole up to Nashville during the summer after he finished high school to write and record songs (as well as bale hay on Bruce’s ranch).

Following his visit to Music City, Cole briefly attended college in San Marcos, TX, where Shade was already enrolled and they made a stab at forming a band to play Cole’s songs. But then Cole learned from a friend back in Nashville that two of his songs had been put on hold for recording. "I said, ‘All right, I’ll be there tomorrow.’ I dropped all my classes and left."

Meanwhile, in Louisiana, the Wallace brothers were also raised in country music, played in bands together as teens, and also nurtured the dream of putting together a country group as diverse as their tastes and as musical as their playing abilities. "From as early as I can remember, we were trying to put a band together," David explains. "I recall blowing out my parent’s stereo trying to create an electric guitar out of an acoustic by putting a microphone in the hole and plugging it into the auxiliary input, and — kapow!" After finishing college, both soon succeeded in their first goal of making a living as working musicians. But there still was that dream of a band, and both wanted to be more than hired guns or nightclub hotshots.

Brian Hayes also grew up the son of a piano playing mother, who started giving him lessons as a kid. "Hated it," he says. Then he took up guitar for a few years. "Never wanted to practice. Hated it too. Then I was like - let me try the drums." He found his musical place, and right out of high school hit the road with an outfit called The Great American Showcase. "We were out doing three shows a day, five days a week, and one on Saturday. So I was baptized by fire into touring. Anything after that is cake."

Nashville eventually drew both Hayes and Jimmy Wallace. Cole met Jimmy through some friends one night at a bar. "After a tackle football game on the lawn at my apartment complex at four in the morning," Deggs recalls, "we went into my apartment, and I dragged my piano out of my bedroom into the middle of the living room floor and Jimmy just started wailing on it. Our friendship went from there and we started writing together."

After Jimmy moved back to Louisiana for a few years and then returned to Nashville, he and Cole reunited and started putting together a band.

Meanwhile, Shade had moved to Chicago to enroll in art school to get his masters degree but landed a job instead at a high-powered modern art auction house. When the company’s internal politics soured, Shade left his job and paid a visit to his brother Cole in Nashville. "Cole and Jimmy just happened to be playing a gig," Shade explains, "and when he came off stage, he asked me: ‘Can you play that? I know I can,’ I told him. Three days later he called me back in Chicago and said, ‘We have to put the band together right now.’"

No kidding. A showcase for Sony BMG executives was scheduled for a few days later. Shade returned to Nashville, as did Jimmy from roadwork with Shepherd. Or at least he tried to. "I got stuck in Dallas. So I flew to Atlanta, and then rented a car and drove to Nashville."

"We rehearsed for a day and a half," Shade explains, "and then went to a rehearsal studio for the showcase. We played one song, and the people from the label were like, all right."

But they still needed the right drummer. A friend tipped them off to Hayes, who came by a studio to get a copy of their music. "I didn’t even get out of my truck," he says. "Cole walked out and met me and gave me a CD of the music. As I drove off, I put it in, and I was blown away. I just fell in love with the music."

Meanwhile, the original guitarist had left the band, and all along, Jimmy had been touting his brother as the ideal lead guitarist for the venture. After Hurricane Katrina blew away David Wallace’s livelihood on Bourbon Street along with much of the rest of New Orleans, he joined the group, and Cole Deggs & The Lonesome were complete.

It’s only natural that despite the short time all five had been together, the group immediately sounded like a band that has played and sung together for years. "We all grew up the same kind of way," Jimmy explains. "We’re the same kind of people. Everyone here grew up loving music."

The immediate camaraderie and proficiency of their musicianship gave the band a well-seasoned assurance, while their shared musical tastes added up into something that matches musical tradition with a contemporary freshness. "I like to rock out, and I like to be just real country," Cole explains. "I like to do the north and south end of the magnet. I like to sit down and sing every Merle Haggard song ever written, and then I like to do some Ronnie Van Zant songs."

And Cole Deggs & The Lonesome are committed to doing what it takes to establish this group and make their dream of a lifetime playing music in a band become a successful reality. "I’ve always just said that I’d love to make a living at it and not have to worry about it," says Cole. "I’ve set my life up for this. I want to be the act that never gets off the road and just plays. If we can make a living doing that and making records, that’s all I care about. That, and give me a house somewhere on about 50 acres with some turkeys and deer running around, and I’m golden."

That’s because for Cole Deggs & The Lonesome, it’s all about the music. "All these guys will tell you, there’s no other feeling like being onstage playing for people." Cole concludes. "It’s awesome. And we’ve all been doing it a long time, our whole lives. It’s a feeling you never get tired of. You may get tired of riding down the road, but you can never get tired of walking out on stage."