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Michigan's Frankie Ballard is having a "Helluva Life" in country music

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Five years after moving from Battle Creek, Mich., to Nashville, country singer Frankie Ballard says he's "got some traction and things are feeling great."

That comes courtesy of his second album, "Sunshine & Whiskey," which debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard Country charts in February and spawned the Top 10 hits "Helluva Life" and the title track -- the former of which hit No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart.

"I can't even begin to articulate how all this feels. It's very surreal to me, says Ballard, 31, who was the Michigan winner of Kenny Chesney's Next Big Star competition and also opened shows during Bob Seger's 2012-13 tours. But Ballard is quick to acknowledge that there's been a steep learning curve attached to his rise in the country community.

"I had to develop a lot of patience and learn the amount of time that it takes to make it on a national level," Ballard explains. "I came down here fresh out of Michigan, out of the club scene, and just expected that things were gonna just take off. But it's been a lot of work, a lot of hard work -- and it's finally starting to pay off."

One of the things Ballard says he particularly understands is the need to build relationships in an industry that tends to see a lot of upstarts come and go very quickly.

"You're trying to get your song in front of millions of people in this country and on hundreds of radio stations," he says, "and you have to go around and introduce yourself to all these radio stations and show 'em you're talented and have good music -- and that you're gonna be around for awhile.

"I mean, why should they play my records? They have to think, 'Is this someone I can trust that's going to be delivering good music for awhile. They've got the next thing coming from Carrie Underwood or Blake Shelton or whoever, so why should they play me, y'know? That's a big decision for somebody to make. It takes awhile for them to develop that trust in your and build that relationship."

And while he's a songwriter himself, Ballard has only written one song on each of his albums -- another lesson about paving the road for success.

"My songs have to be good enough to compete with the other songs that I'm hearing in town, simple as that," he says. "I think too often singer-songwriters in my position record and release their own music for financial reasons, or maybe it's just pride. They cant hear through the pride of their own work, y'know?

"But I take a very objective look at it and pick the best songs I hear. You've got to remember that country music fans deserve great songs, whether I wrote 'em or not. So that's what I'm working for. The songwriters down here are incredible -- the best in the world, I think. It'd be stupid not to use that to my advantage."

Frankie Ballard and A Thousand Horses

Saturday, Nov. 1. Doors open at 7 p.m.

The Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave.

Tickets are $9.95 and $25.

Call 313-961-5451 or visit www.livenation.com.

Web Site: www.livenation.com

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