In a new interview with the Tennessean, singer Toby Freeman, fiddle player Eric Dysart, guitarist Josh Bryant, bassist Brandon Robold and drummer Isaac Senty discussed the events that lead up to the Dec. 26 hunting trip that would result in the deaths of Strickland and his close friend, Chase Morland.
The group first realized something was wrong when Strickland’s father, Randy, sent them a text message asking them to pray for his safe return. A severe winter storm had been pummeling the area around Kaw Lake, Okla., where the two friends had traveled for a duck hunt.
Although at first the band believed Strickland’s phone had simply died, reality struck when Senty and his wife drove to the search area through the storm on the following day.
“The roads were icy, there was sleet coming down, people couldn’t drive anywhere,” Senty said. “The winds were really strong. It was part of the realization process for me, that it was serious.”
As the days passed, the band held onto the small chance that Strickland would be found alive.
“You don’t think that anything like this could happen, so you’re still holding onto hope,” Dysart explained. “But there’s something that’s telling you that everything is different.”
The band plans to play a show in their hometown of Fayetteville, Ark., just days after Strickland was laid to rest. Before his death, Strickland and the band were preparing to release a new single, “Torn”, and were shopping major label record deals.
“Not one moment was there ever a thought to any of us. Knowing the person Craig was, that’s what he lived and breathed was the band, and his passion was something that none of us had seen before when we met him,” Dysart said. “We’ll forever be changed by that and pushing forward is the only way to do it.”
“Craig was just so fired up,” said the band’s manager, Peter Hartung of Nashville-based L3 Entertainment. “We just feel like he’s steering this. It’s one of those bittersweet situations where you try and make something good out of a tragedy. We want to do some good things for Craig’s memory.”
Although things will never be the same without Strickland, the band is ready to keep moving forward.
“He would want us to move on more than anything,” Freeman said. “Once we get past this stage, we’re going to dig down really deep as a band in writing and musically, and we’re going to make this happen.”