Love and Theft may be celebrating the release of their second studio album, but to the ACM-nominated country duo, the self-titled release might as well be their first.
And in a way, it is. Love and Theft is Stephen Barker Liles and Eric Gundersons first album since joining RCA Nashville, the home to many of their musical inspirations. "We feel like people will be hearing us for the first time," says Eric. Stephen agrees and credits the labels storied history with helping to reenergize the band. "The history of RCA Records is incredible. Just knowing that we are on the same label as some of our biggest influences, like Elvis Presley, is an awesome feeling."
That excitement is palpable throughout the 11 songs that comprise the album, a fluid mix of country melodies and sing-along choruses, all driven by Erics earthy voice and Stephens high-altitude tenor. The guys share lead vocals, harmonize like a church choir, and bolster their songs with their own guitar playing. "We sound like brothers when we sing," says Eric. "Stephen and I have always been on the same page as far as the vision for the band, and we feel like we have made the record weve always wanted to make."
Produced by Josh Leo (Alabama, Nitty Gritty Dirty Band), Love and Theft is a nod to the duos varied influences. "Shes Amazing" evokes the brilliant harmonies of the Eagles. The seductive "Amen" channels all the yearning of Roy Orbison. And the rollicking first single "Angel Eyes"which scored the twosome their first CMT Music Awards nomination for Duo Video of the Yearbrings to mind Elvis Presleys "(Youre the) Devil in Disguise."
Coincidentally, both Stephen and Ericwho didnt meet until they were in their early 20swere practically raised in church. Stephens father is a pastor and Erics father is a worship pastor. Their respective fathers fed them a steady diet of gospel, oldies and country. "Our parents didnt want us listening to secular music that much. But theyd let us listen to Elvis, Roy, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. It was cool to grow up that way, and thats still my favorite kind of music," explains Eric, who says he and Stephen worked hard to capture a more organic, country sound for this album. "Were both from the South and were very much in favor of embracing our country roots. I feel like weve done that here."
Stephen and Erics experiences growing up in the Bible Belt help inform the new album, especially on the wild-child single "Angel Eyes," which Eric co-wrote with Eric Paslay and Jeff Coplan. "Preachers kids seem to have the most rebellious side and get in trouble more," Eric admits with a laugh. "That was kind of the inspiration for that. We wrote it from a personal place."
"Town Drunk," written by Natalie Hemby and Daniel Tashian, is equally personal to the guys. The heart-wrenching ballad chronicles in stark detail the effects of a fathers alcoholism on his daughter. "When they played it for us, I started crying about halfway through because it reminded me of my moms dad, my grandfather," Stephen says. "He died an alcoholic and I never really had a relationship with him. It hit close to home for me."
"It was a no-brainer as soon as we heard it," Eric adds. "That song had to be on the album."
The pair is equally enthusiastic about "Runnin Out of Air," a tune they describe as "Maroon 5 meets the Eagles," and "Thinking of You (and Me)," which explores the gray area in a guy-and-girl friendship. "Some of my first girlfriends started out as friends," Eric recalls. "You didnt want to cross that line and risk hurting someones feelings. But if I didnt take that chance, I never would have fallen in love with them."