Brett Eldredge sounds like a damn maniac. He's not listing off conspiracy theories, nor is he divulging dark stories of Hollywood debauchery: Rather, he's laying out in detail what he's going to do once his latest hit, "Mean to Me," reaches number one on the country charts.
"I've made the plans to do something called 'Dinner in the Sky,' where you get strapped into a dinner table chair and you're hanging 300 feet or so in the air on a crane and you have a five-course dinner hanging there," he says, a hint of childlike glee creeping into his voice. "It's just all [about] crazy experiences in life that I can look back and say 'That was something I never imagined in a million years that I would do, and now I get to share that story with my friends and include the people that love me most.'"
If it seems like Eldredge has a bit of a wild streak in him, it's because the Illinois native has had relatively quick ascent in the country music world in the past few years. Just last year Eldredge snagged the coveted New Artist of the Year award at the Country Music Association Awards, colloquially known as the CMAs. It's about as high an honor a new country artist can snag just shy of a Grammy, and the 29-year-old is reveling in it, using his spotlight to illuminate his next move.
"The thing with the quick rise is that you start to realize that 'OK, I really have to be on my game for however more albums and hits to follow, and when you're delivering this thing that people get a hold of, how do you sing and how do you grow it, how do you take that next step, how do you get somebody even more interested than in the last thing that you did?" Eldredge asks. "For me, it's always been that you have to have the love for the music in the tough times, and in the good times you gotta have more of it and realize how good things can get and how quickly it can get taken away."
Despite his selfie-laden Instagram and success-driven antics, there is a sense of self-awareness to Eldredge that belies his puppy dog persona. When the questions come to his career, his tone shifts from the lackadaisical country boy to that of an artist who has been confronted with holding the rest of their creative career to an incredibly high standard, both personally and contractually. It's a role he's wrestled with since his first big hit, but he's had the time and experienced the tribulations to know how to play it.
"Moving to Nashville and not realizing how impossible it can seem, and how big of a mountain that you have to climb, how many doors will get shut in your face and how many people are going to tell you that you should find a day job, when you don't know the difference and you're naive that when somebody tells you 'no,' you take that hit and go to the next person and show them why they should hear you," he says.
While his initial starry-eyed take on Nashville has worn off and the reality has set in, few things seem to even threaten Eldredge's approach. If anything, his work ethic, tireless as it may be, is his saving grace. It's what got him through the tough periods, his initial move, his questioning of self, and what will invariably propel him to that dinner in the sky.
"I remember laying in my bed at night sometimes, a couple years into it even, thinking 'Instead of laying in my bed right now, I could be laying in a tour bus, traveling down the road to the next city play that next show and sing my songs,'" he says. "If I would have gotten signed to that record deal right away, I wouldn't have made myself an artist -- I probably would have fallen on my face. It was a pretty tough road but it made me learn a lot and those people that believe in you the most and stick with you from the very beginning, they're well worth those hardships and frustrations."
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