The best music is about connection, that place where words and music allow an artist's reality to fire real emotion in listeners. And it's just that connection that has been at the heart of Frankie Ballard's rise as an artist.
"I see people relating to the words of these songs," he says, "using the lyrics to reflect on their own lives."
Ballard will take to the Marshall County Fair Stage at 9 p.m. Wednesday.
Nowhere has that been more evident than in Ballard's breakthrough No. 1 hit, "Helluva Life." Fans are owning every line as they sing it back in concert and use social media to share their own stories of good times and bad, and the way romance puts a shine on all of it. As they sometimes do, the song's maxim that "bad times make the good times better" has become a rallying cry and a life-affirming motto.
It also rings true to the life Ballard himself has been living.
"I've been slugging it out on the road for a long, long time," he says with a characteristic smile, "and it's great when I'm far from home to have people out there know who I am and to feel like we've created a real bond."
"Helluva Life" is the opener from "Sunshine & Whiskey," an album that announces Ballard as one of the genre's most nuanced singers and writers, someone whose long road history and wide musical taste add substance to his obvious surface appeal. He first hit the public spotlight with two Top 30 singles, "Tell Me You Get Lonely" and "A Buncha Girls," appearing on the Grand Ole Opry and playing packed arenas opening for Kenny Chesney and on major tours with Taylor Swift and longtime idol Bob Seger. But he took a different musical approach for Sunshine & Whiskey.
Capturing the essence of his energetic stage shows, "Sunshine & Whiskey" represents the perfect re-emergence for a singer whose journey reflects all of life's ups and downs.
"Sometimes it's just busting your butt-at least that's what my journey has been. I want people to go, 'This guy knows where I've been.'"
Night after night, show after show, that's just the connection Frankie Ballard is making.