If you want to learn a craft, you might as well learn from the best — and that’s pretty much the story behind country newcomer Robert Counts, who just released his soulful-and-sophisticated self-titled EP debut.
In part two of a video introduction premiering exclusively on Sounds Like Nashville today (10/11), the smoky-voiced singer/songwriter explains how growing up in Franklin, Tennessee — just down the road from Nashville — gave him all the musical inspiration he needed.
Counts first encountered professional musicians at church, he says, since some of his congregation’s members were touring players for country artists like LeAnn Rimes, Christian acts and more. Seeing it done at a high level helped out when it came time to write his first song for a school project in the 10th grade, but Counts actually had plans to attend medical school. That is, until he met Nashville producer Jimmy Ritchey thanks to a bold move by his girlfriend, who was working at a local restaurant.
Ritchey and big time hit maker Dann Huff (Keith Urban, Thomas Rhett) eventually teamed up to help create Counts’ five-track EP — finding the sonic sweet spot where heart-forward country and thinking-man’s rock intersect, then applying it to Counts’ self-penned songs, filled with feel-good soul and everyday optimism. But in order to get there, he still had to convince a record label to put out his music.
Counts explains that it finally happened when he was given the chance to pour his heart out for the team at Sony Music Nashville, and one particular song left the label’s CEO with tears in his eyes.
“His son was in his first year at [the University of Tennessee] and he had just taken him to college,” Counts explains about why “Backseat Driver” — sung from the point of view of a parent sending a child off into the world — hit so hard. “At the end of the meeting, he stood up and said ‘We’d love to have you be a part of our Sony Music Nashville family.’ I was blown away, I could not believe it.”
“Backseat Driver” is included on the EP, and so are standout tracks like the sugar-sweet “Someone In My Someday,” cool-and-casual romantic jam, “Dress Up,” the coming-together anthem, “Better People,” and a bourbon-soaked cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.” Counts goes on to say that he didn’t take his decision to forego medical school lightly, but now knows it was the right choice.
“I weighed it out and said ‘Look, this makes me happy, I want to do this with my life,'” he explains.
Counts’ self-titled EP is out now, and next week he heads to Minnesota for several tour dates.