How did you get started in music?
I spent a lot of time with my great-grandpa when I was young. He would take me to the VFW or AmVets, and I would sit in there all day while the guys drank a few beers. I’d play pool and listen to the jukebox. My great-grandpa loved Alan Jackson and George Strait and all those traditional guys, and that’s the first music that I fell in love with. One of the first songs I learned on guitar was a George Jones song when I was 17 years old. I taught myself how to play and just stayed in my room practicing on my $100 Fender acoustic guitar until I got it.
Who are some of your musical Influences?
I am a huge fan of Garth Brooks. It’s wonderful to have the ability to have a song speak to people—to connect—the way Garth’s songs connect. He’s also a great entertainer and gives 100 percent to his fans and audiences. I’m also a big fan of Aaron Lewis, Randy Travis and Keith Whitley. I miss the sound of the older Randy Travis records. I feel like it was a simpler time—some of the best country songs aren’t the most complicated written songs. It’s the delivery and how they sounded.
What was the first concert you attended?
The first concert I went to was when I was 12 and my girlfriend was 13. We went to Britney Spears for her birthday. The second one was Rascal Flatts. I thought they were both cool.
What’s the last song you heard that blew you away?
“Girl Goin’ Nowhere” by Ashley McBryde is absolutely amazing. I related to the story of being told “you’ll never get anywhere” and sometimes believing that yourself. When time goes by and you put the work into it and doors do open, those same people that were mean to you now tell you how great you are. Also, she sings about starting out and not playing for anybody and now you can fill up some rooms. I really love the song, the story and the whole album.
Your new single, “Skylines,” is about a young woman escaping the country to a big city. Is the story based on your upbringing?
“Skylines” is partially my story, but I wanted it to inspire other people to get out of their comfort zone and experience things. Growing up, I felt like I was always stuck in the country and wanted to get out, but now I realize how lucky I was to grow up there.
You just released your new album, Temptation, on Nov. 2. What can fans expect from the new project?
It’s been two years since my last album was released. I’m really excited for fans to hear Temptation. I’ve been playing the songs in my live shows and it’s great to see how people are reacting. It is a blend between traditional country music and what works now—it’s the newer style. It’s a little bit of everything.
Where are some of your favorite places to perform?
Fourth Street Live! in Louisville, Kentucky. I opened for Chase Rice there a few years ago and the streets get filled with people having fun. The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas is a cool place where I opened for Sam Hunt and Brantley Gilbert. I also opened for Chase Rice in Mission Viejo, California, on a stage that floated on the water and they had to take us there by boat. That was a cool experience.
What’s the first thing you do after a show?
The meet and greet, and then get a drink: a Miller Light and a Jack Daniel’s.
Have you had any cool or unusual fan encounters?
I love connecting with my fans. They’ve asked me to sign all kinds of crazy stuff. People have asked me to sign body parts or posters of other people. I never used to do it—but now I do. I started signing people’s body parts and they started getting them tattooed. Now I see my song lyrics and song titles tattooed on people. It’s wild!
What’s your favorite song to cover?
“She’s Every Woman” by Garth Brooks is one of them. I really like that song.
What family member or friend has been the most supportive of your musical career?
Zach, my manager. We’ve been friends for five years. He first hired me as a bartender at the event center that he was running. He dabbled in music, and was on tour with Krewella and Chance the Rapper. We didn’t know each other at the time. After he hired me, I wore a hat with the word “winter” on it. I don’t think he knew why I wore it. Eventually he found out I played and he came to see me. He thought I was really talented and wanted to help, and it kind of started from there.
What do you have planned for the rest of 2018 and into the new year?
I have 24 show dates coming up soon in support of the album. Also, my agent just told me that we have 48 dates booked for 2019. I’m always writing for future projects. I’m loving the idea of an acoustic album right now.
photo by Lindsey Jordan