This week marks the annual Country Radio Seminar in Nashville. As usual, the yearly event closes with the prestigious New Faces Show, in which the participants are chosen by the program and music directors at country radio. Each day this week, we will feature a different performer from the show.
Today, we shine a spotlight on Warner Bros.’ Frankie Ballard, who tells Billboard that being selected as one of the top five new artists by radio is an unbelievable feeling.
“Anytime that people vote for you like that and you get picked, it’s very special,” he says. “I have a lot of friends out there at country radio, and we’ve gotten to know each other, and we’ve had dinners, done station shows, hung out at CRS and become friends. I’ve known a lot of these people for five or six years now, and the fact that they stood up and voted for me is so cool. That’s one of the biggest honors I’ve ever gotten. I’m not going to let them down. I’m gonna rock it and make them happy they voted for me.”
When Ballard went out on his initial radio tour, it took him a while to warm up to the process. “Part of it probably was because I was nervous, didn’t know what to do or how to act. I just remember walking in there not knowing what to do, and I had been prepped. ‘You’re going to walk in there, do a couple of songs, and tell them your story.’ I remember walking out, thinking, ‘I’ve got to tighten up my presentation skills a little bit.’ I remember meeting so many nice people. I remember being surprised at just how many nice people there were. I’m not saying I expected them to be mean, but I had heard stories about how they would be texting during your show and not even listening to you. I never really got that impression. I felt like, ‘Wow, there are some really cool people out there, and this is exciting.’ I have been very fortunate to develop relationships with them. They might be playing my music on their station in markets a long way from Battle Creek, Mich., and that’s really cool.”
Asked about hearing one of his records on the airwaves for the first time, he remembers it like it was yesterday. “The first time I ever heard it on the radio was when Tosh Jackson played it in Sacramento. I wasn’t in the car, but I was still in the studio. Everybody had told me, ‘They’re going to take the song and listen to it, but don’t expect them to start playing it on the air. That’s not the way it works.’ So we went in, and I remember Tosh said, ‘Hey, man. I love ‘Tell Me You Get Lonely,’ Let’s put it on the air — right now!’ He went into the studio, and I had never seen the program that they used to program the commercials and the different songs. I remember he goes in there and stuck the song in the system. I couldn’t believe it. I thought, ‘Man, it’s on the radio, and we’re here in Sacramento. That’s crazy.’ We’ve laughed about that one for a long time. It just blew my mind he would do that.”
Since then, the success has continued to come for Ballard. “Helluva Life” and “Sunshine & Whiskey” have both topped the Billboard Country Airplay chart, and his latest, “Young and Crazy,” sits at No. 39 on the chart this week. Needless to say, Ballard is in a very good place. “I’m just so thankful. The past two singles have both gone to No. 1, and that is truly thanks to them stepping out, taking a chance and playing the music. I feel like I am going to be very overwhelmed looking out into all of their faces and seeing all the people that have changed my life and have taken care of me and my music so well over the past year. I’ll probably start crying. I’ve never felt the least bit entitled to airplay. Each spin I get means the world to me. I’m just so excited to be able to look out and say thank you to all of them!”