As a rising country artist, Logan Mize has a problem that’s almost enviable. The Clearwater, Kansas, native would like to begin putting out new music for his fans, but he has a practical reason to tap the brakes. At present, his single “Better Off Gone” is just starting to gain some traction at country radio — despite the fact that Come Back Road, the album on which it appears, has been available for two years. That’s an eternity in country music and often spells death for an artist’s momentum.
Not so here.
“[We] could be pushing the single until December, maybe even January or February,” says Mize, relaxing in a writers’ room at the Music Row offices of his publisher Big Yellow Dog. “You can’t really start pushing another album if you’re trying to get your single at radio rocking.”
To tide fans over, Mize and Big Yellow Dog released the From the Vault EP in May, compiling five tracks that Mize had written and recorded prior to signing with Sony Music Nashville in 2014. That short-lived major-label deal yielded one EP and a single, 2015’s “Can’t Get Away From a Good Time,” that cracked the Top 60.
When Mize independently released Come Back Road in July 2017, his situation had changed dramatically. He was no longer signed to a label, he didn’t have a radio promotion team behind him, and he didn’t have a substantial catalog of hits to his credit. What he did have, however, was a lead single that would eventually carry the entire album forward.
“Ain’t Always Pretty,” Mize’s slick, piano-driven slice of hometown nostalgia, got off to a strong start by landing on streaming services’ country playlists and receiving some public praise from radio personality Bobby Bones. While it wasn’t really garnering any terrestrial radio airplay, its streams were at least keeping pace with country singles released around the same time. At present, it has 38 million streams on Spotify alone.
The song’s success was enough to convince Mize and Big Yellow Dog that it was time to shift gears. The boutique company, which has also had a hand in the development of Meghan Trainor and Maren Morris, made the unusual move of hiring an in-house promotion team to actively push his next single, “Better Off Gone,” to country radio, as it was already getting support on the streaming platforms.
“Our whole company and our whole thought process is always just follow the music, and there isn’t anything else other than that,” says Carla Wallace, co-owner and CEO of Big Yellow Dog.
“[Once] we really started seeing the analytics and data, it allowed Big Yellow Dog to say, ‘OK, this is worth the risk if we can also do the radio setup in the way that we think it should be done,'” says Mize’s manager Charly Salvatore.
A vulnerable ballad that eases off the meaty guitars and rock-influenced drums so prominent in many contemporary hits by male country singers, “Better Off Gone” is also the odd tune that Mize didn’t have a hand in writing. In this case, it was Canadian singer-songwriter Donovan Woods and Nashville-based Abe Stoklasa, who also composed Tim McGraw’s “Portland, Maine” and Charlie Worsham’s “The Beginning of Things” around the same time, when the two were having what Woods terms “a brief period of writing songs about breakups where a woman ought to be leaving.”
“I do like the idea that the narrator of a song is not that great of a person,” says Woods. “We’re always on their side because they’re singing and that’s nice to hear, but it calls into question a lot of old songs. A lot of these songs are not about good guys.”
True to that statement, the song features Mize singing about this inevitable, if reluctant, split from his character’s perspective — as a result, we’re left mostly to wonder about the woman’s thought processes as she finds a way to move out and move on. “She’ll know when our hometown country station turns to static/She ain’t ever been that far from home,” he sings, showing off a different side of his artistry — one he’d like to explore even more — with Woods and Stoklasa’s delicate composition.
“There’s this whole country out there that just wants to get off work and escape reality… That’s who I’m making music for”
“That’s my traveling music — if I’m in an airplane or airport, I’m always listening to Donovan Woods,” says Mize. “There’s that side of me that would love to make records like that.”
Many of Mize’s previous releases have featured more guitar crunch, or a Roger Miller-esque sensibility that showed up in the clever wordplay of “Can’t Get Away From a Good Time.” But the burgeoning success of “Better Off Gone” suggests he can strike a balance between fun songs and introspective folk and show off an even broader range of his influences.
“If I’m gonna pay money to go to a show, I’m gonna go see somebody like Jason Isbell,” he says. “Or I’m gonna go see something I can really dive into, Dawes or Wilco. But that’s not who I’m making music for. There’s this whole country out there that just wants to get off work and escape reality to a truck or a beer or a field, or a simple melody and a simple rhyme. That’s who I’m making music for, and if I can twist it with a little of my personality, cool.”
So far, “Better Off Gone” hasn’t exactly turned into the hit of the century — it’s still in the lower rungs of the airplay charts. But it’s holding its own in a tough climate for truly independent performers, and its streaming numbers have surpassed “Ain’t Always Pretty” along with many of the other songs on radio at the moment. Mize has also kept fan appetites satisfied with one-off releases like From the Vault, and more recently, a cover of the Chainsmokers and Coldplay’s “Something Just Like This.” It’s indicative of the independent spirit that makes Mize’s partnership with Big Yellow Dog such a strong one, as well as bigger ambitions for further up the road.
Says Mize: “I have that dream of one day being John Mellencamp with my studio in Indiana, recording whatever the hell I want.”