Country duo to open for Smash Mouth


Bobby Shipman

Stephen Barker Liles likes to stay busy to ease his anxiousness before he performs.

“Depending on where we are at, if it is not a dry place, we will take a shot of Jack Daniel’s on the bus and then, right before we go on, maybe we’ll listen to some music,” Liles said in an interview with The Shield and The Edge Radio, “Or, we’ll just be hanging out on the bus watching SportsCenter.”

Liles and friend Eric Gunderson are Love and Theft, a country duo set to open for Smash Mouth at Springfest 2014.

Liles and Gunderson met almost a decade ago in Nashville, Tenn., after Liles moved there from Florida with his then musical-partner Shannon Smith – who introduced the two.

The pair hit it off and, about 18 months later, began writing songs together.

After crafting their first demo, “Drowning,” in Gunderson’s studio, they realized they had something in common.

“We listened back and we were like, “D*mn, we sound like were related or something,’” Liles said. “That’s kind of the beginning right there. We started working together ever since.”

An eclectic mix of performers such as Tim McGraw, George Straight, The Eagles and Elvis Presley – his biggest role model – inspired Liles while growing up, he said.

A pastor’s son, Liles was raised listening to gospel, oldies and country.

“Country music is the biggest genre of music going on in the country right now (in which) people actually still play their own instruments. If you have respect for real, live music you should come see us,” he said. “We actually sing, unlike a lot of pop radio right now (which) is all program stuff – a lot of lip syncing.”

Liles said he and Gunderson take their music seriously but are more carefree when performing.

“It’s going to be pretty high energy. We’ll have a good time. We have a lot of harmonies,” he said. “Our lead guitar player is one of the best I have ever seen in my life, so we are lucky to have him.”

Liles said Love and Theft can relate to college students because they attended college and are still young.

“A lot of our music relates to college students,” he said. “We are actually both college drop-outs. We’re not proud of it, but it worked out good because we went into music. Our parents were not super thrilled about that until – I guess now it worked out okay.”

He said he looks forward to meeting and opening for Smash Mouth.

“They were part of that 90s rock movement that blew off the map,” he said.

Liles said Love and Theft and Smash Mouth will create a good mesh of music.

Tickets are available at the USI Campus Store or online at Student tickets are $5 and are allowed to purchase one non-student ticket for $10.