The Coleman Brothers have a sound firmly rooted in the traditions of Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson but have mixed in sensibilities from the current trend of Country-pop. Recently, Greg and Denny Coleman opened for Dierks Bentley, who they cite as a major influence on their new music, at the Texas Toyota Bass Classic. Their chart-topping hit “Ghost Town” spent an impressive five weeks at No. 1 on the New Music Weekly Chart earlier this year, and their followup “Lonely in a Lonestar State” looks to achieve the same feat.
Examiner recently spoke with the Brothers, as well as longtime musician and collaborator Don Hutchko, who has played with many of the greats in music, including Nelson, Roy Head & The Traits and Clint Black (among others). Greg, Denny and Hutchko opened up about their musical upbringing, cutting a song from a Chris Young demo and what the future holds (and much more).
Examiner: How many years have you been coming to CMA Fest?
Denny Coleman: This is our first trip.
EX: How are you taking it all in?
Greg Coleman: It’ll probably take two weeks to absorb all this. It’s crazy. Not complaining [because of] the writer’s cramps. [laughs] We’ve been signing [autographs] all day.
DC: The important thing is we’ve got to say hello to so many wonderful people. It’s been great.
EX: Your current single is “Lonely in the Lonestar State.” What’s the story behind the song?
DC: Well, it’s a true story. We wrote that song back in 2010 [about] a relationship I had with a girl back in Arkansas. She moved down from Arkansas to Texas, and you just have to listen to the words of the song. [There was] a lot of foolishness on my part [and] sent her back home to Arkansas. It was just a really hard thing for me, so I wrote a song about it. We recorded it, and right now, it’s out on radio, doing pretty [well] for us.
EX: How does that feel?
GC: Oh, golly. We actually haven’t been able to hear our song on the radio, but we’ve had other people say ‘I heard on the radio.’ I don’t know. I’d probably stop the truck in the middle of the road and do the dance. [laughs] It’s awesome.
EX: You’ve been in the music business a long time. How do you keep yourselves inspired?
DC: That’s the easy part.
GC: We’ve always had the opportunity to play with some great artists in our band, like Don Hutchko down here. He’s played with Roy Head and the Traits, so many big artists. We took up a lot from him and other artists around that have inspired us — like my dad. We just roll it all in and see what we can bring out emotionally in our music.
DC: Just sitting here with you is probably going to come out in a song somewhere. This is experience of life. That’s what we write about.
EX: When you go into a songwriting session, do you already have a melody, a lyric or a general idea? Or do you have jam sessions?
DC: Not too often on jam sessions. I’m sure we could go that route, but most of the time, it’s me and Greg together doing things. We’ll be riding down the road doing something, and he’ll grab a piece of paper, and he’ll start writing a little bit. He’ll say ‘hey, Denny, I got this.’ Or vice versa, I might have something I put down and I show him. Usually, it’s something that’s coming from within. Something will trigger it.
GC: You never know what it might be. Just sitting here, [it] might turn into something. We might write a song about something you said that [triggers] a little light bulb off in our head. It’s weird, but that’s how it works. We do sit down and write songs on purpose for somebody. They’ll ask us to write out a jingle or something like, but they tell us what they want. Most everything else just comes, like a little switch goes off. It drives you crazy until you put it on paper. It’s irritating until you get rid of it. [laughs]
DC: It’s like an artist that’s going to paint a picture. They usually see something that inspires them, and they start putting it down. They’re not satisfied until they’re done with the canvas.
GC: Then it’s over. The feeling is over, and you go about your business.
EX: Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night to write a song?
GC: That’s where a lot of them come from.
DC: Since you said that, that’s actually how I learned how to play. I had a dream about being on stage playing a song, and I [got] up the next day, I could do it. It was like watching an educational video. It was Youtube before there was Youtube. [laughs] It was Youtube in dreams.
EX: How early on were you introduced to music?
GC: I started playing in my dad’s band when I was about 10. Then, he [Denny] came along at about 10. When we got old enough, dad bought [us instruments]. I ended up with a rhythm guitar playing rhythm for dad. Then, he gave Denny a bass. Then he had two players in his band. Then, we had another brother, and when he got old enough, dad gave him drums. So, dad had his own band. He didn’t have to pay nobody. [laughs] That was pretty smart.
[Adding:] We played with dad for 20 years.
DC: We did the Holiday Inn circuit for a long time.
GC: That’s how we ended up in Texas. We were on tour, came to Texas and never left. That’s where we met Hutchko. We were doing a Roy Head show, and we played with Hutch and just gelled and been jamming together ever since.
EX: Who were your biggest influences growing up?
DC: My biggest influences was the Everly Brothers. It’s always been my dad[, too]. To me, he’s the greatest singer ever. As far as other artists, Marty Robbins, George Jones, Merle Haggard.
GC: Those guys were for me, too. When you’re young, the music that you listen to when you’re five or 10 years old, that’s the music that sticks in your head. It’s just there forever.
Don Hutchko: There’s just all kinds of good music. There’s great country music but there’s also [other influences]. Nancy Wilson, she was a jazz singer. I had [plenty of] good rock influences. I sort of like everything.
EX: Your current album is “Keeping it Reel.” What was the process like?
DC: The album itself…we named it [that] for a reason. When you see us, it is what you get. Someone asked us the other day ‘did you make that hat?’ It’s just an old hat. [laughs] We just try to keep it real with what we’re doing. Nothing fancy. It’s all straight from us. You can hear the story in the songs.
EX: Is there one song you gravitate to more than others?
DC: My favorite is ‘Lonely in the Lonestar State,’ because it had such an impact on my life. We have some friends, Jay Cooper and David Eric, that wrote ‘Ghost Town.’ They sent us an email, ‘we were listening to your music on Reverbnation, and we would like to see if you’d be interested in cutting one of our songs.’ I was like ‘well, send us the demo.’ They sent the demo, and we listened [to it]. I asked them ‘who’s singing?’ They said ‘Chris Young.’ I said ‘why are you wanting us to sing the song?’ He said ‘well, I listened to your music, and you’ve got such a sad heart.’ That’s what the song’s about. He connected with what was going on with ‘Lonely in a Lonestar State.’ He heard that song, and that’s why he wanted us to sing [his song]. So, I said ‘can we change it up a little bit.’ He said ‘that’s why I sent it to you. I want you to make it your own.’ We did and did real well for us.
DH: That was pretty wild, sending us a demo of Chris Young, which was excellent. Why would you change it? Chris did it. It’s not what he wanted, you know. We turned it into [something different]. We put ourselves into it.
GC: Chris will probably take it back and make a big hit out of it. [laughs]
EX: Are there any mainstream artists that have impressed you?
DC: Dierks Bentley is great. Joe Nichols would still be considered mainstream. He’s one of the greatest singers I’ve ever heard.
GC: Lonestar is great, too. They’re still pumping them out.
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