Everyone in Blackjack Billy is bonded together by music — specifically, the no-holds-barred,good-time, party-down rockin' country that is endearing them to fans throughout and beyond the U.S.
The group first impacted in 2013, when they independently released their first single, "The Booze Cruise," to digital media. With no promotion, the summertime anthem nonetheless won frequent rotation by SiriusXM's "The Highway," achieved Platinum certification in Canada, charted #1 in Australia, and became the hottest-selling iTunes song in America by any act without a label deal that year. "Honestly, we had zero expectation when we wrote it that anything would ever happen with it," admits guitarist Jeff Coplan. "We'd only been playing random bar gigs up to that point, where nobody came to see us; they were there to watch Sports Center or pick up chicks or get drunk. But then 'The Booze Cruise' took off, which was great."
"Now, three years later, it's still being downloaded and requested," singer Noll Billings points out. "DJs are still cranking it when we walk into bars. It hasn't gone away. If anything, it's gained momentum." That happy fact leads to more recent developments. First came one of the founding members Rob Blackledge's decision to leave the band. What seemed at first like a problem turned quickly into an opportunity both for Blackjack Billy and young bass phenom Ian Munsick. "I was on this cruise where Chris Cavanaugh was playing," Noll says. "I went to watch his set and I just remember thinking, 'Damn, that bass player is bad-ass. He's got mad swagger.' All the girls were up in front of the stage. He had a big smile. Then a week or two later, when Rob decided to do his own thing, my first thought was, 'Who was that friggin' bass player?' I called Cavanaugh and said, 'Hey, I want to steal your bass player.' And Chris was cool enough to give me his number." "Ian is just a positive dude, Jeff adds. "He comes in every day with a smile on his face and says, 'We get to play music today!'" Raised in Kennett, Missouri, hometown as well to Sheryl Crow, Trent Tomlinson and David Nail, Noll hightailed to Hawaii after high school and then to the Caribbean before hanging up his surfboard and settling in St. Louis. He built a local following through local club gigs and eventually left for Nashville to score a publishing deal with EMI and pursue bigger dreams. Jeff, meanwhile, began his journey in Montreal and then headed to New York City to learn the art of studio engineering, production and song writing. There he started making writing trips to Nashville and fell in love with country songwriting which led to he and Robert Ellis Orrall putting together the group Love and Theft in hopes of creating a modern-day variation on the Eagles. Jeff then moved to Nashville, produced their first album and wrote some of their material, including the No. 1 hit "Angel Eyes." Jeff met Noll through their mutual publisher, EMI and the impact was immediate. 'I had written with a lot of people over the years and the first time I sat down to write with Noll we completely connected. I basically just wanted to write everything with him after that.' With that Blackjack Billy was born.
We bought a converted airport shuttle bus, booked some shows and hit the road," Jeff says. "We needed a drummer, met Brad (Cummings) literally three days before our first run down to Key West. He was literally learning the songs on the long drive down.' When Ian came aboard, following his move to Nashville from small-town Dayton, Wyoming, to Nashville via a spell as a ski instructor in Switzerland, Blackjack Billy has begun moving ahead with a new confidence and unity.
"'The Booze Cruise' is brand new to millions of people who never heard it," Jeff says. "We've sold 200,000-something downloads of the song in the U.S. independently. But once it hits terrestrial radio, we hope to make a lot of new fans." Until then, word of mouth and incendiary performances alone are building Blackjack Billy's fan base. "We are you," Noll explains. "We're big-time country fans. "We're big-time rock and roll fans. We love music. We love mingling with and being part of the crowd. Usually when we're done playing, we go find the coolest group of fans and go party with them. We'll steal a golf cart and be out there in the crowd. We stole Storme Warren's cart a couple of times." He turns to Jeff. "I've heard you say that we're going to out-fun everyone. We're going to have more energy than the crowd every night. If they step it up a notch, we're going to step it up two." How's that sit with the new guy? Ian sums it up succinctly: "I'm just happy to be here, man!"