2017 was a year that Big Machine’s Midland isn’t going to be forgetting anytime soon. Their debut single, “Drinkin’ Problem,” hit No. 3 on the Country Airplay chart, helping to propel On The Rocks, their debut album, to No. 2 upon its’ release in September.
The band found themselves opening for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s Soul2Soul tour, and wound up the year with a pair of Grammy nominations – and finishing high on many year-end critics lists, including Billboard’s Radio listeners throughout America have latched on to their throwback sound in a big way, and according to the band’s Cameron Duddy, the ride really began in full throttle at the 2017 Country Radio Seminar, where they performed at a luncheon that was organized by their label. As soon as their performance was over, he could tell that they made an impact.
“I remember shaking a bunch of hands afterwards,” he recalls, of his first experiences with many of the programmers after their performance. “That would be normally a time where a lot of the PD’s leave, and wander off for some much-needed stuck around. I would say that half of them stuck around inside the room where we played and wanted to chat. It kind of came out of left field for everybody. It was instant gratification in a way. It was nice.”
After that, the band commenced on their initial radio tour, which Jess Carson says "was a learning experience. All of us love pizza, and to not indulge into every opportunity every single day was hard for us. So, we doubled down on drinking.”
All joking aside, embarking on such a promotional junket is not the easiest thing to do. You’re visiting three to four stations a day, going to bed late and getting up early. "Radio tours are not for the faint of heart,” says Carson. "You really have to believe in what you’re doing. Sometimes, when you go to bed at the night in your motel room somewhere in America, you wonder if anyone else believes. But everyone has been so supportive.”
Carson says that everyone made them feel welcome on the radio tour, with each member getting to visit their old stomping grounds in the process. “It’s always fun to go back to your hometown and meet the people who are behind the music there. I grew up in rural Oregon, so getting to meet with people at the stations in Portland, and for Mark to go to Phoenix, and Cam to visit Sacramento was really a cool part of the ride.”
Country radio has continued their belief in the trio by voting them onto the New Faces Show, which will bring the 2018 Seminar to a close this coming Wednesday (February 7). Carson says that he takes that distinction very seriously: “Being voted onto the show validates the hard work that you put in. This is the medal at the end of the race. The race will continue, but for this leg, it feels nice to get a pat on the back.”
Lead singer Mark Wystrach agrees with that assessment, adding that to a new artist, CRS is crucial to your career climb. “Everything is still so new to us,” he explains. “We played our very first CRS last year, and I don’t think we understood the impact of CRS until we went on a radio tour. Every PD or MD across the country had seen that performance, so you realize the reach that this singular event has. The effect that it has on your career is incredible, so to be selected is a validation, and perhaps another reason to stow that truck drivers’ school number away for another year.”
Making the event even greater for Midland is getting to share the night with four other acts – Lauren Alaina, Luke Combs, Michael Ray, and labelmate Carly Pearce – that the group has become fans of and friends with. “We’re in good company,” Wystrach adds. “Everybody who was voted onto the show is someone that we’ve played shows with and have become good friends with. It’s an exciting time in country music right now, with a lot of great new acts. It’s a cool time to be in the format.”
The new year looks to continue much the same way that 2017 left off. The group’s second single, “Make A Little,” continues to climb – sitting at no. 31 on Billboard‘s Country Songs chart — and once again, the band will be on the road with some of the genre’s top acts. “It’s going to be a really great year,” chimes Duddy. “We’ve got the Little Big Town tour, then Thomas Rhett, and some festivals over the summer, and a good amount of our own shows. We just sold out the Grizzly Rose in Denver, which was very rewarding. Through radio, people are exposed to our music, coming to our shows, and singing along with us. We’re just trying to get better as a band, so 2018… here we come!”