Originally published in the April 4, 2016 issue of Country Weekly magazine.
In equine parlance, a “bombproof” horse is one that doesn’t spook, mainly because it has been exposed to a variety of sensory stimuli. As a result, the horse is much calmer and performs better on big stages like the Kentucky Derby. Race fans don’t usually notice a horse’s bombproof quality because they are too busy betting the trifecta and drinking mint juleps. It’s the same way for fans at a concert: they don’t usually notice a bombproof band because they’re too busy crushing Buds and singing along.
The guys from A Thousand Horses are now bombproof, but it took a crazy year of sensory overload to get them there. Sitting in a local Nashville restaurant sipping brews and java during Country Radio Seminar week in February, A Thousand Horses’ four founding fathers—Michael Hobby, Zach Brown, Graham DeLoach and Bill Satcher—are barely a year removed from the release of their debut single, “Smoke,” a fresh take on the old vice of a toxic woman that shot to No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart. The boys followed up that feat with the release of their Billboard No. 3 debut album, Southernality; a spot on Darius Rucker’s Southern Style Tour; a Top 25 sophomore single, “(This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial”; four appearances on the Grand Ole Opry; an ACM nomination for New Vocal Duo/Group of the Year that will be hashed out on April 3; and a current gig as the opening act on Jason Aldean’s We Were Here Tour as their third single begins to climb the charts.
“It’s been a busy year, but an amazing one,” says Michael between sips of beer. “To see all of the fans come out to our shows when we get the opportunity to headline a club, it’s crazy. Our shows are packed now and the fans are singing the words to all of the songs on the album, not just the singles. On top of that, just to be part of Jason Aldean’s We Were Here Tour, it really has changed our lives. We’ve been a band for a long time, so we’re really grateful for this opportunity.”
“First and foremost, we’re fans of Jason and [supporting act] Thomas Rhett, so to be a part of that package, we couldn’t believe it,” adds Bill. “Still now, I can’t believe it. Not only that, but we’re headed to the U.K. to the C2C Festival in March, and that will be our first time playing overseas. So we’re pumped about that, too.”
One year ago, only a handful of industry attendees at Country Radio Seminar even knew the Horses existed. Now, only moments into our conversation, a radio exec walks by and pokes his head into the scrum to share his unsolicited two cents about a show he saw the Horses play in Albuquerque, N.M., noting, “It totally rocked my socks off.” Perhaps it’s been stated more eloquently, but the Horses do rock, and they continue to prove it show after show with frontman Michael’s gritty vocals, Graham on bass and Bill and Zach on dueling guitars, as well as the addition of three female backup singers—Morgan Hebert, Kristen Rogers and Whitney Coleman—drummer Ryan Scarborough and keyboard/fiddle player Brian Purwin. Indeed, nine people on a stage have the potential to rock your socks off, and the Academy of Country Music must have noticed, because the troupe is nominated for New Vocal Duo/Group of the Year on April 3 in Las Vegas.
“The ACM nomination is a huge honor,” says Michael. “That’s a crazy way to wake up—to get a text from a friend that says you’ve been nominated. We went to the ACMs last year in Dallas, and we were the new kids on the block. It was the first red carpet we ever walked, but to actually be nominated this year, it’s a huge honor. We’ve had a lot of huge honors the past year. . . .” “Honors like playing the Grand Ole Opry four times,” says Zach, taking over. “That never gets old. We love playing it. It’s so much fun. We were so nervous the first time [in February 2015], but Jim Ed Brown told us we’d be fine, and we were. He also told us we’d never make any money because we had too many band members. He was laughing when he said it, but he was probably serious.”
The late, great Jim Ed was probably onto something with that joke, but that hasn’t slowed the Horses from running full stride. Running wild? Nope, they’re bombproof, and that means racing to win.