10 Questions with ... Frankie Ballard
February 1, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
The best music is about connection, that place where words and music allow an artist's reality to fire real emotion in listeners. And it's just that connection that has been at the heart of Frankie Ballard's rise as an artist. That connection has also led to back-to-back #1 singles with "Helluva Life" and "Sunshine & Whiskey." "Helluva Life" is the opener from Sunshine & Whiskey, an album that announces Ballard as one of the genre's most nuanced singers and writers, someone whose long road history and wide musical taste add substance to his obvious surface appeal. Ballard first hit the public spotlight with two Top 30 singles, "Tell Me You Get Lonely" and "A Buncha Girls," appearing on the Grand Ole Opry and playing packed arenas opening for Kenny Chesney and on major tours with Taylor Swift and longtime idol Bob Seger. Through it all, he has never lost his love for doing what he does best--taking his music to the people. Ballard is set to perform at this year's Rock The Ocean Tortuga Music Festival, April 12th-13th. Over 25,000 music fans attended last year's inaugural event, set in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which raised over $70k for the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation and other marine conservation organizations. He has also appeared on CBS's The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Now, Frankie is slated to hit the stage as one of five artists voted to play at the 2015 CRS "New Faces" show.
1) Frankie! First off, congratulations on playing the CRS "New Faces" show that is coming up! That is quite the accomplishment. Playing the "New Faces" show, you'll be amongst radio programmers and other industry folks, which is a different audience than when you're out on the road playing for fans. How do you approach a show like this? Are you going to prepare for it any differently than you do when you're out on tour?
Yes! You have to approach this show differently because it's a different crowd. I approach every show differently because of that very reason. This one is special; it's radio folks and there's a little video that goes with it. It's gonna be fun! We're gonna do the same songs from the record that we want to present, and play them as good as we can!
2) Speaking of accomplishments, your last two singles "Helluva Life" and "Sunshine & Whiskey" both went #1! Do you remember where you were the first time you found out you had the #1 song in the country and what did it feel like?
Yes, I remember exactly where I was when "Helluva Life" went #1! The charts close on a Saturday night, and we were in Atlanta, GA playing at Wild Bill's. Right before we went on stage, my radio rep came up to me and said 'Guess what? It's official!' We knew the whole week that we were in the race, but nothing was official till that moment. I remember getting to walk on stage with the joy of knowing that at that time, for the first time, I had the #1 song in the country! I'll never forget that show. I remember playing with a smile on my face the whole time!
3) You've been out on the road with Florida Georgia Line as a part of their "Anything Goes" tour. What notes have you taken after seeing them perform night after night?
I'm really excited about being out with them. It's a great opportunity to get out in front of a lot of new fans and radio people, and have a great time. I plan on watching them play every night and stealing as many tricks of the trade as I can. I've always done that. I think you're a fool to sit in your dressing room when somebody who's where you want to be is out there performing. I'll be out there with my little notepad, so to speak! (laughs)
4) You've been out on the road quite extensively over the past few years. What has been one of your funniest or most memorable "On The Road" stories (that you can share with us)? :)
I did a Twitter chat one week about two years ago, and was just answering fan questions at lightning speed. Somebody asked me what my favorite home cooked meal was and I think I rattled off something like Chip Beef Casserole that my mom makes. Another question came by and I forgot all about that. Fast forward to that weekend, not the person who asked it, but someone who was following the Twitter chat, saw that response and made me a Chip Beef Casserole. They threw it on stage, in the middle of one of the songs, in a Tupperware dish and it landed at my feet and it scared me. Usually you're expecting bras or panties, but this was a casserole dish with cooking instructions; 350 degrees for an hour or whatever it was (laughs). That is definitely one I'll never forget!
5) Let's continue with these "On The Road" stories. Throughout the years, you've visited radio quite a bit. What has been one of your funniest or most memorable experience when out with a radio PD or MD? Once again, one that you can share with us! Ha!
I was on the Bob Seger tour, and we were able to fly in our buddy Eddie Haskell from Albuquerque, where he was at the time, into Tulsa, OK to see the Bob Seger show and to see us on the show. We got him fourth row tickets. We rocked our set and then I went out and watched Bob's set with Eddie and had an incredible night. I remember that being so much fun getting to experience Bob Seger from the fourth row with some buddies that I love. We partied pretty late in to the night and had a wonderful time. That was one of my favorites!
6) As we just mentioned, you've toured a lot and continue to do so. How do you feel your live show has evolved from when you were first starting out till now?
It definitely has. I've been playing live for a living for 10 years now. If I was doing the same thing that I did back then when I started, I would be pretty depressed I think. You just get better. You become a better player, a better singer, a better entertainer. You learn how to work a crowd. I started selling beer in honkytonks, and learned what it took to sell beer and make the bar owner happy so he'd have us back the next weekend. Now, I'm selling myself as a product. In a lot of ways it's the same. It's having energy, playing good, playing good songs, and keeping the set flowing. It's so many things over the years; watching other people primarily. Whether it's being there live opening for them, or going to see them. Whatever it is, I always try to steal things that I both want to do and not want to do. It's still about getting better and evolving all the time.
7) You also started out with a look that included longer hair. You've since cut your hair and changed your look up a little bit. Was that a natural progression of time and growing up, or a conscious decision where you wanted to have a new look when putting out new music?
Yes, I had long hair for quite a while! About 10 years. It wasn't programmed or teed up in any way. I just woke up one day and was tired of it; tired of dealing with it and having long hair, so I cut it all off. I guess it has evolved into a different look overall, but that's just because certain clothes go with long hair and certain clothes go with short hair. Who knows how it will change in the future!
8) Your songs tend to have a long lifespan on radio. Do you feel there ends up being an advantage to songs that stay on the chart for 35 weeks versus those that get to #1 within 13 weeks?
Absolutely! More is more when it comes to radio airplay, so being on the chart for 35 weeks instead of 13-you don't get as many singles out per year- but in my opinion, they become bigger hits. People hear them more, which is what you want. I don't think 35 is the magic number, but I also don't think 13 is. I think more like 20 is the magic number. People really get a lot of listens, but they don't get burned out, and we get to put more music out!
9) We've talked to artists who prefer to watch the chart themselves, whereas others prefer to find out how they're doing secondhand through their promo team. Which sounds more like you? How aware do you like to be when it comes to spins, adds, conversions, etc?
My first couple singles, I was a chart hawk. I would watch it and get stressed out and lose sleep over it. I learned that was not the healthiest thing to do. Worry about it is not going to move you up, or down, or sideways. I tend to try and stay back a little bit now. I don't watch it week-to-week, but every once in a while I'll check in with my promo guys at the label, or my management will keep me up to speed. I do not watch it on a daily/weekly basis-unless we're going for #1-then that week I will be a little more tuned in.
10) We'll leave this last question as sort-of an "open mic" for you to tell Country radio anything else you want them to know about you that you feel they should. Take it away....
I will always be exponentially thankful for the amount of airplay, and chances, and risks and investments that Country radio has taken on me from the large markets, to small markets, to everywhere in between. I'm just a kid from Michigan with a few songs in his heart and I'm so thankful that people want to play them and show them to their listeners. Thanks doesn't even really cover it. I think I owe them everything that I'll ever achieve in the music business. Country music, that all starts and stops with Country radio. Hopefully I can keep that relationship strong for years and years to come. Anything they ever need from me, they all know that all they have to do is call me. I'll end with a promise that I'll always deliver them the absolute best music that I can make!
We all know that you can absolutely shred on the guitar! Who would you most want to play with, dead or alive, that you haven't had the chance to yet?
Billy Gibbons! He's my favorite stylist of all time. I could jam with him till the rooster crows!