Some success stories seemingly come out of nowhere, but there is usually a lot of hard work behind them.
Last year at this time, Drew Baldridge was just beginning to make a name for himself. And if time continues to be on his side, then this time next year he is sure to reach household name status.
“It’s been a crazy year, let me tell you,” he told Nightlife, right after he returned from mission work in Costa Rica.
Baldridge does just that as he prepares to open up for Montgomery Gentry at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds. The ink has hardly dried on this Southern Illinois native’s record deal, and he is already making big plans for the future.
Baldridge, who hails from Patoka, was introduced to country music when his mother took him to a Josh Turner concert. Baldridge’s rise to success began with him singing and playing in live venues while he was still in high school. He won several talent competitions, including events like the Kentucky Opry and Southern Starr.
Baldridge set his sights for Nashville, Tennessee, in hopes of making it big in Music City at the ripe age of nineteen. While he was there, he started rubbing elbows and building relationships within the industry while performing at the various honkytonks on Music Row.
Not bad at all for a small-town boy who at twenty-two years old has just signed a publishing agreement with THIS Music/Warner Chappell and is now sharing the stage with some of the biggest names in country music.
It’s been so surreal. I can’t even put my finger on it,” Baldridge said. “Sometimes I don’t even think it is real.
How he landed the State Fair gig is also part of the fairytale. Baldridge was brought on stage last year to play with Jennifer Thompson and her band, who were opening for Lee Greenwood.
“I got to sing a few songs with Jennifer and that went over great,” he said. “And when it came [to do the booking for this year], we tossed it out there for me to open and they were down with it.”
Earlier this month Baldridge filmed his first ever music video for “BYOB” in his hometown. An open call to all comers filtered through social media as everyone in Patoka was invited to the pickup-truck party.
Baldridge said the idea came to him because he wanted to pay homage to the small town that meant so much to him as he was growing up. The shoot was filmed on the back roads of Patoka. People of drinking age and older were told to bring trucks and, of course, beer to bring an authentic feel to the project.
"I wanted my friends and everyone I knew to be a part of this big moment in my career," he said. “I saw it being this big celebration.”
Though he personally doesn't drink, Baldridge has explained the origins of his new song as “just a fun song” he wrote with a friend and fellow songwriter in Nashville. The song features a spelling lesson complete with a Snoop Dogg reference and catchy guitar riff about getting down and dirty way out in the country.
With everything that has happened to him, Baldridge said he is willing and ready to see what the next chapter unfolds, including a stint opening for rising country star Justin Moore.
“I can’t believe this is my life now,” he said.
Drew Baldridge released his first national radio single in December 2015. Since this article ran, he has been featured on CMT's Fresh 12 countdown.
Photo by Leah Williams