This Fort Worth country singer has opened for Martina McBride and Eli Young Band – and this'll be his biggest year yet
Tell us about your musical journey so far.
I was born in Fort Worth, Texas. I started playing guitar and drums at age 10. One Christmas, 'Santa' gave us a drum set and a guitar. The drums were intended for my brother and the guitar was intended for me. But, somehow, I gravitated toward both instruments. I didn't really grow up playing in bands. I was more of a solo artist – I would layer on instruments in Garage Band. I started writing songs and lyrics around the age of 16, and that's when I recorded my first demo in Fort Worth. I played a couple acoustic shows in high school but really wasn't playing much. It wasn't until college, when I moved down to Austin to go to the University of Texas, that I really started writing more.
I recorded my first full album, Fireworks, as a sophomore in college. That was when I started playing shows around Texas with a full band, opening for guys like Pat Green and Randy Rogers. A couple years later, I began traveling up to Nashville to write more and connect with songwriters. Fast forward to this summer, I released my second full-length album, Getaway, and it's been a crazy ride. It's been a great year. I got to open for Martina McBride and Eli Young Band. Some of my songs have been featured on television this year, too – it's been kind of a whirlwind since the album came out. It's been awesome.
Does your family live in Nashville, now?
We do. For a while, we would just come back and forth from Texas. In 2014, my wife, kids, and I made the full plunge.
Do you remember what your very first song was about?
I do! I think it was about my car and a girl I had a crush on. The two things that guys write about when they first start writing songs – girls or cars. Or, the lack of girls and cars [laughs].
Where do you pull your songwriting inspiration?
Really all over the place. I would be lost without the Notes app on my phone. I keep little titles, ideas, and concepts on my phone. Old music inspires me, like Tom Petty, BB King, or something classic. I love pop music. I try to stay engaged with what’s current right now. I don’t necessarily love all of it, but I like to stay plugged into it. I’m inspired by other music, my experiences, and stories I hear. I’m known to write a lot of love songs, so my wife definitely inspires me. She’s a great sounding board for what my fans will enjoy. She’s got a great ear for music.
What’s your favorite track on Getaway?
Well, “Sand In The Bed” has gotten a lot of attention on Spotify. It’s the first track on the album to cross a million streams, so that’s definitely been a fan-favorite. When I was driving home from the studio, I couldn’t stop playing the rough mix. I showed my wife and my family, and I was just really excited about the sound. It’s a different, unique-sounding track. “Might As Well” is probably my favorite to play live. It’s fun and energetic, and it gets the crowd amped up.
You’ve been opening a few shows for Eli Young Band – how has that been?
It’s been awesome! I grew up listening to those guys. They’re from Denton, so we’re practically from the same place. I grew up going to their shows and being a fan of their albums and their music. Now, opening up for them, I get to watch side-stage and then go out and play for their fans. It’s been incredible. They have great audiences and they bring a great show. It’s been really cool to join those guys the past couple weeks for some shows.
Your last tour was with Martina McBride. Tell us about that.
Honestly, I got to relive some of my childhood. I was born in 1990, so Martina, Faith Hill, Reba, and Garth were the pinnacle of country music in my growing-up years. It’s cool to hear those songs and how they stand the test of time. Her songs are still great and she’s still an incredible singer. I was honored to be part of that. And, it was for a great cause. We were on the Sarah Cannon tour raising money for cancer awareness. It felt good to be doing something you love and also helping people out.
Do you have a pre-show ritual?
I really just try to say a prayer and remind the band how blessed we are to make music. We take a moment to circle up and live in the moment. We spend so many hours traveling, and the show is a small, small part of the day. It’s a smile, a fist bump, and we try to give the best show we can.
What's been your favorite place to play?
That’s tough. You know, just when you think you’ve played the coolest place – in 2015, we went on an East Coast tour with Pat Green and played in Washington, D.C. and New York City, and those were bucket-list gigs – you come to appreciate all of it. Billy Bob’s Texas is one of the most historic dance halls in the country. Getting to headline there was a huge deal. I enjoy getting to see all of these places, experiencing the different vibes and environments, and meeting people. That’s my favorite part of touring – getting to soak up all of the towns and hearing the stories.
What do you love most about Texas?
I love so many things about Texas – probably the people first and foremost. Everyone is so friendly and genuine. You really realize that when you leave. People walk down the street and always say ‘Hi, how are ya?’ You feel like you know everyone. The food is definitely a highlight. One tough part of moving up to Nashville was the lack of breakfast tacos. My wife and I lived in Austin for many years and we would eat breakfast tacos every day if we could. We miss the Mexican food. There’s no Mexican food in the world like Texas’.
What’s your ideal breakfast taco?
I’m pretty easy. I like bacon, egg, and cheese on a flour tortilla with some great hot sauce. The hot sauce is key.
Do you have a hot sauce preference?
I like Cholula, but if I had to pick, I would probably take a few dashes of Tabasco. Or, if we’re looking at your standard grocery store, we’ll get the hot version of Pace. But if you’re really looking for a kick, you’ve gotta go with a few dashes of Tabasco.
Do you have a favorite classic Southern food?
Yes. I am a chicken-fried steak and chicken-fried chicken connoisseur – or at least I’d like to think so [laughs]. We did a Texas radio tour for Fireworks two or three years ago and we’d got to all these little towns that you’d probably never see unless you lived there. Every single one had a Southern cooking diner. We called it the ‘Chicken-Fried Steak Tour,’ and we tried chicken-fried steak at every restaurant. It probably wasn’t the healthiest tour, but it was fun.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
My dad really instilled integrity into me. You want to be a man of your word. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. Be honest. That’s really been important to me.