Ernest may be a new name in country music to some, but he’s been a hit songwriter behind the scenes for years. He has five No. 1 cuts to his name, including Florida Georgia Line’s “I Love My Country,” Chris Lane’s “Big, Big Plans” and Morgan Wallen’s “More Than My Hometown."

Ernest is also establishing himself as an artist who is releasing traditional-leaning country music. The majority of tracks on Ernest’s latest project, Flower Shops (The Album), feature traditional sounds including acoustic and steel guitar, and he displayed his throwback style at the recent Key West Songwriters Festival in Key West, Fla. Ernest chatted with Taste of Country at the festival and gave insight into what inspires his vintage country sound.

“[I grew up] on all different types of stuff, including contemporary country and old school and all that,” Ernest shared backstage at Key West’s San Carlos Institute. “For me, I’m probably the least redneck of my redneck friends, but I believe country music is about the songs and songwriting and what we love about good, old-fashioned country songs. We go back and listen to ‘80s and ‘90s country, and I wanted to write that. Country music is a place to tell sad stories just as much as happy-go-lucky, goodtime stuff. My album shows both sides of the coin there.” 

Ernest helped kick off the festival on the island’s Sunset Pier, and his set included “Sucker for Small Towns,” which features a George Strait-inspired riff. Ernest isn’t afraid to tribute the artists that inspired him through his music, and he admits that the brief moment in the tune was, in fact, influenced by the King of Country Music.

"'How ‘Bout Them Cowgirls’ is totally a nod to the hat there,” he says of “Sucker for Small Towns,” adding, “George, Alan Jackson, [George] Jones, Keith Whitley, all of them."

The Nashville native was specifically inspired by George Jones when writing his current single, “Flower Shops,” featuring Wallen. Ernest explained that he and co-writer Ben Burgess were listening to Jones’ 1970 song “A Good Year for the Roses” when the idea struck them.

"A lot of that song was written in the truck on the way to the write,” he says. “Me and Ben Burgess were listening to a George Jones playlist on the way out there, and ‘A Good Year for the Roses’ came on, a George Jones song, and we just kind of looked at each other like, ‘Damn, it’s crazy how they wrote that.’ Burgess was like, ‘We should write one with a crazy title, like, ‘Good day for flower shops or something.’ We immediately locked into that character and started talking it out. We got to Mark Holman’s, picked up a guitar and started putting a melody to it, and the song kind of wrote itself in 45 minutes. We spent more time recording the demo than we spent writing the song."

Ernest and Wallen will have plenty of chances to sing “Flower Shops” together this summer, as Ernest is joining Wallen on the Dangerous Tour for a handful of dates. The singer-songwriter is also busy being a dad to his 1-year-old son, Ryman, and he says he’s planning on releasing more new music “before the end of the year."

See the Most Played Country Song from the Year You Were Born

Who had the most played country song during the year you were born? This list is a fascinating time capsule of prevalent trends from every decade in American history. Scroll through to find your birth year and then click to listen. Some of these songs have been lost through the years, many of them for good reason!

Men named Hank dominated early before stars like Freddie Hart, Ronnie Milsap, Willie Nelson Clint Black took over to close the 1980s. More recently it's been Tim Mcgraw, Rodney Atkins, Kane Brown and Morgan Wallen. Did the most-played country song from the year you were born become a favorite of yours later? All info comes from Billboard's country airplay charts.

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