Paradise Outlaw guitarist Kevin Langeland said in an email interview for an earlier column that his band lets their music do the talking. That approach paid off big time when the band won the coveted B93 Battle to the Bash celebration in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The band’s music got radio play as a result of that win, and the exposure was no small feat. B93 (WBCT) is the most powerful radio station in North America. Where does the band go from here?
As with any other band, the goal is bringing more fans into the fold. Langeland said something every independent musician probably agrees with. He and his fellow band members want to “get venues to ask us to come play instead of us asking them.”
How did a band whose members weren’t lifelong friends come together? Craig’s List and camaraderie in music played a role.
Langeland said, “The band came together through music.” He said he’d been searching for people to play the kind of music he was in to—American/Heartland rock stuff.” Finding people who were right for the concept proved hard. So he turned to the Web. “I put an ad up on the Craigslist musicians page, and Kyle (Gifford) answered that. He came over and we had a great time playing, so we decided to keep that going.”
Finding a drummer was a little easier—Kevin had played with Nate Vredeveld at church years earlier. The three of them—Kevin, Kyle, and Nate—“worked on writing music and making ideas for awhile.”
Soon, it was back to Craigslist in a search for a vocalist, but the singers who tried out didn’t work out. Then they found Colin. Kevin said, “He was singing in a cover band at a bar, and I knew everyone else in his band except him.” Kevin knew Colin’s brother though. “After the show, I approached him, reminded him of who I was, and asked if he’d like to try singing originals.”
Kevin and the band liked Colin’s style. “His voice fit our style musically.” Colin came aboard, and continued to sing with the cover band he’d been performing with. It happened that Colin knew a bass player from college. He brought John Johnson over and Colin said, “John fit.” That rounded out the band.
A key moment for Paradise Outlaw came when they won the Battle to the Bash, part of a celebration created by B93(WBCT). The station has the largest broadcast power of any on the continent. Bands from all over the Midwest could submit a song. Ten were picked to play before judges in hopes of winning the right to open for national acts at the station’s Birthday Bash concert.
Since WBCT’s founding, the station has hosted an annual free concert. Some of the biggest names in country music play at the event. Paradise Outlaw won one spot of ten in the final competition. Kevin said,
“We were chosen as one of the ten bands out of hundreds of submissions, so that alone was mind blowing to us. There were two rounds of competition, and we obviously ended up making it thru to the finals and winning the contest. The judges were all ‘big timers’ from Nashville. Record reps and artist reps and managers, etc. People who work for or with RCA, Sony, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, stuff like that. So to have them vote us as the best band was incredible.”
It wasn’t just the win that made Kevin and his bandmates happy. One judge elaborated on the win, and in the end, it really was all about letting the music do the talking:
“[She] told us her job was to take bands to radio and she’d be willing to go that route with us in a heart beat. She said our sound, professionalism, and cohesiveness as a band was second to none. It was pretty wild to hear that…We figured (and were told) that we brought the win home by really being original. We didn’t play popular cover songs like other bands, we weren’t playing music that was trying to sound like what you hear on the radio, we didn’t pull gimmicks to work the crowd, we just went up there and did our thing and it worked. The music actually did the talking. After winning the contest and leading up to the show B93, would mention us on the radio and play a handful of our songs throughout the days and that was one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced. They talked about how good we were and how everyone had to come see us and I just couldn’t believe they were talking about my band!”
Kevin shared some of the other remarks judges made. The band had “confidence”, one said, and their “stage presence [was] pretty awesome.” Another judge noted their chemistry as a band, something that grabbed my attention the first time I listened to their music.
Asked if there were any special places they’d like to play, Keven said he “personally” wanted to play in Alabama, because he lived there. “I have a heart for that place.” Other places included the South in general, but he said, “We’d be excited to play new audiences anywhere. I think our music is pretty universal.”
All the band’s songs are tight, but two that caught my ear right off the bat were “Wastin’ the Day” and “Friday 1974.” Both songs evoke the free-spirited music of the era when I came of age—the 1970s. So much great music was made then, and although Paradise Outlaw music is very contemporary in its aesthetic, the music is like a time machine taking you back to an era when remarkable creativity was unleashed and music touched hearts without being overtly didactic as it often is today.
Kevin wrote the song “Friday 1974,” explaining it related to his dad:
“That 70’s era is my favorite time – the music, the cars, the people, the way of life. And that’s also when my dad was in his 20s. He got to grow up when I wish I could have. I often wish I was there and dream about that old way of life, so ‘Friday 1974’ is me and my dad having a good time on the weekend. I actually use his name in the song and mention a bar where he grew up.”
Kevin said he and his dad still go to that bar sometimes.
As is the case with many bands, their family and friends offered Paradise Outlaw encouragement and support. Kevin said those supporters help spread the word, and they “wear our t-shirts, use our beer koozies” and such.
Like his bandmates, John had special gratitude for his parents when it comes to supporters:
“All of my family and friends, but especially my parents. They helped so much in the early days with equipment and lessons and have always come out to watch shows. I’ll also credit them for my diverse taste in music. They listened to folk, punk, metal, rock, pop and everything in between and that definitely affected my own music.”
Paradise Outlaw has managed to do fairly quickly what many bands hope to do. They’ve heard their music played on major radio, opened for bands that are household names, and experienced the thrill of a massive audience clapping and dancing to their tunes. There’s still much to do, however,
Kevin indicated Paradise Outlaw wants to expand the band’s reach, grow the fan base, and do bigger shows. “Perhaps a record deal,” said Kevin. “We love writing and playing, and we want to share our music with all the people we can.”
John puts it simply when asked about their goals:
“Keep growing, in reach and ability, and continue to create better music.”
They’re off to an extraordinarily good start.
(Kay B. Day/July 30, 2018)