When Drew Baldridge’s record label shut down in 2019, he wasn’t sure what his future would hold. He began to pursue music independently and had an unexpected hit on his hands with “Senior Year” in 2020. Although he’d released the song before the COVID-19 pandemic began, the message of treasuring the last moments of high school resonated with students who experienced their schools shutting down during a pivotal moment of their lives.
Baldridge caught up with Music Mayhem about the small-town authenticity of his new album, Country Born, how a random message on Instagram led to a collaboration on the Opry stage, and his feelings about becoming a father for the first time.
Social media helped drive the success of Baldridge’s song “Senior Year,” with fans posting videos using the lyrical hook “never thought it would disappear, senior year.” Recognizing the impact his song was having, Baldridge offered to do a Zoom concert for any graduating class of 2020. At one point, Baldridge says he was doing six to seven concerts a day from his living room. He reached out to radio friends to see if they knew of schools that would be interested, which turned into getting radio play and a top 50 Billboard single without a team promoting it.
Those virtual concerts began to evolve into in-person shows at drive-in graduations, so Baldridge decided to gauge the interest of fans booking him for backyard performances. “I played over 200 people’s backyards all around the country and it was the coolest thing ever,” he recalls. “A lot of the shows were the first time family members were getting together for months ‘cause they hadn’t seen each other.”
Around that same time, Baldridge joined TikTok and shared a song during his honeymoon that he’d written about his wife called “She’s Somebody Daughter.” The post amassed 10 million views in one day.
“I put the song out the next day, and it just was this major viral moment,” says Baldridge. “You always dream of writing music that’s gonna impact people. And this song did that in a big, big way.”
Although he dreamed of recording a full-length album, he wasn’t sure if it would happen without a record deal. Thanks to the success of “She’s Somebody’s Daughter,” Baldridge was able to collaborate with some of his producer buddies to create Country Born, which comes six years after his debut album Dirt On Us.
Baldridge wanted the project to be autobiographical. “After we wrote the song ‘Country Born,’ I knew immediately that that could be the title of the record because I was born in the farm, I was born in the country. This is how I was raised, in a town of 550 people. I knew I wanted to have all the songs kind of go around that.”
Some of the tracks on Country Born like “Imma,” “Mom and Them,” and “Dudn’t It” reflect phrases used in his hometown. “People are like, is that a misspelled title? It’s like, no, everybody says that,” Baldridge laughs. “I just knew that I wanted to be real, I wanted to be small-town, I wanted to be authentic.”
Rising star Harper Grace appears on the song “Lost in Love,” which came out of a writing session three years ago. About a year before they wrote the track together, Grace reached out to Baldridge on Instagram about possibly writing together once she moved to Nashville. “So I go to her Instagram and I start looking around,” he recalls. “I’m like, Oh my gosh, this girl’s a freaking singer. You know, like it’s not just somebody that’s just a songwriter. This girl is a real singer, real artist, has a great voice.”
Baldridge says that “Lost in Love” was the second or third song that the co-writers penned after meeting. They recorded the demo as a duet, but didn’t find a home for it until Country Born. “The way that turned out, the way she sings it, the way our voices go together… it just blows my mind every time I hear it, I get goosebumps.”
It was Grace’s turn to get goosebumps when Baldridge brought her out on the Opry stage for the first time to sing their song together. In an Instagram post, Grace shared videos of the performance and photos of her experience backstage, with the caption:
“Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. Legit all I can say is WOW because I’m currently still shaking in SHOCK from last night. What an absolute DREAM come true last night. Thank you, @drewbaldridgemusic, for letting me share the stage with you as my FIRST time performing on the Opry stage ever! About a year ago it was my very first time attending a concert at the Opry to watch Drew perform, I believe it was his debut as well….. And a year later he asked me to share the platform with him for MY first time!! FULL CIRCLE moment right there if you ask me! God is so good. I’ve had sing at the Opry on my dream board since I was 11 years old, but as I update one every year I made sure I put on my 2022 dream board “perform at the OPRY for my first time BEFORE the end of the year” ….. & LOOK WHAT HE HAS DONE! God just continues to amaze me! 1 John 5:15 – “And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.””
The first time the pair performed the song on stage together was during the recent Big Baldridge & Bonfire Music Fest.
“I always dreamed since I was a little kid of doing something like this,” says Baldridge. With a population of 550, his hometown of Patoka, Illinois was thrilled to have live music. “We didn’t get stuff like this growing up. We don’t ever get music coming to our town. We don’t have a music venue, we don’t even have a McDonald’s,” he says. “Bringing something like this was so exciting.”
Baldridge admitted that he cried on stage a few times after seeing the crowd of more than 2,500 people. “The town presented me with a hometown of Drew Baldridge sign, which the Mayor came out and gave me this sign and I just lost it. I just couldn’t believe it.” The event also helped raise money for local organizations. “We raised almost $4,000 for this really awesome charity called Sleep and Heavenly Peace, which gives beds to kids that don’t have beds.”
Now that he’s wrapped up his hometown festival and Country Born is out in the world, Baldridge is settling into nesting mode with his wife. “This [album] has just been my little baby before my baby coming,” says Baldridge, who is expecting his first child in December.
“She’s officially 30 weeks and third trimester and she’s awesome and she’s just been incredible throughout this whole pregnancy,” says Baldridge. “It’s now time to shift a little bit, get a little bit into dad mode. I’ve been looking forward to this and one day being able to hold my little boy. I just can’t imagine what that’s gonna be like… Honestly. It feels weird to say I’m gonna be a dad, but it’s coming.”