Move over, Sam Hunt! Chris Lane is quickly stealing the hearts of fans across genres with his take on pop-country. In fact, he’s already got one very famous fan: Selena Gomez, who earlier this year called Lane's hit single, "Fix," her favorite song right now.
With a love of '90s R&B, boy bands like Backstreet Boys, and country superstars such as Keith Urban, it's no surprise that the former baseball player has made such a surprise impact on the country world with his unique blend of radio-friendly tunes -- even if he never expected to. Not only is Lane coming up in country, he's already opened for Florida Georgia Line and is currently on tour with Rascal Flatts and Kelsea Ballerini.
Just ahead of the release of his first album, Girl Problems, ET spoke to the 31-year-old country singer about his surprising music career, that American Idol audition, and, yes, Gomez.
ET: What went through your head when you found out you were opening for Rascal Flatts?
Chris Lane: It was a really cool moment for me. I grew up going to Rascal Flatts concerts. The fun part was the tour kicked off in Charlotte and Raleigh. I'm from North Carolina -- those are the two amphitheaters I went to my entire life for concerts. I had paid for easily a handful of Rascal Flatts concerts there. Just being on that stage as an opener for them was a crazy moment for me.
Did you have a lot of friends and family come out for those shows?
I sure did. That was the first show my parents have seen in a while, because I've been traveling so much. They ended up showing up at both of those, and my college baseball coach and some of the guys I played with were at the back of the meet-and-greet line. I hadn't seen them in a minute, so that was really cool.
When you're on the road, do you hang out with the headlining bands you tour with?
A lot of times, you find yourself hanging out with them all day long. Even after the shows, it's all-night hangs. The camaraderie on the road is awesome. Even with Rascal Flatts, I feel like I'm really good friends with those guys now. We go play golf together and hang all day. They're super nice dudes, and they've taken me out on a massive tour that never in a million years did I think I would be on.
Has Rascal Flatts given you any advice about touring?
The way I learn is through watching. I'm at the front of house every night watching their set. I watch Kelsea as well. She's awesome. [Rascal Flatts and I] talk about songs a lot. I played them my record and I got their opinion. That's really cool for me, because they're people that I look up to.
Speaking of your album, why did you title your debut Girl Problems?
I thought it would be attention-grabbing! There seemed to be a theme going on with the record. After I recorded the songs, I listened to them and looked at the song titles, and I was like, "Wow, every single song seems to be about some type of problem between a guy and a girl." Then I recorded a song called "Girl Problems," and it just hit me one day. The first day that we posted the album title, the comments and tweets were like, "I want to be one of Chris' girl problems."
Are you currently having any issues with the ladies?
I don't have any girl problems, luckily, but the album is more or less about things that I’ve gone through in previous relationships. Right now, I'm not dating anybody. Dating the road -- that's the best way to put it! Just kind of enjoying the early parts of my career.
Was there a specific relationship that inspired the songs?
I get so embarrassed, but when I was in middle school and high school, I would be the emotional guy. I would more or less be the girl in the situation, and girls ran all over me because of that. This is the embarrassing and funny part: When a girl would break up with me, I would listen to country songs or Backstreet Boys songs, and I would literally cry because I felt them in my heart, because I was so torn up over the girl. It all eventually changed once I got into college, but I felt like that my whole life, girls ran over me because I was the super nice guy who would literally do anything in the world for them. Some of the songs on my record, I listened back after I recorded them and I was like, "This could have easily been a Backstreet Boys song."
What has it meant for you to be on a tour of this magnitude?
Performing live is probably one of my favorite parts of this whole thing. I love the songwriting aspect and the creativity that comes with that, but being on stage is where I feel the most at home, so there's nothing about it that's nerve-wracking. I live for that. I love that! So the bigger the stage, the more people, the better it is for me. I grew up playing football, baseball, and basketball, and all I cared about was sports, so I didn’t think [about a music career] my whole life, but now, I feel like this is what I was made to do.
Coming from the sports world, how did you learn the structure of songwriting?
I just wrote what I thought was cool. I loved Keith Urban -- I was a huge fan of his. I'd watch the reaction from the crowd night after night to see what people reacted to, and it was usually something that was upbeat, something kind of groovy. At that point, the industry was in a much different place, so some of the writing I did was a little poppy, some of it was a little more country.
"Fix" definitely has a poppy bent to it.
Yes, absolutely! That's what made me pick the songs that are on the record now. I want songs that I can move to and dance to on stage. I'm seriously the worst dancer on earth, but I want people to show up and be able to move and have a good time.
What crossed your mind when you heard that Selena liked "Fix"?
I'm a huge fan of hers. I can't remember who I was with when I heard that, but I said, "I'm just a normal dude from Kernersville, North Carolina, and Selena Gomez just said that my song -- out of anybody's song -- is her favorite." That blew me away.
What influenced your decisionto meld pop and country?
It's what I like. I grew up on George Strait, Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw -- all those guys. I love that with all my heart, but I also loved Usher and Justin Timberlake. I was a huge Backstreet Boys fan, and those were the songs and style I loved growing up, and I feel like I was able to mesh the two together.
Was it injuries that made you want to transition from baseball to music?
I loved singing along to the radio but never in a million years did I ever think I would be doing this. It was just sports my entire life. My dad pushed my brother and I -- we were just good at that. I was always hurt in the off-season but made it back for the season, but at the end of the day, nobody was going to waste their money on somebody who had been hurt -- I had other surgeries along with ACL surgeries, and somebody wasn't going to waste their money on me. Now, my twin brother, he got drafted but decided not to play. He plays drums in my band now!
So you both were always secretly musically inclined?
We had this karaoke machine that my parents gave us. We'd just sit in a room and pass the mic back and forth and sing different songs. It's funny, I think back to this every week when they say "Fix" is at No. 7, No. 6: in second grade, my brother and I and my cousin sang "Achy Breaky Heart" at the elementary school talent show. We started off in the chorus of the song instead of the actual verse, and we all started crying and ran off stage.
Your nerves must have improved by the time you and Corey auditioned for American Idol. What made you try out for the show in 2007?
I was done with baseball, and I had one semester left in college. Both of us enjoyed singing, but neither one of us thought we were good enough. We just thought it'd be funny. So my brother's now-wife, then his girlfriend, went with us as well, and we just came up with some funny way to get noticed, and it worked to a T. For months after that, wherever we were, people were like, "Y'all were the twins that were on American Idol," which was interesting! At the end of the day, we both actually sang. They didn't show that part. They were like, "Wow, you guys actually have really good voices, but you seem a little nervous for this. You're not ready yet."
Well, it was almost 10 years ago.
It was! I hadn't even thought about getting into music. I had been to some Keith Urban concerts, and when I graduated college, I was learning how to play the guitar because I was inspired by Keith just to learn how. Then I started to learn songs that I love, and then how to sing and play at the same time. In the midst of all that, my brother started learning how to play the drums, and we would jam every day. We learned about 10 songs, and that's when I decided I should get a show playing in front of people. It's literally crazy that it turned into all this from that.
Lane's debut album, Girl Problems, drops Aug. 5.