It’s a long journey to go from playing cover songs in front of the band’s girlfriends to opening a concert for Earl Thomas Conley in front of 7,000 fans. But for members of 10 Mile Crossing, it has been an enjoyable trip. The band’s single “I Do” is currently getting airplay around Central Texas, including locally on KOXE. The band’s debut album, “10 Mile Crossing,” is scheduled for wide release in July.

The five members of 10 Mile Crossing, including Brownwood native Brad Windham and Early native David Gist, come from various backgrounds and came together as a band about three years ago.

“I had played since I was probably 16 years old. Jeff (Buchanan) and I met in college and played in a cover band for several years,” said Windham. “We were more pop rock, Matchbox 20 type stuff.” Windham said they played around Waco and Denton.

Gist said he had played in a few blues bands that performed around Brownwood and Abilene.

“I took classical piano for several years and I was a wedding singer too,” Gist said.

“A few years ago we all quit,” Windham said. “You put it down, you pick it up. But it gets in your blood. Then things changed. We started writing our own songs. We’d call up friends and let them listen to what we had.”

The two friends performed mostly acoustically for a couple years and gradually the band grew. Windham and Gist both play guitar and sing. Buchanan, who also sings and plays guitar, was the next to join the band. Justin Sherwood, drums, and Marty Sanders, bass, then entered the picture.

“We’ve been doing this about three years, but the first two years were really spent just forming,” Windham said.

The band practiced in Gist’s small garage.

“There was no air-conditioning, it was crammed and packed. We’d practice every weekend or every other weekend for a year — we drove our girlfriends, family and neighbors crazy.” The group also performed locally at several spots like Backroads Bar and Grill, as well as at the Brownwood Reunion Celebration.

All that practice paid off when the band went to a recording studio in White Settlement, near Fort Worth.

“It was a learning experience,” Windham said. “The studio’s a different animal. It was a long, tedious experience.”

“You go in with one product you think is going to work and walk out with another,” Gist said.

Windham and Gist said it was important that the band members maintained control of their careers, so they have been working through local distribution deals. That means they have worked hard to get their single on the air. All the band’s members have families and regular jobs outside music, so keeping control of their future was important.

“We have signed with Smith Music Group, which will allow wider distribution, without having to sign our lives away and going on tour for years,” Windham said. “Once you have a hit, then you have more pull about the direction of your career.

“Right now the album is scheduled to be released in July, so it should start showing up in stores like Wal-Mart, Hastings, places like that. It’s currently available at smithmusic.com or at one of our concerts,” Windham said.

Smith Music Group has also worked with bands such as Merle Haggard, Pat Green, Drew Womack, Randy Rogers Band and Cross Canadian Ragweed.

All the members of the band sing during performances, and Gist and Windham said everyone gets involved in the songwriting process.

“I think we’ve all enjoyed the writing process. Jeff is the chief lyric writer,” Windham said. “Writing can be uncomfortable. Every song is a little autobiographical, but they really take on their own life.”

“You may have several lives get in there,” Gist said. “The whole thing’s a lot of fun, seeing how it all comes together. It’s a neat thing to watch as it goes along.”

“I think when you play original music, people listen,” Windham said. “Cover music is background music. When people come to see us, they come to listen.”

Although both agreed that it’s hard to beat the feeling of playing in front of 7,000 people, Gist and Windham said the band enjoys playing smaller venues because they feel more connected to the crowd.

“Smaller clubs and venues are pretty cool. There’s a great atmosphere — you can feel it, you can feel the energy,” Gist said.

The band is building for the future, with eight songs already written for its next album.

“It’s not about overnight success. We’re about building,” Windham said. “We would like to eventually go nationwide and sign a big deal, but we want to do it on our own terms.”