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The Sound

Luck, hard work and the power of “Pray”


Sweetwater Rain opens for The Band Perry and Rascal Flatts on Friday, Oct. 25.

Sweetwater Rain opens for The Band Perry and Rascal Flatts on Friday, Oct. 25.

Nashville-based three-piece Sweetwater Rain came about through a combination of luck and attrition.

“We had done different projects under the same management,” said guitarist Fred Stallcup in a phone interview. “And (they) kind of put us together.”

“(Bassist Thomas Rennick) and I worked together on a different project as backup musicians,” vocalist Danny Rivera elaborated. “Fred came to a show with management, and that was where he first heard us. He said, ‘Man, I want to be a part of that,’ and it really started there.

“When (we) first started working together, (we) were six guys in a group together. We sort of whittled down the things that we didn’t want to do and wound up with just the three of us. It was a new sound when the three of us got together, and it took on a life of its own when we started playing. We look at it (as) fate that things didn’t happen for us before that.”

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It wasn’t long before things were indeed happening for the group. Through its solid songwriting skills and savvy song selection, combined with a sound that’s distinctly its own, which garnered hundreds of thousands of YouTube views for the first two singles — the first of which, “Starshine,” charted for 14 weeks, peaking at No. 51 on Billboard charts. That’s led to the trio opening for the likes of ZZ Top and Kenny Chesney, as well as its current gig touring with The Band Perry and Rascal Flatts.

“We’re soaking (this experience) up like a sponge,” Rivera said of the tour. “We watched Rascal Flatts from the side of the stage the other night, and they’re amazing on stage. And that’s what we’re all about, is the live music. So watching how they do it, and the crowd reaction to that, has been great.”

While the band deliberately chose “Starshine” as its first single, it’s been the success of its second album that has, in many ways, got the group more excited.

“ ‘Pray For Me’ has been amazing,” Stallcup said. “It’s a song that was given to us, and we’ve finally recorded it exactly how we want it, and people always have stories about how it’s touched them. That song touches people in such a meaningful way. We didn’t write it, but we do it in a way that’s uniquely ours. To see people get emotional about it — we’ll see people in the audience crying — it’s really special. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to record that song.

“We didn’t pick (the song) and go out to make it popular. People just heard it and liked it. It opened our eyes.”

Rivera quoted Facebook messages talking about how much the song means to fans, and a lyric video — released to coincide with National Day of Prayer on July 16 — furthered the song’s profile. Now the band is readying itself to return to the studio after the tour to put together its debut album. In the meantime, the writing never stops.

“Just last week, we were riding on the bus and wrote a song,” Rivera said.

“(The label) flew a bus driver in from L.A. to drive for us,” Stallcup explained. “Then we get out (on the road), and we find out he doesn’t even have a CDL. So we thought, ‘We came down all this way with an illegal driver. We can drive illegally as well as anybody else,’ so we drove our own bus the rest of the way and wrote a great song out of it.” CV

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