Skip to Content

6 Bands Covering the Iconic Tune “Life is a Highway”

It all begins with a guitar riff as Justin Faldyn takes the lead, extracting elements of rock and blues from the strings with finesse.

Following the guitar intro, the drums kick in with a blend of snare, bass, tom, and cymbal, skillfully orchestrated by Brennan Collier, distinguished by his matching drumstick tattoo.

Aaron Cruse Arbaugh joins in with soulful acoustic vocals, marking the commencement of their performance.

These talented musicians showcase their craft at various venues throughout Texas, with a frequent presence in College Station, their home base since the inception of Highway 6 eighteen months ago.

“I first met Brennan in an economics class,” Faldyn recalled. “We hit it off, and he knew a bass player, so we started jamming together, and the rest is history. Eventually, we crossed paths with Aaron.”

Hailing from La Grange, the birthplace of ZZ Top and a hub for country and blues music, Faldyn’s journey with the guitar began a mere five years ago, despite his hometown’s rich musical heritage.

The Highway 6 Band’s bassist, Erwin Olexa, proudly displays his Aggie Ring during a performance at The Corner Bar on Sunday, March 24, 2024. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)


During their show at The Corner Bar on March 24, 2024, lead guitarist Justin Faldyn of The Highway 6 Band takes on vocal duties, showcasing his versatile talents. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)


“My cousin sparked my interest in playing the guitar,” Faldyn shared. “He received one as a birthday gift, and I had an old acoustic guitar lying around at home. That’s what prompted me to start playing. Although I had that guitar hanging on the wall since I was young, I only picked it up because of my cousin.”

While Collier’s musical roots lean more towards punk and metal genres, the fusion of his background with Faldyn’s blues expertise and their former bassist’s influences resulted in a unique band dynamic. The only challenge they faced initially was deciding on a name.

“Our very first show was fast approaching,” Collier reminisced. “It was just me, Justin, and Reed, on our way to Guitar Center to grab some supplies. We were nameless but had a gig in three hours. So, as we drove down Highway 6, we tossed around ideas for a name.”

The newly formed Highway 6 Band encountered Cruse Arbaugh through a social media video showcasing his musical prowess, leading to his integral role as the band’s vocalist.

“Music has been a significant part of my life,” Cruse Arbaugh reflected. “While I hadn’t explored singing or songwriting extensively before, I used to compose instrumentals in my youth. Upon entering college, I realized that music could be a great way to connect with people if I wasn’t involved in other organizations. That’s how I started, and I discovered a talent for writing that I decided to nurture.”

With the lineup solidified, the band had a mere five days to prepare for a show with their new vocalist. However, their instant chemistry made the transition seamless.

“I’ve been part of several bands,” Cruse Arbaugh noted. “What struck me when I joined these guys was our immediate connection. It’s rare to find individuals or groups with whom you can sync effortlessly. We just vibe together.”

Behind the scenes, band manager Andrew “Andy” Burk plays a pivotal role in coordinating their endeavors. While Faldyn and the band members focus on their musical craft, Burk handles the logistical aspects, from securing venues to organizing performances, ensuring everything runs smoothly. As Cruse Arbaugh humorously pointed out, Highway 6’s gatherings often lean towards socializing rather than intense practice sessions, necessitating Burk’s nudges to keep them on track.

“I need to keep them in line at times because if we don’t practice, it won’t come together,” Burk emphasized. “It would sound terrible, which reflects poorly on me. So, I have to intervene occasionally. Fortunately, they are usually diligent about being prepared.”

Burk also collaborates with Cruse Arbaugh during late-night writing sessions, contributing to song lyrics. This collaborative process shapes most of their songs, with Cruse Arbaugh and Burk crafting the words, subsequently fine-tuned by Faldyn and Collier. However, their upcoming single, “Man on the Run,” set to debut on April 20, took a different path to creation—it all started with yet another captivating guitar riff.

Bassist Erwin Olexa adjusts his pedal board during The Highway 6 Band’s performance at The Corner Bar on Sunday, March 24, 2024. (Chris Swann/ The Battalion)


During their performance at The Corner Bar on Sunday, March 24, 2024, bassist Erwin Olexa captivates the audience with his musical prowess as part of The Highway 6 Band. (Chris Swann/ The Battalion)


“Justin’s roots in blues run deep,” Cruse Arbaugh acknowledged. “His fluency in blues music is admirable. I wish I could play blues half as well as he does. We were practicing at our former bass player’s residence, getting ready for a show. His roommate was upstairs hammering a picture onto the wall, creating a rhythmic sound. Justin, tapping his feet, caught onto the beat and started playing a blues riff in sync with the hammering.”

“The tempo picked up, Brennan joined in, and I thought, ‘Hold on, this is brilliant,’” Cruse Arbaugh continued. “We kept building on that moment, inspired by the blues riff Justin initiated, his soulful solos, and the energy he infused into crafting the initial segment of the song. It’s a track that gets me pumped, leaping onto the bass drum almost every Saturday we perform.”

True to their dynamic nature, “Man on the Run” has become a staple closing piece for Highway 6’s performances. However, their setlist, much like their musical style, remains adaptable and ever-evolving based on the audience and venue.

“Our setlist varies depending on the crowd,” Collier explained. “For older audiences, we incorporate classic country tunes, while for fraternity or sorority events, we introduce alternative tracks.”

Intriguingly, Highway 6 often waits until the eleventh hour to jot down their setlist, turning it into a playful anticipation game.

“One of our favorite rituals, almost a game by now, is deciding the surface for our setlist,” Cruse Arbaugh shared. “We’ve used paper plates, a pizza box, even napkins.”

Their primary aim always remains to establish a connection with the audience, with Cruse Arbaugh frequently immersing himself in the crowd, engaging with fans, and adding an interactive dimension to their performances.

“I appreciate the energy of a mosh pit,” Cruse Arbaugh expressed. “I want to be part of it, to dive in and engage, rather than remain confined to the stage without interaction. Crowd engagement is pivotal to me.”

Looking ahead, Highway 6 embraces the uncertainty of the future, anchored by the certainty that music will continue to be a central aspect of their lives.

Vocalist Aaron Cruse Arbaugh of The Highway 6 Band delivers a captivating performance at The Corner Bar on March 24, 2024. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)


The illuminated kick drum of The Highway 6 Band sets the stage aglow before their performance at The Corner Bar on Sunday, March 24, 2024. (Chris Swann/ The Battalion)


“If a career in music doesn’t materialize, and we find ourselves stuck in office jobs, we are inclined to establish our sound company,” Cruse Arbaugh revealed. “We’ve discussed the possibility of opening a recording studio.”

Their laid-back approach permeates every facet of their lives, exemplified by Collier’s tattoo showcasing one of their album covers.

“Our artist created this tattoo for me in exchange for a bottle of Tito’s, I believe,” Collier shared. “It was a fair trade.”

Ultimately, their focus remains on creating memorable musical moments. Faldyn reminisced about a significant night performing alongside Ray Wylie Hubbard and engaging in guitar solos with Hubbard’s son on stage—an experience that left a lasting impact. Burk, in his role as manager, cherishes the moment Highway 6 shared the stage with Whiskey Myers, a band they often cover, marking a proud milestone.

“Collaborating with Whiskey Myers was a standout moment for us,” Burk reflected. “When we arranged that show and had the opportunity to interact with them, receiving compliments on our progress despite our relatively short time in the industry meant a lot coming from established bands like them.”

For now, Highway 6 embraces each day with a sense of spontaneity, reveling in the joy of creating music and building connections with fellow musicians. Their path forward may not be set in stone, but that’s precisely how Highway 6 prefers to navigate their musical journey—embracing the unknown with open arms.