When Drew Baldridge released his latest single, "Guns & Roses," the driving pop-country song offered a glimpse at new stylistic territory for the young Illinois country singer, whose early career has been defined by his continually evolving sound.
Baldridge introduced the world to his country eclecticism on his 2016 debut Dirt on Us, which found him scoring several charting singles – including the Spotify streaming hit "Rebound" – with a mix of pop-rock-country and rhythmic r&b stylings.
As for what fans can expect for Baldridge's still-untitled follow-up album, which he hopes to release in the new year, the singer – who worked with producer Chris Stevens for the first time – promises a mix of r&b-influenced songs that graced his first record, plus a number of more straightforward pop-country tunes. "The new record is going to be a little different. It's still in that realm of the funk music I love. Growing up I listened to Michael Jackson, and I love Earth, Wind & Fire – all that grooving stuff. I love to dance on stage and my band, we all choreograph our dances, so there's still going to be that fun grooving side," he says.
"But there's also still going to be songs that are just down-home country songs in the realm of 'Guns & Roses,'" he adds. "That song is a new country meets old country type of lyrics, and that's the type of realm that a handful of these songs are going to fall into. So, some of them are going to be really pushing the boundaries of country music with funk music and groovy bass lines, but like I said there's still going to be small-town lyrics to a couple of these songs. There's going to be the whole spectrum."
"Guns & Roses," which traces Baldridge's relationship to his girlfriend, benefits from the personal touch. Baldridge notes that "anytime you can put out a song that's really real to you it's exciting. The chorus says, 'I'm a 12-gauge and she's a wildflower.' That explains it all."
The day he spoke with Rolling Stone Country, Baldridge was preparing to head to a writing session with recent Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee Tim Nichols, who has become one of Baldridge's most trusted songwriting partners, having a hand in multiple songs on Dirt on Us, as well as "Guns & Roses."
And even though Baldridge has already composed many of his own songs, he's still seeking out new material from other songwriters as he puts the finishing touches on the new LP. "I'm going to start looking for songs outside of what I wrote, that I think are hits," he says. "I just want to have the best songs and the best music possible – it doesn't matter if I wrote it or didn't."