Unlike many country musicians, Brett Eldredge hit it big almost immediately once he signed his first deal and released his first major label record, and since then, things have only been getting better for the country superstar on the rise.
Eldredge has now released three traditional studio albums and one holiday record, and all of them have performed well. He’s landed two top 10 records on the Billboard 200, coming within one or two slots of ruling the ranking...though that’s still something he has yet to manage (though it doesn’t seem far off at this point).
I spoke with the artist recently while he was in the middle of his first headlining tour about what being country means to him and when new music might arrive.
CEEK VR: Listening to your albums, it's country, but there are times I'm thinking, "This is more a pop-rock song," or much more of just a rock tune. How did you arrive at this blended sound that you have?
Brett Eldredge: Yes. I have a very unique upbringing with music because my parents don't sing, my brother doesn't sing. My whole inner family are not musical people, but they love music. I was listening to Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin and Ray Charles and old soul music when I was riding around the car with my grandfather, and then I'd be listening to what everybody else was.
I'd be listening to what my parents were listening to, which would be Eagles and REO Speedwagon and The Doobie Brothers or whatever. Then, I got into Brooks and Dunn and Garth Brooks and Vince Gill. I gravitated to music that grabbed me by the soul and said, "You have to be a part of this." It's a very diverse background of music that I've listened to over the years.
I think that's helped me, once I embraced the fact that you don't have be one thing. Just be everything. You can have a little piece of every part of those kinds of music in your music. It doesn't have to be one exact certain thing. It can be all these things that make who you are as an artist. Once I embraced that, I think really, you can't help but make that your stamp on music as all of your inspirations all in one. It came from a lot of places.
I even made a big band record, a Christmas record. It was straight up swing because I knew that one day I would want to look back and think, "Man, that's my favorite kind of stuff growing up," and something that's very much who I am. I'm just going to make a record. I don't know what my fans are going to think of it, but I know that if I'm honest and real with it, they'll jump on board with it, or I hope they will at least. They did in a big way with that too, so I think for me, it's just been being real with them and it's working out.
CEEK VR: Do you consider yourself a country artist? Would you use that term?
Eldredge: [It is] absolutely my first love when it comes down to it. I lived in Chicago for a couple years in college and in high school, and it was prime time of discovery. I think around that high school age, it's the prime time of music that really shapes you and your memories and the nostalgia of music in your heart is those high school years, and that's when I discovered Brooks and Dunn and country.
It's hard. All my friends were listening to it. I'm from a very, very rural country community in Illinois, and so I went to college my first years in Chicago. That's where I was in my life and that's what resonated with me the most, so when I heard Ronnie Dunn's voice, he had such a soulful voice that though the music is country in some ways, he has this big giant voice that came from soul music and R&B music and, but also is extremely country.
I don't know. That was just where my heart was so I transferred schools my junior year in college and said, "I got to go to Nashville because this is where I feel most at home." I did it and that's always been my home. It doesn't mean I won't make records that are other kinds of music that inspire me, but country music is where I've found is my home and my heart. Yes, I would call my music country music for sure.
CEEK VR: Your latest album was last summer, so you're getting close to the one year anniversary. Are you always writing new music, or do you set aside time to create a new album? Are you even thinking about that yet?
Eldredge: Yes. I've heard stories through the years of artists, and it's nothing against them, but some people take time where they write like 12 songs and they record 11 of them and they put out an album. For me, there's no way if I write 11 songs or 12 songs that they're going to be the best songs I possibly can write.
As soon as I was putting out the last album, not long after, I was already writing for my fourth album. I was in the studio yesterday and the day before already starting to create because I think if you start creating early on for the next record, you start discovering more things that you have time to shape the sound that you want to go for.
In fact, you get a lot of your inspiration from going on the road and seeing all these crowds and seeing what they react to, and then also going off the road and traveling and the times where you're not supposed to be creative where your mind allows itself to be creative and think. Sometimes it's best to give yourself a break in your mind and that's when your mind really opens up the most and it's inspired.
I try to build in a lot of time to make the album. I've still got more singles from this record. I'm already very well up into writing for the next album and that's what I always want to do. I love to write songs. I was doing vocals for demos in the hallway of my bus last week with my piano player. It's just so much fun because there's downtime on the road, so how do I use it? How do I spend it? Sometimes I go hiking and I go on a run with my dog, or maybe one day I'll be writing and recording songs on my bus. There's a balance you find, but I find myself creating more time for that and then taking breaks when I need to do fuel that creation.