Frankie Ballard’s Years of Hard Work Pay Off With Release of Debut Album
Today (Tuesday, May 24), Frankie Ballard’s self-titled debut album on Warner Music Nashville has hit stores, giving the sexy singer the sense of accomplishing something he’s worked so hard to achieve after winning Kenny Chesney’s ‘Next Big Star’ singing competition in 2008.
“It feels awesome to have it out there,” Ballard tells Taste of Country. “The only thing I ever wanted back in my honky-tonk days before I had a record deal was to get my name out further than the Battle Creek [Michigan] city limits, and it finally is here! It’s such a cool thing to be able to say, ‘Everywhere music is sold, you can find my new album.’ I’m stoked!”
Ballard worked closely with producer Michael Knox (Jason Aldean) on the collection of songs, which made the first-time studio experience a breeze for the 28-year-old singer.
“Michael is awesome,” Ballard says. “He’s like your big brother [laughs]. He’s just a cool dude to hang with. At the same time, he’s getting the most out of you. He doesn’t settle for anything less than the best you’ve got. Sometimes it’s painstaking in there and you’re sweating, but in the end, it’s worth it. It was just so much fun. I love being able to do that.”
One of the highlights of being in the studio for Ballard was his hands-on involvement with the guitar tones and sounds captured on the record. “The live guitar tones and stuff is completely different than what it sounds like on tape in the studio, so it was neat to mess with my guitar amp and try to get different tones,” notes Ballard. “It was fun to just be a geek and mess with guitars in the studio for a while!”
Ballard also learned a valuable lesson in the studio, which helped change his point of view on recording slower songs. “I learned that ballads aren’t the enemy!” says Ballard with a laugh. “I guess because I come from a past and history of coming up playing in honky-tonks and selling beer that you automatically are always thinking, ‘No ballads!’ But Michael Knox definitely helped me to see that songs like ‘Tell Me You Get Lonely’ and ‘Rescue Me’ and ‘Sober Me Up’ are a big part of who I am and needs to be a part of this album. I’m so glad that they are."
“My favorite song is probably ‘Sober Me Up,’” Ballard says of the power ballad that asks for help getting his feet set back “on solid ground.” “I love that song. Then my favorite one to play live is probably ‘Get On Down the Road,’ because it’s just a foot-stomper and it’s got some guitar playing in it.”
Of the album’s eight songs, Ballard’s current single, ‘A Buncha Girls,’ is the only tune he took part in writing. The remainder of the album is filled with heavy-hitters in the songwriting world, including David Lee Murphy, Dallas Davidson, Rhett Akins and Ben Hayslip, among others.
Ballard recently wrapped up filming the video for ‘A Buncha Girls,’ which he shot out in Southern California and features -- you guessed it -- “a buncha girls” and plenty of sunshine.
“I tell you … there’s things that I’ve had to do for this album and for this job that’s been incredibly painstaking. It really takes a toll on you,” Ballard says with laughter. “It was awesome! I think that this video is going to win us a lot of young, male fans [laughs], as well as show the girls that we love them. It was so much fun. It feels like summertime. We’ve seen a couple of the edits, and just watching it, it’s satisfying for me because writing the song and recording the song was about having a summertime anthem and feeling like summertime in the video. I’m really proud of it.”
The singer will have plenty of opportunities to play the song live this summer, as he is gearing up to hit the road with Taylor Swift on her Speak Now tour, beginning this week. “I am so excited,” Ballard says. “I am so lucky and so blessed that she wants me to open for her. It’s just so cool to have her stamp of approval. She’s so big and so loved, and everybody respects her and everything she says. Taylor is the biggest thing in country music right now — in all of music, really — so to have her sign off on me, in a way, and have me go out on tour with her is an incredible opportunity. I am so excited to get my music out there in front of her fans. I think it’s something they are going to dig.”
And having just come off the road from opening dates with the legendary Bob Seger, Ballard has a new appreciation for what it takes to entertain a crowd.
“To be on the Bob Seger tour for a kid from Michigan is like … that’s it. It was so cool. I could not believe that we actually got the chance, because we didn’t get it right from the beginning. It wasn’t like, ‘OK, you’ve got the whole tour!’ It was like, ‘You come do a couple of dates and we’ll see … we’ll see about you!’ [laughs]. Then for Bob to say, ‘I really like these guys, I love what you’re doing and I want you to continue on with us’ was so cool. It’s incredible. I’ve gotten to hang with him a little bit, and I’ve learned so much from him: a Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famer! He’s shown me every day that you don’t need video screens and you don’t need these wild catwalks and for Bob Seger to go [makes exploding sound] and fly out of the stage in the beginning of his show! He just walks up there. There’s not even like a big intro. He and the Silver Bullet Band just walk up there, and the place goes crazy. It just shows you can accomplish that if you sing your butt off -- you have great songs and you work your butt off -- because that’s what he does. He truly inspired me to work harder and be better.”
Ballard is looking forward to getting back out on the road now that the new music is out there, so he can get feedback from the ones who mean the most: his fans. “You spend so much time writing and looking for songs and recording them … now it’s like, ‘What do you think?’” he says. “So I’m excited to hear from the fans and hear what they think about it.”
Watch the Frankie Ballard 'Tell Me You Get Lonely' Video