Midwest Meets Manhattan
On a warm evening in August of 2001, Chad Little walked into a small coffee shop and introduced himself to someone who at best could have been described as, well, different. Spiked hair, yellow tinted glasses and cargo shorts with sandals were hardly the typical attire for the quaint, midwestern town of Sallisaw, Oklahoma, so of course, it was no wonder the slight culture shock that Chad felt, especially since he was wearing Wranglers, cowboy boots, and a t-shirt. That, someone, was Dave Romero, and fortunately for both of them, that night, there were no customers in the shop, so they picked up their guitars, which they conveniently had brought with them, and began trading songs. Chad remembers that fateful night nearly twenty years ago.
“Dave just started playing worship songs that I didn’t even know, but I picked up the harmonies and by the end of the night, we both knew that something pretty cool was happening.”
From the first harmonies and chords Chad and Dave struck, they realized that their collision must have been something divine, which also made the responsibility they both felt to pursue their new-found sound very evident. So in 2002, they both stepped out on faith and hit the road, singing, writing songs and building a momentum that would lead them to eventually start a recording studio, a music school and to even launch a record label. In 2005, they added a third member, the first Bryan, and became ‘Cord of Three’, who quickly began burning up the road to Nashville. It was there, at a chance meeting with Rick Lloyd, when they sang their self-penned tune, ‘Be Still”, and immediately landed him as their new producer.
Unfortunately, before they were able to sing their first notes in a Nashville studio, the first Bryan stepped away from the group. So, the guys quickly hired a local guitarist/worship leader, the second Bryan, whom they had already been courting as a potential band member. Literally, a couple weeks before they were booked to lay down their first tracks, they holed up in their home studios, Encounter Music, and got Bryan #2 up to speed on the material. Dave recalls the craziness of those moments.
“It was crazy fast...and Bryan did really well and even brought some cool songs and ideas to the table, so the fit was really good...and we were a ‘Cord of Three’ again.”
After getting Bryan locked in, it was time to get back in the studio to complete their first studio album. Rick Lloyd was thrilled that the project would continue, so much so that he hired several well known Nashville studio musicians to track the album along with Chad, Dave, and Bryan. The momentum and the excitement began to build after each track was completed, along with the anticipation of seeing this dream of their debut album being released very soon. Unfortunately, once again, they experienced another band change as Bryan #2 broke the news to Dave and Chad that he would also have to step away from the group due to, personal issues. This was somewhat of a devastating blow to Chad and Dave, but they knew that God still had a plan, so after much prayer, they decided they would move forward with Cord of Three, only now, it would just be the two of them. After consulting their publicist, they ended up shortening the name from Cord of Three to CO3 and based it on Colossians 3, which is all about living a life for Christ.
With a finished Album in hand, the guys, along with their growing team, began the grueling process of trying to get a record deal. Private showcases, multiple meetings and lots of maybes and comments like, “we don’t know what to do with their style”, led Chad and Dave to begin to understand that their “style” of music was really ahead of its time, especially for the Christian music industry. As a matter of fact, one of the greatest reviews they received of their new Album was from Country Music Magazine. Though their music was not being received as they had hoped, it did not stop them from pursuing the vision and dream of taking their music to the masses. Finally, the guys landed a distribution deal and began leveraging that to land a radio promoter and booking agents, which ultimately led to the idea of their own label, as Chad recalls.
“So we just did it...we launched Flagship Records and signed ourselves to a deal...on our terms and of course, with our own resources.”
Over the next year, CO3 would release “Be Still” and the album title track “Determined” to radio, which garnered two top twenty singles on the Christian INSPO charts. In 2008, at GMA week in Nashville, the guys, with a full band, showcased downtown at the Fuel club on 2nd Avenue. The next day, a gentleman introduced himself, handed them his card and said to give him a call after GMA once they got home. So, they did just that and in May of the same year, Chad and Dave drove back to Nashville to engage in a branding exercise in hopes of focusing their musical and marketing efforts...so they could get beyond barely surviving financially. Unfortunately, the opposite happened. The exercise proved to be the beginning of the quick end to not just CO3...but also Encounter Music, Flagship Records and...pretty much everything they had worked so hard to build. They were devastated, and as Dave says:
“That eight-hour trip home from Nashville was pretty quiet...we were both pretty much in shock...I mean our dream was dying...and it was hard.”
So Dave immediately pursued his other passion of Church ministry and took a Worship Leader position, while Chad holed up in his leather shop in Sallisaw, where he dove headlong back into his other passion of building boots and leather products. Over the next decade, Dave would build Tru Church in Manhattan, Kansas, while Chad birthed his Leather Goods Company, Ethos Custom Brands. In September 2015, the guys met at Ethos and renewed their relationship...and rekindled the music once again. It was then they began to think about a potential reboot and in 2017, sang together for the first time in about nine years onstage at the same Church Dave helped start and where Chad had been leading worship for nearly 10 years, Journey Church in Sallisaw. It was like they had never stopped.
One day, while doing a new photo shoot for their new recording project, Chad was talking about his company and thought how ironic it was that he had been using the tagline, “Where Midwest Meets Manhattan” for several years. It was like a lightning strike…and they both knew that after all these years, they had finally found their new name.