In 2015, country group LANCO released a self-titled debut EP, including both their first single "Long Live Tonight" and just-released new single "Greatest Love Story," which is finally hitting country radio Monday (March 6). Perhaps the most notable thing about their first set of songs, though, is that every one was produced by blockbuster country producer Jay Joyce.
If you're familiar with modern country, you've probably heard of Joyce, as he's worked with the starry likes of Eric Church, Little Big Town and Carrie Underwood, to name just a few. But included among the big names is up-and-coming fivesome LANCO, who Joyce had a good feeling about after an impassioned Brandon Lancaster -- the group's lead singer, whose last name inspired the band's name -- approached him at a Keith Urban concert, at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena in 2014.
Lancaster was working at a hot dog stand in the arena when he spotted Joyce, and knew he couldn't pass up the opportunity to introduce himself -- so he promptly closed the stand to do so.
"I think sometimes I get more credit than I should [for] approaching him," Lancaster recalls to Billboard. "People think I had this plan where I was pitching myself, like 'this is my moment.' That was not at all the objective... I just wanted to meet the guy. If you really respect someone's art and you have the chance to thank them, I think that you should. That's why artists make art, because they want to impact people."
Although Lancaster may not have intended to pitch his band to Joyce, their conversation turned into what Lancaster was doing in Nashville (besides working a hot dog stand, of course), which was making and performing music with LANCO. And after asking for advice about next steps for his group, Joyce extended an invitation for Lancaster to play him some of his material.
Their more-official meetup didn't happen until a few weeks later, and it was initially just Lancaster who had the opportunity to show Joyce the kind of music his band makes. Joyce remained intrigued by Lancaster's country roots with a rock edge (the two genres "have always been cousins," Lancaster suggests), combined with his intense drive -- and thus, the rest of the band got an invite to Joyce's studio.
"That was our first moment where I knew that things were gonna be different. I didn't know how different, but I knew they were gonna be different," Lancaster says. "Because at that point, playing a show meant playing at a bar with no one listening, recording some songs meant calling a college buddy up that had a computer and some microphones. I didn't know exactly how far we'd go or what would happen. But I knew that if Jay was willing to be on board, people were going to start looking at us differently, and the music would be on a different level than we had ever dreamed of before."
Still grateful to this day that Joyce took a chance on his band, Lancaster does feel like he now has a better idea of why Joyce wanted to work with them, despite not being a big-name artist. "He just saw five kids in their 20s that were so fresh and so raw, but had something there to start fresh with," he says. "With Jay, he's not going to add anything -- I don't think people understand that Jay can only work with what's there. He makes you do the work."
Lancaster also insists that he and Joyce have a lot in common, especially with how they view and interpret music. But even so, looking back on that fateful day where he ditched his hot dog stand, he still wouldn't necessarily call himself lucky for Joyce's generous reception.
"It's one of those things that people will say 'Oh man, you're so lucky,' but I'm pretty quick to say, 'Remember that luck is when preparation meets opportunity,'" Lancaster asserts. "We'd gotten our opportunity, and lots of bands have gotten that opportunity before and didn't get that result. We weren't the greatest band, but we weren't terrible either. We were good enough to raise an eyebrow, and we had stuck with it long enough that we knew we had something, but we were just waiting for someone else to figure it out. [Laughs.]"
Nearly three years after Joyce told the LANCO guys, "Let's make a record," the group is celebrating its second single going to radio -- the sweet, gently acoustic tune "Greatest Love Story." While the melody is much slower than LANCO's anthemic first single, "Long Live Tonight," Lancaster doesn't feel "Greatest Love Story" is all that different because it's as honest as their other songs -- something that he and his bandmates have always strived for in their music, but also something that Joyce has really helped them perfect.
"Jay will be the first to tell you that we're not robots -- we're human beings expressing ourselves. That's what recording music is," Lancaster says. "Jay has taught us how to put that human element into music."
Because of this, Lancaster says that he's already found that people are finding pieces of "Greatest Love Story" that are in their own story, in turn making the song their love anthem. "That's kind of something we're trying to accomplish," he says. "We're always trying to be the anthems of people's lives."
That also translates in their live performances, an aspect of LANCO that Lancaster feels is crucial to his band and connecting with fans both old and new. And despite the fact that "Greatest Love Story" is just hitting country radio, Lancaster has already seen quite the fan response to their romantic tune.
"I have never seen so many girls and dudes holding their beer up, stomping their feet, singing a ballad," he laughs. "The reason is because there's honesty behind it -- if you are honestly speaking into people's lives, then they're going to belt it out and sing it with conviction."
This kind of connection is what Lancaster hopes LANCO will make with the debut album they plan to release later this year. He says that once the album is released (they have yet to determine an official date), that fans will be able to understand LANCO in a way they haven't been able to, with just four songs out thus far.
"I think there's going to be a lot of people that connect to our album in a way that it's very hard to connect to without the full picture. People are going to be able to see everything that we're capable of creating up to this point," Lancaster says. "Our album is truly a musical journey, because really it's just been us and Jay in a room doing whatever we want -- but that's what makes it exciting. I think that there's still a lot of LANCO fans out there that still haven't even heard of us."
The LANCO guys recorded an acoustic, single-take video of "Greatest Love Story" in Joyce's Neon Cross studio -- a renovated chapel in East Nashville -- where they're also recording their upcoming debut studio album. Check it out below.