Since he made his chart debut in 2010 with "Raymond," Brett Eldredge has been a regular at the Country Radio Seminar. That – and a Warner Brothers recording contract aside, wasn't enough to gain him entry into one of the hottest tickets in town during CRS week – the New Faces Show.
"I've been going to CRS the last few years, hanging out at the Bridge Bar, and all of that," he told Billboard. "I always wanted to go to the New Faces Show, but I literally couldn't get in. I wasn't cool enough. I would walk up, and I didn't have the right pass or whatever."
Friday night, Eldredge won't be asked for a ticket to the show, as he was one of five acts picked to play the show – thanks to being voted onto the lineup by his peers at radio. "I guess the best way to get on it is to get voted on it," he joked before turning serious. "To be able to be thought of as one of the top newcomers in country music, and to have the opportunity to get up in front of the industry and play, it's a very cool feeling."
Helping to lead Eldredge's career charge was the success of "Don't Ya." The track, released in October 2012, steadily climbed the charts, and peaked at the top of the Country Airplay chart in August. His follow-up, "Beat of the Music," is currently at No. 18 on that chart, and No. 24 on Hot Country Songs. He's grateful for the support he has gotten from country radio.
"I'm working on our second hit right now, and country radio gave me the opportunity to have the first one. I want to do this for a long time, and be able to get my songs out there for years to come. It's my job, and I owe it to them to do my best. I want to play them songs that they want to hear."
Billboard asked Eldredge for his early radio tour memories, and he was reminded of the old adage "It's a marathon, not a sprint."
"When it comes to radio tours, I feel like I've been on some marathons. You're trying to make every stride, and you're getting tired in the middle. You just played a show and got home at 1 a.m., and you have a 4 a.m. wake up call to fly across the country to play and meet the next radio station. You've got to show that you want it bad enough. You get up and go even though you're tired, and you look at the bigger picture, and hope they believe in what you do."
Eldredge says that he has been blessed to gain relationships with several at radio, but does credit Byron Kennedy at KNCI in Sacramento for being among his early supporters. "He was one of the first guys to play 'Don't Ya.' He took a shot on it early on, and was playing it before it was even released. He just believed in me, and he put me on some shows out there, and gave me an opportunity to kickstart the song."
All in all, the Illinois native is counting down the days until Friday. He looks at his career is a total team effort. "It's pretty awesome because we're all working in this together. I've got to be sure to bring them the hits, and hopefully they play them for me. There's been so many people who have been a part of getting this kicked off."