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The Black Lillies are getting ready to release their long-awaited fifth album called Stranger To Me through Thirty Tigers on September 28th. It’s the band’s first album since the departure of high-profile member Trisha Gene Brady, and the first album the band will release as a collaborative songwriting effort.
Consisting of long-time founding member and frontman Cruz Contreras, along with well-respected singer and songwriter in his own right Sam Quinn on bass, as well as guitar player Dustin Schaefer and drummer Bowman Townsend, the Black Lillies have garnered a strong fan base from appealing to folks across roots platforms, from country, bluegrass, Americana, and everything in between. Their partnership with Texas music booking agency Red 11 has also made them honorary members of the Texas/Red Dirt scene.
“Going from a six-piece to a four-piece, it’s given these guys space to shine and grow and evolve, and the chemistry has gotten better,” says Cruz Contreras. “These guys have become not just sidemen or guns for hire; they’re invested. Their opinions count, and their creativity is as much a part of this record as mine. There are songs that I wrote; that Sam wrote; that we wrote in any combination and all of us together.”
The songs from Stranger To Me were taken from a selection of over 30 songs the band composed and performed as part of a web series called “The Sprinter Sessions” they partook in while on tour in 2017. Some of the songs had been written the day of the sessions, and the morning after gigs.
“You’re putting songs out there that weren’t finished, weren’t perfectly arranged, and we might barely have been able to perform them,” Contreras says. “We might be tired or hungover, playing them at a truck stop or wherever. It wasn’t glamorous — but it held us accountable to that a rate of productivity that was really important, and it kept our fans up to speed with the evolution of the group — even if a lot of them did offer to send us clothes or food!”
The album also sees Sam Quinn—a former member of the Everybodyfields and the 2006 Merlefest Chris Austin Songwriting Award winner—take a more active role, leading three of the new songs.
“When Sam joined the band, we were getting a rock star. This guy’s been around the block, done it all and succeeded,” says Contreras. “He’s written great songs, played big stages and had the band that will go down in music history as one of the seminal ones in the genre. With Dustin, he had moved to Nashville to pursue a solo career, but when he joined up, we all got along and played well together. Bowman brought that positive attitude, that work ethic, and for me, he’s been ‘the guy.’ With all of these guys, we kind of hit the ground running.”