Brett Eldredge likes to keep things as random — and therefore just as interesting — as they can possibly be when he's on the road. From entertaining fans in every corner of a venue (even if that means donning a disguise) to harnessing all the energy he's built up before going out on stage, the "Mean to Me" singer and CMA New Artist of the Year nominee rarely stands still once the tour bus stops moving. But for this exclusive gallery of photos from his recent tour stop in Irvine, California, Eldredge teamed up with photographer Joseph Llanes to capture some of the special moments that make up what he calls "go time." "Our life is on the road," the singer tells Rolling Stone Country. "You find your own routine out here and when you get with people that you love and you love hanging out with, it's a beautiful thing."
"I have a fascination with trucker talk. Everybody has these walkie-talkies because it's impossible to dial up somebody's number and call them with everybody talking at once. I'm usually on there and a lot of the time I just say nonsense and joke around. This is me probably singing them a song or something silly. I'm just goofing off and waiting for the response of somebody saying, 'You're an idiot.'"
"I had just gotten off a helicopter. I had done Big Brother that day. I sang 'Mean to Me' for Jeff and Jordan's engagement on the show. So the only way I could do that is if I flew in a helicopter to make it to this show on time, because there was no way I was missing this show. We had to fly from Universal Studios to the venue and we had not even an hour to spare! So I was kind of on a high from that. I'm kind of a fitness freak, and I have a lot of energy all the time. I run the arena stairs or the infield of the hill of the venue during the day to kind of get my blood pumping and get excited. That's me knocking out about probably 40 push-ups right there getting ready for the show."
"Before every show, we do the hands-in like a basketball team would do. I guarantee you that we have one of the weirdest rituals of a before-show-all-hands-in-let's-go chant thing, because we say the most random things that might not even have anything to do with the show. We might say something like "Froot Loops and peanut butter tastes really good." And everybody will say that on three. Or it might be something about a bird that just flew over our shoulder or took a crap on one of the guys in the band. It's completely different every single night."
"I feel more comfortable on stage than I do sitting on the bus eating my oatmeal in the morning. It's just the most real place for me in the world because I live for that energy I get from a crowd. That's what fuels me to get up every single day, even if it's just for 30 to 45 minutes of being onstage, or an hour-and-a-half or whatever. The whole day is built around those minutes for me."
"Behind me is my merch guy. Both my tour manager and my merch guy are really big guys, so a lot of people think they're my private security. I've got these giant guys surrounding me all the time so it's just hilarious. We are all in game mode and ready to start the show."
"There are many times when I'm pointing and a lot of times that's because you can see people singing your song. You see them moving and dancing. Of course you're going to see them in the front but those ones that you can see in the back, I love that connection; when you can connect with somebody that's a full football field away. It's like I'm right in front of them talking to them because we're sharing a musical moment. We're both having a conversation through music. I might not be able to perfectly make out everything but I can see them back there."
"When I have that microphone in hand, that's go time. It's on."
"I think 'Mean to Me' has connected a lot live. It always makes girls smile, and I love when girls smile, 'cause it makes me smile."
"From Taylor Swift I learned just how big you can build a brand. Literally. I mean, she has her own brand of Hallmark cards. When she rolled in on that tour it was like, this is the Taylor show. She's so honest with her lyrics and with her fans. They love her for her honesty. If you're honest with your fans, they're going to buy into you a lot more."
"The show opens up with that big marching-band-looking drum that has my name on it. It has a light inside of it that every time you hit it, the light changes color. We have a mallet that we use and my guitar player is the first one to hit it at the beginning of the show. He's the only one out there by himself at the beginning. Then I hit it later in the show."
"I've got this hilariously awesome wig on the bus. It almost looks like a perm or something. I made this character up, his name is Xander. Greg, one of my guitar players, he thought that would be a good name. I'll go out in the crowd and put that wig on and I go up into the very top seats, the nosebleeds, or the lawn. It doesn't look like me at all. I'll stand back there and watch the show from back there. A lot of times the people back there are even more engaged than the people in the front row. No matter what they cost, they're still spending their hard-earned money to get those tickets. Sometimes some of the biggest parties are up there at the top."
"I feel like this is what I was born to do, to help people escape and share this roller coaster ride of emotions together. All is right with the world for those few minutes onstage."
"With Keith Urban, I've never seen anybody put out that kind of energy on stage. He goes out there and he sound checks sometimes for over an hour. You've got to pay attention to detail if you want to be the best."
"The photographer, Joseph Llanes, actually shot my album cover and the first time he shot with me was for Rolling Stone at Stagecoach. It's really cool when you actually know the photographer because you're so comfortable with them. The first time I shot with him was the first time I met him. When the photographer is just a regular guy and you can just sit there as if you're having a beer with him, in fact I think I might've had a beer with him. The best photos come out when you're just relaxed and hanging out."
"I played a show last night and I couldn't see the crowd. I was in a theater. You can hear them but you can't always see them, which is a great feeling and kind of a mysterious feeling. I get the best view in the world from being up on the stage because I get to watch so many different things going on in the crowd. From people spilling their beer on somebody, to kids that are making out in the crowd, somebody fighting, throwing stuff at the stage and I catch it."
"I don't even allow junk food on the bus because I don't even want to get into it. I got addicted to juicing … not like steroids. [Laughs] I don't really have any bad habits when it comes to eating. I have a few drinks on the weekend but that's about it."
"I'm always getting repercussions on pranking, because I don't like confrontation that much. I love to mess with my friends a little bit. But to actually put them on the spot on stage scares me a little bit. I wasn't about to go and do something to Keith Urban because I've idolized that guy for so long. I was like, 'What if I do something wrong and he gets mad?' Which he doesn't, he's always a nice guy. With this tour [Little Big Town and Brothers Osborne], we've known each other so long we might try [some pranks]. Who knows?"
"My now day-to-day manager, Camille Alston, used to tour manage me on the road. She was so pumped to get her first road case, it keeps all the million different things you've got to carry out on the road with you, that she made her own stencil and spray-painted that on there. That's similar to the kind of font that we use for my logo. It shows the wear-and-tear kind of symbolism. We've been beat up and pushed through countless venues all across the country and the crazy miles that we've traveled along the way to get to this point and [we're] still standing."