Frankie Ballard is one of those artists that should be getting more attention than he is. I was at the Warner Music Nashville party on my birthday when Roughstock‘s editor, Matt Bjorke, told me to get up close and watch Frankie Play. Frankie didn’t disappoint – with guitar skills that might rival even some of the top guitar players in Music City, Frankie will be one of the interesting acts to watch over the next few years to see where his career will take him. I sat down with Frankie less than 24 hours after he impressed me with his short 2-song set in downtown Nashville.
His talent was quickly picked up in Nashville, and he was signed to his first song publishing company after only one showcase. The country music singer released his self-titled debut album on the major label last year, and he’ll be making an appearance at this year’s CMA Fest on the Bud Light stage on Friday, June 8th at 2:45 pm outside Bridgestone Arena.
Frankie has just been announced as part of the line-up for the Blake Shelton Cruise. Are you thinking of going? Check out our interview with Frankie below, and join us on the cruise! If you mention Keepin’ it Country on your new reservation, you qualify for a free gift from us on-board the ship! Get to know the latest addition to the Blake Shelton Cruise below, and get ready for a one-of-a-kind party on the seven seas this October. For more information on the Blake Shelton Cruise, or to book your reservation, visit blakesheltoncruise.com.
Find out what Frankie’s dream tour was that he got to be a part of, what his goal for the year is, how he relieves stress at home, and how he got signed so fast in Nashville:
When you came to Nashville, you got signed pretty fast.
Yeah, I actually didn’t move down until I signed my record deal. I was up in Michigan and making trips down, but I wasn’t committed to moving here. I was playing a bunch of shows in Michigan and I didn’t want to have to give up all my gigs and come down here and get a real job (laughs). So, I didn’t move down until I was signed.
After one showcase, right?
Yeah, there was a lot of work before the actual showcase. I went around and met some of the labels. We did two showcases – one was an exclusive one for Sony, and the next night was open to anybody. Warner Brothers came out to the second night, and they made me an offer. It was awesome. I remember being so excited that night, and they were like “we want to sign you!”. I just couldn’t believe it.
Have you had a chance to sit back and reflect on it all yet? Or is it mostly a blur?
Yeah, I guess I haven’t done as much reflecting as I probably should, but it’s gone by so fast. Last year was crazy fast. I’m so blessed with all the opportunities I’ve gotten, and just trying to work it one step at a time, and not make too big of a goal or go out on a limb. There’s so much work to be done everyday, and it’s hard for me to think about where I’ve been and where I’m going. I just like to think about what I can do today to try and get closer to where I want to go.
Do you have one big goal you want to accomplish for the year?
Yes! I want to get a big ol’ hit song on country radio. I want to tour and play clubs, and all that supported by a song on the radio. The power of country radio is a crazy thing… I can go down to Texas, or Florida, or anywhere and there’s people near the club that have heard my song. I want to get my next single out sometime soon so I can spend time out on the road.
Now you’ve toured with some pretty big acts, but who would you consider to be your dream tour?
Well, I’ve got to say I might have already gotten to do it. I’m a huge Bob Seger fan my whole life. Getting to do that tour with him was such a dream come true. I know I’m a country artist, but I think Bob Seger’s music is just American Heartland music, you know. He has a lot of country fans, and if his “Running Against The Wind,” or really any of his songs, were to come out today they’d probably be on country radio. Getting to do that tour was it for me.
Would you consider him to be your inspiration?
Oh, he was a huge inspiration and still is. He comes out and does sound check everyday, full-on. This guy doesn’t have anything left to prove to anyone, but he’s still there and he still makes sure that everything is right. That was incredibly inspiring, I’m seeing him do this and I’m thinking “man, I gotta work harder!”. (laughs)
Now, I know you play guitar, but do you play any other instruments?
Yeah, I play drums. I started out playing drums before I played guitar. Drums are so much fun because it’s not so much of a precise exact science. You just kind of cut loose, and it’s a great stress reliever. I go back home and take out my drum kit sometimes, put on some headphones, and just jam along to music. It just gets the stress out.
Is there any song out on the radio right now that you wish you wrote?
Oh, I wish I wrote Eric Church‘s “Drink In My Hand.” The first time I heard that song I was like “no! That should have been me!” (laughs). No, I love Eric’s new record, its so good top-to-bottom. It’s a great, great record. It’s not a bunch of songs that don’t make sense together, you know? It’s just a great, great record.
Now, for people who haven’t seen you live before, how would you describe your show to them?
Just energy. When people come out and spend their hard earned money, they deserve to be entertained. If they want to just hear music they can fire up their iPod in the car, or open up a bottle of wine and just put it on in the house. They don’t have to come out to hear music, so when they’re coming out they want to see something as well. We try to really entertain and be entertaining… and lots of guitar playing (laughs).
Now if you could work with any country artist today, who would you pick?
There’s guys like Merle Haggard and George Jones because they’re legends. Maybe Miranda Lambert. That would be cool to do a duet with her because she’s so country. She has such a pure, original country voice. It would be cool to play guitar with Keith Urban. Probably those last two I’d pick for current artists.
Now, if you could write a song with anybody…
Oh man… Man, I’d hate to use him again but probably Bob Seger. He wrote all those hits by himself, just Bob Seger. I don’t think he ever co-writes, but just to be in a room with him or John Prine would be amazing. Those are two guys I really respect as songwriters, and I don’t think that they co-write, so even if I could just sit there and bring them in coffee all like “hey man, let me fill you up there,” and I’d be happy (laughs). I’d just love to be in the room with those men while they’re writing a song.
Any touring plans for the year?
Not with anybody, we’re doing a few shows with Luke Bryan. We’ll just be on the road, we’ll be hitting the Frankie Ballard never ending club tour that has no start and no end (laughs). We’re always on the road, but if something comes along we’ll jump on it, you know.
Is there one place you haven’t played yet that you really want to?
Well I’ve never been to Alaska or Hawaii, so that would be cool… but I’m not sure if they like country music up there in Alaska, I’m sure they do though. Country music transcends the frozen tundra (laughs). The only state I’ve never been to is North Dakota. I’ve been so blessed the last few years to spread my wings outside of Michigan and see the country.
How old were you when you started playing guitar?
Eighteen, maybe early seventeen.
Remember what the first song you learned was?
“Suspicious Minds,” the Elvis tune. But I suppose there were songs like “The Gambler” and “Sunday Morning Coming Down”, and the early Johnny Cash songs that I knew just because they’re three chords, but I think that one is the first song that I really put together and played.
What would you consider to be the coolest moment of your career so far?
Might have to say releasing my debut album last year. It was on the wings of going on tour with Taylor Swift, we were about to go out with Taylor and the album was coming out. I’d have to say that was the coolest moment to finally have answers to “where can I find you? Where can I get your album, man?”. I can finally say “everywhere, man!” That was a cool feeling.
Frankie Ballard is out on the road right now, with his next stop on May 19th in Altoona, AL, and May 25th at Toby Keith’s I Love this Bar & Grill in Auburn Hill, MI. Check out his music video for “A Buncha Girls” below and make sure you see his show at CMA Fest this year!