Ballard talks "Sunshine & Whiskey" (Feb. 11); Plus, watch an exclusive performance of album cut "Drinky Drink"
Frankie Ballard's new studio album, "Sunshine & Whiskey," out Tuesday (Feb. 11), has been two years in the making. Leading the charge behind the set is his current single,"Helluva Life," which is currently No. 15 on the Hot Country Songs chart. Though his debut spawned a pair of top-40 singles ("Tell Me You Get Lonely" and "A Buncha Girls"), watching his current single rise has been different.
"In my heart, I knew that 'Helluva Life’ was going to touch people and speak to their journey, but I had no idea it would be the reaction that it has been," Ballard said recently backstage at the Grand Ole Opry. "This song speaks to things like hope, and getting up every day and putting one foot in front of the other no matter what kind of curve balls life throws you. People have really made the story their own. We actually have this 'Helluva Life’ campaign going on the Internet where if anyone uses #helluva life in a post or a picture, it gets funneled into this one site. People can come and look at other people’s stories, which range from deep subjects of love and heartbreak to having a six pack with your buddies on a Saturday night – whatever makes their life a ‘helluva life.’ It’s taken on a life of it’s own, and I’m just blessed to be the guy who is singing this song."
Sunshine & Whiskey is a balance of uptempo party songs, such as the infectious "Drinky Drink," which Ballard performs in this exclusive video premiere for Country Now.
Ballard also has high praise for the emotional "Don’t Tell Mama," a song that Ballard says has been floating around Music City for awhile.
"I found the song in my publisher’s office just sitting there. He was playing me some of his favorite tunes that had never been singles or hits. I couldn’t believe it had never been a smash for George Jones or Merle Haggard in the 80s. I just took a copy of the song as a fan, and listened to it over the years, but thought it was too old school for me to do it. I played it for Marshall Altman, my producer one night, and he said ‘Dude, we’ve got to do this song. It’s the greatest song, maybe ever. So, we sped it up, and I made the song my own. I was so thrilled it made the cut. I think it’s a story that everybody should hear."
Working with Altman (along with Scott Hendricks and Michael Knox) was also key to making the recording of the album special, said Ballard.
"He invested so much time in me and this project. We did months of pre-production where I would just go over and write songs, mess with guitar tones, and fiddle around. These tracks were built from scratch, and had some room to breathe. We laid down some stuff, and let it sit for a week. Then, I’d come back and suggest different changes, and he allowed me that time – which was so important to me in making it my own. I think we’ve created a signature sound, which is exciting."
Ballard is also pumped about the live reaction to his hit. "It’s the best sound in the world to hear the crowd singing along with the chorus. It just lifts everything up. I never thought of it as an anthem, but it’s become one live with people singing it at the top of their lungs. It’s cliched, but it’s the best feeling in the world to hear people sing back your songs and not ‘Sweet Home Alabama,’ like they did back in the bars."
Needless to say, it’s a great time in the life of Frankie Ballard, and he’s trying to make the most of it. "It’s been a long time coming, and I’m just going to try to enjoy every minute of it – every Twitter and Facebook post, and every phone call I get about it. I just want to soak it up as much as I can."