Brett Eldredge Went Off the Grid, and It Helped Him Get Back to His Roots
A local bar is a far cry from the big crowds country star Brett Eldredge is used to these days, but he still believes that there's "hidden magic" in his dive bar roots. So when he got the call from Bud Light about headlining his own dive bar show, he jumped at the chance.
"Honestly, I miss playing dive bars; it's one of the greatest feelings in the world," Eldredge told Taste of Country ahead of his intimate Bud Light Dive Bar show in St. Louis on May 16.
The once-in-a-lifetime show brought a new challenge for him: to perform enough fan favorites while bringing back his older songs that he started out with, some of which have never been officially released.
"I was playing some songs in soundcheck that I remember playing in dive bars when I first started, not necessarily that people ever hear in shows," he says.
Eldredge performed a song that was originally going to make an album, "Shade," along with older material his fans love. The setlist was a surprise for his band — prior to the show, he told his band members that he wanted to make the show "loose." Back in the day, he says he would often "keep the band on their toes" with no real setlist, simply starting songs on the spot. That is unusual for a highly sought-after performer, but there is a method to the madness.
"You want it to feel like a conversation in a dive bar, because everybody is right there on top of each other. If you're in the moment, it feels as if time flies by and you're all together on this amazing ride," he explains.
Coming off larger shows from all over the globe, he hadn't performed a show at this scale in years. The differences between performing in a sold-out arena compared to a couple of hundred capacity venues are greater than you would think.
"I like to break down and tell stories a little more," he begins. "(To) realize that it's okay to mess up and to just be yourself up there in these kind of situations. Take a little longer to set up a song, take a little more time to cheer with the crowd and share the moments together."
Every genre of musicians — from John Mayer to Post Malone and Lady Gaga — have played the exclusive Bud Light Dive Bar shows. Eldredge doesn't take that list lightly. "To be in that group of people and get to feel that energy from the crowd, that's the perfect inspiration I need right now," he says.
He needs all of the inspiration he can get now that he's working on his upcoming album. To do that, he's sought some unconventional methods. The star has even reverted to using a flip phone.
"I think a lot of moments made me want to do that," he says. "I think as I sit here even tonight about to take the stage, I think my main thing is that I want to be in the moment more. I think being on a smartphone was getting to the point where I was just on it too much. I was putting a lot of energy into that. I really want to put more energy into my music."
Though it has helped him creatively with his music, there were some drawbacks to going backwards, technologically.
"It kind of sucked when it came to not having Ubers and being able to rent a Bird scooter or using Maps, but really you can function with a flip phone and I was so amazed for two months, I really lived a lot more," he observes. "When I got back to partially using a smartphone, it really made me more mindful of when I'm using the phone and to get away from it a little bit. I'll probably go back to it (the flip phone)."
Eldredge did have to take a break from flip phone life to use his map app when touring through Europe and Australia, but he admits that even with the maps, there were still times when he had no idea where exactly he was. Without his smartphone, he still manages a way to take pictures and share his stories on social media with the help of Polaroids.
"I've taken so many pictures of my journey. Polaroids make you capture the moment a lot more. You know, on a phone you can take a thousand pictures but not really end up having the moment. And the Polaroid may not be the perfect photo, but it's real, you know?"
Even the photos have even given him a new perspective. "I think that's made me look at things a lot more deeper that way. I try to write a kind of life caption, of where I'm at and where I'm at in my life in this post, keep my fans in touch with that also have more room to create and make an incredible album."
Though there's no release date yet, Eldredge is hard at work creating the right new music for this project, admitting: "I kind of dove deeper into making an album than I ever have. Even my first album which is so weird because I've had my whole life to make that (album)."
"Now I'm more in-depth in what I want to do and who I am, kind of soul searching a little bit to where I think it's going to be a story that people haven't gotten to hear of me," he furthers.
Without an official timeline, he has the chance to create something perfect for him.
"I don't know when it will come out — I'm still very much in the creative process of getting it going," he says. "When it comes out it's going to be something special, cause I'm not going to put it out until it's the right one."
See Pictures From Brett Eldredge's Dive Bar Show: