There's something about Republic Nashville newcomer Greg Bates that sets himself apart from many of his young country compatriots: the singer, who is climbing the charts with "Did It For The Girl," is a Middle Tennessee native, hailing from just outside of the Nashville city limits.
Bates tells Billboard that he is proud to be from Music City - and proud of the experiences he had growing up in the area.
"I say I'm one of the five people that actually grew up in Nashville," he says. "It's a town that a lot of people move to. I was lucky enough to grow up here. It was so different to have that musical upbringing. I was around songwriters when I was five years old. I knew what a writers' round was then. They were fund raisers for my elementary school. I saw writers like Phil Vassar and Hillary Lindsey playing their songs, and hearing 'The Good Stuff' before Kenny [Chesney] put it out. Jim Collins said, 'This is going to be Kenny's next single.' A lot of people might not realize if you don't come to Nashville often, you really don't get to see that."
Bates is having a blast watching his debut single move up the chart, and says he was blown away the first time he heard the song on the radio.
"I was in Tampa with my producer and Matthew Hargis from Republic," he recalls. "We were heading to a show in Tampa, and it came on the radio. At first, we didn't realize it was my song until halfway through the first verse. Then, everybody got really excited. I had to call my mom up. It was a fun moment - one you won't forget."
Bates says he has had a lot of fun on his inaugural radio tour, though he does confess there were a few butterflies floating around early on in the process. "It was something that I've never done, and I don't think any artist can practice for a radio tour," he admits. "You really have to just get thrown to the wolves, and see how you do. My attitude going into it was, 'These are the gatekeepers between what we do as artists and the record labels, songwriters, and the fans. They're the ones that are going to get our songs on the radio so fans can hear it.' So, after the first couple [shows], it wasn't nerve wracking. At the end of the day, you're having fun with them, and playing music."
Along the way, Bates has made an impact on the places he's visited. Bill Cody, morning drive host of WSM-AM, said of Bates, "I was at the announcer podium when he performed recently on the Grand Ole Opry and I hosted his CMA Music Fest Bridgestone Plaza performance. In person he's so genuine; on stage he's got the confidence, as well as a wonderful collection of songs and the pipes to bring it all together."
Look for a release from Bates in the not-too-distant future, and he said that the Republic staff has let him be himself musically. "They've let me be an artist. They haven't tried to change too much or force something on me that I didn't want to do. That's what makes the label so great," he says.
- The 615