Frontmen of Country's Farmington gig a blast from the past for former Little Texas singer
Tim Rushlow remembers Farmington fondly from time spent here 30 years ago
- Rushlow is now part of the touring group the Frontmen of Country.
- The band performs at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25 at the Farmington Civic Center.
- Tickets are $34 and $38.
FARMINGTON — In the late 1980s and early 1990s, before the country band Little Texas signed its first major-label deal with Warner Bros. and racked up a series of chart-topping hits, it was just another anonymous, road-weary band working hard to build up its bona fides and get noticed.
Tim Rushlow, the group's lead singer from then until 1997, remembers those days well. As he recalled, Little Texas would set out on the road for five or six weeks at a time, playing a half dozen cities all over the country. The group would settle into a given nightclub for six straight nights, playing grueling, six-hour shows and rehearsing for another three or four hours during the day.
"We practiced all the time," Rushlow said during a Sept. 15 phone interview from his home in Franklin, Tennessee, a Nashville suburb. "We were always having to learn new songs that were currently on the radio because that's what people in the clubs wanted to hear. Occasionally, we could slip in one of our own."
One of the group's regular stops in those days was Farmington, a town Rushlow said he came to know well. So when he takes the stage this weekend with the touring group the Frontmen of Country at the Farmington Civic Center, it will be a homecoming of sorts for the Oklahoma native, who spent some time early in the interview discussing how much he loves New Mexico cuisine, especially Hatch green chiles.
He said the time he spent in Farmington three decades ago left him with other strong impressions, as well.
"Country music fans in New Mexico have a real fervor for the music," he said. "They're very passionate. I can't say that about every state I've been in, but I certainly can about New Mexico."
When Rushlow performs here this weekend, it will be under vastly different circumstances than the ones he experienced in his youth. Long gone are the days of bouncing from honky-tonk to honky-tonk between 12-hour van rides, the cheap motels and the dreams of hitting it big.
As the onetime leader of a band that sold millions of records and served as a headliner for national tours, Rushlow has experienced fame from both sides — the before and the after — and seems more than content to be sharing the stage these days with two other artists who also fronted highly successful 1990s country acts, Richie McDonald of Lonestar and Larry Stewart of Restless Heart.
"What's cool about it is, we really all have enough of an ego to have been lead singers and to have fronted a band in the past, but we're mature enough now to share the stage with each other," he said. "I don't see that wearing off at all. There has not been a cross word between the three of us. … We're really in sync."
Rushlow, McDonald and Stewart have been friends for many years, and the three of them had done USO tours together for American service members in the Persian Gulf six or seven years ago. But they had never considered touring America together until recently.
"When COVID hit, it most definitely changed the way we look at music and the way we look at ourselves," Rushlow said, explaining the origins of the Frontmen of Country, adding that he, McDonald and Stewart have come to view it more in terms of being a new group for them and a longtime commitment than simply a temporary, all-star arrangement that capitalizes on its members' past hits.
To be sure, there is more than a little nostalgia associated with the group, as the format for the performances consists of Rushlow, McDonald and Stewart taking turns singing the better-known tunes from their days of fronting their former bands. But the trio also has recorded some new material together and is likely to record more in the future, Rushlow said.
He also feels the old hits have been regenerated under these circumstances.
"I know it's authentic, and these are the songs we're known for," he said. "And getting to play them again is a joy. It feels like these songs are brand new again because '90s country has become red hot again. It's interesting to see 28-year-olds in the audience singing every word to a song you cut 30 years ago."
Rushlow said the Frontmen of Country tour has gone to a lot of secondary markets as it tested the post-COVID-19 waters, with the members of the trio at first unsure about how much appeal the group would have.
"We wanted to use this year as an awareness campaign of who we are," explaining that there were some initial concerns that the name the Frontmen of Country would be meaningless to fans without the names Rushlow, McDonald and Stewart on the marquee.
But that brand awareness has come quickly, he said, especially once the music starts and the hits start being performed.
"It's amazing to watch an audience react and watch their jaws drop," Rushlow said.
Rushlow said it's easy to sense how much people missed live music during the pandemic shutdown.
"I can tell you, I think the passion is more than still there. I think people are more touched by music than they before," he said, explaining that that sentiment applies to himself, as well.
Rushlow said he used to think his job amounted to feeding the audience's love of music on a nightly basis. But after going back on the road with the Frontmen of Country after the pandemic, he has come to understand it wasn't as one sided as that.
"I realize now I was performing every bit as much for myself as I was for them," he said. "We are really enjoying performing for people again."
The Frontmen of Country perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25 at the Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington St. in Farmington. Tickets are $34 and $38. They can be purchased online at fmtn.org/shows or by phone at 505-599-1148.
Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or email@example.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.