By Brian Ives

Runaway June is one of country’s new groups to watch in 2017, thanks to the buzz that they started last year with their song “Lipstick.” The trio, made up of singer-guitarist Naomi Cooke, singer-mandolin player Hannah Mulholland and singer-guitarist Jennifer, describe themselves as country music that is not “rhinestone-y,”  but “rough and leather-y.”

In “Lipstick,” they advise women, “If you’re gonna love somebody, you better love somebody who ruins your lipstick, not your mascara.”

“We [co-] wrote it and it was one of the ‘funner’ writes we’ve done as a band,” Cooke recalls. “A co-writer of ours who is also an artist, and we all look up to her, Rebecca Lynn Howard, and her husband, Elisha Hoffman, we wrote it with them [Caroline Hobby is also a co-writer on the song]. She brought in the idea, we all jumped on it, and it was the coolest thing, like, ‘Oh my gosh! That’s never been written!’ But it’s super-relatable.”

Mulholland adds, “It’s one of those things that floats around on Pinterest, that gets shared, those little memes. It’s phrased a little bit differently in the meme. But now, we’ve been seeing memes of our exact lyrics, so now our song is a new meme.”

Cooke notes, “But there’s a lot of songs with that ‘thing.’ It’s like: ‘It’s five o’clock somewhere’ has been said forever, but then someone thought to write it and it’s a huge, huge hit. You find little stories in life, and you write about it. That’s what writers and artists do.”

The group are just starting out, but they recently got some good advice from a guy who knows a bit about the country music industry: Garth Brooks.

Cooke explains: “We have a really, really good mutual friend and now he co-manages Garth. He wasn’t [Garth’s co-manager] at the time. But we were at a barbecue at our friend’s lake house and Garth owns like five or six hundred acres near this home. And everyone had kind of left [the party] besides Jen and I. He got a text, and he was like, ‘Hey, do you guys want to go to Garth’s house?’ And we were like, ‘Garth Brooks?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, he said he couldn’t make it over [here] but he wants us to come [to his place].’ And we’re like ‘Yeah!’ And it’s like 9:30.”

“We drive over there and we park at this house, and then we take a jeep ride way back into the woods, and up this mountain, and we get there, and there’s a fire going, and he has this really beautiful barn, and this really awesome view. And he stayed there and talked to us for a really long time. He was in sweatpants, and was ordering pizza, and he talked to us about the music business and gave us advice and was so interested [in our career].”

“He was concerned that we were including the writing community. ‘Make sure you give back, and cut songs [by other writers],’ and he was just… it doesn’t even sound real when I tell it. He was making s’mores and talking about the record business.”

Related: Garth Brooks’ ‘Ropin’ The Wind’ Turns 25: A Look Back at a Game Changing Album

Wayne adds, “And when you talk to people that have met him, everyone that meets him has a story. And it really changes their lives and gives them a special moment that they have forever. And he’s just touching all of these people, and I just think that’s so cool.

Naomi: “John Wayne was the same way.”

Jen: “Yeah, my grandpa” — yes, Runaway June’s Jennifer Wayne is the granddaughter of John Wayne —  “was the same way. People have stories [about him] that isn’t about his acting, it’s ‘Oh, I heard he did this for someone’ and ‘I heard he did that for someone.'”

Mulholland points out, “And things that were not for credit or notoriety, just a private act of kindness.”

Cooke concludes, “What I took away from meeting [Brooks] is: The stories are true, and I want to be just like him.”

Wayne recalls, “It was so funny, we always heard that he remembers people’s names, he’ll remember everybody’s name, even if he’s met you one time. He met my aunt one time — one time, they don’t know each other at all, it was like twenty years before — and he says ‘You make sure you tell your Aunt Marisa I said hello,’ and I’m like, ‘What? How do you remember my aunt, I can’t believe that!'”

Runaway June will surely meet more of their idols in 2017; expect to see them on the road throughout much of the year. Catch all of their dates at Eventful.

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