Brett Eldredge Is Ready to Embrace Vulnerability
Brett Eldredge's new music is an exercise in vulnerability. Speaking to the press via video chat, thee singer says the process he went through in recording upcoming new album Sunday Drive changed him — on purpose.
"I definitely look at everything a lot differently now," Eldredge tells Taste of Country. "Everything that got me to this point, I've been very fortunate to have. But when I look back now, it's like what do I want to leave behind? I don't want to leave this earth without knowing I sang every every song and told every story honestly and emotionally. I don't want to leave one song off the table."
He's enjoyed consistent commercial success on his four studio releases so far. The country crooner has two Gold albums, nine Gold and Platinum singles and seven No. 1 radio hits. His critically acclaimed holiday album Glow spun off into an annual holiday tour, and his most recent, self-titled 2017 album debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's all-genre Top Album Charts.
And that was all in the span of about five years.
Amid the constant touring and music releases, Eldredge also became one of the most visible country faces on social media, amassing millions of followers during what he says became a nearly a "24/7 thing" for him. And ultimately, it took a toll.
"It's going to kick you in the ass," he says. "I got that burnout as some of us do. And I love music, but I got to the point where I lost the magic."
Eldredge insists that despite being highly visible, he's a shy person. "People would be used to seeing me with a phone in front of my face, but it was really draining creatively," he adds.
That led Eldredge to drastically step back from posting on social media, even at one point taking to only posting the occasional picture of physical Polaroid photos. "I love how a Polaroid captures the moment for what it is," he says. "It really makes you appreciate the moment and the imperfections of life that make it beautiful. That's what I was going for in my personal life and in my music, was embracing those imperfections."
"Being off social media for a year, it's honestly changed me extremely profoundly," Eldredge says.
But what a lot of fans don't know is that he wasn't only looking to make a change in his social media habits — he unplugged in a lot of ways. He spent some time by himself in a California beach cottage with nothing but a flip phone, a pen and some paper. He stopped going to most industry events. He stopped listening to the radio. And he stopped worrying so much about censoring himself.
"I just needed some time for myself to step away and find my heart, I guess," Eldredge says.
That search led him, eventually, to Daniel Tashian's home studio. Along with Ian Fitchuk, Eldredge and Tashian dug into his own vulnerability like never before,. (Tashian and Fitchuk are the duo behind Kacey Musgrave's Grammy-winning knockout Golden Hour). Eldredge felt a spark from the first co-write.
"I walked out of the room thinking, 'Wow, I don't know what just happened, but it was special,'" Eldredge recalls. "I realized as we were recording these demos — I heard myself as an artist for the first time. Just the rawness of it."
Eldredge took Fitchuk and Tashian, along with his manager John Peets, to his hometown in Illinois. He wanted to show them where (and how) he grew up. From there, they went to Chicago to make his new album, Sunday Drive. Recording the record in his home state was another big departure for the star, who had previously recorded all of his major albums in Nashville.
"I had been making records a certain way for a long time, and it's been a great run up to this point — I don't downplay that," Eldredge says. "But there's a lot more for me to give, and so much more for me as an artist and vocalist to show."
Fans will likely hear that immediately on new single "Gabrielle," a wistful true story about an old flame. The song leans heavily on piano — a theme Eldredge says persists throughout the record, and one that has driven him to learn the instrument. New songs "Crowd My Mind" and "Where the Heart Is" emphasize the point.
"This album is very much a full body of work that I want to get as much of out as I can," he says. "If you just hear one song you're not going to get the full record. That's very much the mission statement of this album: the journey I went on, the search I went on to kind of find who I was and find the magic of music again."
Ultimately, Eldredge found himself much more comfortable writing about his own vulnerabilities. Or at the very least, being comfortable with how uncomfortable it all is.
That's not to say he's done looking. "I'm still kind of compartmentalizing it all; it's not like I went on a mission and then stopped," he says. "I want to make somebody feel something. I'm not going to care where it ends up on the chart. I want to shoot straight from my heart, not just thinking, 'Where is this going to end up?' I want to look back one day and say I'm proud of the music I made, proud of the stories I told, proud of being honest with it."
Right now — especially right now — Eldredge is taking it all one day at a time. Working to be a better friend. Practicing piano, but not being too hard on himself if he decides to play games that day instead. And writing notes to himself on his mirror.
"I write 'Be Bold,' and then I put my handprint and just remind myself to show up," Eldredge says. "I'm just trying to show up, even if it scares me."
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