“This is not a vanity project for me, this is my life,” famed actor and country newcomer Alexander Ludwig tells Sounds Like Nashville. “Country music has always had such a special place in my heart, and I really believe that it’s because at the heart of it, country music has been a lesson in gratitude to me.”
For those unfamiliar with the newly-signed Broken Bow Record artist: he is an immensely talented rising country singer/songwriter whose song deliveries are comparable to the likes of Kenny Chesney, Chris Cagle, and Billy Currington. And, for those familiar with Ludwig: don’t be too quick to write him off as “yet another Hollywood actor trying to break into the Nashville scene to earn that country music dollar.” His self-titled debut EP is a stellar 90’s and 2000’s country hat-tip, and might be one of the most authentic debuts to come out of Music Row this year.
An acclaimed Hollywood star, Ludwig boasts a laudable acting résumé. He has played ‘Cato’ in the box office smash The Hunger Games and starred in other massive films and shows, which include History Channel’s Vikings, Lone Survivor, Bad Boys For Life (alongside Will Smith and Martin Lawrence) and most recently, the upcoming TV series Heels.
With such remarkable success on the big and small screens, most would be baffled by the celebrated actor’s decision to saddle up and tread the country artist path. After all, this new line of work does demand different skill sets and he has to start from the ground up.
But as Ludwig reveals, both acting and singing have in fact been two equally important lifelong passions. One just simply taking off before the other, he says, leaving him without much time to hone his craft as an artist.
Still, after years of living the Hollywood life, Ludwig’s profoundly deep connection with country music has not only endured but grown—by leaps and bounds.
“Why I love country music and have always loved it is because it’s reminded me that the dream is already here and you don’t need a lot,” the 29-year-old reflects. “I love those songs and I grew up on them. They always reminded me to be grateful for what I had and for the opportunity to pursue what I love.”
One of the most significant moments in the conception of Ludwig’s love for the genre was when he heard Alan Jackson’s 2002 single, “Drive (For Daddy Gene),” for the very first time. Needless to say, it stopped the then-early teenager in his tracks.
“That song, to me, was such a story. It was so special, and it just hit me in every way, shape or form. I remember listening to it on repeat, and just could never get enough of it!”
Enamored with the timelessness of such hits, Ludwig hopes to release songs of similar caliber. Never mind if he doesn’t write them all, as long as the “best song wins.”
“At the end of the day, I want to be the musician who can have as many hits as possible. And when I say ‘hits,’ I don’t mean Number Ones. I mean songs that stand the test of time,” the singer shares, before alluding to the bar crowds teem that with excitement when Garth Brook’s “Friends In Low Places” plays.
With this long-term vision in mind, Ludwig stepped into the recording studio and held himself accountable to ”only cutting songs [he] would be proud of.”
The product of such exceptional intentionality is a summer-ready five-track collection that invites listeners to soak up life’s sunshine (“Summer Crazy”), live in the moment (“Love Today”), and not forget the sanctuaries they can always return to, as chronicled in “Sunset Town.” The pensive ballad was penned by Justin Wilson, Marv Green, and fellow country singer David Lee Murphy.
“‘Sunset Town’ reminds me that whatever happens in life, whether it’s a breakup, [loss of] job or whatever, you can find some sunset town, sit down, kick back and make it work anywhere,” the Vancouver, Canada native says, before revealing the personal impact it has had on his life.
“I resonated with it so much because it’s literally the mentality I needed to have to survive in this industry for so long. It’s not glamorous. People always think that being an actor and a musician is glamorous and you make so much money. That’s not the case,” explains Ludwig. “Yeah, for sure you can have all these wins, but there’s a lot of ‘no’ and there’s a lot of uncertainty. So, ‘Sunset Town’ is literally the song that I need just to stay sane.”
Elsewhere on the EP, a great mood-lifter is found in the breezy standout, “How It Rolls.” “I like how it rolls / Like honey off your tongue / Sure sounds to me like true love / Ain’t no way it ever gets old / I like how it rolls,” Ludwig sings of his life on the alluring chorus.
Last year, during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, fate had it that Ludwig would cross paths with his then-girlfriend and now wife, Lauren Dear Ludwig. Just as their romance started blossoming, the country singer was sent “How It Rolls,” and it spoke to him in a trice. “It was just like, that song couldn’t have come at a perfect time because that was exactly how I felt,” recalls the newly-wed, who eloped on a mountain in Utah on January 3rd.
“Lauren has been my absolute rock through all of this. We’re a pandemic relationship and she’s moved out of Canada to come live with me in the south. She’s been my everything and my guiding force. When I play that song, I think of her.”
While four of the five tracks are outside cuts, Ludwig admits that he is thrilled to have “Summer Crazy,” a song he co-wrote, part of the project. The rollicking tune was penned with Wilson and the EP’s producers Kurt Allison and Tully Kennedy, both of whom are Jason Aldean’s longtime band members.
“You know, I’m so freakin’ happy that this song made it on the EP because, again, I’d be the first one to kick one of my own songs off if I felt there was something better,” the budding songwriter shares with a laugh. “I am so proud of that song because that song to me was why I got into country music. It’s such a summer anthem that reminded me of the old Kenny Chesney and Dierks Bentley songs I grew up listening to in the summer.”
At the end of the day, Ludwig hopes that his collection of songs will be one fans can celebrate life to, whether that means pressing play on their listening device or seeing him live at a concert. Though it can be so easy for newcomers to pander to a formulaic production style and lyric that sells, the hardworking emerging artist opines that he is not fixated on that.
His goal, first and foremost, is to stay true to himself and release music he firmly believes in.
“I think, over all these years, though I didn’t know it, I was in the process of finding who I was as a country artist as well,” Ludwig reflects. “I’ve gotten to this place where I’m not going to chase trends. I’m just gonna do what I love about country music, and hope people are along the ride with me.”
He adds, “There’s a quote that says, ‘All you can do is all you can do.’ And, at the end of the day, I approach music the same way I approach my performances when I’m acting. It’s a very empowering feeling when you just go, ‘I’m gonna do me, and I’m gonna do me to the best of my ability.’”