WALLA WALLA - They're not related, explained Preston Brust, his voice rising in delight at the little joke. "Women seem to love that idea. I tell them we're not really brothers, but they don't hear it."
Brust, one-half of the up-and-coming country duo of LoCash Cowboys, was speaking from somewhere on the road, another stop in the band's never-ending tour that began six years ago.
Soon the two, including Chris Lucas, will be in Walla Walla as part of a three-ring concert to celebrate the opening night of 2011 Walla Walla Fair & Frontier Days on Wednesday. Other performers include The Band Perry and Jory+Rory.
Brust and Lucas have been traveling toward fame since they met in Nashville nearly a decade ago. Literally, Brust pointed out.
Performing on the fair circuit is not easy, he said. "We've been touring since January of 2005. It began and it's just never ended. That's how we've paid our bills. We started in our cars, we couldn't even afford U-Hauls at the time."
Eventually, however, the band "grew out of it," he said with a laugh. "Then we upgraded to renting a van, then we rented a 15-passenger pulling a U-Haul."
Speed was picking up and before they could make the first payment, it was time to move up to a motor home, then onto the "nicer and nicer buses," Brust said. "Now, years later, we're on some of the nicest buses some artists get to starve on."
LoCash Cowboy doesn't have that particular problem, however. While the traditional fair food is out there and can be a nutritional land mine, the band's fans make sure the boys rarely have to indulge.
"The really cool thing is that (fairs) is the heart of America, it's the people you see on the news, the people you run into at Walmart. They want to cook for you, they know it's not easy being on the road," Brust said, explaining fans cook for them at nearly every gig. "They take really good care of us out there."
The musicians pay it back with love. Last winter they released "Keep in Mind," a love song for every parent out there who has sent a child into the world, he said. "The week we released it to radio, we had a contest asking people to write a letter and tell us how ‘Keep in Mind' relates to your world and your life."
They expected 30 letters tops - in two days more than 300 had landed. "We knew the song was having an impact immediately. When it pulls the heartstrings there is nothing like it."
The band went on to ask fans to submit pictures for the music video; the winners are featured in the footage, from a man helping a son tie a necktie to mothers hugging graduates. "A couple of nights ago I was in a little town in Missouri, doing the autograph line, and there was an older woman who came through and said she was in the music video."
It echoed in his heart, Brust said. "Our fans are totally real."
Even the band name is about "keeping it real." It goes back to high school when he and his peers formed a group - "a he-man club" - that required members to realize the best things in life are free, or "low cash"
When he and Lucas joined together, they went looking for a name during a time of a several last name pairings, such as "Brooks & Dunn." Upon hearing the story behind the club in Brust's home town, the men knew it was a keeper, he said. "And we came back to Nashville and our managers said that will never work. So we knew we had a winner."
In more than a name, as well. Lucas and his wife have a 1-year-old son who Brust - still single - is godfather to. The band has a cut on Keith Urban's album, "You Gonna Fly," ("Grammatically it's incorrect, but financially it's a fly," Brust chortled) and LoCash Cowboys made its debut on the Grand Ole Opry in May.
Bringing even more notoriety was a guest spot on the reality eating show, "Man vs. Food Nation," a gig that brought the band a whole new layer of fans.
The challenge was presented to the Nashville musicians to each put away "a 72-ounce steak, a huge salad, a huge baked potato and two slices of Texas toast," Brust recalled.
Even with coaching from Vince Gill, who apparently loves the show, the meal "kicked our butt," he said. "We are both not very big. I didn't worry about a heart attack until after."
Being crazy, however, is what the fans love, Brust feels. "I always say, ‘the crazier you get, the crazier we get. We're all about getting out there and doing something different.'"
The two complement each other musically. "I call Chris the karaoke king and I know all the church songs. So we teach each other stuff. We don't have a set play list, we just go on the stage ... we make homemade confetti cannons, we love to put on a good show," Brust said. "People want to come and feel a little high energy. We always say people have enough problems in their lives and they want to forget about all that if they paid for a ticket."
The two can't wait to get a little crazy here, where they hope to sample some local red wine and hard cider to add to their limited knowledge about the area, he said.
"Walla Walla, Washington. I know it's got the coolest name I've ever heard in my life. They couldn't settle for one ‘Walla,' they had to do it twice."