Country can be hip. And country can be tech-savvy. We all know this, of course, but thanks to the newest generation of pop-country artists, soon the whole world will know. Gloriana, the fresh-faced quartet who gained incredible fan momentum this summer opening for Taylor Swift, is a clear example: members showcase their youthful hi-jinks on YouTube and invented a new language on Twitter. And the music, fresh and upbeat, backs them up: with tracks about driving fast, living free and being young and in love, Gloriana’s new self-titled album (released August 4th) combines the rich harmonies of Little Big Town with the restless, youthful idealism of Born To Run-era Bruce Springsteen. Guitarist Mike Gossin spoke with CMP about pranking Taylor Swift, unusual autographs and the benefits of Twitter.
Country Music Pride: Where are you now?
Mike Gossin: We are in Eugene, Oregon.
CMP: And how’s the West Coast?
MG: It’s great. I flew in late last night. Had a little vacation time so everybody went their separate ways. Beautiful day out here.
CMP: You’ve been playing a lot of festivals and county fairs this summer. Tell us about your favorite moments from the festival circuit.
MG: We have been doing a lot of fairs and festivals and it’s been a great, great change-up for us because we’ve been on tour with Taylor Swift. It’s a completely different atmosphere. You get people there on a hot day and the crowd’s just wild. I like the atmosphere. You’re going from a stadium with 20,000 people a night to a fair with 10—it’s night and day. It’s a lot more wild at the fairs.
CMP: Any great stories from life on the road with Taylor Swift?
MG: We have a great time with her. She’s awesome. There was one night where I went out on stage. We’re always pranking people. I went on stage one night with a fake mustache––we sing a song with Kellie and Taylor at the end of the night—and I had both of them laughing so hard they could barely sing. And they’ve got these big video screens that project us on stage and even the camera guys were laughing and saying it was the funniest thing they’ve ever seen. It was like an old-school mustache.
CMP: Tell us a little bit about the new album.
MG: The new album came out August 4th. The response has just been amazing—the coolest thing for me is we’ve been a band for over two years and you really play a lot of shows. We’re playing four, five times a week. And just to see the transformation of people—you play the shows before the album came out and people were kind of getting into it, but now the entire crowd is singing along to every word and it’s not just the singles. They’re singing track 8, track 9 word for word. That’s just been amazing.
CMP: You guys are from all different parts of the country—Texas, upstate New York, and Georgia by way of California. Do you think the diversity of backgrounds in the group impacts the music? How?
MG: I wouldn’t say geographic location really affects the music. But I do think the people are like your family. Tom and I coming from a family where our dad was always playing music around the house really impacted us. And I’d say the same for the girls. I think life experiences and the people you’re surrounded by affect the music you like and what you listen to rather than where you’re from.
CMP: What’s it like to be so young—such a new band—and play the Opry?
MG: That was just an amazing experience. We were honored to be asked to play there and play again. So many great, great country stars have been on that stage––Johnny Cash. We got to meet Little Jimmy Dickens, which was amazing. And the history behind that place is really, really amazing. So many greats have stood up there and we were really honored. It’s an experience we’ll never forget.
CMP: One of your members, Rachel, got a marriage proposal during a summer show in Wisconsin. Has this become a trend?
MG: Yeah. Actually it has. I got proposed to also about three weeks back. We were in South Dakota. It happens every once in a while. We’ve got some of the greatest fans in the world and it’s always fun for us at the end of the show to go and meet everybody and sign stuff for people and you have some of the best memories in those meet and greets. For instance, we signed a newborn baby.
CMP: You signed a newborn baby.
MG: Yeah. We told the lady, ‘Are you sure you want to be doing this, with permanent marker?’ and she said yes, and we were like, ‘Okay.’ We’ve signed diapers, we’ve signed shoes, cups, cell phones, iPods, arms, foreheads, it’s pretty crazy some of the stuff—it’s hilarious. We have a great, great time doing it.
CMP: You’ve really ramped up your career through social networking and online community building—you’ve built up a presence on digital music sites like Rhapsody and iTunes and even invented your own Twitter language—
MG: I’ve been getting a kick out of that, the language we invented. People are having a good time with that.
CMP: What sort of impact do you think this whole social networking strategy has, both on you and the fans?
MG: I think for the fans, it’s so cool because when I was young, we never had that. So it’s just a way to stay more connected to us. It’s really almost like having somebody’s AIM screen name or their cell phone number. It’s like text messaging for a large group of people and I think that’s so cool. They’re your fans, but also your friends. I get a kick going on there reading what people are doing during the day. It’s really, really cool and for them, I think it makes them feel more connected and as a band, it makes us feel pride to give back to the people who are supporting us and believe in us and like our music. We can become friends with them and I think that’s pretty cool.
CMP: On the subject of Twitter, do you follow any other musicians? Who are your favorites?
MG: Well Taylor Swift, we follow her because she’s just amazing. She’s been so good to us on this tour and she’s a good friend of ours. She’s a funny girl, she really is. That would probably be our favorite.
CMP: A video on your “GTV” YouTube page shows the band attempting to shoplift your own CD from Best Buy on the day it was released. Any other acts of deviance you’d like to tell us about?
MG: You know, that was the first of the deviance. But I’m sure there’s going to be many, many more. As you can tell from the GTV videos, we are always goofing off. Did you see the one this week with the shrimp?
MG: That’s my favorite one. We’re trying to have fun. We’re trying to make people laugh. It gives people something to look forward to every Tuesday. And Tuesdays stink, let’s be honest. Nothing good ever happens on a Tuesday. We just have a blast doing it. I’m sure there will be more acts of deviance soon to come.
CMP: You’ve spent a lot of time in front of cameras, between Cheyenne Kimball’s reality show on MTV and your appearances on ABC, CMT, what have you. How have your on-camera appearances impacted you?
MG: You know, Cheyenne had some experience doing her reality show. She was used to it. Tom and I in our hometown, we were filming some stuff too in our hometown and were doing a documentary with a camera crew. And Rachel did a lot of theatre growing up as a kid. So I think we were all used to it, in a sense. Some people get really nervous being in front of a camera, in front of an audience. We kind of just get up there and do our thing and it’s not that weird for us.
CMP: Any advice for camera-shy readers?
MG: If you’re nervous in front of a camera, there’s a little trick they tell you to do in theatre and in the performing arts. They say you should picture everybody in their underwear. And I’d have to say that works for me. You’ve gotta laugh. Even though everybody’s looking at you, it helps to think of something goofy. It’s really not that bad.
CMP: You’re playing a high school in Ohio in October. How’d that come about?
MG: Before school got out, we had been doing high schools, a couple every week. Playing for the kids. We wanted to give them a chance, since all the Taylor Swift shows were sold out, we wanted to give them a chance to hear us play. And I was always bored at school. I couldn’t wait to get out. We’re giving them a break in their day and a chance to hear some cool tunes. We drive the tour bus right up to the school and hang out.
CMP: Where is Gloriana going next?
Well, we’re gonna finish up the Taylor Swift tour in October and then we’re going to go tour for three months with another artist. We’re gonna team up with someone else and do a fall tour and revisit all the places we went with Taylor Swift. And then next year, we have plans to go on tour with a certain superstar and I can’t reveal it just yet but we’re really looking forward to playing with a full band. We’re actually getting a bass player and a drummer on the tour. So that’s the plan.