Country Next: Adam Craig

Photo by DavidMcClister
Adam Craig; Photo by David McClister
Adam Craig
We take pride in introducing fans to country music’s brightest new stars through our Country Next series. Here, we chat with Adam Craig.

Some fans may not know Adam Craig by name, but chances are, they’ve heard his songs. With cuts from Jason Aldean, Dustin Lynch and Parmalee (just to name a few), Craig first showcased his incredible story-telling abilities as a songwriter for Sony/ATV Music Publishing.

After several artists from BBR Music Group cut his songs, he took a chance meeting with the label owner that would forever change his life. He signed his record deal in 2014 and he’s now at country radio with his latest single, “If You’re Lucky.”

With its nostalgia-filled lyrics, “If You’re Lucky” instantly connects with anyone who has ever experienced the joys of a small-town upbringing. The song name-drops Craig’s musical hero, Tim McGraw, and celebrates the simple things in life like mama’s home cooking and high school football games.

Read on for our exclusive Q&A with Adam Craig.

Lauren Black: When did your love for music begin?

Adam Craig: My mom would wake us up on Saturday mornings cranking Cheap Trick or Aerosmith. It was so loud you wouldn’t even know she was vacuuming because all you heard was rock ‘n’ roll. We definitely always had music playing and were always singing along to it.

Adam Craig: What eventually led you to country music?

Craig: I fell in love with country music and was like, “oh my gosh, this is talking about all of the stuff that I do.” I grew up on a farm and all of my friends grew up on farms. We were redneck but I didn’t know it until I moved to the city.

Black: What were some of your first live performances like?

Craig: Rutledge Farm Corn Maze. I was 17, maybe 18 and I sang to karaoke tracks. That was my show. I had my cowboy hat on. I was Tim McGraw in my head.

Black: Did McGraw have a big influence on you?

Craig: Tim McGraw was my soundtrack to my 90s. His All I Want record has my favorite song of all time, “I Didn’t Ask and She Didn’t Say.” That was like my high school.  I didn’t have any girlfriends because I didn’t ask and she didn’t say. It just sculpted my whole vibe. Tim McGraw, I just loved every single song. I saw him probably 50 times. I mean it helped my sister was obsessed with him. (laughs)

Black: Have you had a chance to meet him yet?

Craig: No, I haven’t. I really want him to come and sing “If You’re Lucky.” I think it would be hilarious, Tim McGraw saying that. It’s gotta happen. I would lose my cookies if it happened.

Black: What kind of response did your family have when you told them you wanted to pack up and move to Nashville and what were your first few months here like?

Craig: Total Support. It was in 2004. There have been peaks and there have been valleys since then. I mean, eight days into moving here everything that I brought was stolen out of my apartment. It was so crazy. It was a turning point, a potential turning point, right there.  It was like, “is this a sign from God and the world that I should maybe not be here?” Thank God that I chose to stay because that was just the first little hump to get over. I came from a town that literally nobody has been in the music or entertainment industry. I’m definitely the first. I was just so naive when I first moved here. Freaked out about everything. Everything moved so fast.

Black: That wasn’t a great welcome to Nashville. How did you pick up and move on after that?

Craig: I just started writing as much as I possibly could and meeting all these great songwriters. They are now the hottest songwriters in Nashville. In 2004 we were all just starting. I ended up getting my first cut on [Jason Aldean’s] My Kinda Party record in 2010. It was a song called “Church Pews or Bar Stools” and that led to a publishing deal with Sony/ ATV. They put me with every hit songwriter in Nashville and I wrote 150 to 200 songs a year after that.

Black: What would you say was your “big break?”

Craig: In 2013, I was coming up on 10 years of being in Nashville. I was at home talking to my Mom over Christmas and I’m like okay, “I’ve almost been here 10 years, not even close to a record deal. I’ve written all these songs that have been on hold, so close to being cut… maybe I’m not supposed to be doing this. Maybe this is all finally just coming to a head and I shouldn’t do this.” My mom was like, “You’ve been given a gift. It’s your obligation to share it with as many people as you can. Get your butt back to Nashville, work even harder, keep your head down, write as much as possible. Show up, smile and just do your thing.”

Black: I’m assuming you took her advice?

Craig: I was like alright, “My batteries are recharged. I got back to Nashville.” The first week of 2014, my publisher calls me and tells me Aldean cut another song and so did Dustin Lynch. The next week Montgomery Gentry just cut one then Parmalee, Swon Brothers and Love and Theft. It was nuts.

Black: Did you always want to be an artist, or was the plan to be a songwriter?

Craig: Yes, definitely. I had been told no so many times, I had thought maybe I’m not supposed to be one. It was like, will this ever happen? I got another call from someone in the Parmalee camp telling me they were going to radio with “Close Your Eyes,” a song I wrote. That ended up being a top 5. That was an amazing time and since so many artists on this label were cutting my songs, I was like I need to go meet this label and just thank them for allowing me to have a career here. So I did. I came over here April 23rd of 2014. Shook hands said thank you, and Denny [Brown] just goes, “obviously I like your writing, can you sing?” So I sat down, played three songs and we fellowshipped for an hour and I left. It was a great meeting. I didn’t know If I was pitching myself as an artist or if I was just pitching my songs. A week later, he called me and was like, “alright man, do you want a record deal?” I almost quit four months before that. It’s insane.

Black: I’m glad you didn’t quit! Can you tell me the story behind “If You’re Lucky?”

Craig: I remember the first time I heard it. I was just so blown away. Chase McGill and Jesse Alexander wrote this song and I felt like it talked about my hometown Tenino, Washington, and everything that I did in my hometown.  It’s just really special when a song can relate to you like that, so we had to have it. I’m so thankful that it’s the single. People will message me or just come up at a show and say, “Oh my God, that song is about my hometown.” That’s what I love about country music, it’s songs that you sing to and relate to. I’m thrilled about the song.

Black: How about the song “Whatever You’re Drinking To?” How did that come about?

Craig: I wrote that with Michael Carter, my producer. He is also Luke [Bryan]’s lead guitar player and Cole [Swindell]’s producer. We’ve written together for years. We wrote that with another guy named Matt Rogers, who I’ve also worked with forever.  We knew we got a spot on the Luke tour that year, it was 2017, so I wanted a show closer. I wanted one that was just one for the fans and one for just having a good time and cutting up. Before that I had “Just A Phase” and “Why Can’t She,” all these sad songs. I love those because its 90s country and the storytelling makes you feel something, but at the same time, I want people to cut up, raise hell and have a good time. It’s just been so much fun having that song out because it’s been our show closer for two years now. It’s exciting to have it out.

Black: Funny that you mention 90s country. I got those 90s vibes while listening to these songs. I feel like there is a resurgence of the sounds from that decade. Do you agree?

Craig: I hope there is a resurgence! Right now we are in such a really special time. There’s a whole melting pot of different genres within a genre. ’90s country is coming back and I am the happiest human being. Last year when we were searching for songs and writing songs, we found hundreds and hundreds and hundreds. We had such a specific vision and direction that we wanted to take this. The two common grounds that we wanted to kind of chase and mold were 90s country, because it had the stories obviously, and the other was 80s big hair, makeup, glam rock with big guitars, big drums and big instruments. We wanted to see how to tie those two together. Michael knocked it out of the park.

Black: What do you hope fans take away from your music?

Craig: I hope it just connects to them. Ya know, I used to think that I was like really unique… From a small town, grew up on a farm. So unique. Nobody has ever done that (laughs). As I’ve gotten older, I have realized there are like 3 or 4 million people that probably think just like I do. They listen to the same music and watch the same movies. I want to continue to put music out that I relate to because I feel like there’s a lot of people just like me who can relate to it too.

Black: What’s next for you?

Craig: I can’t wait to work “If You’re Lucky” as much as I possibly can at country radio and play as many shows as I can. This song is so special. I think all it needs is visibility and enough ears to hear it and that’s what I want to do for the rest of the year. I want to play as many radio shows and festivals as I can. Later this year we are going to release two more songs and then hopefully start working on a record.

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