EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Love and Theft

Yesterday, we had the chance to speak with Stephen Barker Liles of country music duo Love and Theft. The duo released their brand new self-titled album earlier this month to rave reviews, and just scored their first-ever number one single with the lead-off “Angel Eyes.” Stephen, and his band mate, Eric Gunderson, will be hitting the road this fall with Jake Owen and Florida-Georgia Line on the 11th annual CMT on Tour. In our exclusive interview with Stephen, we discuss how excited they are for that tour, what special message he has for Florida-Georgia Line, on if Eric survived a number one single, tattoos, why he needs to check Eric’s pockets, and he shares information on the duo’s brand new single.

Love and Theft’s “Angel Eyes” is also a gold certified single with the RIAA for selling more than 500,000 digital copies since its release. The duo are hotter than ever and just finished touring with Brad Paisley. Get to know Love and Theft and see why they have hard time getting into Canada with our exclusive interview below:

Can you share a little bit on your new single coming out?

Yeah, our new single “Runnin’ Out Of Air” is kind of a funkier tune. It kind of reminds me of The Eagles meets old Maroon 5 with our own little country twist on it. It’s the funkier song of the album and I’m pretty excited about it because it’s a little different. I’m looking forward to people hearing it.

Yesterday, I spoke with your friends in Florida-Georgia Line who said they were gonna celebrate your number one every night on the tour. How did you guys meet?

I met those guys a while back through mutual friends in the industry. In Nashville, everyone kind of knows each other, so I met those guys just through mutual friends and we hit it off. We’ve written some songs with them, Tyler and I have written some really good songs together. My sister was dating one of them for a little while (laughs).

Do you have a message you want me to post for them right back?

They’re good guys. Tell them I hope they build up their livers for the fall tour because I don’t want to drink them under the table each night.

Can you share a little about that tour with Jake Owen?

Gosh, we’re so excited, we’re so excited to get to be part of Jake’s first headlining tour. We’ve never toured with him before so that’s very exciting for this opportunity. It’s going to be a heck of a tour – Jake and Florida-Georgia Line are high energy, and we have a high energy show too, so it’s going to be an amazing tour.

How does it feel to finally have a number one single in “Angel Eyes”?

Oh my God, it’s incredible. It’s the best feeling. We’ve been playing together for six years and you never know when things are going to hit. This is our third label, third management, and our third for a lot of things and the fact that we’re able to get another chance at this and things are working out… we’re just so grateful. We feel so blessed. We feel very blessed to get to make music for a living and we don’t forget it at all.

Now, Eric said in interviews that he’d “go crazy” if Angel Eyes went number one.. did he survive?

Yeah, well we’ve been drinking straight for two weeks after it went number one, but no one died, so we’re giving our livers a rest. Well… he has, not me (laughs). I mean, really, we’re just so grateful to RCA who have put so much effort into us, and money, and time, and it’s so hard to find someone who believes in you. We’re just really, really grateful. We couldn’t be more grateful.

Now, you both have quite a few tattoos.. but do you have any plans for any new ones?

I always have plans for new tattoos. I just have to find time to execute the plan. I still want to get an old sailor “I Heart Mom” tattoo.. I really want to put it on my neck but everyone’s being a hater. I’ll probably get me one of those. I just love the art of tattoos, and I just love the whole aspect of it. I think I’ll be getting one soon.

Maybe I’ll get one.. something girly, no tramp stamps.

Something girly. You know, tramp stamps are coming back in now! (laughs) I’m just kidding.

Is there a song out on the radio you wish you wrote?

I wish I wrote “Even If It Breaks Your Heart.” I can’t get that song out of my head. I love that song.

It’s back in my head now, thanks.

You can have it! You can keep it in your head now since it’s been in mine forever! (laughs). I told the guys today, ‘dude, lets cover that song,’ and everyone’s like ‘we can’t it’s still on the chart.’ But it’s not on the chart anymore, right? But they said it’s still too new, so I’m like dang it. Will Hoge‘s version they play down here on Lightning 100 A/C, he wrote it, his version is good but I really love Eli Young Band‘s version of it. That song “Fish”? It goes (singing) “my baby loves to fish, she loves to do it all the time, in the middle of the night..” Craig Campbell sings it. I love that song.

If you could write with anybody from any genre who would it be? Dead or alive.

I’d love to write with Bob Dylan, and I’d love to write with Elvis Presley. That’s my dead and alive.

Since you’re doing this without your other half… who has the worse habits on the road?

Me. I have the worst habits, probably. I’m always clearing my throat because I’m always out drinking the night before. Eric always leaves his dirty clothes in the back lounge on the floor, that’s a pretty bad one. But, we don’t have too many bad habits. On the road it’s hard because we’re on the bus and everyone’s gotta kind of give each other the space and have boundaries. Everyone tries to keep everything in their bunks. I guess I drink too much if that’s a bad habit (laughs).

Do you think there’s a big difference between your first album and your new one?

I think there are small differences that make it a big difference. There’s one less voice but the harmonies are more organic and more of what we wanted to do on the first album. I think our sound is still there because it’s still Eric and I singing, but I think there’s more depiction to our voice and not as many layers. We’ve tracked everything to focus around the vocals, unlike the first time when we tracked everything around the music. This time we got to kind of put our voices in the forefront and I think that makes a big difference. It’s the smaller things we’ve changed that makes a big difference. We’ve breathed more and we sound more like what we sound like live, and I think that makes a big difference at the end of the day.

How has the reception been for it so far?

Everyone’s loving it better than the first one. Unless they’re just saying that, I hope they mean it (laughs). We have a new producer, Josh Leo, we switched to him for the new album and it’s been awesome. He did old Alabama, all those good bands, and we admired him. We wanted to make an album that he likes to make, that he was used to, so we had a natural vibe in the studio. It was awesome. I made a couple of videos to put up from our time in the studio together. Pretty cool.

Is there one thing you want to accomplish this year that you haven’t yet?

Ooh, that’s a great question. Well, we would love to win CMA duo of the year but we know there’s a lot of great artists after that. We wouldn’t expect to ever win that. We’ve never won an award, “Angel Eyes” went gold, but we’ve never won an actual award. We’d never expect to win something like that but if we ever did we’d be thrilled.

Do you have plans on coming up here to Canada?

We’re coming to Toronto. We’re playing at Humber College, it’s a free show outdoors. That’s in like two weeks. We have a hard time getting into Canada, I had to write a letter, because of Eric’s record (laughs).

With the little knife thing..

Yeah, we almost couldn’t get into Canada because of him. I had to write a letter vouching for him, it cost me like 3 or 4 thousand dollars, it was insane.

Do you make him check his pockets now?

Yeah, I check his pockets before we go to the airport (laughs). I’m like ‘alright, let me see your backpack, open it up Eric, no I gotta see all the compartments, open it all up Eric, come on, I’ve gotta see everything!’.

Just like a little kid.

Yeah. I’ve brought knives through the airport before, but not like him. I’ve never brought one that big, that was his problem. That was a huge knife.


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A 26 year-old Canadian girl currently living in England for a culinary career. Fell in love with country music and cooking at a young age, and looks for a way to do both.