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Exile has many reasons to celebrate in 2023 including marking 60 years since the band formed, release of their first album of original music in over 30 years, a new single, a documentary, a collaboration and the 45th anniversary of their first No. 1 hit, “Kiss You All Over.”  

The Kentucky Hall of Fame country rock group Exile released on August 25th,  "A Million Miles Later".  The album is  a celebration of the band’s adventures since its inception 60 years ago.  As to the title song, although a listener could certainly hear the song as a love song to a significant other, Sonny LeMaire expressed during our interview it is really an ode and thank you to Exile's supporters, fans and followers.   The title track was written by Pennington, LeMaire, and Sharon Vaughn to encompass all the years the band has been playing together. Before playing a sample of the track to the industry crowd at their invitation only listening party, Pennington joked that it should’ve been “10 million” .  


The 16-track project is a mixture of tunes that were written recently and from the songwriters’ vast catalog compiled over the years. "A Million Miles Later" includes songs mostly written by Exile’s own J.P. Pennington and Sonny LeMaire along with longtime collaborators, and showcases their vast musical influences from country and pop to R&B and reggae.   The album also features a collaboration with bluegrass southern gospel group The Issacs, in the the soulful "Down In Cold Water" which will be featured in the Gospel Corner of this magazine next month. 

"A Million Miles Later", sees the band reuniting with some of their longtime collaborators. Exile’s J.P. Pennington and Sonny LeMaire wrote the majority of the project’s 16 tracks with the exception of album closer “Sixteen Tons,” originally penned by Merle Travis and made famous by Tennessee Ernie Ford in 1955.  One of the biggest differences in how Exile creates music today is the songwriting process. LeMaire shared that they wrote nearly all of the new songs via Zoom, including “Too Far Gone,” which features Les Taylor on lead vocals.  Sharon Vaughn, a Hall of Fame songwriter cowrote many of the songs although the creative geniuses were in  different locals, with the internet facilitating the collaboration. 

Sonny found that at this time and station in his life, writing  doesn't have any more pressures to be commercial allowing for  more freedom in composition for just the sheer joy of writing.  "A Million Miles Later" was a true labor of love, a fun project where he felt complete freedom to "let the chips fall where they may".  Gone is the past pressure to produce that he felt "forced" his writing in his youth.   Sonny  hopes he gets the opportunity to do another project with his mature creativity.


As the songs were being written, Exile would go to the studio and record three at a time. "A Million Miles Later" was produced by J.P. Pennington and Sonny LeMaire. It was recorded at Tower Station Studio in Lexington, Kentucky, The DAWg Houze in Gallatin, Tennessee and Country Q Studios in Nashville. Studio musicians included Steve Goetzman (drums), Marlon Hargis (piano, organ, synths, backing vocals), Sonny LeMaire (bass, DADGAD acoustic guitar, lead and backing vocals), J.P. Pennington (electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, ukulele, keyboards, percussion, lead and backing vocals) and Les Taylor (acoustic guitar, lead and backing vocals).

 “This was our most ambitious album project ever, 16 songs,”  J.P. Pennington has stated. ”It took about a year and a half to complete and was a total team effort. I feel like we covered a lot of ground genre-wise. We have all been influenced by many different styles of music and we tried to reflect that here. We’re very proud of it.”   “It's very rewarding to be able to release a new product that we're proud of, particularly as we're celebrating our 60th anniversary,”  Exile member Marlon Hargis has commented.

Exile's longevity as a band is remarkable in times when even families seem too often fall into relationship breakdowns this group of creative and multi-talented souls have been together for six decades.   The band members have shared everything together from highs to lows, births to deaths and everything in between and are certainly a type of extended family


“We are family and at times reading each other’s minds, a by-product of focusing with full intensity on a common goal for sixty years,” Exile’s Steve Goetzman has stated. “Each member is chosen for personality, as well as talent. We are good guys and help one another grow along these lines, keeping ourselves in check. Actually, we’ve covered far more than a million miles, but who is counting. This album is a summary of how we click. I feel a lot of gratitude!” The band views themselves as brothers and are not dismissive of each of their individual talents as everybody's  contribution is necessary for the band's success. Sonny LeMaire said profoundly, "I don't know what lies ahead for Exile but I can't imagine not working together, we are so intertwined with everything in our lives."  


2023 also marks the 45th anniversary of their country-pop crossover hit “Kiss You All Over.” The four-week No. 1 hit made the list for  The 50 Sexiest Songs of All Time (Top 10) category.  The iconic song has been showcased in feature films such as “Happy Gilmore,” “Employee of the Month,” “Zookeeper, “Wildhogs,” and is played in it’s entirety at the end of the 7th episode of “Mindhunter” currently available as a Netflix original.  Throughout their career, the Kentucky natives reached the top of the pop and country charts with ten No. 1 singles.   They have toured for years and  with such notable acts as Aerosmith, Fleetwood Mac, The Oak Ridge Boys, Kenny Rogers and The Judds to name just a few. 


Exile's other forthcoming projects, include a documentary and a tour aptly named "A Million Miles Later"  which will highlight their hits like the four week #1 song "Kiss You All Over", "Woke Up In Love" "Give Me One More Chance", "I Can't Get Enough", and "Super Love" as well as new songs from "A Million Miles Later". Their decades of touring experience along with stellar harmonies make for a great show.  Exile has had over 100 appearances on the Grand Ole Opry to date. 

2023 also brought a new collaboration for Exile that arose on the Rock and Romance Cruise. It was while performing on the cruise that a band from England, the Climax Blues Band and Exile attended each other's performanes and developed a mutual admiration for the other band's music.  Exile provided background vocals for the Climax Blues Band's very soulful "Facing My Fear", which will be released in England and Europe. Again, the internet provided the magic for Exile to do this long distance collaboration. 

As if all the above excitement is not enough, Exile has released it's first single "Rough Around The Edges" from their new album.  “Rough Around the Edges” is about a man’s plea to be taken seriously by a woman that’s above his social standing.  The song was written several years ago by Les Taylor, Larry Cordle and myself,”  JP Pennington has shared. “We always thought it would work for the band and we’re glad it’s finally seeing the light.”

Cowriter and Exile member Les Taylor added, “I’m excited about the song being the first single from the new project, and maybe this song will help some guy get the girl he thinks is exactly what she needs.”    The single was produced by Pennington and Sonny LeMaire and is gaining traction world wide.


What makes the release of "A Million Miles Later" unique is the range in everything from the style of music, the lyrics, the instruments used, and the writing,  When combined  Exile has given us a unique gift.  Exile uses all of their immense talents and the aforementioned elements to their advantage and it is what sets them apart, as does their longevity.  These  elements all play a part in setting the tone of their release’s overall storyline and why listeners will form a real, lasting attachment to Exile's music in "A Million Miles Later".  “I think this is one of the best projects we’ve ever done,” stated Exile’s Les Taylor.

“The creativity has never stopped in this band,” related Sonny LeMarie of Exile. “While we are grateful for our past accomplishments, we’re still striving to create new music and new challenges. This 60th anniversary project, "A Million Miles Later",  from the writing through to the recording, has been a sheer joy from start to finish. We can’t wait for fans to hear it!”

                                                        By Deborah Gibson

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