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A Holler Back from Music City

by Mar. 16, 2009, 12:36 PM

Being on tour and missing life at home is nothing new for Stokes Nielson, BS’00, and Ryder Lee, BA’00, of the fast-rising country band The Lost Trailers. But on New Year’s Eve, the day of Vanderbilt’s historic victory in the Music City Bowl, it was especially painful to be alumni 250 miles away.

“We would have loved to have been there, but we had to play Atlanta,” says Nielson. “And a buddy of ours texted us from the game.” The message said that The Lost Trailers’ breakout hit of last summer, “Holler Back,” was being played over the public address system.

The Lost Trailers are (from left) Manny Medina, BA’98; Andrew Nielson; Ryder Lee, BA’00; Stokes Nielson, BS’00; and Jeff Potter.
The Lost Trailers are (from left) Manny Medina, BA’98; Andrew Nielson; Ryder Lee, BA’00; Stokes Nielson, BS’00; and Jeff Potter.

For a group that got its start when Lee, Nielson and bassist Manny Medina, BA’98, were at Vanderbilt, that news was a modest but fitting cap to what they consider to be their first big year. Lee and Nielson, from rural Georgia and North Carolina, respectively, met at boarding school in the 1990s, where they started playing music together and set their sights on a record deal.

Vanderbilt became a responsible excuse for moving to the city of their dreams, a formal and an informal education next door to one another. Nielson studied human and organizational development, which he says has been useful in building a grassroots fan base in the social networking era. Lee opted for political science and Russian, continuing a line of study he’d found interesting in high school.

Lead singer Lee says his Vanderbilt professors couldn’t have been more accommodating to their busy music schedule, calling the experience “the best of both worlds.” Nielson told one academic adviser recently that he was part of the reason they had moved into a position where success was possible.

The band members’ post-graduate work consisted of relentless touring and launching an underground NASCAR circuit hit about Dale Earnhardt. In 2005 they were signed by the same record company that paved the way for career role model Alabama. Then they released two singles that went nowhere before “Holler Back” hit the airwaves and saved their mainstream country career. The song debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard country chart and later was chosen as kick-off music to Westwood One’s worldwide radio Super Bowl broadcast.

“There was a point where, when we did get a hotel, it was a $19 hotel and all five of us got into the room,” says Nielson, the band’s primary songwriter. “But when you do that and you finally reach this place [of success], you realize how special that was—six years of touring America together and the fellowship that brings.”

Not to mention football fringe benefits.

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