George Birge knew he had a hit on his hands.

But in the late summer of 2020, that was just about the only thing the singer-songwriter was sure of. Coming off the breakup of country duo Waterloo Revival, Birge found himself riding the waves of a pandemic, not knowing where he would land both personally and professionally.

“I was just kind of relegated to the fact that I was going to maybe just write songs for other folks,” Birge tells Taste of Country over the sounds of his two young children playing in the background. “I wrote (“Mind on You”) and immediately, I knew we had landed on something special.”

Written alongside Jaron Boyer, Michael Tyler and Colt Ford, Birge was anxious to do something with the song. But as he was still unsure of his career plans going forward, the songwriter decided to do the next best thing and pitch it to Jason Aldean.

“As soon as we finished it, we knew we wanted to pitch it to Aldean,” remembers the songwriter, who has had outside cuts with artists including Clay Walker and Sam Grow. “There was no way he could say no to it.”

And sure enough, the songwriters got an email back just 24 hours later, saying that Aldean’s team loved the earworm of a song and hoped that they wouldn’t play it for anyone else.

“That was an incredible high for me,” the Texas native remembers. “That was the biggest traction I'd ever had. If Aldean cuts your song and takes it to radio, you're guaranteed a multi-six-figure payday.”

But as fate would have it, around the very same time, Birge’s solo career also began to take off. His song “Beer Beer, Truck Truck” went viral, and his record label started calling.

“They were kind of like, 'We think this is your song and we think this is a hit for you and we think this is the song that changes your life,'” Birge remembers.

And that left Brige with no other choice than to call Aldean and beg for his song back.

“It was pretty terrifying,” Birge remembers. “I've been in town for a while, and I've worked my butt off to get opportunities like getting Jason Aldean to cut my song. So, it was a pretty scary thing for me, but I kind of just came to the conclusion that if you can't bet on yourself, no one else can, so I decided to roll the dice.”

It was still a scary prospect though, not only to Birge but to his wife and mother of his two young children.

“I can make it sound as inspirational or whatever, but at the end of the day, when you've got somebody with a stack of cash in front of you and you're having to bet on yourself enough to walk away from it, there are going to be some sleepless nights," Birge says with a chuckle. "I wouldn’t have done it without the support of my wife. She has been my biggest supporter from day one. It's been a long road to get here, but what's one more gamble?”

That gamble is looking awfully good right now as Birge celebrates the song, which is not only his current single but appears on his brand new self-titled debut EP alongside other radio-ready songs including “Whiskey Side” and “Reason to Go.”

“This EP has been a lot of years in the making,” Birge remarks. “As I was writing these songs, I never really knew where they would end up, but they certainly felt awfully personal to me. So having an avenue now to go forward and release them myself was pretty cool.”

Top Country Songs of 2021, Ranked

You'll find much more than just the Top 10 Country Songs of 2021 on this list. Enjoy the 21 best country songs of the year, based on Taste of Country staff and country music fan opinion, plus commercial data (sales, streaming, airplay).

To be considered, the song must have been released in 2021 or have actively charted for a portion of the year (see "Wine, Beer, Whiskey"). New artists including Lainey Wilson, Larry Fleet and Morgan Wade crack the top songs list, while hitmakers including Thomas Rhett, Jason Aldean and Luke Combs make the Top 10.

Let us know your favorite song of 2021 on Twitter, or email us at staff@tasteofcountry.com.