Traverse City Record-Eagle

Arts & Entertainment

July 10, 2014

West Michigan's Ballard kicks off summer tour with No. 1 single

It took West Michigan’s Frankie Ballard 10 years of nose-to-the-grindstone work in the music business to land his first No. 1 hit on the Billboard and Mediabase country charts.

So, the Battle Creek native and Western Michigan University alumni was understandably excited when “Helluva Life” soared to that coveted spot in March and was later certified as his first gold record.

“I can barely articulate it properly,” said Ballard, 31. “I’m so excited. I feel like a kid again. All of a sudden, I was snapped back into those daydreams … thinking I was Elvis or something in the shower. I felt like running through the streets, screaming and jumping and doing cartwheels. It was amazing.”

The success of “Helluva Life” and Ballard’s “Sunshine & Whiskey” album – his first on the Warner Bros. label, peaking at No. 5 on the country chart – has put the now-Nashville-based singer in the national spotlight.

He appeared recently on NBC’s “Today Show” and TBS’s “Conan,” and rubbed elbows with fellow country stars at the 2014 Academy of Country Music Awards Show. Rolling Stone magazine even named him one of the “must-see acts” at this year’s Country Music Association Music Fest in Nashville.

But the down-to-Earth Ballard remains in awe of his loyal Michigan fans, as evidenced by a recent homecoming concert that packed an outdoor venue in Grand Rapids with thousands of uber-enthused fans who cheered the dynamic performer. He’ll bring that stage show to northern Michigan later this summer when he headlines the Southside Country Jamboree at the Southside Festival Grounds in Buckley on Sept. 6.

Ballard moved to Nashville from Kalamazoo several years ago, yet he’s convinced that the die-hard devotion of his West Michigan fan base laid the foundation for his recent chart-topping achievements. He was still in Michigan in 2008 when he won Kenny Chesney’s Next Big Star competition, later signing with Reprise Records for a self-titled album before shifting to Warner Bros.

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