Frankie Ballard Creates Favorite Summer Songs Playlist
For the second year in a row, Frankie Ballard will be lighting up the beaches of Fort Lauderdale when the Tortuga Music Festival gets underway this weekend. The singer-guitarist, currently riding the momentum of back-to-back Number One singles with "Helluva Life" and "Sunshine & Whiskey," is making a return appearance at Tortuga, the genre-crossing concert that seeks to raise awareness for ocean-conservation efforts.
Headlined this year by Kenny Chesney and Zac Brown Band, the two-day Tortuga is the ultimate music fan getaway, Ballard says.
"The cool thing about Tortuga is you literally put people's feet in the sand and there's that ocean right there, so they have no choice but to be taken to a happier place. And that means something; that's tangible," he tells Rolling Stone Country. "When they take their shoes off and they get a drink, they're completely teed up to have a great time."
Along with Ballard, a Michigan native whose carpe diem single "Young & Crazy" is climbing the charts, the lineup includes Jake Owen, the Band Perry, Little Big Town and Sam Hunt, along with Will Hoge, the Cadillac Three and Colt Ford. Rock is also represented, from the classic variety of the Doobie Brothers to the Nineties nostalgia of the revived Sublime.
To preview Tortuga — and welcome the arrival of warm weather — the hard-rocking Ballard shared his Top 10 Summertime Party Songs. Spoiler alert: Don't expect any country.
Eagles, “Tequila Sunrise”
I spent a summer out on Cobb Island, Maryland, just catching blue crab and water skiing. I had a little love affair and that was one of the songs we used to sing around the campfire every night. It makes you want to have a drink but it also has some heavier undertones, of being away from home for a stretch. And I was away from home for that stretch for about four or five months. It snaps me back to that time. That's always been an emotional one for me. It's so visually stimulating. I can really close my eyes and watch a movie for that one.
Curtis Mayfield, “Pusherman”
This is not recommended for younger kids — there's some explicit lyrics in this one. I remember movies like Serpico or Dog Day Afternoon and think of a hot, sweaty Seventies afternoon in the city, just guys strutting up and down the street. These pictures pop into my head when I hear these songs and that's always been a big summertime thing for me: The weather is good and we got to get out there and see what's happening.
Coolio, “Fantastic Voyage”
This was another big one for me as a kid. I remember when it came out, I was in sixth or seventh grade. I remember it being this big summertime jam and I've always hitched it to the summertime wagon. That's my memory of it: my friends blasting it and it being a hot song of the summer.
Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, “Hot Rod Lincoln”
I used to cruise with my buddies when I was 16 in the summertime, and I had a '91 T-Bird that I drove a long, long time in that era. It had a stereo in it and we just cruised around to see what was happening, because we didn't have anything else to do. This is the ultimate driving-around song and it makes me think of those summer days with my buddies. We stayed around town in Battle Creek, but would go over to Kalamazoo every once and awhile to this little strip where some college kids hung out. I covered this song a long time ago. I've known that guitar riff for a long time.
The Coasters, “Down in Mexico”
Certain countries to me are very seasonal, like Russia is wintertime. But anything about Mexico makes me think summertime — I never think winter and Mexico. Those two things are very dissimilar to me. When I hear this song, I think of a hot, sticky July night in a Mexican juke joint. It's more of a late-night summer jam.
Canned Heat, “Going Up the Country”
Songs give you so many different emotions, especially songs like this, which are way old and I've been hearing for a long time. This one feels like you were going on a summer trip, to summer camp or something, on a bus. It's jovial and it feels like an adolescent song. The quirkiness of it feels carefree and that always parallels with summertime for me.
Billy Ocean, “Caribbean Queen”
I know it's a big pop hit, but it feels so good. With some of those steel drums, subtly there in the background. That Caribbean feel just makes me feel good about being at the ocean and the beach. I love Billy Ocean. He had the best summer name.
Mungo Jerry, “In the Summertime”
The lyric is all summertime stuff, but it's the way it feels — like you're about to have a water-gun fight as an eight-year-old kid. It's so jovial and bouncy the way the melody is. It just feels like a water hydrant is busted down the road and everybody is playing in it, sometime in July. And there's a jug solo. I don't think it gets any more summertime.
Harry Nilsson, “Everybody’s Talkin'”
I love Harry Nilsson and the lines in that song — "banking off of the northeast winds, sailing on summer breeze, skipping over the ocean like a stone." All that visual furniture in there feels like the beach to me and I always imagined having a loose-fitting shirt, maybe something to drink, out on the beach listening to that one.
Don Henley, “Boys of Summer”
I've heard a story and I'm not sure if it's true, that Mike Campbell wrote this song, pitched it to Tom Petty and Petty turned it down. So he took it to Don Henley. "Boys of Summer" to me is like the end of the summer, man. That heartbreaking feeling where you have to go back to school, your summer love is coming to an end and the leaves are changing. That was always such an emotional time for me as a kid, because I loved summer so much. Unfortunately summer has to end and this is the going–out jam. Kenny Chesney's song "Anything but Mine" is like that. It always reminded me of "Boys of Summer" because it's that same emotion.