The first time I heard Drew Baldridge was on Sirius XM’s The Highway as one of their now-iconic Highway Finds. His songs “Dance With Ya” and “Rebound” resonated with their young audience.
The country singer was kind enough to talk with me over the phone about how he got his start.
Baldridge was born and raised in the tiny village of Patoka, Illinois, amongst the farmland and the oil fields. Like so many artists I have interviewed, he started singing in church.
He recalls, “I started singing bass in a quartet with my Dad when I was 16. Then I sang in bars when I was 17. Country music was always where my heart was. I grew up farming with my grandpa so country music hit home with me.”
Baldridge moved to Nashville in 2011 when he was just 19. He dove into songwriting and played downtown at Tootsies where he honed his craft. ”I’ve never had to have another job,” he confirms.
From there, he went on to get a publishing deal in 2013 and in 2015 he got his first record deal. “Dance With Ya” along with “Rebound” from the Dirt on Us album are the songs that jump-started his career. He acknowledges that getting played on Sirius XM’s The Highway was a game-changer.
One of the artists that Baldridge acknowledges as influencing him most is the country crooner, Josh Turner.
Baldridge reiterates, “He blurred the lines. He did country but he also did gospel. I thought it was so cool that ‘Me and God’ could be a number one country song.”
That led Baldridge to record songs like “God’s People.” He clarifies, “Songs like that kind of share my testimony of how I believe. I’m a very open Christian and I am proud of that.”
He decided that on every record that he puts out will have a song that recognizes God. With Dirt on Us, they put out the song “Tractors Don’t Roll” which acknowledges how farmers take Sunday as a day of rest. “It’s one of the favorite songs I’ve ever written,” he reminiscences.
The 28-year-old admits, “I probably got a record deal a little too young. I didn’t know what I really wanted to say.” So he took a little more time releasing his encore album, Middle of Nowhere Kids.
While he was on a fall tour in 2019 with a group called Locash, they penned a song, “Before You” which Baldridge was working on to present to his girlfriend (now fiancé) when he proposed. He was to get engaged on March 16 in Paris. But then two days before they were to leave, COVID 19 brought on the European travel ban.
The lyrics of the song he wrote for Katie originally said: “I never thought I’d fly to Paris and get down upon one knee.” The song was done, mastered, and recorded ready to be released shortly after they announced their engagement.
He thought, “I’ve got to somehow got to get down to the studio and change all this in two days and her not know about it.” They ended up going to Aruba instead. The day before they left he was able to change that line, to “I never thought I’d fly to an island….” He chronicled the whole event from the buying of the ring to the actual event on his GoPro and it became the footage for the music video.
“It actually worked out better and now to have that video of me proposing, our story for the rest of my life, and to be able to show that to my kids one day, maybe even their kids one day. It’s going to be really awesome to have that forever.”
Simultaneously at the end of 2019 the title track, “Middle of Nowhere Kids” was doing well on country radio when his record label surprisingly shut down. In January 2020, his publishing contract was up as well. He wondered if country music was what he was supposed to be doing.
However, one of the songs he wrote for the Middle of Nowhere Kids record was a relatable song called “Senior Year.” This song, inspired when a friend’s daughter posted a picture about how she was starting her senior year in 2018 now has a completely different context. With lyrics like … throwing caps up in the air/ Couple tough boys sheddin’ tears/Never thought it’d disappear/Senior year…it has become an anthem of sorts for the Class of 2020 who have missed prom and graduation. “Their senior year literally disappeared for them,” he emphatically stated.
Since then, the song has taken on wings of its own. Baldridge continued, “Last week we were sitting on the Billboard chart at 53 with no label, no team, just me making calls to my radio buddies who are supporting this song. Kids are making videos and TikToks. It’s kind of been a whirlwind.”
“Senior Year” was written with songwriters Tim Nichols and Jordan Walker in about an hour and a half and in no way could they imagine what teens would be facing today. “God gave us that song at that moment for this moment. I really believe that. Music can have such an impact when presented at the right time.”
The goal is to get as many kids to hear “Senior Year” as possible. Baldridge has been doing free Zoom concerts for seniors from the Class of 2020. If you know someone who would like a Zoom concert for their senior class, just message him via Facebook.
Even though this country singer/songwriter is currently without a label or publicist, it appears that Baldridge is hitting it on all cylinders during this unprecedented time for musicians and artists. It just goes to prove that when God is on your side, you can be unstoppable.
You can follow Drew Baldridge on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Spotify.
Bethany Bowman is a freelance entertainment writer. You can follow her blog, Bethany Writes, Instagram and Twitter.
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