Last year, country band LANCO released "Greatest Love Story," a romantic, nostalgic ballad that would climb to number one on 's Country Airplay Chart. The single went platinum before the album was even released, a first for any country band in history, according to .
But the Nashville-based group made up of lead vocalist Brandon Lancaster, bass guitarist Chandler Baldwin, keyboardist Jared Hampton, drummer Tripp Howell, and guitarist Eric Steedly didn't stop there. Early this year, the band's debut album, Hallelujah Nights, topped 's Top Country Albums chart, and their new song "Born to Love You" seems to pick up where their breakthrough hit left off.
"It's another song that paints pictures of where we come from and our town and our perspective on love and life and how important it is to have someone that's a lens that you see life through," Brandon told Ikaroo.info during a break from the studio, where the band is working on new music to release in the next year.
Most recently, LANCO was nominated for two CMT Music Awards: Breakthrough Video of the Year and Group Video of the Year, both for "Greatest Love Story." Here's everything you should know about the band.
LANCO stands for Lancaster & Company.
The band's name is derived from the surname of its lead singer, who also writes or cowrites all their songs. Brandon met Tripp at a music festival, moved to Nashville around the same time, and soon met and started jamming with Eric, Jared, and Chandler, who all went to school together.
They're friends first.
"Really, when we started playing music we were just hanging out," Brandon told us. "Tripp and I had just moved to Nashville and didn't have many friends. We definitely started with the intention of being a band and playing music but the friendship kind of overshadowed the music early on."
LANCO was "discovered" at a concession stand.
Though they started out playing music venues and honky-tonks, the members of LANCO still had their day jobs. Tripp's was at a carpet warehouse ("We'd sneak in there at night and that was our practice space," Brandon said), while Brandon worked at a Bridgestone Arena concession stand.
One night, during a Keith Urban-Little Big Town show, he recognized producer Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Carrie Underwood, Little Big Town) in the crowd, closed down his register, and struck up a conversation.
"We just talked about music for like a half hour—I wasn't pitching myself or anything," Brandon said. "I didn't think we were at a place or time to have Jay Joyce produce us. But he ended up giving me his number and told me to come by his place and play him some music, and I did. He liked what he heard, so we brought the whole band in two weeks later and played him a few songs. We didn't have a record label or anything but he just heard something and started working with us."
They were nominated for two CMT Music Awards.
... just as they were at the Academy of Country Music Awards (then for New Vocal Duo or Group of the Year and Vocal Group of the Year). Although they didn't take home any trophies last time, perhaps this next awards show, where "Greatest Love Story" is nominated for Breakthrough Video of the Year and Group Video of the Year, is where they will shine.
"Greatest Love Story" contains one controversial word.
Believe it or not, LANCO's decision to use the word "car" instead of "truck" in the lyrics of "Greatest Love Story" was . Many Nashville songwriters urged Brandon to change it to sound more "country," but the band went with what felt right to them—and it paid off.
"At the end of the day you're stuck with this music and you've got to play these shows and live with it the rest of your life," Brandon said. "So if it's honest you can always live with that. It just comes from a place of being as honest as we can, and if that just happens to break a rule while we're at it, then so be it."
Make no mistake: These guys are country.
You can hear it on songs like Alabama-inspired "Middle of the Night," featuring harmonica player Mickey Raphael, known for his work with Willie Nelson, whom the guys list as one of their influences.
"We all grew up in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia, so country music was the lifestyle. It's what we know, it's home for us," Brandon explained. "But I know that every person, going from Hank Sr. to Johnny Cash to Merle Haggard—they didn't set out to make music other than what they wanted to make, and I think that is the ultimate country tradition. Country music is by the people, for the people. As the people that love country music and listen to country music, we just make the music we like."
Four out of five guys are married.
Within the past couple years, there have been a few weddings: Chandler wed his wife, Natalie, on Christmas Eve 2016; Brandon married his college sweetheart (and inspiration for "Greatest Love Story") Tiffany Trotter September 2017; and Jared and Autumn got hitched in November. Tripp is also married to his high school sweetheart, Allie.
At , the bandmates even served as groomsmen.
Along with inspiring love songs, their wives often join the band and crew on the road. "LANCO is just one big family, and they're part of the family," Brandon said.
They were at Route 91 Harvest Festival.
LANCO performed at the Las Vegas music festival the day before a gunman opened fire, killing 58 people in what would be deemed the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S history. By the time of the tragedy, the band had already left for a gig the next night (an outdoor concert which had to be moved inside for security reasons).
"I had texted Luke Combs and certain artist friends who were there and a bunch of people from our label, and the night we played, I still hadn't heard back from all of them," Brandon recalled. "I think it did make you look at performing differently."
But, he continues, "music and these concerts we play are beautiful things. They're chances for thousands of people to ... come together in this moment because you all have these songs in common. You're really a part of something bigger than you. The response to Route 91 is just absolutely refusing to ever let one crazy person take something precious and important away from you."
And returning to Vegas was important to them.
The ACM Awards marked many country artists' first big return to Vegas, which Brandon felt was crucial.
"The world is kind of watching us and watching how we're going to respond to this. I think the strongest community in music is the country community," he said. "We have something that bonds us together and unites us. I think to go back to Vegas and show that we are strong and proud of what we do … and show that at the end of the day the songs are important, but really this is one big family, the artists and the fans. For us to go back and stake our claim and say 'we're still here, we're still standing strong, we're proud of this family,' is something we're proud to be a part of."
LANCO is proudest of their fans.
They may have a platinum single, a record with 300 million streams, ACM and CMT nominations, and a Grand Ole Opry performance under their belt, but the band lists something else as the highlight of their career.
"Those are all accolades, but what they mean is that people are being impacted by our music," Brandon said. "We're telling our stories and people are listening and relating to it. It's impacting lives and changing lives, and that's what we're proudest of—that we've created something people can understand and have a bond with people."