Janis Fontaine

Gloriana slims down, takes off

Losing a band member has made country’s rising threesome even tighter — and the music even better.

By Janis Fontaine, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

A couple of years ago, Gloriana was a struggling quartet trying to make a name for themselves in country music.

Then they got the call that changed their lives.

No, not a call from music executive. A call from Taylor Swift.

Swift invited them to join her Fearless tour as an opening act in 2009. One night they were in a sports bar getting paid in chicken wings and the next they were opening for 20,000 Swifties in a big arena.

Thanks to that exposure and a radio-friendly song called Wild At Heart, the band – brothers Mike and Tom Gossin, Rachel Reinert and Cheyenne Kimball – was inching up the country music ladder.

“It really felt like it went from 0 to 60 in three seconds,” Reinert said by phone from the road before its free show at CityPlace on Wednesday. “It really was a big change, but it was something we’d been working toward for a long time.”

But then a moment came the band could not have planned for. Last July, after a Friday night show in Missouri, Kimball didn’t return to the band’s bus or answer emails. The next day she posted a note on Gloriana’s Facebook page: “Fans, I’m no longer going to be apart (sic) of Gloriana.”

“She didn’t say she was leaving; she didn’t even say goodbye,” Reinert said. “She still hasn’t given us any reason why and it’s been a year. No closure, nothing. It was personally and professionally hurtful, but it was also scary in that moment, feeling like our career could be over.

“We could have gotten dropped at that point, and in some situations, people will turn their back on a group when something like that happens. And just not knowing how things were going to turn out, that was a huge challenge. But I think it was a challenge we all rose to and we tried to make the best out of it, and I think we did that.”

They didn’t cancel any shows or expect any special treatment. “We’ve always been good at pushing forward and staying committed, even if it wasn’t the best situation.”

The bigger challenge was the band’s second album. They had been finishing up the vocal arrangements with four members when Kimball disappeared. Now they had to start over.

“A week after she left, we went back into the studio and rerecorded everything. It was almost like getting a second chance to revise everything. A lot of people don’t know that Tom and Mike and I started this band and we spent the first six months just the three of us. Then, hearing how everything really opened up for us vocally when we went from four to three, it almost gave us more of an organic feel, which is what we wanted to do when we made the second record. It was a surprise, a pleasant surprise.”

Fans apparently like the new sound too. Gloriana’s current single, (Kiss You) Goodnight, is its first Top Ten and the fastest rising song of their career so far.

“We had fans say, ‘Thank you so much for not quitting,’ but quitting was never an option. Giving up was not an option…(It) has brought Tom and Mike and me closer together and it’s just made this whole thing that much sweeter.”

Before Reinert met the Gossin brothers, she’d already made the move to Nashville to pursue a solo career.

“After being in Nashville for a few years, I was doing my own thing and just kind of going nowhere. I was close to packing up my stuff and going home when I got a message from the Gossin brothers. They told me they were new to town and looking to start a band. I had never even thought of being in a band before, but I thought, I’m kind of out of options here so I kind of reluctantly replied. But when we started playing together, it was that missing link and everything just worked out from that day on.”

Reinert even invited the guys to move into her Nashville apartment. “We were all very close from the very beginning,” she laughs, “so when we went from four to three again, it was like going back to our roots, kind of a seamless transition for us.”

The new album, A Thousand Miles Left Behind, due out July 31, tells the story of the last four four years, “touring pretty much nonstop. Life on the road has become a way of life for us. The whole album tells all our individual stories. We either wrote or co-wrote every song on the record, really poured ourselves into it, so it’s a very personal album for us.”

Reinert is anxious to hear if fans like the new music.

“We realize how new and green we were when we put out Wild at Heart, and we’ve grown up a lot. Spending so much time on the road, getting to see all these other incredible artists who influenced and inspired us, going through all the ups and downs. We feel really grateful that our fans and country radio stood by us. It made us take a step back and realize how lucky we are.”