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Sean Daly's Pop Life: The Sleep Deprived Playlist, an interview with Love and Theft's Stephen Barker Liles, Cheap Trick's 'Sgt. Pepper's Live' DVD

Back before the Disney deals, and the smash album and those randy rumors regarding Taylor Swift, Stephen Barker Liles was a scrappy athlete at Oldsmar Christian with a hoops scholarship to the University of South Florida. "I actually wanted to be a head basketball coach," says the 25-year-old Clearwater native, who wound up becoming a student assistant on the Bulls team.

But after college (not to mention a proud need-cash stint at the Sam's Club on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard), Liles took a trip to Nashville, where his intense hoop dreams turned into fervent musical ones.

Last week, Liles' band, the trio Love and Theft, released debut album World Wide Open. The breezy, harmony-fat disc — "the new Eagles" is how Liles describes the sound — is on Carolwood Records, a subsidiary of Disney's Lyric Street. It's already No. 1 on iTunes' country charts, thanks to Runaway, a hit about Liles ditching FLA.

During a massive publicity push, Liles — who grew up singing at Clearwater's Calvary Baptist Church and now croons, writes and plays guitar and piano in his band — chatted with his hometown newspaper. Because I'm classy, I respectfully tossed him a few softballs before asking if he totally macked on Swift.

Your band is named after 2001 Dylan album Love and Theft. I'm a Bob freak, too. Name your top song.

The Times They Are A-Changin'. I listen to that one all the time. That and Hurricane. I love what Hurricane represents. There are so many people in jail who just didn't get a fair trial.

Quick history lesson: In 1966, Boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter was accused of a triple murder and spent 20 years in jail before being released. Dylan's eight-minute defense of Carter appeared on the 1976 release Desire.

What does the average Love and Theft groupie look like?

I don't know about the average anymore. We now have grandparents watching us because we remind them of bands they liked. But yeah, we definitely have the young girls, too, because maybe we're, um, okay looking.

Psst: Think of Love and Theft as Rascal Flatts with cuter noses, cooler tattoos and better record collections.

How do the rock star dreams you farmed in Tampa Bay compare with the rock star realities of today?

I believe in dreaming big, but I could never have prepared for how things turned out. It's been amazing. Things are moving very fast. We're No. 1 on iTunes. We toured with Taylor Swift . . .

Okay, you know I have to pounce on that segue, right? Taylor Swift, the pop princess of Nashville, wrote a sweet, crushy song about you, Hey Stephen. Gift or curse?

It was a nice gift, one of the nicest things anyone's given me.

Sample lyric: "Cause I can't help it if you look like an angel / Can't help it if I wanna kiss you in the rain / Come feel this magic I've been feeling since I met you . . ."

So . . . did you guys hook up?

We never really did. We spent a lot of time together on the phone. I met her during a crazy time in her life and our lives. She's a great person.

Do you believe him? Y'know, I think I do.

The Sleep-Deprived Playlist

I've been having that dream again, the one where I get up and brush my teeth and attack the morning with vigor and drive. And then — poof! — I awake only to realize I'm exhausted and my joints ache, and I stumble to the bathroom and doze off on the toilet. A few weeks ago, the Forever Fiancee warned me that things would change in the fall, that the family would be getting up much earlier to prepare for school and day care and work. We all needed to chip in, she said. To which I replied, "Hurmurmurmur," ate another Funyun and kept watching the Rays game. And now, after a week of zero sleep and itchy eyes and a swirling ball of cotton in my head, I hate everyone. So without further ado, please enjoy the Sleep-Deprived Playlist!

1 Morning Has Broken,
Cat Stevens

2 Dead Man Walkin',
Bruce Springsteen

3 Running on Empty,
Jackson Browne

4 Up All Night,
Slaughter

5 Bore Me (Yawn),
Fantasia

6 We Close Our Eyes,
Go West

7 Zzzz,
the Cab

8 Dreamtime,
Daryl Hall

9 Wake Me Up Before
You Go-Go, Wham!

10 I'm Tired,
Lili Von Shtupp

I'm a Bonus Feature, baby

In December 2007, Cheap Trick, the power-popping prides of Rockford, Ill., holed up in NYC's sparkly Waldorf Astoria and re-created the Beatles' 1967 template Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Big3 Records, the St. Petersburg label, and Geoff Emerick, the original Pepper engineer, were both on hand to capture the 40th anniversary show for a DVD. Robin Zander & Co. were fabu; the sounds were lush. But something was still missing. You know, something like a loud, hyper interview with all four band members conducted by a spazzy music critic?

I got it! Let's get Daly!

As a bonus feature on the new Sgt. Pepper Live DVD, which came out last week, you can hear me fire off such hard-hitting queries as "Do you remember the first time you heard Sgt. Pepper?" The paycheck was cool, the guys were cooler — even though I went "off script" a few times, much to the chagrin of their manager. I don't think it's spilling beans to say I chatted 'em up at Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall in November 2008. It took about two hours — the feature lasts about 12 minutes. Thankfully, "B roll" shots of me (bad) acting interested, delighted, sweaty are on the cutting-room floor. The gents were tired from rehearsing for a local Pepper show, plus bassist Tom Petersson and drummer Bun E. Carlos had to record their answers twice. And yet, they still resisted stabbing me.

Oh, and one more thing: Cheap Trick will perform Sgt. Pepper Live at the Las Vegas Hilton Sept. 13-23. If they make a DVD out of that one, they know where to find me.

Sean Daly's Pop Life: The Sleep Deprived Playlist, an interview with Love and Theft's Stephen Barker Liles, Cheap Trick's 'Sgt. Pepper's Live' DVD 08/29/09 [Last modified: Monday, August 31, 2009 7:43am]

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