The Black Lillies are an Americana band from Knoxville, Tennessee that was founded in early 2009 by Cruz Contreras (formerly of Robinella and the CCstringband). Their present lineup includes Tom Pryor (formerly of The Everybodyfields) on guitar/pedal steel, Bowman Townsend on percussion, bassist Robert Richards and vocalist Trisha Gene Brady. Cruz plays guitar (acoustic and electric), keys, and mandolin as well as providing vocals and song writing. The Black Lillies' music blends influences from rock, country, blues, bluegrass, and jazz.
The band's debut album, Whiskey Angel, was recorded in Cruz's living room and released in April 2009. It featured Billy Contreras on fiddle, Taylor Coker on bass, and Leah Gardner on backing vocals. Contreras wrote and arranged all of the songs on the album. It is personal material, covering the fallout of his divorce from Robinella and the break up of the band they shared. The album resonated strongly with listeners, and Whiskey Angel was ranked in several 'Best of 2009' lists in publications across the country. After Whiskey Angel, they released their album, Black Lillies.
The Black Lillies made an immediate impact on Knoxville's growing music scene and the band was selected to play the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival within weeks of releasing the album. They quickly signed a management and booking deal with Chyna Brackeen of Attack Monkey Productions and in October of that year, they launched their first national tour. The tour kicked off at the Ryman Auditorium and the band played 38 shows in 40 days. Two additional national tours took place in 2010 and included appearances at festivals including Bristol's Rhythm & Roots Reunion, Pickathon, Four Corners Folk Festival, Pagosa Folk & Bluegrass, and Rhythm & Blooms. The band has been ranked as the "Best Americana Band" in the Metro Pulse Best of Knoxville poll every year since their inception. They have appeared multiple times on live radio shows including The Grand Ole Opry, NPR's Mountain Stage, WDVX's Tennessee Shines and Music City Roots. In 2010, they were the first band selected and announced to participate in the Americana Music Association's Festival & Conference - their selection was announced two months prior to the rest of the line up. They were asked to return in 2011.
In January 2011, their album Whiskey Angel was nominated for The 10th Annual Independent Music Awards for the Americana Album Category. The album was selected to receive the IMA Vox Pop award. "Two Hearts Down" was awarded the 2012 Independent Music Award for Best Story Song. 100 Miles of Wreckage was also a nominee for Americana Album of the Year. "Same Mistakes" was voted #4 on CMT's Pure 12-Pack Countdown From Week of November 9, 2012
In early 2010, the Lillies announced that they were beginning work on a new album. The project was entirely fan-funded via sponsorship packages sold through the band website. The final funds needed were raised through a house concert that drew more than 300 people. The national radio release of the album 100 Miles Of Wreckage was on April 4, 2011. 100 Miles of Wreckage gained national attention and peaked at No. 11 on the Americana radio charts. David McClister selected the album's first track, "Two Hearts Down," as his project. The video was filmed in June 2011 in Nashville. The video made its world premiere on CMT in October 2011 and immediately became a viewer favorite, spending multiple weeks in the "CMT Pure 12 Pack Countdown" including several weeks in the number 2 spot. It was a contender for the top 30 videos of the year on CMT. Additionally, the video aired on networks worldwide including international MTV and VH-1 affiliates, TCN, and PBC.
Additionally, the band was selected to perform at the Country Music Association's Festival & Fan Fair that year. The Black Lillies made their debut performance on the Grand Ole Opry on June 17, 2011. The band was the first independent artist from the Knoxville area to be featured on the Grand Ole Opry, and made history again by being invited back multiple times, appearing five times in just four months. They have since appeared on the show more than 35 times, a record for an independent act.
The Black Lillies' third album, Runaway Freeway Blues, was released in March 2013 to widespread critical acclaim. That album debuted at #21 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart and #43 on the Billboard Top 200 Country chart. It spent more than five months in the Americana Music Association's top five, ending the year as the #18 album of the year overall, based on radio airplay. Runaway Freeway Blues was selected by more than two dozen publications (including American Songwriter magazine) as one of the best albums of the year.
On June 13, 2013, the band announced via their website and Facebook page that Jamie Cook, who had been on leave from the band for several weeks already due to a family health matter, would not be returning and that Bowman Townsend, who had been filling in for Cook on tour, would be taking his place full-time.
The band continued to tour in support of Runaway Freeway Blues throughout 2014, including stops at Stagecoach: California's Country Music Festival, Old Settler's Music Festival, Braun Brothers Reunion, Bonnaroo Music + Arts Festival, and more. In summer 2014, Rolling Stone Magazine selected them as one of the hottest up-and-coming acts in country music, calling them "buzzworthy" and describing their style as "genre-mashing roots music with an Appalachian anchor."
In November 2014, The Black Lillies launched a fan funding campaign via PledgeMusic for their fourth studio album, to be recorded in February 2015 and released early summer 2015. The campaign hit 40% of its goal within the first 48 hours of being launched. This album will mark the band's first time working with an outside producer. Grammy Award-winning producer/engineer Ryan Hewitt, whose credits include The Avett Brothers, Johnny Cash, Brandi Carlisle and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, will be at the helm of the as-yet-untitled project.