The trials and tribulations of trying to make it in Nashville are well known by many. Playing different bars, working many jobs, trying to get noticed time and again. Many experience it but only some “make it”.
This life is only too familiar to country singer Billy Currington. It took him a decade of hard graft in “Music City” to achieve his goal of landing a record deal.
“I was 18 years old when I moved to Nashville from Georgia to get a record deal and do the whole thing that I’m doing. It’s kind of been like a second home, for sure,” Billy says in his southern drawl.
“It was tough. It took around 10 years before I finally got my record deal. There was a lot of working jobs and trying to play clubs afterwards. Meeting songwriters, one thing led to the next. But like I said, it took 10 years to get the deal.”
Since Billy was signed to a record label he has had incredible success, including his double-platinum hit Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right, as well as his most recent multi-week number one hits, It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To and Do I Make You Wanna. But, undoubtedly, his biggest track has been the runaway success of People Are Crazy.
A song telling the story of an encounter between a young man and an old man in a bar. Speaking on Zoom to Irish Country Living, Billy says he knew it was special from the off. A huge hit like that is definitely beneficial to any artist’s career, he continues, but People Are Crazy very nearly passed him by.
“When I first heard the song I was like, wow, what a great, well-written song. When I first decided to record it I heard that it might be on hold or somebody else was going to record it, so I kind of didn’t think about it anymore, until one day they were like: ‘Remember that song you love, People Are Crazy? It’s available for you to record.’ I immediately went in the studio and laid it down. I always thought it would be a great song to be on the radio and it was going to be a hit.”
Call of home
Billy lived in Nashville for many years. However, eventually the call of Georgia brought him back home.
“I guess after a certain amount of time being in Nashville I started having those feelings of missing the ocean, missing the home life, missing the family, missing everything about it,” he explains. “I just knew when the time was right I’d be out of there, out of Nashville. It was around my 16th year of being there that one day I was like: ‘That’s it, I’m out, I’m heading home.’ I’m glad to be back home. It’s been a blessing for my life.”
Billy lives by the coast in Georgia on Tybee Island, about 12 miles from the city of Savannah. As was his upbringing, the life he leads there is very rustic. One of his favourite things to do is get in the tractor and plant crops – a family tradition passed down to him from his grandad.
“My grandad, he had about 10 different gardens going on. He was planting a lot of corn, a lot of sugarcane, a lot of watermelon, a lot of tomatoes, on and on, he planted a lot of different things,” Billy recalls. “I would help him and I learned a lot from him. Of course, after he passed on I just kept it all going. Getting my own place, I got a small garden going there.
“It gives me something to do outside. Most of all, being able to share things you grew – to be able to take your neighbours down the street a big old bag of tomatoes, cucumbers or whatever it is at the time – there’s no better feeling than giving those things away.”
Despite his superstar status, Billy, true to his country roots, likes the simple things in life. Still, making music is very much his passion. Having not released an album since 2015, Billy recently brought out his seventh album, Intuition.
“I started in country music in Nashville, Tennessee, with kind of like a country record deal, but my dream was always to be making music. Just whatever I felt and whoever I made it with. Whatever sound came out it just didn’t matter to me. I didn’t really care. I grew up listening to all kinds of music. It’s kind of what I wanted to be a part of at all times.”
Billy feels it’s always important to be true to who you are and be the most authentic version of yourself. It’s what he would advise any upcoming artists in Nashville to do.
“I would say always stick to what you believe in the most, what you feel. Don’t go outside of that. Don’t try and copy anybody else. Just do what you do and if it’s right people will feel it. They feel what’s real. They feel what’s fake too and they like what’s real better. So just do what you do and your time will come.”