Country newcomer Drew Baldridge will release his full-length debut album, Dirt On Us, on June 10th. While the first single from the project, "Dance With Ya" is climbing the charts, Baldridge is gearing up for a busy summer that includes stops at CMA Fest and the Grand Ole Opry. In advance of the release, Baldridge kindly took the time to talk about the record, making his Opry debut and more.
Congrats on being named One to Watch by numerous publications as well as one of CMT’s Listen Up Artists. Are the accolades pleasantly surprising?
They are very pleasant surprises. They really make me want to put out the best music I can because I want to make sure that all of those publications were right about me!
You know, I moved to Nashville five years ago and have been working really hard, so finally being able to see the fruits of the labor is very, very exciting and very humbling. I definitely feel I am on the right path and feel very blessed.
Previously, you released a few EPs, so why was now the right time to put out a full-length record?
It was the right time because I actually have a record deal and I finally have the music - that really tells who I am - for a full-length project. I wanted to make a diverse record that shows that I’m not just this guy who dances around onstage all the time; I wanted it to have depth too. There’s music on here that is a bit different for country music – it’s what I like to call “funktry” - but I always go back to my roots, especially in songs like “Tractors Don’t Roll”, “Dirt On Us” and “Town The World Forgot” that explain where, and how, I grew up. I’ve been working really, really hard to make sure this record is perfect for my fans, and I think we nailed it.
You’re a big dancer and the song that kicks off the record, “Train” really makes you want to get on your feet. That song seems to set the tone for the album and lets people know who you are.
It really does. I thought there was no better way to start the album and get everyone excited for what was to come. I also wanted to have a song to kick off my live show that would say to people, “Come on and jump on this train, we’re going to have a good time.” And when we play that song live, everybody jumps on board and starts having fun.
Many people know Josh Turner is a big influence, but where do the horns and the R&B influences come in?
Growing up, I always loved Michael Jackson, the Blues Brothers, and John Travolta in Grease…. any music that got me moving. In the last three to four years, my bass player introduced me to Earth Wind and Fire and I fell in love with those guys’ sound. I love a good groove - anything that makes me move and lets me have fun on stage. When I am onstage, the audience can tell I’m having fun and that it comes from a real place and then they feed that energy back to me. It’s really fun.
In addition to the danceable tunes, you have some songs that really show another side of you. Is there a story behind “Tractors Don’t Roll?”
That song is 100% about how I grew up. I am from a town of 600 people in Illinois, many of whom were farmers, including my grandfather and the preacher at the time, and on Sundays, the tractors just stop moving. It’s the story of my hometown, but I think it relates to a lot of small town, and even big town, people because it talks about how the family gets together on Sunday for church and afterward, when they eat together. Plus, it’s my mom’s favorite song, so it had to be on the record.
You co-wrote all of the original songs except “Everyday Night.” What drew you to that song?
I was going in to cut a song and Tim [Nichols] said, “I want you to hear this one song I wrote.” He played it and I immediately thought that it sounded like what I was doing and that it could be a hit. I listened to it on the way home, called my manager and we decided to cut it. So we switched out the song we were going to cut for this one and it ended up making the record. It fit so well with what we were doing that it’s now one of my favorite songs. I love to write my own songs and be passionate about what I’m singing on stage, but “Everyday Night” was one of those songs that connected to me and I realized that if I didn’t cut it, I would be missing out.
The hymn “It Is Well” closes out the record. Does that song, on which your father and uncle sing as well, have a particular significance to you?
I grew up singing in the church and always wanted to have a song like that on my album. It was one my dad always sang and having him and my uncle sing on it was probably one of the most special parts of the whole project.
The song itself has a compelling backstory. It was written by this guy who lost his whole family, and he wrote the song to the Lord to tell Him that he knew everything was going to be ok. There’s something special in how I started my career in church and while I don’t consider this to end to my career, the song was a great way to wrap everything up and say, “Hey I made it to my first dream and this is the start of something new.”
Dirt On Us will be released June 17th. Why did you choose that for the title?
Choosing a title was really hard for me. I wanted to make my own title, and was throwing different things around, but nothing hit me hard. I was talking to my guitar player and thinking about “Dirt On Us.” That song is about how my best friend and I grew up, literally having dirt on us, but it’s also about the way I’ve built my career on the road. We’ve played a lot of shows and put in a lot of work. We’re not 100% where we want to get to, we’re still working and getting dirt on us. It’s a totally different way to think about the song, but it wraps together nicely the idea of what we’ve been doing for five years with the way that I grew up.
Absolutely and that road will bring you to play the Grand Ole Opry in June.
I make my Opry debut June 15th, which is just crazy to think about. When they called me I got so nervous my hands started sweating! I was like, “What am I getting myself into?!”
My label asked me if I had any goals or how I would know if I made it and I said if I played the Opry and if my hometown ever had a sign that says “Home of Drew Baldridge.” Now, I am ready to cross one of those off of my dream list. It’s very exciting and humbling. I have about twenty family members who will be there and fans have said that they’re making the trip for it. It’s going to be a very special moment. I’m very blessed.
In addition to the Opry, your summer schedule is packed with shows, fairs and festivals.
There will be lots fairs and festivals all summer….and we will literally be all over the country. We play June 10th at CMA Fest and the next day we’re in San Diego and then on June 12th we’re in Portland, Maine. That’s kind of the beginning of the tour and then we’re busy through August. There are lots of exciting things coming up and we’re looking forward to all of them.
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