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Cleverly re-creating the smooth, neon-lit sounds of 1980s country, Midland ushered in a new era of retro-hipsterism in country music in the late 2010s. Image was fundamentally intertwined with Midland's music. Decked out in Nudie suits and denim, the Texas trio seemed resurrected from another era, an impression underscored by their easy-rolling breakthrough 2017 hit, "Drinkin' Problem." Far from being revivalists, Midland synthesized the past, playing with certain topics and tropes, then spinning them for the streaming age. Their sly post-modern nostalgia worked: "Drinkin' Problem" became a Country Top Ten hit and earned them Grammy nominations, turning the trio into one of the biggest bands in country music at the tail end of the 2010s.
The roots of Midland lie in California. Cameron Duddy worked in Los Angeles as a music video director. He was successful, taking home an MTV Video Music Award for his work on Bruno Mars' 2012 hit "Locked Out of Heaven," but in his spare time he played music. Eventually, he crossed paths with Jess Carson, a native of Oregon. The two played in an L.A.-based band for a while, and once Carson departed the City of Angels, Duddy met Mark Wystrach, who was working as an underwear model and actor. All three joined forces at Duddy's August 2013 wedding. Acting as groomsmen, Carson and Wystrach arrived a week prior to the wedding, and they started playing music with the groom. Soon, they had the idea to form a band. Following Duddy's honeymoon, the trio relocated to Texas, claiming Dripping Springs as their home base.
Midland signed to Big Machine in March 2016, releasing their eponymous debut EP in October of that year. The highlight of the EP was the smooth-as-satin "Drinkin' Problem," which began to climb Billboard's Country charts in 2017. By the summer, "Drinkin' Problem" was a genuine hit, reaching number three on the Country Airplay charts on its way to a platinum certification. On the Rocks, the group's debut album, appeared on September 22, 2017. The trio supported its release by joining Little Big Town and Thomas Rhett on tour in 2018. On the Rocks stayed on the charts through 2018, generating hit singles in "Make a Little" and "Burn Out," which topped out at number three. By the end of the year, "Drinkin' Problem" snagged Grammy nominations for Best Country Song and Best Country Duo/Group Performance; it didn't win either.
Released in February 2019, "Mr. Lonely" announced Midland's second album. Titled Let It Roll, the record arrived in August 2019. Let It Roll debuted at number one on the Billboard Country Album charts, 16 on the Top 200. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine