Newcomer Dakota Bradley hasn't always had it easy. It was a rather unfortunate event that brought him to Nashville, but he started his career there, and he's made the most of every opportunity since.

"I moved to Nashville after losing my house in a house fire -- a lot of crazy stuff went on growing up in St. Louis," the singer tells Taste of Country.

"I come from a really poor family and I moved to Nashville," Bradley continues, "and within a month I ended up on 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show' ... and within three months I’d met Byron [Gallimore] and Tim McGraw and I got a record deal. Things changed dramatically."

"I was 18 years old … I was mature enough at 18 to say, ‘You know what? This could be my only shot ... it’s my one shot and I gotta make the most of it'." Bradley says that feeling is what influenced his song 'Won't Be Young Forever.'

Thankfully, it's been mostly smooth sailing for the 21-year-old since. He just wrapped six weeks on the High School Nation Tour, which worked to help high school and middle school students and their art programs. Although he jumped at the chance to join the tour, Bradley admits he was a little worried about being the only country act on the bill.

“It was a little intimidating at first because, I mean, country isn’t necessarily cool to people that like rap music or different genres," he shares. "That was the one thing in my mind I was like, ‘You know what? I just gotta get over that.’”

While he did get over it mentally, it wasn't always easy for him to take the stage.

“A lot of the schools would announce me before I would walk out, like, ‘Alright, who likes country music?’" Bradley explains. "The crowd would boo half the time before I walked on stage. I would have to get out there and within the first 30 seconds of the first song we’d have people going nuts. I just bring the energy, ya know? It was cool. It was a learning experience through and through.”

Bradley insists part of what helped him sway the crowd was his setlist, which he tweaked knowing he'd have to win over young students. It's these learning experiences that will probably help influence his music longterm. He now has his first No. 1 hit with the tune he co-wrote with Colt Ford, 'All of My Tomorrows.' Ford cut the song, and then it climbed the charts. "It happened so fast," Bradley says of the achievement he calls "massive."

Bradley credits real life experiences with helping him write songs. "I have to live it … I don’t write songs that are like, ‘I just got out of my truck / I’m gonna go fill up my cup / I think I might be in love.’ I don’t write those kind of songs," he says, making a light stab at generic country songwriting.

“I try to make my stuff as real as possible … it’s something I’ll have to sing a hundred thousand times in a row at every show,” he adds. Bradley says once he lives something, he quickly grabs his guitar (or a piano) and starts putting his feelings into lyrics.

But country music hasn't always been the key to this singer's hear. In fact, when he got into music, he was listening to Guns 'N Roses and Aerosmith. He says Axl Rose taught him to sing with raw emotion, a skill he uses on songs like 'Wild Child' and 'Somethin' Like Somethin.' However, two of country's biggest names brought him to the dark side, so to speak.

Jason Aldean was probably the first person I ever got heavy into, followed by Tim McGraw," Bradley dishes. "It’s pretty mind-blowing that I get to work with Tim McGraw and tour with him and stuff. I wasn’t necessarily starstruck when I met him, but I was like, 'This guy has helped shape my voice and my songwriting and my music.'"

Bradley's first single, 'Somethin' Like Somethin',' was originally intended to be a McGraw recording, but the star told the newcomer it was a better fit for him. "It wasn’t my style, but I’d never tried that style,” Bradley explains, adding that it "came to life in the studio."

"It was a no brainer that that was my first single," he adds. Perhaps McGraw knows a thing or two.

These days, Bradley is in the studio recording new songs -- any of which could be his next single, he says. As for what fans can expect? The star-on-the-rise reveals: "I will say songs similar to ‘Wild Child’ with more of a grown up feel to it."

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