The past few months have been a whirlwind for new country artist Denny Strickland, who has been busy promoting his debut single, "Swerve On."
"The last few months have been a critical time in my career," he told Billboard. "We have launched a radio tour, and we've been working the single, and it's been getting some attention. We're just tickled to death with how well it's been going."
With industry veterans Kirt Webster and Martha Moore leading the way, Strickland continues to develop his brand -- both onstage and on the airwaves. "Everybody on my team has spent a lot of time working on things. I'm just thankful for that, and also to be surrounded by such great people in this business. Everybody has stayed positive, and we keep looking ahead. We seem to be in a really good place."
The rollicking first single shows his affinity for the current sound of country, but the Arkansas native says his musical influences cut a wide swath. "George Strait was my first major influence, and there was also Brian Arnold with 3 Doors Down, who is a good friend of mine. They were big influences, along with people like Gary Allan. I would also have to credit a lot of the newer acts like Florida Georgia Line, which comes across in 'Swerve On.' I also love a lot of '80s rock, which is a huge part of my style."
Strickland's family was very active in the horse show community, where he (and later his music) came to the attention of the legendary Marshall Grant (a longtime Johnny Cash band member, as well as manager of the Statler Brothers). "He was definitely there in the beginning of my career and showed me the ropes," Strickland said of Grant. "Unfortunately, we lost him back in 2011 at the Johnny Cash Music Festival in Jonesboro.. After that, I ended up moving to Nashville."
Self-taught on the guitar, Strickland has been making an impression on audiences throughout the United States with his live show. He tells Billboard that he can't wait for fans to hear "Tell Me Whatcha Think (Ridin' Shotgun)," the tune that will be his second single.
"It's high-energy and is definitely a song that will get everyone on the dance floor. That's the key, for a lot of the younger fans -- they want to get out there and dance and have a good time. I heard the sound, and I just think it's unique. The lyrics are definitely important, but what really got my attention about the song was the melody and the music. It is definitely reflective of the energy I try to portray in my shows. It's an upbeat song, for sure. I feel like people will be ready to jump on board, and we're lining up several tour dates this spring and summer. I'm just ready to make people aware of the music and to enjoy the ride."
The stage is where Strickland feels he does his best work, and he tries to give it his all during that two-hour set. "When you're having a good time, the audience is having a good time. They can see that real quick. I love being onstage. It definitely feels like home to me. Those few minutes before we go on, it's such a relaxing time. I'm getting pumped up for it, and I guess you could say that there's a little bit of solitude, as I try to clear my mind and go out and have a good time. It's definitely a time that I cherish very deeply. Fans are more like friends. They stick with you till the end."