Lonestar, Vince Gill and an all-star lineup of friends came together to create “Love Lives On,” the first single from an album of the same name. The project is a collaboration between songwriters and military families who have lost a loved one and want to tell their stories.

"Love Lives On," which readers can hear above, is out now, and the Love Lives On album is due out on May 22, through the non-profit record label Roots & American Music Society. Proceeds will go to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).

"Love Lives On" is specific to TAPS founder Bonnie Carroll’s experience losing her husband in an Army plane crash in 1992, but also speaks to the universal experience of losing a military family member. With lead vocals from Gill and Lonestar’s Richie McDonald, the song tells Carroll's specific story in the first verse and shares an uplifting message in the chorus. It was the first song written for the Love Lives On project, and it all began because of something Carroll said in a speech at a TAPS Honor Guard Gala.

“We were all sitting at the table when Bonnie did her opening remarks. One of the things she said was that she always wanted to give Tom a bigger headstone, and she was finally able to do that, and at the bottom of the headstone she put ‘Love lives on,'" co-writer and co-producer Frank Myers shared at a listening event for the album. "Richie turned around and looked at me like, 'That’s a good song idea.'"

Adds McDonald, "I always say that songwriters do more listening than talking. Just listening to Bonnie’s story, I was really touched that night, and just looking around at all the families in the room -- when she said, 'Love lives on,’ I looked at Frank. As a songwriter, you just sit there and you start thinking about that title and just a little melody will start in your head."

McDonald started a demo of "Love Lives On" on his phone that very night. When he, Carroll, Myers and co-producer Jimmy Nichols began writing, the producers wanted to make it a musical event and began calling up players to assemble a tracking band. They recruited David Hungate of Toto, Ambrosia’s David Pack, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and even Dann Huff, who is now primarily a producer and hadn’t tracked on an album in over a decade. The finished product includes the rest of Lonestar singing in the backing choir.

“That night was so magical. Kismet is an amazing thing,” Nichols says. “I think we all believe that things happen for a reason. Whatever was going on that day, having Richie there, who’s a writer, and having Frank, it was just meant to be. What a powerful moment when we knew that this was it."

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Myers, in particular, experienced a special moment with Carroll: "She was so afraid that it was gonna be too personal. I remember, after we wrote the first verse and I called her up and I sang her the verse over the phone, she kind of got teared up and said, ‘Oh, it’s too personal. It’s gotta be about everybody,'" he recalls. "I said, ‘Don’t worry, the rest of the song will be about everybody, but we need to tell your story, too.’”

The goal of Love Lives On is, mainly, to spread awareness. TAPS has helped over 90,000 military families who have experienced loss since 1994; before the organization was founded, there was no similar program. Beyond raising money for TAPS, those involved are hoping the songs will connect with listeners and help them understand why the program is so important.

“For just music fans, they’re going to fall in love with the stories because they’re real. So just from a musical standpoint, the fans will enjoy it,” Lonestar member Michael Britt tells The Boot. “We didn’t even really know, until the last six months or so, much about TAPS. Think about it: If we’re just now hearing about it and getting involved in it, if we can get all of these songs to go worldwide and everybody buys the music, then how many more families can they help?

“It’s not just the military folks themselves that are in the military," he adds, "but their families serve this country almost as much as the military members themselves."

Lonestar have a deep understanding of the unique struggles military families go through: Their song “I’m Already There” caught the attention of the military community after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and they’ve stayed involved over the years. "Love Lives On" is simply the next step in that commitment to compassion.

“We’ve been around enough military people to see how this affects them,” McDonald says. “We just think they have the toughest job on the planet, and we’d do anything for them.”

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