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Opry came calling after Lillies’ ‘Wreckage’

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Cruz Contreras has spent the last three weeks in the Northwest and performing in renovated schoolhouses.

“It’s been quite an experience to have this opportunity,” he says while driving through Oregon. “The shows have been really good and we can’t wait to stay out on the road.”

Contreras is the lead singer of indie Americana band The Black Lillies, which is based out of Knoxville, Tenn. The band consists of Contreras, Trisha Gene Brady, Tom Pryor, Jamie Cook and Robert Richards.

The Black Lillies formed in 2009 and have released three albums with the latest, “Runaway Freeway Blues,” released in March.

The Black Lillies
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday, June 6WHERE: Low Spirits Bar & Stage, 2823 Second NW

HOW MUCH: $8 at or 886-1251

Contreras says putting together the new album came with some pressure.

When releasing its 2011 album, “100 Miles of Wreckage,” The Black Lillies got plenty of exposure. The album was loved by critics and soon the Grand Ole Opry came calling. Contreras says the band made its debut performance there on June 17, 2011.

“We were the first independent artist from Knoxville (Tenn.) to be featured at the Opry,” he says. “It’s now been a little less than two years since we’ve played there and we’ve already put on 20 performances. Each time that we’ve performed, we’ve been able to gain some more fans. Then when we head on tour, the fans tell us they heard about us from the Opry. So yes, the Opry has definitely opened up a lot of opportunities for us.”

Contreras says getting the call from the Grand Ole Opry came as a surprise to everyone on the band.

“We had all this happen and it quickly began to put pressure on us,” he says. “With the new album, we wanted to maintain the success we had with the last album. The expectations were higher now and we had to rise to the occasion. Ultimately, we realized that we had to push away the nerves and the pressure and just make music that we were proud to make.”

Contreras says the majority of the writing for the album was done on breaks from tour. The band was on tour most of last year.

“We set aside some time in October to get into the studio to record the album,” he says. “We didn’t have any time to rehearse or do any preproduction, so I put as many songs together as I could.”