Frankie Ballard is having a very good year. He recently released his second album, scored his first #1 single, and is touring successfully, gaining new fans in every city he plays. Frankie graciously took the time to talk with us about "Helluva Life," connecting with his fans and more!
Congratulations on the success of the album and your first #1. “Helluva Life” really resonated with people. Did that surprise you?
The lyrics to "Helluva Life" resonate with me so much; they really parallel my journey. So when we put that song out, I really hoped people would attach themselves to it and connect with it. It’s been really terrific to hear people’s stories at the merch table or on social media and learn how that song relates to their lives. It’s just so cool because that’s what you aim for when you write a song: to have a connection with people.
When you found out “Helluva Life” was #1 what went through your head?
Man, I felt like a child wanting to run down the street and do cartwheels; I truly did! (laughing) At first, I really couldn’t believe it; it was surreal. I had a really hard time believing my name was at the top of the chart with all of those other artists who have had #1 songs before me. It was a crazy, great feeling; one that I hope to experience many more times.
You posted on social media that one of the ways you celebrated the single being #1 was purchasing a Manuel suit. Did you celebrate any other ways?
The purchase of the suit was the big one. I wanted something tangible to hold onto to commemorate the song being #1. I also spent a lot of time in solitude, being thankful and reflecting. It really was a joyful time for me, and it still is.
I have been making music for a living for a long time. Having the song reach the top of the charts was incredible for me because I felt like I finally got in the door.
You have been in the business for almost ten years. Sunshine and Whiskey is your second album. For some, a #1 from a second album would be considered a swift rise. Do you think it happened quickly?
It is hard for me to keep perspective on that. In my heart, it has been a long journey. I remember playing the honky tonks, which seems like a long time ago, but ten years really isn’t all that long in the scheme of things. To me, it really doesn’t matter how long it took to happen, I am just happy that it happened. I hope it doesn’t take that long for me to have my second one! (laughing)
It might happen quickly! Your next single, “Sunshine and Whiskey” was recently released to country radio. It seems like the perfect summer song.
Well, I think the song is a great follow up to “Helluva Life.” It is a feel good song that has been getting a great reaction even though it has only been out for about a couple of weeks. I’m excited to play it during the summer at festivals and fairs.
You co-wrote one song on the album, but the rest were written by in-demand songwriters. How did you choose the songs? Were they pitched to you, or did you have specific writers in mind?
It was a little bit of everything. I started writing and looking for songs right after the first album. I tried to find songs that best represented me, were honest for me and meant something to me. It was a couple of years of hard work, but it was really satisfying to see the finished product.
There is an older song on the album, “Don’t Tell Mama,” which was written about twenty years ago & recorded by others. Why did you decide to include that song on the record?
I heard that song about five years ago and couldn’t believe it wasn’t a huge hit! The lyrics really moved me; they almost brought me to tears.
I always kept that song in my back pocket. I played it for my producer and he said we had to record it. Originally, it had a slower, more traditional sound, so we worked on it to make it our own and more of what I do sonically. I am so happy with the way it came out. I really love that song.
In addition to the music, your live shows are really energetic and fun. You have a real stage presence and truly connect with the audience.
I am up there having a great time and I want everyone in the audience to have a great time; that’s what it is all about. People are spending their hard earned money to come and hang out, and I want to entertain them. I try to be in the moment, be present and be entertaining. Although sometimes it might be crazy, I really do what I feel on stage. I think that’s the best way to be.
You have such a unique style, which seems like an homage to the 1940's and 1950's. Do you draw inspiration from that time?
Absolutely. Those were the greatest generation of guys; they served in World War II, came back, worked and raised families. They had no excuses and didn’t want any hand outs. I idolize those guys and pull [influences] from that generation.
In addition to singing and performing, you are a talented guitarist. When did you start playing?
As a kid, I was a strummer. Dad would sing Kenny Rogers and I would strum along. I didn’t get serious about shredding until I saw Stevie Ray Vaughn on Austin City Limits on PBS when I was in high school. One Sunday afternoon I locked myself away and was determined to only come out when I could play like that. I fell in love with the blues from Stevie, learned about him and his influences and went retroactive from there. I still love that music.
Professionally then, why did you gravitate to country music instead of the blues?
Country music was what I grew up on; what my dad and mom listened to, showed me, and taught me. Most of all, when I started writing songs, they were country; that’s what came out of me. I am definitely influenced by the blues, Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers, but my heart is always country.
Previously, you have supported Kenny Chesney and Bob Seger. Is there anyone currently who you would like to tour with?
Eric Church. I think it would be a really cool, high energy tour. I think too that his fans would dig my music. I am a huge fan of his, so I know I would be watching his set every night.
It seems like your touring schedule is fairly packed through the summer. Is there a must have for you when you are on the road and what do you do on your downtime?
I need a good gym. I like to do something physical myself every day or I don’t feel right about myself. I am not the kind of person to sit around on the bus.
It’s music all the time. I am either practicing guitar, playing drums, or working on the set. I don’t have any hobbies; music is my entire life, and I love it.
A top five debut for the record and a number one single. What else do you want to accomplish this year?
Shoot, I want "Sunshine and Whiskey" to get up there and do the same thing [reach #1]! The biggest things though, are that I just want to keep being able to play shows and meet fans. I want to keep pushing the rock up the hill.
What are you listening to now?
I think Kasey Musgraves made a really great album that is so original and great for the format. I also have been listening to the Cult, which is kind of random, but I usually listen to some rock ‘n’ roll and some country at the same time. Gotta keep that edge on me now.
Watch the official video for "Helluva Life" below
For more information visit his official website
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