Nationally known country artist Drew Baldridge to headline Fine Arts Fiesta

By Matt Mattei - [email protected]
Drew Baldridge performs at the Faster Horses Music Festival in the Brooklyn Trails Campground at Michigan International Speedway in 2017 in Brooklyn, Mich. Baldridge and his band have become known for an animated onstage presence and a pop- and funk-infused approach to country music. - Amy Harris | Invision/AP
Drew Baldridge will headline the Fine Arts Fiesta in Wilkes-Barre with a 7:30 p.m. performance today on Public Square. - Amy Harris | Invision/AP
Piper Farrell, 5, looks at photographs for sale with her mom on Thursday at the vendors tents of the Fine Arts Fiesta, which runs through Sunday on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre. - Aimee Dilger|Times Leader
Drew Baldridge’s latest single, ‘Gentle Man,’ draws on elements of Memphis soul, but at the heart of the tune is traditional, emotive country songcraft. - - Submitted photo

Rising country singer-songwriter Drew Baldridge is seeing the brighter side of life.

His two latest singles, “Guns & Roses” and “Gentle Man,” are uplifting, lyrically affectionate love songs, although they utilize sonically different approaches to his genre-bending brand of country.

“It’s hard to write anything sad right now, because I’m in such a great relationship,” Baldridge said Thursday in a phone interview. “I’m happy.”

Headlining this year’s Fine Arts Fiesta, the nationally known Nashville artist will perform from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. today on Wilkes-Barre’s Public Square. The show is free and open to the public.

Baldridge’s first performance in Northeastern Pennsylvania came in 2016 at the Scranton Cultural Center, shortly after his debut single, “Dance With Ya,” was released. At the time, the pop- and funk-infused feel-good song established the young artist as a songwriter willing to blend his multiple influences into country.

“I love ’70s groove and ’70s funk music. I call it funktry,” Baldridge said. “I love anything that makes me want to dance and makes me feel something.”

In support of his album, “Dirt On Us,” Baldridge toured with Cole Swindell and Jerrod Niemann, bringing his animated band on the road, a group of musicians he said wasn’t initially sure about choreographed moments on stage but grew to embrace dance-friendly performances.

“Our job is to have fun and make you forget about the work week,” Baldridge said.

Although teeming with positivity, “Guns & Roses,” leaves behind the irreverent playfulness of “Dance With Ya” for more intimate sensibilities.

“That (song) was cool because it’s about me and my girlfriend and about how opposites attract,” Baldridge said. “I’m a country boy, and she’s from the country too, but she likes to go out in a nice black dress, and I’m a T-shirt and jeans guy. The beginning of the chorus, “I’m a 12-gauge and she’s a wildflower,” says it all. That’s 100 percent me and my girlfriend.”

His latest single delves even deeper into emotional inspiration.

“Gentle Man” talks about this farmer who’s a hard-working man, but when it comes to his girl, he becomes soft and gentle,” Baldridge said. “There are so many men in my life, my brother is one that comes to mind; he’ll be out with his boys being hard-headed and getting crazy, but when it comes to his wife and baby girl, he’s a gentle man.”

In conjunction with the release, Baldridge recently conducted a social media campaign for which he went home to Patoka, Ill., and interviewed his family members about “what makes a gentleman.”

“I didn’t think I was going to cry, but I did,” Baldridge said of the experience.

Continuing his willingness to experiment, “Guns & Roses,” features elements of pop-rock and “Gentle Man” dabbles in a bit of Memphis soul.

“This album is going to be about small-town lyric, but it’s going to groove, going to make you feel good,” Baldridge said. “Weaving those two together has been important to me. Starting out with ‘Dance With Ya’ established me as being different, but now I’m trying to bring country lyrics that small town people can relate to, and people in big cities can relate to too.”

At the heart of both singles, the sample size for Baldridge’s next record, is emotive country songcraft.

“I’m 100 percent as country as it gets,” he said. “If I sing a Michael Jackson song, it’s going to sound country as dirt because of the way I talk. We like to push the envelope of instrumentation and what we do on stage, but when we perform, it comes off as country. But it’s a new sound. Twenty years from now, I want people to think, ‘wow, this is Drew Baldridge.’”

Familiar with performing at country music festivals, Baldridge said he’s looking forward to headlining a festival of a different nature.

“It’s always great when you get a bunch of creative people together,” he said. “I’m exited to walk around and enjoy the art. I’m a terrible artist when it comes to painting and drawing, and I’m excited to see the art and also see some of the bands. It always inspires me to watch people do what they love. I think it’s going to be a great festival, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Drew Baldridge performs at the Faster Horses Music Festival in the Brooklyn Trails Campground at Michigan International Speedway in 2017 in Brooklyn, Mich. Baldridge and his band have become known for an animated onstage presence and a pop- and funk-infused approach to country music.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/web1_AP_17203650960196.jpgDrew Baldridge performs at the Faster Horses Music Festival in the Brooklyn Trails Campground at Michigan International Speedway in 2017 in Brooklyn, Mich. Baldridge and his band have become known for an animated onstage presence and a pop- and funk-infused approach to country music. Amy Harris | Invision/AP

Drew Baldridge will headline the Fine Arts Fiesta in Wilkes-Barre with a 7:30 p.m. performance today on Public Square.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/web1_DrewBaldridge1.jpgDrew Baldridge will headline the Fine Arts Fiesta in Wilkes-Barre with a 7:30 p.m. performance today on Public Square. Amy Harris | Invision/AP

Piper Farrell, 5, looks at photographs for sale with her mom on Thursday at the vendors tents of the Fine Arts Fiesta, which runs through Sunday on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/web1_TTL051818Fiesta1-4.jpgPiper Farrell, 5, looks at photographs for sale with her mom on Thursday at the vendors tents of the Fine Arts Fiesta, which runs through Sunday on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre. Aimee Dilger|Times Leader

Drew Baldridge’s latest single, ‘Gentle Man,’ draws on elements of Memphis soul, but at the heart of the tune is traditional, emotive country songcraft.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/web1_DrewBaldridge2.jpgDrew Baldridge’s latest single, ‘Gentle Man,’ draws on elements of Memphis soul, but at the heart of the tune is traditional, emotive country songcraft. Submitted photo
Drew Baldridge to perform on Wilkes-Barre’s Public Square today

By Matt Mattei

[email protected]

Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TimesLeaderMatt.

Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TimesLeaderMatt.