The third time could be the charm for Frankie Ballard -- except the Michigan country singer is already having a charmed life in the music world.
The Battle Creek native's sophomore album, 2014's "Sunshine and Whiskey," was a Top 5 success that launched three No. 1 country singles, including the appropriately titled "Helluva Life." But that's also ratcheted up expectations for Ballard's third album, "El Rio," which comes out June 10.
"Y'know, you've got to have a follow-up. You've got to be able to follow-up the first thing you got going," Ballard, 33, says by phone from a show stop in Biloxi, Miss. "The 'Sunshine & Whiskey' album was the first thing that got me a little bit of cred, so now I've got to follow it up, and it's got to be something special."
For Ballard and his producer, Marshall Altman, that meant getting out of Dodge -- or in this case, Nashville -- and heading to the Sonic Ranch studios in El Paso, Texas. And they went with an uncompromising mission statement about what they hoped to achieve.
"I said to (Altman), 'Man, I'll tell you what we've got to do. We've gotta get better,'" Ballard recalls. "I mean, if ('El Rio) is not better than 'Sunshine & Whiskey,' it's got no reason to come out. That's what I said to him.
"'Sunshine & Whiskey' was great, but it's not all what I was aiming for. This time I'm saying, 'OK, who am I? What am I aiming to do? What do I love about making music? What kind of music do I want to record so bad I can taste it.'
"And the answer was some American rock 'n' roll -- Bob Seger, Tom Petty, Steve Miller. That's what I wanted to do, but in my own way."
The world's first taste of what Ballard was after is "El Rio's" first single, "It All Started with a Beer," a deceptively breezy summer song that he thinks conveys a deeper message.
"It's a song about hope, I think," explains Ballard, who wrote two of "El Rio's" other songs and covered Seger's "You'll Accomp'ny Me" on the set. "It's about a guy and a girl reflecting on their relationship and 'Can you believe we made it this far?' But I think the hope comes in because not everybody has found that person who they love and who they're gonna be with.
"So hearing a song like this, I think, tells 'em, 'Hey, look, it's not a lost cause. You don't have that person now, but you could maybe meet somebody tonight that's gonna change your life. So get up, get dressed. Maybe something as humble as a Bud Light with someone will take you where you want to go.' that's why I love that song so much."
Frankie Ballard and Matt Austin
Saturday, April 30. Doors open at 8 p.m.
The Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave.
Tickets are $30 and $18.
Call 313-961-5451 or visit thefillmoredetroit.com.
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