Cleto Cordero, lead singer of Flatland Cavalry, sitting down in black and white

Exclusive: Flatland Cavalry's Cleto Cordero Discusses New Album, Prospect of a Luke Combs Collaboration and More

November 27, 2023 12:39 pm GMT
Last Edited December 18, 2023 8:25 pm GMT

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Hot on the heels of releasing their highly anticipated 2023 album, Wandering Star, Flatland Cavalry's frontman, Cleto Cordero, sat down with Holler to discuss the new project, touring plans, whether a collaboration would ever be on the cards with Luke Combs and more.

With this latest release, Flatland Cavalry have officially graduated from cult, alt-country troubadours to one of the front-running bands in today's neo-traditional country space.

Their emergence as a future Group of the Year contender was consolidated this year when Flatland Cavalry secured one of the most coveted support slots in the genre, with the band having spent much of 2023 opening for Luke Combs in arenas across the country.

Their explosion in popularity following 2021's Welcome To Countryland was rewarded with a major label deal with Interscope records, which undoubtedly served as a colossal boost of momentum heading into the release of Wandering Star.

Earlier in November, Flatland Cavalry contributed a celebrated original song, ‘Wool’, to the star-studded Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes soundtrack.

While Flatland Cavalry are certainly no strangers to the spotlight, for some artists, this stellar track record of success could have easily translated into a weighty sense of pressure.

For Cleto Cordero, the much-loved lead-singer and chief lyricist of Flatland Cavalry, it was essential for the group to stay true to the process and mentality that got them where they are today.

“There was no extra layer of pressure or additional sense of expectation. We created this album in March 2023 - just two weeks prior to going on the North American tour with Luke Combs and before we could even fathom any interest from Interscope Records! Thankfully, we’ve learned early on in our career from our first producer, Scott Faris, to ‘Keep your nose to the grindstone and do good work’, trusting that our efforts and aspirations will carry us exactly where we ought to be”, Cleto underlines.

The Midland native went on to explain how he's very aware that, as their audience expands, this will inevitably open up the band to more criticism and judgement from naysayers and detractors, “I wish to keep this mindset moving forward with all the records we will make in the future - at the end of the day what truly matters is being your best authentic self and not being concerned too much with what the outside world expects from you or thinks you ought to be”.

Flatland Cavalry's enchanting new record vibrantly infuses endearing, rose-tinted vignettes of Cleto's marriage to Kaitlin Butts (who guests on ‘Mornings With You’), the visceral, dazzling hues of young love and the flickering, neon-tainted glow of bar-room philosophies.

As listeners continue to digest the beautifully eclectic Wandering Star, they'll be glad to hear Cleto's repeated reassurances that there's plenty more where that came from.

In addition to delving further into the creation of Wandering Star, Cleto Cordero touched on the compilation of their 2024 setlist, a potential UK and Europe tour and more:

On the impact of journaling on his songwriting:

“Journaling absolutely has an impact on one's ability to express their deepest thoughts and emotions, which can transform into songs. Since I first began intentionally practicing journaling in 2020, I have seen the fruits from showing up to the page each day, killing your ‘Critic’ and honoring your truest self. You never know what may bubble to the surface if you don't dig deep and stir up the deep well that [encompasses] all you’ve ever experienced in your entire existence!”

On ‘Last American Summer’:

“The song idea and melody came to me in the summer of 2020, when the world seemed to be on fire and there was a spirit of fear and uncertainty in the air. I had built a garden in my mother-in-law’s backyard to pass the time as we waited for the country to open up so we could get back to touring. I was meditating in the garden one day, reflecting on how things felt so strange and different this season in comparison to the troves of summertime memories I have of my friends and family all being together, barbecuing and lighting fireworks.

As I was thinking these thoughts the three words ‘Last American Summer’ floated to the surface in my mind’s eye, and as a songwriter I recognized there was a double-entendre of ‘American Love’ and ‘Heartbreak’ raising its hand to be written. I took this sentiment to Will Hoge and he helped me craft the perfect story”.

On Collaborating with Luke Combs:

“We are both extremely busy artists, however, I do believe if we got together we would create something unique, meaningful, awesome, fun and Country-As-Hell, man!”

On returning to the UK and Europe:

“We have had a wonderful experience opening arenas for Luke Combs in Glasgow, Dublin and London. We cannot wait to come back! I'm not sure if it’s in the books in 2024, but there’s always 2025...!”

On putting together a new setlist:

“I read somewhere that a really good show is based not upon songs but moments. I constantly ask myself and my bandmates, ‘What new moments can we create from this new batch of songs?’ Naturally, there will be three to five songs off a new album that I feel we have to play...but I love the challenge and idea of transforming new songs into these unique live moments, which can transform strangers in the audience into bonafide Flatland fans before the evening’s over. That is my life’s work!

All in all, I aim for our live shows to be a grand balance of showcasing where we’re at and what we’re doing now as well as honoring what we have done in the past and where we’ve come from. Also, at the end of the day we owe our livelihoods to our fans, so asking them what songs they want to hear never hurts when you’re feeling stumped”.

For more on Flatland Cavalry, see below:

Written by Maxim Mower
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