When it came time for Brett Eldredge to decide on a title for his new album, the highly personal content of the songs he’d written really made the decision an obvious one.
“This album is my heart and this is why it’s self-titled,” he says of his third studio album, Brett Eldredge, which hit stores August 4. “Every word and every note is me, more than anything I’ve ever done.”
Sitting in the Music Row offices of Warner Music Nashville, sporting jeans and a blue t-shirt that matches his vibrant eyes, Eldredge is relaxed and happy. He’s bared his soul on this record and is anxious to share the new music with his fans because he feels they’ll relate. He admits when he began writing for his new record, he had no idea how far he’d go or the direction it would take. “When I started writing, I didn’t even know what route I was going to go yet,” he shares. “I just knew I wanted to make this next record a big record, but you can’t force creativity. You can’t force inspiration. You have to let it flow, so I just kind of rolled with it.”
The result is a collection of songs that reflect where the 31-year-old bachelor is at this point in his life. The Illinois native signed with Atlantic Records in 2010, and when his third single, “Don’t Ya,” hit No. 1 in 2012, it shifted his career into high gear. His sophomore album, Illinois, and his Christmas collection, Glow, helped further grow his enthusiastic fan base and he’s become a darling at country radio thanks to such chart-topping hits as “Beat of the Music,” “Mean to Me,” “Drunk on Your Love,” “Lose My Mind” and “Wanna Be That Song.” As his career has soared, his personal life has been something of a roller coaster. “The way I was living life, I was experiencing going in and out of love and not knowing what love was and still being this kind of hopeless romantic that never lets myself fall in love kind of guy. I was torn in all of these different places,” he says of his tumultuous emotions. “I just started saying how it feels and what it looks like from my perspective. I felt this would be really relatable because we are all just trying to get through life and trying to find that right person. Sometimes we fall on our face and something brings us back into the game. I love this ride of life and I loved even more to write it. When I really opened up to that, I think I made a record that really connects more than any of my other records by far. That’s what I was going for.”
Eldredge says executives at the record company were anxious to hear the songs he was writing, but were great about letting him have the time and freedom to make the record he wanted to make. “There was this moment that clicked to where the songs just started to show up,” he grins. “It was almost surreal. The depth of the songs were showing up with much more heart than any songs I’ve ever written. I knew we landed on something special and I wanted to chase that and so once we got to it I didn’t want to screw it up. The songs started coming in and the label started saying, ‘We want to hear some songs,’ and I told them, ‘I promise I’m going to deliver. I need a little time because I’m honing in on something,’ and the label literally let me make the record that I want to make. They didn’t try to step in there.”
Eldredge says he learned a lot about himself and about the creative process in the midst of doing this record. “I’ve learned that it’s okay to get even more honest with my music and to kind of open up more and it’s a powerful feeling to be able to do that,” he says. “It’s a little bit of a step off the ledge to do it, but once you do it it’s freeing, so I think there’s just more depth to this record. Once I knew that, I was like, ‘Okay now I’m just dying to get this in people’s hands!’ I hope it moves people as much as it moved me to make.”
I’m in a place in my life where I’m making music that I’ve always dreamt of.
So was he at all nervous about being so open and vulnerable in his music? “I realized today you write a deeper record, you are going to get deeper questions on how you got to that deep place,” he grins, “but you know what, you’ve got to be okay with it. If you don’t get out there and talk about it, you are going to keep it all in. I am a private person in my own ways, but the way I cope with life is through music and through writing songs. I think that allowing yourself more and more to just tell that story, it’s okay to tell it because there’s going to be a lot of people out there that are in the same situation. That’s why I fell in love with music because there’s always a song for every mood and every emotion.”
As he opens up in interviews about the making of the record and the stories behind the songs, is there a question he’s afraid he’ll be asked? He smiles a little nervously, fidgets and thinks for a second before responding, “I’m a non-confrontational kind of guy so I never want to put anybody else on the spot, so I’m never going to say this song was about this person, but they were definitely about certain people. Sometimes I just leave it because I like the mystery of some of it too. I never knew what some of my favorite singers were singing about sometimes, but I knew what the emotion was and I knew it came from a real place and how they delivered it. That’s what I love about music.”
Eldredge’s album is a rich musical smorgasbord that covers a lot of emotional territory, from family ties to romantic relationships. The lead single, “Something I’m Good At,” was accompanied by a humorous video, showcasing Eldredge’s unique sense of humor. “I wanted to show people that I’m always going to throw a curve ball,” he says. “I don’t want you to be able to predict what I’m going to do. I want [people] to say, ‘He’s always going to bring something that’s interesting to my ear that I haven’t heard yet or that totally doesn’t sound like anything else.’ I want to take those risks, take those opportunities to show the creative side of me, so it made sense to show that this album is a whole other step in my career, a whole other level of music. It’s very diverse. It’s got so many different kinds of songs. I wanted to show people that there is so much more that I have to tell and so many different ways to tell it.”
One of the most special songs to Eldredge is “Brother,” which was inspired by his sibling, Brice. “The song is about playing it tough. Me and my brother are so close, but in a way where you don’t really tell each other your emotions. You are brothers and you’re supposed to be tough or that’s what they say,” he smiles. “Our society has built up this thing where you have to play it tough, but you don’t have to because you can tell you brother or best friend or whoever you care about that you love them. It’s okay to tell them, so I think that’s what the message of this song whether it’s somebody you work with or been through ups and downs with. I could see it being about somebody you fought in a war with. It could be anything and I think that’s what the message is: ‘I would jump in front of a bullet for you. I would do anything. You are my brother. You are someone I care about.’ So yeah when my brother heard it he did get somewhat emotional, but I only know that because my buddy told me because he was playing tough. I know he loves it because that’s the first song he plays when he plays the record for friends.”
Eldredge co-wrote every song on the album with such collaborators as Tom Douglas, Ross Copperman, Heather Morgan, Matt Rogers and Jordan Reynolds. When it came time to record, he chose The Castle just outside Nashville. “It’s a beautiful place to get away from the whole business,” he says. “I love Music Row, but sometimes when you get away from town a little bit, it’s just more freeing sometimes. I’ve recorded down here my whole life and I still love to, but I love to get away and just really focus on the music.”
This album is my heart and this is why it’s self-titled. Every word and every note is me, more than anything I’ve ever done.
Among the most romantic songs on the record is “Haven’t Met You,” a sweet message to the love he’ still searching for, but has yet to find. “I travel a lot. I travel when I’m not traveling,” he says. “When I’m not traveling for work, I travel for play or travel for inspiration. When I’m seeing a beautiful place–it doesn’t matter where– I’ll see a beautiful sunset and I’ll be like, almost talking to the person I haven’t met, the person I should be sharing this moment with. The opening line is ‘There’s a half a million sunsets that I haven’t got to show you, don’t ask me how I know, but I know they’d steal your breath.’ So when I’m there seeing that, I [feel like] I should be showing that person, but I haven’t met them yet. I know there will be a point when I do meet them. I’m going to tell them all about it and I’m going to show them so much more of life and share it with them. I just haven’t met them yet. This song is very hopeful and I know that there are a lot of people out there who are in that same place. I wrote this song several years ago and I was playing it out live and the crowds just love it. It didn’t fit the last record, but it fit this record and so there’s a lot of fans really excited that it’s finally out.”
When asked what he’s looking for in that girl that he hasn’t met yet, Eldredge laughs and says, “I try to figure that answer out for myself all the time, but when it comes down to it it’s just what I look for in music. It’s just honesty. It’s someone real. It’s such a weird world today with photos and pictures and social media and all that. Obviously we are all using that, but away from all of that [I want] a real deep person who has a heart and a soul and who has got a story to tell. I want to know everything about that person. That’s what the song ‘The Long Way’ is about— getting into a conversation that you want to know everything about that person. I want to take the long way around their town. I don’t want to go through their towns. I want to take the curves that no one knows about but her and learn about that person and really get to know them. I want to know the details. That’s what I look for is the heart and I’m also a sucker for beautiful eyes and a sweet smile.”
Eldredge is excited about sharing songs from his new album in concert as he opens for Luke Bryan on his Huntin’ Fishin’ & Lovin’ Every Day tour. He’s been thoroughly enjoying being on he road with Bryan. “Luke is such a cool guy, such a down-to-earth guy,” he says. “And his fan base is passionate. They are rambunctious. They are so there for the good time. It’s such a positive show. It just makes you feel good and he makes you feel good. He’s a regular person that is a voice for everybody out there in the crowd and I love him for that. I feel you could have a beer with him off stage and have a beer with him on stage. He’s the same guy either way. You feel like you’ve fished with him 100 times even if you never have. He’s just that real guy, so it’s such a great vibe out there.”
When he’s not working, Eldredge enjoys traveling and spending time with his dog Edgar Boogie. “He’s the best partner in crime there is,” Eldredge says with a big smile. “He’s the smile on my face in the morning and when I go to bed at night. He is just a personality, almost just like my own personality. He’s so much fun, but also shy at times. He’s crazy and shy at times, but he has a very human like personality. I think that’s why people love him because he’s just a character and puts a smile on people’s face. You can’t replace that love of a pup.”
I wanted to show people that there is so much more that I have to tell and so many different ways to tell it.
Though people would think a traveling musician would enjoy staying home when they have a chance, and many do, but not Eldredge. “I like to travel when I’m not making music,” says Eldredge, who notes Australia, Thailand and Japan as some of the places he’s most looking forward to visiting. “A lot of people are like, ‘Why don’t you go home and relax?’ And I’m like, ‘I relax by seeing things I never saw before.’ I like to travel a lot and I like to encourage people to go experience things. It doesn’t mean you have to go get on a plane and fly thousands of miles. Go to some park you’ve never been. Go see something. It’s good for your brain. It’s good for your mind to experience these things and just do something you don’t normally do. You’ll be glad you did it once you’re done.”
So just where does Eldredge see himself in 20 years? “Half the time on a boat and half the time on a stage,” he says. “Twenty years from now, I’d love to just sit back and take it all in, play like 40 shows a year and then go back to the boat and then back to the stage. I want to do this for a long time and I’m definitely not tired of it. I’m just getting started. I’ll definitely need my breaks in there. I think the more and more I tour, the more I learn I need to give myself some personal time to re-energize because as crazy as I can be and high energy, I need just an equal amount of time to really get back and chill out so I can go fuel myself again.”
He admits life is really good right now and he’s grateful. “I’m in a place in my life where I’m making music that I’ve always dreamt of,” he says. ‘I finally got to make the album that I’ve always dreamed of making and it’s finally here. I just want people to give it a shot and have it be a part of their lives. I want them to smile when they hear it, cry when they need to and realize it’s alright to cry too.”