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Watch King Calaway Take a Song Request From Garth Brooks

"Really, once Garth tells you to do something you can’t really say no.”

Written by Chris Parton
Watch King Calaway Take a Song Request From Garth Brooks
King Calaway; Photo Credit: Rachel Deeb

Newcomers King Calaway have already earned some big-name backers in their short time on the country scene, and its come for good reason. Their silky harmony blend and raw musical skill allow the six-piece band to excel in almost every facet of country music – from a bluegrass-inflected cover of The Eagles’ “Seven Bridges Road” on the Grand Ole Opry to the smooth R&B flavor of their debut single, “World for Two.”

But in their recent headlining debut in Portsmouth, Ohio, one particular supporter suggested the band go stone-cold country for a moving cover of the late Earl Thomas Conley’s “Holding Her and Loving You.” It was none other than Garth Brooks himself.

Back on May 3rd, the band had the honor of opening for Brooks at his stadium show in Minneapolis, and the Hall of Famer was so impressed he decided to introduce them to the crowd himself. Then he gave King Calaway some advice for their Portsmouth show – which also happens to be the site of Brooks’ second concert ever and the hometown of guitarist Caleb Miller.

“I told him I was from Portsmouth, and one of his first shows ever was there opening up for Earl Thomas Conley,” Miller exclusively tells Sounds Like Nashville. “He opened up about that story and got kind of emotional about it, and he said ‘You guys gotta make sure you play an Earl Thomas Conley song.’ Being from Portsmouth, it’s an absolute honor to share the same hometown with Earl. … So it was a cool tie in – but really, once Garth tells you to do something you can’t really say no.”

The band was asked by the Portsmouth city council to headline the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts, a place near and dear to Miller’s heart. He explains that he’s seen many bands there over the years, going back to age four when he started playing guitar. But there was yet another layer of specialness to this show. On top of it being the band’s first headline gig, and it being in Miller’s hometown, the date coincided with his graduation from high school.

“It just happened to work out that it was the day before my graduation,” Miller says. “Saturday night we were doing our first headlining show in Portsmouth, and Sunday morning I was graduating. So that was super cool, but I was really excited to get all the guys and show them my hometown and let them experience what I’ve experienced growing up.”

Choosing Conley’s aching “Holding Her and Loving You,” Miller delivered a deep-pocketed guitar solo while Chad Michael Jervis delivered the song’s country-to-the-core lyrics. Meanwhile, Jordan Harvey, Simon Dumas, Chris Deaton and Austin Luther give the rendition a rich, captivating sonic footing, which speaks to the band’s best-friends connection. It’s a country brew which has earned them the respect of greats from Brooks to Ricky Skaggs, who joined them on the Opry stage for their Eagles cover.

King Calaway and Ricky Skaggs; Photo courtesy Grand Ole Opry LLC. Mark Mosrie, photographer
King Calaway and Ricky Skaggs; Photo courtesy Grand Ole Opry LLC. Mark Mosrie, photographer

“I think these big guys are just excited about something fresh in the format,” Miller says of the support they’ve already received. “I think they’re getting excited about young people loving country music again, and we’re kind of paving the way for that.”

King Calaway took over the CMA Music Festival for a performances on the Firestone Country Roads Stage at Ascend Amphitheater and at the HGTV Lodge. The group also scored a live television performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to sing their song “World For Two” in their national TV debut.