"I want to be the band that saves country music."
If said by anyone else these words may come across cocky, but Will Holland, with his thick Texas drawl and lighthearted laugh, is ambitious rather than arrogant. In fact, The Lonely Hearts, fronted by Will and his brother Josiah Holland, are pointed to do just that. They are a new take on the country band, one that can write its own innovative songs but still have the mass appeal so often missed with creative freedom these days. You will find no cookie cutters here. The Lonely Hearts want to be popular without being too formulaic so that they are appreciated by both the public and the critics: The Eagles for this generation, if you will.
The Holland brothers grew up singing together in the small East Texas town of Linden. From a very young age they listened to the stuff that country music is made of: Williams, Nelson and Cash. However, Josiah can also remember their mother blasting "Born in the USA" as their father came home from work for his birthday. She even taught them the first song they learned on guitar, Neil Young's classic "Old Man". Their father meanwhile was a huge Beatles fan. Also a great influence, this would seem to explain the band's name, but in fact does not.
"I actually didn't even think of Sgt. Pepper?s," says Will of his conception of The Lonely Hearts. "It [the name] just sounded so down 'n' country - like if Hank Williams had a backing band. Of course I later found out he did have a backing band and they were called The Drifting Cowboys, but I suppose that's the same sorta idea."
In 2001, the Holland brothers decided to give music a real shot and moved to Nashville, TN. Together they were almost immediately signed to indie label Tooth & Nail Records as the band Holland. Though they had near instant success with radio play, national tours, and even scoring song placements on television shows such as ?Joan of Arcadia? and ?America's Next Top Model,? the brothers could feel their roots pulling them in a different direction. They quickly out grew the pop rock scene as they became immersed in Nashville?s historical sound. In 2006, they fulfilled the deal with their record label. This time, however, it was as The Lonely Hearts. The band?s first album, Paper Tapes, garnered critical acclaim and once again earned television placements including ABC?s ?Grey?s Anatomy? spin-off, ?Private Practice?.
It was after the release of Paper Tapes, however, that Will and Josiah started to hone in on the sound that would really become The Lonely Hearts. They describe it as having obvious country elements with well thought out melodies, that results in twangy rock n roll. With comparisons ranging from The Wallflowers to The Everly Brothers to Ryan Adams, they have never boxed themselves into a specific category. Rather than define themselves as alt-country, Americana, or even country rock, The Lonely Hearts prefer the way Gram Parsons put it best, "Cosmic American Music".
So, joined by bass player Jeremy Branon and drummer Jonathan Todryk, the Holland brothers began playing "Cosmic American Music" around town. They quickly gained local recognition as one of Nashville's up and coming bands to watch and were inducted into "Movement Nashville" with other local darlings such as Leigh Nash, Luna Halo and Bang Bang Bang. Nashville entertainment paper, The Rage, called their songs "seamless" and "well-crafted," while Jason Wilkins, music reviewer for The Tennessean said:
"The Lonely Hearts seem able to build a bridge between the emo-loving MySpace crowd and the dusty No Depression crowd."
It wasn't long until the industry folk came knocking. After meeting Shooter Jennings following a show one night, Josiah was introduced to their current manager Phin Daly (3 Doors Down). Daly quickly began setting Will up with local writing legends such as John Randall (Emmylou Harris) and James House (Martina McBride). Next came interest from former Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers drummer turned producer, Stan Lynch (The Eagles, The Band). Will was flown down to Stan's home in Florida for a weekend writing session. In Lynch the Texas-born brothers had an instant fan, saying:
"The Lonely Hearts are exactly what the doctor ordered, a real deal east Texas combo. Imagine Gram Parsons, The Burrito Brothers, The Eagles and Tom Petty's tour busses all pull into the same truck stop one rainy night, and what drives out, is The Lonely Hearts. A must for any true country rock fan."
With industry leaders, Nashville legends, and the entire state of Texas behind them, The Lonely Hearts are perched for success. Only time will tell whether they will be the ones to rescue country music, but they are in it for the long haul.
As Will puts it, "This is just me, doing the best I can as a young man to make it so that I can do this for a long time."