By Kurt Wolff

Sometimes, there truly is strength in numbers. Just ask Stephen Barker Liles and Eric Gunderson of country duo Love and Theft.

As they explain to, having a partner in your career as an artist means someone always has your back.

“As a solo artist, everyone around you is saying, ‘Yes, yes yes, you look great in those shoes, your hair looks great,'” explains Barker Liles. “For us, it’s not all about me, it’s not all about him [Gunderson], it’s about us. And that’s a really big deal.”

It’s also one of the reasons Love and Theft has been around for nearly a decade now—and that Gunderson and Barker Liles have weathered numerous changes, including losing members (they were originally a trio) as well as their record contract with a major Nashville label, Sony.

All that turbulence, though, has led to one of the duo’s strongest collections to date, their new album Whiskey on My Breath.

The album’s lead single is the title track, an introspective track that has the quality and tone of a spiritual. Vince Gill agrees. As Gunderson tells it, after watching them perform it one night at the Ryman in Nashville recently, Gill had a few kind and very choice words for the duo. “We came off stage and he said, ‘That’s how you sing boys.’ To hear that from Vince Gill, that’s huge for us.”

Gunderson and Barker Liles say they wrote all the songs on the album themselves, in conjunction with songwriter friends from inside (and outside) the Nashville community. While the arrangements are largely acoustic this time around (a deliberate move, they say), the songs themselves are diverse, from slow, thoughtful ballads to more uptempo sing-alongs.

For both of them, a favorite track on the album is one called “Everybody Drives Drunk.” While it sounds on the surface like an apology for bad behavior, there’s actually a lot more to it.

“It makes a statement, kind of a ‘get off your high horse…nobody’s perfect,'” Barker Liles explains. And it’s not just about drinking. “You can be driving drunk on something other than alcohol,” he says. “One of the lines is, ‘everybody’s got something rushing through their blood…everyone has an addiction…no sin’s greater than another.’ It’s already brought up a lot of great conversation on social media, and it had a lot of people judging it even before you were able to listen to it.”



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