Country music breakout star ERNEST became common name on Music Row when he scored his first No.1 with Florida Georgia Line’s “I Love My Country” in 2020. His unconventional and genre-bending songwriting approach accumulated nearly a dozen chart-topping hits, but it wasn’t until recently that he proved that his undeniable appeal can’t be held behind a pen.
The Tennessee native spent the fall displaying his superstar potential on his first-ever headlining Sucker For Small Towns Tour, where he pulled from his impressive catalog and debut collection “Flower Shops (The Album).”
His stage presence solidified his promising future as a performer, and the ear-grabbing melodies drew in a fan base that filled venues nationwide. CMT caught up with ERNEST at Chicago’s legendary Joe’s Bar on Weed St. to discuss what led him to stardom and his new music in the pipeline.
"It’s all going full speed ahead now, and I think ‘Flower Shops (The Album)’ is responsible. We’re playing a lot more shows, and people are singing my songs now,” ERNEST pointed out while kicking back in his green room. “I’m so thankful, I got awesome fans. They show up for me every night.”
The 11-song project that changed the trajectory of his career includes a collaboration with Morgan Wallen, “Tennessee Queen,” “Classic,” “If You Were Whiskey,” “Some Other Bar,” and more. Following the release, ERNEST received CMA’s 2022 Triple Play Award, dominated Country radio, appeared at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, and made his Grand Ole Opry debut. Although the last few months have been a whirlwind for the vocalist, he still considers stepping into the sacred circle as one of his proudest moments yet.
“Being side stage when I was in third or fourth grade, and looking out at the Opry house…I knew I wanted to do music when I grew up,” he recalled. “Then being side stage at 30 years old, getting ready to walk out and stand in the circle to sing my songs – that was a pinch-me moment.”
ERNEST declared that he was the talk of the town, as “a bunch” of his old teachers and people from school flocked to the Opry to witness the highly anticipated milestone. Despite a packed house with loved ones and close friends, he confessed that not one of them had a hand in his artistry.
“I only had a music teacher for three weeks,” ERNEST uttered while laughing. “I always gravitated to music and picked up the guitar. I taught myself how to play, even the banjo,” he added.
While navigating the competitive landscape, he became a force to be reckoned with. ERNEST single-handedly discovered a way to unite old-school country enthusiasts with listeners that enjoy mainstream music. He said his recipe for success was far from intentional, as he allowed his gut to take complete control.
“Not overthinking – impulsiveness,” revealed ERNEST. “The very thing that gets me in the most trouble is my sauce in the writing room. I talk too much. I say it too fast, and I don’t give a sh*t. Those are my problems, but that’s the magic sauce. You don’t know when lightning is going to strike.”
ERNEST confirmed that his snap decisions and impromptu style help cultivate his next batch of songs. The crooner told CMT that he has three tracks about love and loss ready for release and an album in the pipeline.
“Definitely going to put two or three songs out before the year’s over,” shared ERNEST. “Then, really soon, I’ve got a project coming out at the top of the year."
ERNEST said that he’s already in the studio working alongside world-renowned producer Joey Moi. He explained that it’s been refreshing to make music with Moi, as he understands his end goal and the sound he’s trying to create.
“He really doesn’t work on the bad stuff. So, that’s good to know going in. At least he deems it good enough to work on,” he said. “God, he just makes it sound so good. He’s really good at being able to develop brand sounds, and he’s not just a one-trick pony. He comes from the rock world,” he added.
ERNEST did not clarify the date the album would arrive. Until listeners have the next three songs on repeat, ERNEST plans to record the rest of the project and recharge for an exciting 2023.