As Frankie Ballard rings in his 32nd birthday on Tuesday, it's as good a time as ever to look back on the country star's banner year.
Ballard released his sophomore album Sunshine & Whiskey in February, launching the first major hit of his career with "Helluva Life." The track hit No. 1 on the country airplay charts, but it's the follow-up single "Sunshine & Whiskey" that was truly worth celebrating.
"It's so exciting to have your first No. 1 song," Ballard told ETonline's Sophie Schillaci, "but there's this little voice in the back of your head that's like, 'What if this is the only time I get to experience this?'"
Today, Ballard has back-to-back Gold-certified No. 1 hits on country radio and is about to wrap his first-ever headlining tour. ETonline was with Ballard exclusively as he prepped for a recent show at the iconic House of Blues on the Sunset Strip.
"When 'Sunshine & Whiskey' eventually went No. 1, I was so relieved," Ballard confessed. "'I'm not a one-hit-wonder!' Now even that 'Sunshine & Whiskey' has done well, I still feel like, 'OK, you gotta have another one. You gotta keep going.' I don't know if that will ever change for me."
Ballard revealed that his next single, expected to hit radio in January, is "Young and Crazy."
"I don't know if I'm allowed to say this, but I might as well," he confessed. "It's up-tempo and I think it's gonna be great. It's gonna be perfect for the Florida Georgia Line tour."
Oh yeah, did we mention that 2015 is already shaping up to be another big year for Ballard? He'll hit the studio to start recording his third album this spring, but first he'll open for the guys of FGL on their Anything Goes tour. The nationwide trek kicks off on Jan. 15.
"Those guys are on fire and that's bound to be one of the hottest tickets of next year in country music," Ballard said. "It's a real honor to get to open up the show and a responsibility, too, because people who buy those tickets are expecting a party. They're gonna see me first, so I have to start the party. I have to be the one that's like, 'Here we go!' But I'm ready to do that."
Ballard -- who, asked about his drink of choice, quips: "God, I'm such a garbage disposal when it comes to that" – has undoubtedly been well prepared for this moment. Since his debut album hit shelves in 2011, he's opened for acts including Jake Owen, Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney, his longtime idol Bob Seger, and Taylor Swift.
"I always try to keep my eyes open whenever we get the chance to open for a big act because you can always learn stuff," he said. "Bob Seger and Taylor Swift, when we go on tour with them, they just work so hard. That's one thing I took away from them: here's a couple folks at the top of their game, still really busting their butt."
He may not have any cross-genre goals of his own, but Ballard said he thinks Swift's new pop music is "fantastic."
"I'm just happy country music got to have her for as long as we did because she brought so many people to country music," he said. "I know a lot of people gave her and anybody else who's pop-edged a hard time like, 'Oh, that's not real country music' or whatever. To me, I love it because it brings more ears and eyeballs to us, to country music, and that's a good thing. They come over because of Taylor Swift and they discover me, what's wrong with that?"
Follow Sophie on Twitter: @SophieSchillaci