Frankie Ballard is back and better than ever with his new album, Sunshine & Whiskey. The 11-track collection, which debuted in the Top 5 on the Billboard Country Albums Chart, features “Helluva Life,” Ballard’s highest-charting single to date. As the song breaks into the top 5 at country radio this week, Ballard has a lot to celebrate.
CountryMusicIsLove recently sat down with the Michigan native to talk about the album and success of “Helluva Life.”
CMIL: Congratulations on the success of “Helluva Life.” Can you talk about the response the song has been getting with fans over the past few months?
FB: It’s so cool to see how deeply it’s reached them. People really made it their own and we’ve got this whole website campaign going on that’s like, ‘share your “Helluva Life.’” So anytime anyone hashtags “Helluva Life,” it goes to the site. There’s this forum full of pictures and posts and you know, a wide range of things like “my dog ate my homework… It’s a helluva life.” And it’s been really cool to see how people have made it their own and how it moves different people. It’s also become, I think, therapeutic for some people to go visit that destination and see that they are not the only person going through this or that or whatever. So it’s taken on a life of it’s own and it’s just fun to be a part of and to watch.
CMIL: You took quite a bit of time between albums. Can you tell us about the work you put into ‘Sunshine & Whiskey?’
FB: It was almost like two years in the making of this thing and we put so much work into it and I really- me and Marshall Altman, in my opinion really made this in a different way. It was more organic, like taking a lot of time to let the tracks kind of breathe and become things and taking the songs out on the road and letting them change. ‘Cause certain things do that. Especially when you’re playing live, you’re like “this guitar parts not really working,” or you try this and people react like “oh yeah!” So having all that time to do that, I think, also created a signature sound for me, which is something I wanted to do for this project. So there’s all of that work put in and it’s like yeah you want it to come out and people to go “Wow this is incredible.”
CMIL: You mentioned that you created a signature sound with the album. Can you tell us a little more about how that came to life?
FB: I think “Helluva Life” is just the beginning of it. It’s hard to articulate those kinds of things into words. I think primarily the guitar work that I put into this project is going to make it sound different just because there’s a lot of guys in this town that are studio guitar players and can play circles around me. But I am going to have a different approach to things because I’m not a studio musician.
CMIL: So when we listen to the album, that’s you on the guitar?
FB: Yeah, I’m playing most of the guitars and most of the acoustic guitars. I’m also playing banjo on it, and shakers, and all these different kind of things that I never got a chance to do. But, I think, you know, putting my stamp, my signature, on something means that I’ve gotta do more than just sing it. I was really, really happy that Marshall was into that too. It’s just sounds different because I’m playing it. I’m excited to see if people can pick that out. Some of my favorite records of all time, I can hear them coming before I hear the vocals. Oh, that’s Travis Tritt…. I can tell just by the the production, by the guitars. Brad Paisley, you know, you can kind of tell his guitar tone, or at least I can. So I wanted to always have that and create that so hopefully we accomplished that on this album.
If you haven’t already, be sure to pick up a copy of Sunshine & Whiskey!