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Artist of the day: Luke Preston Band

If you were listening to WQYK-99.5 last week, you might have caught an interview with a young singer-songwriter named Luke Preston. Born and raised in Clearwater, he's now in Nashville, trying to make a go of it with his group, the Luke Preston Band.

The group's sound, Preston says, ranges "from outlaw country to hip hop to the delta blues." But he's been trying to define his style since age 12, when he performed as part of a blues group called Communication Breakdown through the Patel Conservatory's Rock School program. Later, he played in a pop-punk group before discovering Willie Nelson and other country legends. "The truthful nature of country songwriting has had a grip on me ever since," he said.

Preston moved to Nashville for college, and struck up a relationship with his future bandmates: Guitarist Luke Enyeart (Preston's freshman year roommate), drummer Jeremy Gold and bassist Jared Chapman. They've performed around the southeast - they were at St. Pete's Hideaway Cafe in May - but this past weekend, they played their biggest gig ever.

Preston entered the group in a contest to perform at the Country Stampede, a huge festival in Manhattan, Kan. They worked their way up the ranks, and eventually won a live battle, scoring them the chance to open for Toby Keith, Brantley Gilbert, Jerrod Neiman and more. Other artists performing throughout the weekend included Zac Brown Band, Luke Bryan and the Band Perry.

"Playing on the same stage as artists such as Toby Keith and Zac Brown Band is a huge resume booster, and an accomplishment that we are very proud of," Preston said. "If nothing else, the contest has helped to raise awareness about our band as people are starting to take notice of us."

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photo: Sammi Kelly