THE GREAT OUTDOORS
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Grant Langston - EJ Rojas - Tony Horkins - Teresa Cowles
The road, for now, is closed. As a band that recorded and toured and recorded and toured and recorded and toured for the best part of 20 years, Grant Langston and The Supermodels took their honky-tonk sound to the very edges of possibility. Six albums, multiple TV and film placements and a sea of dancing-on-the-tables audiences as loud and vocal in the UK and France as they were across the various States of America.
At some point, it became clear that it was time to retire those Nudie shirts, drain the last Shiner and have a re-think. Over the years the band saw multiple line-ups, but Langston and drummer Tony Horkins remained at its core. Grant grew up with one foot in the deep country music traditions of North Alabama and another in the telecaster twang of California roots and Americana, defying the typical toe tag of modern music. He was raised singing and playing in the church, spent his adolescence playing bass for the King James Version gospel quartet, and helped pay his way through Auburn University touring the dive bars of Alabama and Georgia with a rock band. After a move to Los Angeles he began writing and playing the roots music that Nashville didn’t want — honky tonk and full of attitude.
It was in LA that he met Tony Horkins, a California import from even further afield: London, England. Back in his homeland, Tony had been playing the European music circuit since his teens. Over the years he played and recorded with members of Thin Lizzy, Def Leppard, The Skids, The Beatmasters and Massive Attack, and across genres as diverse as rock, blues, reggae and dance, eventually scoring a number one hit single with his band Goldbug. In the US, as well as playing and touring with Grant, he’s also been in demand touring and recording with LA’s finest singers and songwriters, including Rich McCulley, David Serby, The Transatlantics, Sarah Stanley, Bleeding Harp, Honeycombs, Great Willow and Zach Jones.
After completing their sixth album, Hope You’re Happy Now, and touring the new material, Grant and Tony decided to re-consider their next move. Instead of heading back to the studio to record another Grant Langston album, they decided on a fresh approach. Both huge fans of 70s Americana and its three-part harmony-drenched vocals - think The Eagles, Jackson Browne, Fleetwood Mac, CS&N - they decided to search for a female singer that could take on the job of fronting the band.
This is where the unlikely inclusion of a contemporary beacon to all that is hi-tech comes in to play; the Apple Store. Tony had been working there part-time between gigs, working with a surprisingly exhaustive team of talented creatives. Among them was EJ Rojas, a Tucson-born singer who, growing up, often found herself gathered with her uncles and grandfather around the living room, who pulled out their guitars to accompany EJ’s haunting vocal rendition of traditional Mexican boleros.
At the early age of 15, EJ stunned producers by knocking out reggae-type Spanish raps, R&B hooks and diva ballads. At 18, you could find her in the 93.7 KRQ studio in Tucson, blessing the microphone on radio. Periodically, you would catch her voice on automated systems and radio commercials.
In 2005, she teamed up with Manuel Stagars and Skylar Grey on a techno project, which made it onto several dance compilations. Later that year, you could hear EJ’s voice in ABC’s General Hospital; in 2009, she moved to Hollywood and collaborated with Fernando Garibay, and worked with DJ Felli on “Ain’t Enough” featuring Ty Dolla $ign. She graced the stages of some of Hollywood's legendary venues, and her soulful voice has appeared on numerous TV shows and movies.
Tony had heard some of this work, the Apple Geniuses and Specialists often sharing creative projects they were working on. He asked her if she’d ever had a chance to sing country music. The reply?
“Ohhh, my grandpa asked me that my whole life,” she told him. “He’d say, ‘Hey, brat! When you gonna sing me some country? I’m telling you… you singing country… oh, man.’ And I’d say… ‘I would, gramps. But I don’t know anyone who does country!’”
Tony told her she does now, and invited her to sit and sing in the Supermodels rehearsal lockup in Hollywood. Grant, Tony and EJ would meet up once a week for months, playing covers, playing Grant Langston originals, talking about the band, trying out things and seeing if this mix of R&B vocal sensibilities and country stylings would blend. It became pretty clear that it did.
Once they saw how this could work, Tony and Grant immediately knew who the bassist should be. A great voice. A perfect ear. A total bass pro: Teresa Cowles.
Hailing from Brandon, Florida, Teresa has been a solid fixture in the Los Angeles music scene for many years. Her bass playing and harmony singing has supported a variety of artists both live and in the studio. This long list includes Brian Wilson, Donna Loren, Carole Pope, D.J. Bonebrake, Jeremy Spencer, Hal Blaine, Don Randi, Al Jardine, David Marks, Carnie and Wendy Wilson, The Balancing Act, Evie Sands, Ben Vaughn and many more. She also appears as legendary bass player Carol Kaye in the critically acclaimed 2015 Brian Wilson biopic, Love and Mercy starring John Cusack, Paul Dano and Paul Giamatti.
Grant continued to write songs, this time with a female singer in mind, and by the summer of 2019 they had enough material to go into the studio and record. Working with Grammy award winner Mark Raines in his Stationhouse studio in Echo Park, they produced the basis of what will become their first album.
They dubbed themselves The Great Outdoors, pulled together some exceptional LA side players for the live shows, and started to polish an outstanding set. And then…. well, and then 2020 showed its ugly hand. A raging pandemic closed the venues, the rehearsal spots, the recording studios, the music stores and almost the entire music industry.
But the doors to The Great Outdoors had already been kicked open, and the band continued to work around the world’s problems. Grant continued to write, the band continued to record - only individually and masked up. They even produced a socially distant video for their first single, 40 Miles, playing against green screen and at home in a take on making music during a pandemic.
It might be a while before the band gets to play in their namesake, but that’s not going to stop them moving the project forward. There will be singles, there will be videos, there will be albums, there will be live streams and one day…. one day…. there may even be live shows too.