Last summer I was sitting at a stop light as this brand new 2014 Red Mustang Convertible pulled up beside with the tunes cranked. Having my own windows down the sound was oozing into my car and it was one hell of a catchy tune. Being a big country music lover I was determined to find out who was singing the sweet sounds of Sunshine & Whiskey. That night I went home and downloaded everything I could find on Frankie Ballard. Fast forward almost five months and the Helluva Life hit maker is on the other end of the phone telling me all about the making of Sunshine and Whiskey. Here is how it went….
Sound Check: Frankie, thanks for taking the time to chat on this cold February day.
Frankie: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
Sound Check: So let’s kick things off and talk a little bit about Sunshine and Whiskey, your current album that was released a year ago this month. Can you tell us how the album has matured over the year from when you started playing it to now?
Frankie: You know, it’s been so much fun. When the album first came out Helluva Life was the first single off of it. We worked that one up the charts and it became a hit song down in the States. Everybody started paying attention after that, and we followed that one up with Sunshine and Whiskey. And what was really cool for me outside of having a couple hit songs, but more importantly to me it was people discovering the rest of the story, you know. Some of the album cuts, and some other things. Once you have some attention towards the album people really go and check out the rest of it. It’s been a lot of fun hearing people sing back some of the album cuts and the things that haven’t been singles, so that’s the most fun for me. As it stays out longer, now that the 3rd single, Young & Crazy is out, people just know the music more and more, and that’s fun for me, ‘cause I get to see them react to it, and sing it back from the stage.
Sound Check: So when you get a chance to cut a song like your current single Young & Crazy that was written by some pretty big song writers (Rhett Aikens, Ashley Gorley & Shane McNally) how does that feel when you have that kind of clout behind the music?
Frankie: It’s amazing. Best songwriters in the world are down in Nashville I think. From the first moment I heard it I knew it had to be mine. I was glad they let me do it. I tried to do it the best I could and hopefully the people love it.
Sound Check: You have the opening slot on the Anything Goes Tour with Florida Georgia Line and Thomas Rhett. You have done big tours before, but maybe tell us what you’re looking at taking away from this tour?
Frankie: You know, all the tours I have been on have been great and have been an honor to be part of, but this one in particular is so much fun because it is such a hot ticket. This is FGL’s first headlining tour and the crowds are really amped up and excited. They get to see us first so we’ve gotta get the party started. I am just trying to win as many of their fans as we can and get as much of my music out there to people that don’t get a chance to see us, and to show people that we are a good live band and that’s what’s important to me as well. It’s really an honor to be a part of it and the crowds have been so incredible, and I know they are going to be like that up in Canada too. Everyone is so excited and there is just so much energy in the room – hard not to be a good time.
Sound Check: Do you find that today’s country music fan is more dedicated by showing up for the opening acts compared to maybe 15-20 years ago? Maybe that’s more up here in Canada but what are your thoughts on this?
Frankie: Ya, well when it’s cold outside its too cold to tailgate (Chuckles). But it’s not like that on every tour but it seems on this tour everyone is showing up early, which is really cool. Heck, I will take anything I can get but it’s pretty special feeling when you walk out there and most of the people are already there. We try and give them the best we can, that’s for sure.
Sound Check: So you had a bit of an accident on stage recently. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Frankie: Ya, a stage dive gone terribly wrong. Busted up my shoulder, but I am doing OK. I’ve got a good rehab routine going. The only bummer is that I can’t sling a guitar over that shoulder right now. But I we have a great guitar player in the band and he is doing the heavy lifting for me. But hey, we are still going to be rockin’ out though. But if I am honest I do miss playin’ the guitar.
Sound Check: So how does that change your live performance then? With no guitar I am sure you feel a little naked.
Frankie: Honestly, there are always a few moments that I don’t play guitar anyways. And I really truly love getting out there. You can get closer to the fans. You can really get down there and connect with them. I honestly really enjoy it and do my best to entertain the people coming to the shows. This weekend I may not have the guitar, but we are going to rock it anyway.
Sound Check: As mentioned Sunshine & Whiskey is a year old, I am sure you’re working on new music can you tell us about anything?
Frankie: Ya, I am already working on it. I have been writing a bunch and we are going to get in and record everything this spring. Young & Crazy will be the last single off Sunshine and Whiskey and then we are going to move into the new music. It’s going to be incredible I have got some great material and we are really going to push the envelope so I am really excited to get back and record some of the new stuff it should be great.
Sound Check: I read an article from last year and it talked about how you really poured yourself into Sunshine & Whiskey. Maybe tell us what you took from those experiences and how they will change how you approach your next album?
Frankie: Well, we are trying to do the same or at least be in the same head space. I was just trying to be honest with the Sunshine & Whiskey album, just trying to do what I thought was correct and what I felt for the songs. I really feel that I found my way. Honesty is truly the best policy when making music and writing, and recording songs. So I am just going to try and stay in that head space, and do more of the same.
Sound Check: You’re headed back up into Canada this summer for Canada’s largest Outdoor Camping & Concert festival, Boots & Hearts with likely upwards of 50,000 people this year. Maybe tell us what you’re excited about?
Frankie: That’s incredible, well I will be playing guitar by then so I will be ready to go no doubt about that.
Sound Check: Festival season is upon us, how do the festivals compare to the big arena shows?
Frankie: I love it all. I’m just one of those cats that loves to play. Give me a club or Honky Tonk. Anything with people in it and I am ready. Big, small, medium I want it all. I love playing all those things. Especially when it starts to get warm outside it’s nice to be out and playin’. Give me a crowd of people and slot, and I will go out there and rock it. It doesn’t really matter to me where.
Sound Check: So since a fairly young age you have really had a passion for music maybe tell us where that comes from?
Frankie: Country Music hooked me with the stories. I was always found myself lost and day dreaming about the lyrics. Rock & Roll music , I love the rhythm and the groove and the guitar playing and the big drums and all that stuff. But I never really knew what they were singing about. Some of that stuff was really obscure. With Country Music and the old Kenny Rogers, Waylon, Willie and Jerry Reed all these heroes of mine in Country music. I could really palate the lyric find myself like watching a movie and going into the story and getting lost in it. Just have always really loved that about Country Music. Trying to marry that with my Rock & Roll guitar influences make my own style. But ever since I was little it’s been that lyric that has reeled me in.
Sound Check: So if you weren’t playing music for a living what do you think you would be doing?
Frankie: That’s really hard for me to imagine. I don’t know. Maybe a Fighter Pilot probably. I used to want to be a Fighter Pilot and be in the military so I will go with that I guess.
Sound Check: Social Media has allowed artists to reach a larger base than maybe back in the 80’s and 90’s. Tell us how you feel about it?
Frankie: It’s incredible, I really don’t have anything to compare it against, because I have grown up in this era. I imagine it was tough back in the day without that. Just to reach people, you know it’s so much easier these days to talk to your fans and let them know where you’re going to be, to let them know about shows or new music. It’s such an incredible tool of connection and that’s what fans and myself want. I want to know what they are thinking, what they are feeling and what they want from me. I love it, I try and be a part of it as much as I can.
Sound Check: Frankie, thanks so much for taking the time to chat just before you get to Canada to perform for two sold out shows in Ottawa and Kingston.
Frankie: You’re welcome man, can’t wait to bring the show up to Canada and ROCK IT…
Last night (Thurs Feb 19th) the Anything Goes Tour rolled into Ottawa and from the reviews on social media Frankie, Thomas and the boys of Florida Georgia Line put on one hell of a show! I will be in Kingston tonight to cover the spectacle. Watch for our review some time on Saturday! Want to give a shout out to Mr. Stelling for setting everything up for us. Much appreciatd.
Corey Kelly …… Follow me on Twitter @CoreyKelly76
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