So you’re a whiskey guy. You must have to pace yourself in order to stay out of trouble drinking that.
The problem is I don’t do that. Basically with everything in life I go as hard as I can until I can’t go anymore. I don’t remember the last hangover I had though, probably because I just keep it going. Hell, I get up on a Sunday and we’re drinking it. The first week of the tour I brought a big half gallon for the band and it was gone by the first night. Now I make sure to have my own!
You’ve been there before as a songwriter on Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” and now your back as #1 on iTunes with your EP “Ready Set Roll”.
This feels way cooler because it’s my name this time, not Florida Georgia Line and being an artist and touring is the most important thing to me. But I know it’s still far from the same level of success as “Cruise”. It’s probably about five million, 900 and 99 downloads away from that right now.
Where do you feel most creative?
Some of the best songs I’ve written are from waking up and having a melody in my head and putting it in my phone. The humming from my head sounds awful because it’s 4 a.m., I’m tired and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing but some of the best ideas I’ve had were in the middle of the night that I just wake up to.
When did the line “Best Beers of Our Lives” come to you?
With our new EP I was down in Atlanta with Brian [Kelley] from Florida Georgia Line when I thought of “Best Beers of Our Lives”. We were all sitting down on the dock and the sun was setting. It was perfect, I was with my boys and I said, “Man. These are the best years of our lives right here, boys.” Then I looked down at my drink and was like, “The best beers of our lives.” I didn’t say it out loud because then Brian would go write the damn thing so I kept it to myself and just held on to it for a few weeks before I went in and wrote it. Then I took it to Chris DeStefano and Shane Minor, DeStefano produced a lot of the record. He’s just a badass track guy and a great melody and lyric guy too. But for “Cruise” we were writing a slow song that day and in the middle of the slow song “Cruise” just happened and we were done with it in 45 minutes. So I guess the shorter it takes to write a song, the bigger it gets?
You’ve grown a large fanbase through your live performances all while not being on a record label.
It really happened organically. I moved to Nashville and I didn’t know what the hell to do, I just moved in with Brian and started writing songs. Two or three weeks go by and I go to the bar and everybody’s talking about who has a song or got a record deal and it was always the same old thing. I love Nashville and I have a lot of great friends there but I don’t want to do it the same old way. I had a couple of meetings those first few months and these people were trying to tell me what was good but then I’d go out and see Eric [Church] or Brantley [Gilbert] perform and it wasn’t what those people were talking about in those meetings, it was the exact opposite. Because the songs that those guys are singing, people in those meetings would say wouldn’t work. I saw the way the Corey Smiths of the world did it, the underground guys, the Texas guys. It didn’t take me more than a couple of weeks in Nashville to realize that I’m not going to sit in an office and wait for someone to tell me what’s good and what’s not and when I’m ready to do it.
Where did you go from there?
I just kind of threw myself out there to the wolves and started touring right away. I put out the “Country as Me” EP and people were buying it. People are still buying the hell out of that record! The more people that said, “You’re not good enough. You can’t do it,” the more I’m like, “Kiss my ass! I can do it,” and that to me makes me happier than anything. When somebody tells me I can’t do something, I’m gonna do it. And now that I’ve done all the work the record labels are coming in like, “Oh, hell yeah. You’re great!”
How does it feel to now be getting the attention as an artist that you’ve worked so hard for?
This is the first thing I’ve ever done where I really feel like this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I really feel like I can be the best, or one of the best, in the business if I just keep going. When I was playing college football I loved it but it was taken away from me, it just wasn’t right. The whole time I was doing NASCAR I was pretty good at it but I had this cloud hovering over me wanting to do music. Now that I’m doing this it feels like I’m finally doing what I was meant to be doing. I think the success if anything hasn’t proven me right but it’s given me the confidence to go, “Hell yeah. Let’s just keep doing it,” and see what happens.
Have other country music artists embraced you?
They’re startin’ to come around. I still think a lot of people don’t take me seriously because I’m not on a label. I don’t necessarily think it’s that people in Nashville don’t respect me, I just think it’s that they don’t know what’s going on. I’ve started to run into artists like Chris Young and Jerrod Neimann more and they’re like, “Hell yeah, man. I’ve heard what you’re doing. I see what you’re doing,” so it feels like I’m getting up there with these guys. It’s cool to hear them say that they’re paying attention. I’m just trying to do my own thing and continue to have as much success as I can.
Craziest thing a fan has done while you were on stage?
This girl was front row in Charleston, I look down and she’s just completely naked. She had a dress on at one point but she was butt-ass naked! And then another girl one time got a big ol’ handful on stage of… me.
Are you in a relationship?
Just livin’ the single life?
Yeah, I’m absolutely single. I’ve had a couple of relationships since I started doing this but then they go south real quick ‘cause of stuff like that. People post pictures of crazy stuff that happens and even though I may not be doing anything wrong they might not trust me. I’m like, “What the hell am I doing? I can’t control that! Let ‘em get naked!” I think it’s cool, it makes the show more fun.
If you had to sum up your dream girl, who would she be?
Well, Carrie Underwood was taken from me by Mike Fisher. He’s a hockey player so I don’t want to mess with him but I toured with Carrie a little bit down in Texas and I loved her, she was awesome. So if anything ever happens with her and the hockey guy, I wouldn’t complain if I got that phone call! I also love Jessica Alba, I’ve always loved her.
She’s married too?! I’m gonna need to drink more. I did not know that. Damn!
Do you remember your first kiss?
Well, if it’s gonna help out my Carrie situation I’ll say that I haven’t had one and I’ve been saving myself for Carrie.
And if that doesn’t help your situation with Carrie?
It was in 8th grade. I don’t remember her name, sorry, but it was in the parking lot by the buses. I do remember our assistant principal Mr. Mackaphee came out though and he literally broke up my first kiss. He was like, “You kids get outta here! Stop doin’ that bullsh-t!” so I didn’t even get to finish it. He ruined my first kiss. Mr. Mackaphee, asshole…
Hopefully he’s not reading this.
Another funny story; Shawn Johnson, the gymnast, started tweeting me last week when my album came out saying how much she liked it. I think we’re gonna do a balance-beam-off. She lives in Nashville, she goes to Vanderbilt now apparently. I don’t know if that’s a celebrity crush but I did have a huge crush on her in like 2008. Damn, she was probably like 14 at the time! But I was young too.
Coolest moment you’ve experienced since becoming an artist?
One was in Washington state when I was playing two or three opening acts for Luke [Bryan]. I was walking by his buses and I walked by his trailer and his trailer door was open. I saw a bunch of toys so I peeked my head in and Luke was sitting there on his cooler with his fishin’ rod. The first thing he said was, “What’s up, man! It’s good to meet you!” and he sat me down and wanted to know what was going on with me. It was a real cool moment for me. I mean, he’s [CMA’s] entertainer of the year. When you get to his level you don’t need to do that and you don’t have time for that but he did and it wasn’t hard for him. It was just like he was one of the guys. It was inspiration for me to stay that way too, to just be a chill guy. I think Luke was a frat boy in college, just a normal guy and that’s what I’ve been up until now so I don’t have a reason to sit here and be like, “Oh yeah, look at me. I’m on the top of iTunes.”
But being at the top of iTunes is pretty damn cool.
That was a surreal moment for me! I mean, what the hell!? For this whole week! I look this morning and Luke is right behind me now. When I see that all I’m thinkin’ is, “That’s just stupid. That should never happen.” It’s Saturday night and the album came out on Tuesday and it’s still number one. I took a screenshot and tweeted it the night it came out and was number one. I just can’t believe it, I don’t even know how that’s even happening.
Name a song you downloaded recently that would surprise your fans.
“We Go Down” by Krewella. Dubstep!
We would not have pegged you for a dubstep guy.
What happened was we were at the House of Blues in Cleveland and were supposed to be playing the main stage but had gotten bumped off by this duo. They put us on the side stage and we were sold out that night so I was pissed off. But we did our show, it was a damn good time and then I went over to the main stage like, “Who are these damn people who took my spot?” and it was Krewella. I had no idea who they were but these girls were rockin’ and the crowd was rockin’. It took me two seconds to be like, “Welp, well done. I’m not even mad at ya anymore because that’s bad ass.” We got to meet ‘em after the show and hang out. I kinda fell in love with these girls! Because they’re so different and so not my normal type. Very different [than a country girl]. So after that I went and downloaded “We Go Down”. That song’s badass!
How do you pass the time on the tour bus?
I sleep a lot during the day … We started reading a little bit. That bus is so little. We have cornhole so whenever it’s not freezing out we do that. I’m getting a compound bow so I’m gonna start taking that out when I’m not in the middle of the city, that’ll be fun to me. I would take a rifle out if I could, I love hunting. It kills me that I can’t even hunt this fall because I’m touring so much.
Do you cook for yourself on the road?
No, it’s probably been a year and a half since we’ve cooked for ourselves on the road. I mean, I’d love to. I grill! We might have grilled once last year.
Instead of bringing Miller Lite we should have brought a home-cooked meal.
I would have laid one on you! That would have been awesome.
One thing you do before every show?
I warm my voice up and pour one of these, [a Jack and Coke], whether I drink it or not. There are some nights when I don’t even drink but it’s just comfortable for me to have it. We do a little prayer and then we do a chant that goes, “Good better best, don’t let it rest, until your good gets better and your better gets best.” My high school football coach started that. We won two state championships so it stuck with me. It worked for that so maybe it’ll work for music.
If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?
It definitely would be my dad. He died five years ago so I never got the chance to chill and get drinks with him. But I would want to get drunk with him and go out, not just have a couple of drinks and talk. If not him then Garth Brooks, just ’cause. And that would not be to get hammered, I would just want to talk to him for about… four or five weeks.
And Trisha Yearwood could cook!
I met her and Garth and they’re unbelievable. They make you feel like you’re the most important person they’ve ever talked to, they’re awesome. And you say she cooks now?
Haven’t you seen “Trisha’s Southern Kitchen” on Food Network?
Good Lord. He’s lucky as hell.
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