It’s a big, opportunistic stage for contest winners

By Paul Harris

Baby-faced and excited, the Luke Preston Band looks more ready for a prom than for playing at Country Stampede.

Winners of the Road to the Stampede contest, the band, comprised of five members and hailing from Belmont University in Nashville, played on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on the same billing as headliner and country king Toby Keith. 

The band, which was used to crowds of 60 to 70, stepped on stage in front of a crowd of several thousand.

“We felt like rock stars,” guitarist Luke Enyeart said.

After the show, Enyeart and the rest of his bandmates signed autographs and sold CDs. The band recently released a four-song mini-album titled “When You’re Lost.”

It’s been a whirlwind for members of the band, who have only played in 6 to 7 gigs around the Nashville area and Tampa, Fla. over the past year before playing in Stampede.

While the crowd on hand for the fresh-faced quintet was larger than their previous concerts, v ocalist Luke Preston and his bandmates seemed unfazed by the pressure.

“I’m just really excited,” Preston said prior to his gig.

The parents of the college-aged group shared Preston’s sentiments.

Gold’s mom is hoping Toby Keith will see the five-some and want to sign them on the spot.

Their time in Nashville has acted as a training tool for the soon-to-be sophomores in college.

“If you’re not ready for the stage, then you’re not going to get gigs,” Gold said about the competitive nature of country music in that city. “Country music is a whole different animal in Nashville.”

Preston said he knew that if he wanted to pursue a career in country music, he could not move away from the bright lights of Music City.

“Sure there are a lot of people better than me, but I knew that I could not shy away from that,” he said. So I’m just going to try and book as many shows as possible…and not be intimidated.”

The band is the only unsigned group playing on the Saturday main stage.

Preston’s songwriting holds the group together. It’s a style that is a blend of influences from the pop-rock of Tom Petty to the country grit of Willie Nelson.

On the band’s four-song EP, tunes deal with suicidal thoughts and the promotion of Libertarian politics.

That range of topics make the Luke Preston Band hard to peg.

Preston said they fall somewhere in between the current country-pop sound that can be heard on the radio and the outlaw sound that was popularized by Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson.

This being the group’s second trip to Manhattan, Preston said it has already started to feel like home.

The boys partied in Aggieville after winning the Road to Stampede contest at Kite’s. The friendliness they experienced left a mark on Preston, who has talked with band members about moving here.

Preston, Gold, and Enyeart hope there will be more such rides in the future. Right now though, the 19-year olds are just living life, playing music and giving it the good old college try.

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