Hailing from Maryland, Jason Morton and Brett Wilmer of The Cheaters have made the trek to Tennessee bringing with them their blend of rock and country as well as their tight harmonies. Having released their fourth EP in 2014, the duo released their recent single, "She Got A Way," as well as accompanying video that has so far logged over 40,000 views online. Jason and Brett graciously took the time to talk about their evolving sound, "She Got A Way" and their plans for the year.
You have been playing together for ten years, but your music is new to a lot of people. So tell us, when did you become interested in music and come together as a duo?
Jason: I started playing piano when I was four and immediately got the bug for music. Then, in 7th grade I picked up the guitar and never looked back! In 8th grade, the middle school I attended had a talent show, which I entered and won. At that time I was really into grunge, so I think I played either a Nirvana or a Bush song. It was the greatest experience because it was the first time I played live. Before the talent show, I played the Star Spangled Banner on the guitar by myself. It was the most nerve wracking experience ever, but I loved it. It’s weird because your first performance isn’t typically in front of four hundred people. I mean, even in the early years as a band we played for sometimes only five or fifty (laughing).
Brett: I started playing guitar out in clubs, sometimes ones I needed a fake ID to get into, when I was about fifteen/sixteen years old. I met Jason through a mutual friend. We were staring up a band and missing a singer, so when we found out Jason sang, and sang well, he became a part of the band. We’ve been together without killing each other or going crazy for about ten years now!
Being that your music blends multiple genres, do you have any specific influences either on your writing, playing or singing?
It’s a little bit of everything. We grew up with grunge and alternative rock, but we also listened to the Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmy King and then we had the country side. Our music is a weird mix of those three coming together.
You released your fourth EP last year. How has your sound evolved over time?
On our first record we sounded like the Black Crowes meet the Cult meets AC/DC. On the second record we were more hard rock, and once we hit the third, we started to find our southern roots again. We have a new bass player, Scott Hummel who is a good writer, and brought on a different drummer, who sings three part harmony. We wrote this song “Coming Down the Mountain,” which was something completely different than what we had previously done. It was way more country, had acoustic guitar and the harmonies. We were like ‘wow, this is the sound we have been looking for.’ That song affected out whole musical style.
Being then that your sound has changed, how have the long-time fans responded?
That was something we were really scared about, but they have been so receptive to everything. When you change your style, you run the risk of losing fans, but our changes were a slow progression and the fans thankfully accepted them. We are pushing in the direction of producing what we think are really good songs with really good lyrics and hopefully people will take that for what it is.
Originally from Maryland, you moved to Nashville about a year and a half ago. What spurred the move and has living there influenced your music and songwriting?
We signed with management in June 2012 and moved to Nashville in July 2013. Prior to that, we were flying back and forth to write and decided that we should just make the move so we could do that [write] every day.
Moving definitely has had an influence on us. Before we kept everything in house and really didn’t branch out. Co-writing is very creative and fun. It’s cool to exchange ideas and alternatives to songs with someone.
The Cheaters have had some pretty incredible experiences playing live including supporting Shooter Jennings, Kid Rock and Eric Church.
Brett: They were incredible experiences, especially as a guitar player being able to open for my idols, meet them and get to know them as a person, which you rarely get to do with those types of artists. Being able to play those shows were many things: great learning experiences, humbling, scary…..you name it!
You have a new single called “She Got A Way.” What’s the story behind that song?
“She Got A Way” is really an important song for us. It is the first song we ever wrote in Nashville, so it’s really special. I had a day job at a health club where I was friends with this older man who was maybe 75years old. His name was Jack Lucas and he always talked to me about his son who was a singer in a band in Nashville. I later found out that his son was Chris in LoCash Cowboys. Chris and I got to talking and became friends. When Jack passed away Chris came back for the funeral and we reconnected over our relationship with his Father. When they signed with their management they told them about us and also offered to write with us. We took him up on that and Chris was the first person we ever co-wrote with. We drove twelve hours from Maryland to Nashville for one three hour writing session and wrote “She’s Got A Way” with him. The song is a big leap for us, but our die-hard fans have been loving it.
The video for the song was recently released and has garnered tens of thousands of views in a short period. It looks as it was a very difficult video to shoot.
Oh yeah (laughing). We had like, hundreds of models audition for those parts. A couple of young guys in their early twenties, who help us out a lot, came up with the treatment and produced it. We flew out to California and shot the video in a few days. The video has lots of different scenery in it, so it looks like maybe it was filmed in different states, but it was all California. The video has a great summertime vibe to it, but also a bit of an edge, especially with some of the shots and the drinking whiskey from the bottle. Overall though, I think it can appeal to both men and women and has a very tasteful ending.
With the release of the single, what are your upcoming professional plans?
We will go on our first radio tour, probably in the secondary markets, next month. We are looking forward to meeting the people who play our music on a daily basis. We also look forward to getting the opportunity to co-write with others and can’t want to get out and play for the fans as much as possible!
Being in Nashville has changed the way we do business--it’s more strategic--and we have to learn to keep an open mind. We have a really good of team of people with a lot of experience behind us. The people we surround ourselves with are really down to earth and a pleasure to be around. Bands break up because people don’t get along. We want everyone to be happy and stay together because life’s too short.
Finally, I always like to know, is there is one recent release you cannot stop listening to?
Brett: No particular album has my attention. I’m more of an older soul to some degree. I like classic rock, R&B, country, and blues.
Jason: I’m not really into any particular music right now, but I did enjoy Dave Grohl’s documentary, especially the Nashville episode. What they did with the Zac Brown Band, the merger between rock and country, was just incredible. That documentary will change the way you look at music.
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