Up Close & Personal – 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Frankie Ballard
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The first thing that would catch your eye about Frankie Ballard is that chiseled jaw and that movie star looks. If you have been around when he debuted in 2010 and gone on tour with Taylor Swift in 2011, you would realize that the man has gone through the whiskey changes of adulthood. His voice may be the same gravelly tone, but it has mellowed and become deeper with emotions and soul.
Frankie Ballard has really grown up.
Think freshly cut grass underneath your feet while the setting sun frames the stage, the darkening sky perfect for a bluesy number. Then the electric guitar starts off the first notes and then there’s the quiet presence before the house begins to rock. Welcome to a Ballard set.
#5 – Bats Away
It was a world of bats and swings for country singer Frankie Ballard in Western Michigan University being a star college baseball player in the NCAA when he realized that he wanted to jam with the blues. That was a turning point.
So much turning that by his third year in college, he auditions for Kenny Chesney’s Next Big Star in 2008 and Ballard ends up fronting for the big country music superstar in his Michigan venues. Two years later, he releases his first single “Tell Me You Get Lonely” with Reprise Records. From the dugout to the stage, that was one mighty leap forward that Ballard has never regretted.
Ballard explains the meaning of songs in his life, “You fall in love with songs as a kid…and you didn’t write those songs…” Songs make you remember something about your place, something great or maybe a heartache. “Somehow…it pierces your soul and affects you. That doesn’t go away,” he says.
Pretty sure his fans are mighty pleased he traded his baseballs for a guitar.
#4 – All In The Family
Ballard grew up with a musical family. He speaks of music in every part of the house with his parents as his musical influences as they were such big music plans. “Records were playing at every part of the house…even the garage,” he reminisces.
“I was very blessed…where I had access to almost all the popular music in the rock and roll renaissance and country music history.”
And then there is his dad with whom he shares a name and a love for the music of Sun Records. Ballard acknowledges the influence of his dad’s favorites which eventually also became his such as the 1950s Memphis music of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. Jerry Lee Lewis completes his Holy Trinity of country rock and some good old-fashioned heavy blues.
It also helped that Ballard and the older Ballard would put up live performances for Thanksgiving entertainment act with the younger Frankie playing guitar and dancing while his father sang. The apple never fell too far from the tree, in this case.
#3 – A River Runs Through It
In May 2011, Ballard released his self-titled debut album after his second single “A Buncha Girls” became a Billboard Top 40 hitter. In 2013 he moved to Warner Records and released his second album “Sunshine & Whiskey” with lead single “Helluva Life” becoming his first chart-topping song.
That’s all well and good, and Ballard even had decent reviews. Then in 2016, the man releases “El Rio”, his third album. El Rio would become his most personal album, finally giving his audience a feeling of the authentic Frankie Ballard.
“The dream for any recording artist is to have a unique sound that sets them apart from others…going down to El Paso allowed us a giant leap towards that sound.” He emphasizes, “It’s just my own brand of American music.”
With his creative cohorts in tow, they shagged up in a hacienda right on the banks of the Rio Grande, hence the album’s name while they took inspiration from the El Paso desert and the mighty river that runs through it.
“It just inspired me…the desert was very inspirational. The desert comes alive at night,” Ballard says.
#2 – Bob Seger And Me
Another major musical influence in Ballard’s music is the great Bob Seger. He toured with Bob Seger in 2012 and Ballard describes him as someone who gave life to his dream to become a singer. Yes, they both came from the frozen winds of Michigan before they hemmed and thawed under Nashville’s intense sun.
“I loved his music…his combination of blues and country … I got to go on tour with him, and it was a life-changing time for me.”
Even the choice of recording at the renowned Muscle Shoals Studio was influenced by Seger recording music over there. Is it a surprise that his go-to karaoke song is Seger’s “Turn the Page”?
#1 – Time For A Cool Change
Ballard’s inner introspection which is a far cry from his “I wanna be Russel Brand and be married to Katy Perry” days and being on stage in front of screaming women made him the happiest.
First off, he is happily married now to Christina Murphy who owns a pretty well-known shoe and accessory store, Old Smokey Boots.
Second, it’s all about the music now. With famous songwriters Chris Stapleton and Kip Moore sharing writing credits in his El Rio album. As Ballard recounts the story of how he snagged the song Cigarette for himself, you can see how much a song “speaks” to him.
He hears Stapleton singing the song demo, and he was immediately taken, Cigarette was his song. His. Then he found out that neither Stapleton or Moore was going to use the song and he got permission to use it in his album. And he tried to make it his own. The song is one of Ballard’s favorite song to perform live, including “Good as Gold”.
When the facade of fame and fortune fades, what remains is the music. Deep-seated, contemplative, and soul-searching music.
“I always try to make to push myself to make the best music I can make…whatever it becomes,” Ballard says. “And there’s peace in that.”