Brian Collins

Brian Collins

Rebecca Ward

Over the past few years, there has been an influx of country stars hailing from Georgia, with Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean and Cole Swindell being three of the biggest. Hoping to add his name to that growing list is newcomer Brian Collins.

"It's definitely a regional thing," he told Billboard of the success of artists from his home state. "I think that the heart of country lives and breathes in Georgia."

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The singer, who has been promoting his newest single "Never Really Left," said music was all around during his formative years. "I grew up listening to a lot of different styles. I wasn't just a fan of country; I loved all genres of music. Country was one of those things that kept coming back. Where I was from, it was the main thing everyone listened to. Growing up, for me, Garth Brooks and Travis Tritt were the cool country artists. So that tended to be what we all followed. There were other things from my parents that influenced what I liked, such as classic country and rock, as well as R&B."

Collins has been discussing his musical roots quite a bit over the past few months, as he continues his inaugural radio tour. "Radio tours have been quite an adventure -- just meeting all the different people and learning their way of life. You tend to find out that things are similar yet very different." He said the input of program and music directors has been helpful. "I've definitely got some ideas in the works for the next single."

Having recently signed a distribution deal with Memphis-based Select-O-Hits, Collins will soon be releasing a physical version of his debut album Healing Highway, which is also available digitally. The singer said he's just trying to live in the moment -- and he's had plenty of those lately, thanks to the success of the single and his accompanying video. "We just landed a No. 2 on CMT's Pure 12-Pack Country Countdown, and it's an exciting feeling to see your video climb up there with some of the heavy-hitters in the industry. There's been a lot of fan-generated votes for that, which is a cool thing. You realize there is a lot of people out there waiting for your video and making it happen."

Collins says that seeing the video on television is a different feeling than working the record on the radio -- though both are emotions that he loves. "What's hard is when I go to the radio stations, I'm always in there when they are playing the song. Rarely do I hear it when I'm on the road. That's a great feeling. To see your video on television is a whole different feeling. It feels like I've made it to another league. When I first saw it, the first reaction is, 'Why would they ever put my face on television?' But it made it to No. 2, so it can't be that bad," he said with a smile.

To say that Healing Highway is a personal project is an understatement for Collins, who had a hand in writing each and every cut on the record. "The reason for that is that I want to perform music that comes from me. Not that there aren't great songs out there that I wouldn't mind performing, but I have a story to tell and if I have something that I need to say, I want those words to be coming from me and my point of view."

And he doesn't shy away from emotional topics that have affected him, such as losing his sister to leukemia. "I know the toll it took on her and our family. It's something that you never recover from. You just deal with it and cope as much as you can. I wrote a song about my sister called 'She Will Ride' with John Hopkins from the Zac Brown Band. I wrote the song out of a healing process. It was actually many years later, and I just decided to write about it. It was an issue I hadn't confronted in many years. To put it down on paper really helped me deal with all of that, which I had been suppressing for so many years. It's still difficult to perform that song today live."

Though not on the album, Collins has plans for the track: It will serve as the official song of an organization Collins is helping to establish called the She Will Ride Foundation, which will aid leukemia patients throughout the United States.