Northstate, the new duo of North Carolina natives Marcus Kiser and Brent Lain, is Southern roots country with the radio-ready hooks of Nineties rock. And it's irresistible. Although raised on the standard Southern template of Johnny Cash (“He sounds like my grandfather,” says Marcus) and Christian music, it’s a more rock-forward type of music that bonds and inspires them.   “I remember in middle school I started watching MTV,” says Brent. “Nineties rock was just so good. That’s when I was exposed to Matchbox 20, Third Eye Blind, all these bands that had a big influence on me.” And just like those rock groups (and country legends, too), they cut their teeth in bars, earning fans one at a time and doing it all on their own—and in their own no-shortcuts way. Instead of pandering to hard-to-impress elite audiences, playing “it” bars, and making high-brow connections and shaking label suits' hands, Northstate have paid their dues playing small clubs...

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