Growing up in the outdoors of Kokomo, Indiana, and Arkansas, Preston Brust’s woodsier upbringing was far removed from his LOCASH partner Chris Lucas, who was raised near the water in Baltimore. Reminiscing on the carefreeness of youth and the places they return to reset, the pair paid homage to the natural elements that shaped them on recent EP Woods & Water.
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Following up the Nashville duo’s 2019 album Brothers, which featured the Ashley Gorley-penned hit “One Big Country Song” (the songwriter’s 50th No. 1), Woods & Water finds common ground for Brust and Lucas, symmetry in nature, exploring an escapist “Into the Woods,” and envisioning bigger dreams near smaller ponds on “Small Town for Life.”
Writing nearly 150 songs, alone, during the pandemic, and feeding off the expanse of “One Big Country Song,” the duo leaned into a specific pocket of songs with a more positive outlook for the times on Woods & Water.
“We wanted to find the good things in life to be appreciative of, and still be relevant during a time like this, and to have a message that really spoke to people’s hearts,” Brust tells American Songwriter. “I think that helped us write the songs in a positive way. It started to feel like we were going to get through this together.”
Lucas adds, “More people have gone outdoors since the pandemic. Everything was closed, except for nature, the water, and hiking, running, biking. I feel like the timing couldn’t be better.”
Produced by Corey Crowder (Florida Georgia Line, Chris Young), with additional productions by Clint Lagerberg on the closing track “Chillionaire,” Lucas and Brust wrote each song with a collective of co-writers, including Rhett Akins (Brooks & Dunn, Jason Aldean), Dallas Davidson (Blake Shelton, Lady A), and Ben Hayslip (Thomas Rhett, Dustin Lynch).
On the aptly named opener “Beach Boys,” the pair pays homage to The Beach Boys (crediting Brian Wilson and Mike Love). The track is a precursor to another version of the sunny song, featuring Mike Love, scheduled for release this year.
“I’m gonna go ahead and say it is one of my favorite songs that we’ve written since ‘I Love This Life,’ says Lucas. “That vibe comes on, and it’s already familiar. Even for the kids that don’t know who The Beach Boys are, it’s familiar.”
Hitting their first No. 1 with “I Know Somebody” in 2016, LOCASH who first met as DJs at the Wildhorse Saloon Nashville in 2002 and later released their 2008 debut LOCASH Cowboys, went on to write Keith Urban’s No. 1 hit “You Gonna Fly” in 2011 and Tim McGraw’s 2012 single “Truck Yeah,” and recently signed an extended global publishing agreement with BMG in October of 2021.
For Brust and Lucas, working with other writers is about extracting the best work out of everyone in the room. “Now that we’ve had a little radio success, those writers really bring their A-game and the best ideas they’ve got to the table,” said Brust. “We don’t want to settle with lyrics. Every line has to be a home run. That’s when songs come together stronger than ever.”
The 11 tracks off Brothers were completely outside cuts for the duo. “I have always believed that the best song wins,” says Brust. “And we just heard songs that were better than the ones that we had initially written.”
Brust adds, “If you continue to write, hopefully you get a little bit better each and every day. The level of songwriters that we have had in the room has been a blessing, and I think it’s shining through on this project.”
When the pandemic hit, they thought their single “One Big Country Song” would die down, and then the opposite happened. “All of a sudden the song started resonating with people, and the message started resonating,” says Brust. “The song got this new life and some legs under it again and it took off, so we had a bit of a silver lining during the pandemic. We watched our song almost die, and then go all the way to number one during the pandemic, and that lifted our spirits.”
Even the EP title has deeper meaning for the duo. “We would have named ourselves Woods and Water a long time ago, but we already had LOCASH established,” jokes Lucas. “It’s a great name for a duo if anyone wants it.”
Photo: Cal & Aly