“Eric and I love casinos, so we’ll be real hyped to be there. We’re very upbeat and have a very harmony-driven show. And we’re looking forward to having a good time. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we’re definitely gonna have a good show,” Liles said during a telephone interview from Toronto. There he and bandmate Eric Gunderson were performing with Tim McGraw and Brantley Gilbert on McGraw’s Two Lanes of Freedom tour.
The duo began performing together in 2006, and has released singles such as “Runaway,” and “Angel Eyes,” which became their first No. 1 hit in 2012, and their latest single, “If You Ever Get Lonely,” from their self-titled album.
Liles, who is also a songwriter and guitar player, said he’s been a performer most of his life.
“I started singing as a young kid. I grew up in church,” Liles said.
“I’m a preacher’s kid so I was kind of thrown into the kid’s choir,” Liles added. “When I was 16, one of my buddies taught me how to play guitar, and then I started leading worship in the youth group, and things just progressed.”
The Florida native dropped out of college after three years and headed to Nashville, Tenn., with friends. There, he met Gunderson, and the two formed a trio with Brian Bandas, who left the group in 2011. After kicking around many band names, they decided to call themselves Love and Theft, after a 2001 Bob Dylan album of the same name.
Liles said his interest in country music goes back many years.
“In high school, I probably had more George Strait albums than any other kid. I fell in love with George Strait and Tim McGraw, too,” he said. “The great thing about those two is that they always, whether they wrote it or not, went after the best songs that they could find. That’s why they’ve had such long careers.”
In addition, he said, the Eagles were a big influence for both him and Gunderson, particularly when it comes to harmony.
As a result, Love and Theft has been nominated for various country-music accolades, including the Country Music Association’s new artist and vocal duo in 2012, and the Academy of Country Music Awards top new vocal duo/group and top vocal duo in 2013. Liles said the nods are appreciated.
“It’s so awesome to know that you’re admired. It’s definitely an honor, especially to be voted on by the industry. We definitely don’t take that for granted at all,” he said.
Audiences are excited about Love and Theft, too. The duo’s website gives fans the chance to vote for their favorite Love and Theft shirt design. Fans are also invited to post photos of their tattoos for a chance to be featured on the site.
Liles said he and Gunderson agree their Christian backgrounds have contributed to their ability to connect with fans, on and off stage.
“We grew up in church and everyone is created in the image of God. Whether you get along with them or not, you have to respect that about them,” Liles said. “We also believe in a million fans, a million hands, and you gotta meet people and hopefully they like your music. But we’re always open to meeting new people. We’re very blessed.”
And Liles said those who attend the concert Saturday might just see him or Gunderson trying to win big at the casino before the show.
“Eric’s been more of a gambler lately than me, but I’m definitely gonna play if I find the right games,” he said.
If you go ...
WHAT: Love and Theft
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3
WHERE: The H Lounge at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town, 750 Hollywood Drive, Charles Town, W.Va.
COST: Free; must be 21 or older
CONTACT: Go to www.hollywoodcasinocharlestown.com
MORE: Love and Theft is online at www.loveandtheft.com