Like so many people living in the polyglot southeast, a region as likely to produce Jason Aldean as it is to launch Lil Yachty, Chris Lane spent his formative years absorbing the full range of pop, rarely taking time to categorize the sounds in his earbuds. That willingness to accept music without barriers gave Lane the confidence to create his proudly hybrid country-pop album Girl Problems.
“You know, I grew up listening to George Strait and Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson and all those guys, but I also loved Justin Timberlake and the Backstreet Boys and Usher,” Lane said during a recent Oklahoma Gazette phone interview. “I listen to a little bit of anything and everything.”
Lane performs with Dustin Lynch and Florida Georgia Line Feb. 25 at Chesapeake Arena, 100 W. Reno Ave.
Lane, originally from Kernersville, North Carolina, got his start surveying a wide swath of cover material as leader of the Chris Lane Band, which featured his twin brother, Cory Lane, on drums.
The group made the circuit through the southeast and became a significant draw in the musically active college towns of the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida.
The twins auditioned for American Idol in 2007, at the height of the music competition’s success, but did not make it onto the show.
Going the indie route proved more fruitful for Lane. In 2012, the Chris Lane Band released Let’s Ride on Kernersville-based Loradale Drive Records and managed to hit No. 75 on Billboard country charts.
Emboldened by this first taste of success, Lane moved to Nashville and signed to Big Loud Records, home of both Lynch and Florida Georgia Line, two acts with no compunction about incorporating glossy electronics, 808s and bass drops into their back-road ballads.
Lane felt at home with his labelmates and soon started crossing the U.S. on lengthy bus tours, working out and writing songs together in Florida Georgia Line’s mobile studio.
In some respects, Lane sees himself as a transitional artist between the new, R&B-influenced groups proliferating in country and the similarly popular neo-traditionalist strain.
“Country music, where it’s at right now, is very broad,” Lane said. “You’ve got guys like Chris Stapleton that are killing it doing their style and what they love, and then you’ve got guys like Thomas Rhett and Sam Hunt who are on the other end of the spectrum. I try to find a place to sit in the middle and do both. So when we went into the studio to do my record, we were trying to figure out exactly what kind of style I wanted to have.”
What sets Lane apart is a tenor that can make a dramatic shift into falsetto just when it’s needed. He said a happy accident in the studio with that falsetto resulted in a complete shift in direction while recording Girl Problems.
“One day, I had this Usher song in my head, and I was singing these high falsetto runs, and my producer [Joey Moi (Florida Georgia Line, Owl City)] turned around in his chair and said, ‘What was that? That’s what we need to be doing,’” Lane said. “That kind of changed our thought process in the writing room. Then the song ‘Fix’ came out of that, which became my first single, and it had the falsetto and some cool characteristics that I could bring vocally. That changed the entire direction of what I was doing. So we scrapped the songs I’d been working on and we started over.”
“Fix,” which takes a late-model Coldplay sensibility and gives it a Mason-Dixon makeover, went to No. 1 on the Billboard country airplay chart and cracked the Top 10 on the country singles chart, and his follow-up single, “For Her,” went Top 40, too. He said the plan was to make everything pop in the studio, but also ready to hit the backs of the stadiums on the current tour.
“We took our time, and I picked the songs that I’d truly fallen in love with and songs that would really translate live, as well,” Lane said. “I learned from Florida Georgia Line when I moved to Nashville, how high energy their shows are and how people react. I wanted that same kind of energy.”
Florida Georgia Line with Dustin Lynch and Chris Lane
7 p.m. Feb. 25
100 W. Reno Ave.
Print Headline: New Lane, Chris Lane adds his distinctive R&B-country sound to Florida Georgia Line’s tour.