ERNEST is right where he ought to be. Not living life as strictly a songwriter or an aspiring rapper or a Nashville-bred kid who simply wanted to get out of dodge. Sure, those may have been some semblance of his past selves. But ERNEST is right here. Right now. In the present. Writing and recording stunning country songs and creating his own world around them. Most importantly, ERNEST is having the opportunity to, at long last, fully tell his own tale.
“I realized I can be this guy because this guy is me,” the Big Loud singer-songwriter and one of Nashville’s most promising new artists says of finding his musical lane and now arriving at the most exciting moment in his life and career to date. For ERNEST, quieting that inner-doubt, and at last understanding he couldn’t deny who he truly was, unlocked doors of his creativity he never thought possible. “It was me accepting I’m from Nashville and I’m called on to do country music,” ERNEST, who is set to release his stunning debut album, FLOWER SHOPS (THE ALBUM), this March, says proudly of this moment of almost-divine inspiration. “It’s cool I finally get to be all the way myself.”
And that’s exactly who and what he’s becoming: a bold, slightly brash, oftentimes hilarious and every bit incisive and intuitive artist. Over the past decade, ERNEST had already proven himself to be one of Nashville’s go-to songwriters, having penned hit songs for everyone from Morgan Wallen (“More Than My Hometown”) to Sam Hunt (“Breaking Up Was Easy in the 90s”) and Florida Georgia Line (“Dig Your Roots”). But now the confident and upbeat singer, who recently made his debut at the Grand Ole Opry, is ready to carve his own path, to bring listeners into the “sepia-toned, polaroid” world of FLOWER SHOPS (THE ALBUM).
“I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d built a little world that a listener could go live in,” he says of piecing together his forthcoming 11-track debut album, rich with songs instilling moments of hopefulness, hilarity and heartbreak in equal measure. “And hopefully, if you like ‘Flower Shops,’” he adds of the album’s standout title track — a killer duet with Wallen that skyrocketed to #1 at iTunes, Apple Music Country, and Spotify Country upon its release, and shortly thereafter, becoming the most-added single of the week at country radio with 88 first week stations on board — “then I think I have a whole album for you!”
ERNEST says “Flower Shops” wound up being the song that brought the entire project into focus. Or, as the singer notes with a laugh, “It was the rug that pulled the whole room together.” Having spent years pursuing a career in rap, playing stages as big as Bonnaroo in the process, and then working as a dialed-in songwriter on Music Row, ERNEST was ready to find his unique artistic voice. “You can never predict what happens with a song, but you can’t hide how you feel when you hear the right one,” he says of his mantra when stitching together what became his thrilling debut LP. He calls FLOWER SHOPS (THE ALBUM) a “storyteller’s” LP, and from more traditional country vibes on songs like the title track and “Tennessee Queen,” to a spacy Eagles-esque aura (“Did It With You”) or even cuts built upon trap beats (the Charlie Handsome-aided “What It’s Come To”), ERNEST has created a diverse but always compelling universe for himself and listeners to settle into and stay awhile.
“Whatever the music is bringing that day, the vibe follows,” ERNEST says of his no-holds-barred, genre-bending mentality when writing songs that blur the lines between country, pop, R&B, and roots music. “Because the song is gonna get written one way or the other if the idea is there.”
Entirely co-written by ERNEST, with collaborators including Ashley Gorley, The Warren Brothers, Rodney Clawson, Mark Holman, Ryan Vojtesak, and Big Loud labelmates Ben Burgess and Lily Rose, FLOWER SHOPS (THE ALBUM) was produced solely by ACM Producer of the Year nominee Joey Moi (Morgan Wallen, Florida Georgia Line). It’s also, at its core ERNEST explains, “a sad story of good love gone bad.” From more uplifting songs that dot the early sections of the track listing, including “Sucker For Small Towns” (If You’re Tryin’ To Trick Me Into Fallin’ Hard/Oo It’s Lookin’ Good So Far) and “Classic,” the album transitions to what ERNEST calls “She’s Gone”-type songs, including “Feet Wanna Run,” “Flower Shops,” and “Some Other Bar (“You know the funny little thing about us/Is that we’re only here as long as the wind/And hey it might never happen again”).
Additionally, while so many contemporary Nashville songs are written to track, ERNEST composed the near entirety of FLOWER SHOPS (THE ALBUM) with little more than his guitar and voice. “I got to get back to my roots,” he says proudly.
He’s also hitting the road like never before behind his new album: having recently toured this past fall with labelmate Wallen (“Those shows were just absolutely unbelievable,” he says), ERNEST is now on the road supporting Chris Lane’s FILL THEM BOOTS tour and will appear at festivals including Tortuga Music Festival and Barefoot Country Music Festival later this year.
“I’m in the right place now,” he says of hitting the stage on a near-nightly basis to steadily growing crowds singing his words right back to him. But he’s also speaking to his career as a whole. “It’s an addicting feeling,” he says of steadily making his mark on Nashville and staking his claim as one of the industry’s most inspiring artists. “It just all feels right.”