It's no easy task opening for Taylor Swift on tour. But country newcomer Frankie Ballard isn't afraid. "It's an honor just to be asked!" the crooner, whose self-titled debut disc hit stores on Tuesday, tells Us. But I bet you want to know the good stuff, like Taylor's Speak Now World Tour 2011 pre-show rituals and and what advice the superstar has given her new protegee? Well, I got your lucky number 13 right here! Read on for the scoop and catch Ballard on the road with Swift soon. Click here for tour dates: http://www.taylorswift.com/tour
Us: How did you get involved with Kenny Chesney's "Next Big Star" competition in 2008?
Frankie Ballard: It was awesome. I was in Michigan playing a bunch and "The Next Big Star" competition was a thing that just came into town. It was similar to a battle of the bands to get to open up for him. I won and got to open for a couple of his shows up in Michigan. It was just an incredible experience. It got me making trips down to Nashville and got me serious about having a presence down there.
Us: What can we expect from your self- titled debut album that is scheduled to hit stores this week?
FB: I am so excited. I have wanted to get this out and have been working on it for so long. I am a country artist but I am definitely a little more edgy and there is a lot of guitar playing. I am playing lead guitar on the record and so there is a lot of up-tempo stuff and it is definitely rocking but it is also just some great country songs. I am excited for people to purchase the album and tell me what they think.
Us: How would you describe your music?
FB: It is definitely country but I think my guitar playing and my voice makes it sound a little different. It is edgier. It is more like southern rock at times, and has some blues at times, but I have always loved Travis Tritt so it has a bit of that style to it but definitely still country
Us: As the opening act for Taylor Swift's "Speak Now" tour, what can we expect from you?
FB: It is such an honor to be asked to go out on tour with her. She is the biggest thing in music. It is an incredible opportunity. I think her fans are going to love my music and I can't wait to get in front of them. We are going to do our best to get people fired up for Taylor. We are there because she is there and I know that is what people are going to want to see so it's just going to be up-tempo, exciting, and rocking. We are just going to try and get people's blood flowing, get them in their seats, and get them excited.
Us: You have toured with Bob Seger and now Taylor Swift. What is it like opening up for these renowned musicians and jumping from such different audiences?
FB: Its just an incredible opportunity to play in front of two different demographics of fans. The Seger fans are different than the Taylor fans. Both of them really dig what I am doing in my music. Bob is the ultimate professional and it is absolutely inspirational to get to open for him. At his age to still be kicking as much butt as he does is so inspiring. Opening for Bob Seger was a dream come true, especially since I am from Michigan.
Us: What have you been doing to prepare for the upcoming tour?
FB: We have just been rehearsing, it is going to be a little bit different but we are playing the same songs but some of the instrumentation and things are a little bit different being out with Taylor. We have been on the road and I am always out playing shows. If I am not opening I am doing my own shows in clubs. We are always trying to improve.
Us: What is your favorite part of touring?
FB: The best moments are right before you go on stage because of all the excitement but I just love being on the road and seeing new places and meeting new people and playing guitar for a living. I am so blessed to get to play guitar for a living. So many people are doing things that they don't necessarily like to do because they have to put food on the table. It is such a blessing to play music and be on the road. This is what I feel like I am supposed to be doing.
Us: Have you had any opportunity to hang out with Taylor Swift?
FB: I met her a few times just in passing and then we just did a photo shoot for a magazine for the opening acts. I got a chance to talk to her for a little bit. She is incredibly sweet and she said she was excited that we were going on the road with her so I am too. I am really excited to see her show.
Us: I know Taylor Swift paints the number thirteen on her hand before every show. Do you have any preshow rituals?
FB: I like to play guitar just to get my fingers warmed up. I always wear this necklace that is the end of a guitar cable. That is one of the pieces I always have to make sure I have. I've gone running around backstage to find it a few times right before we went on.
Us: Would you ever collaborate with Taylor Swift?
FB: I would love to. She is an incredible artist and I am sure that there is a long line of people that want to as well. I don't know where I stand in that line.
Us: Has she given you any advice?
FB: We kick it off this weekend so I think we really have to get into the tour a little more. I hope she does. I am going to watch her really closely just to try to do anything I can to learn. She is where I want to be and so I know there is a lot for me to learn there. I will take any advice she wants to give.
Us: What do you admire most about Taylor Swift as an artist?
FB: She never compromises what she believes in and who she is as an artist. A lot of people are hard on her for certain things and she is always true to her fans. She has her image and she doesn't compromise it. She is staying classy and keeps it going with what she wants to do and I really admire that. It is tough sometimes when critics give you a hard time. It makes you want to sometimes change who you are but she refuses to do it and I really do admire that.
Us: Is there any other musician you would like to model your career after?
FB: I've always been a big Keith Urban fan and as a guitar player I think that he is on the top of his game. My goal is to be on the top, to be playing stadiums and arenas and to be up in the big leagues. So I am just taking it one day at a time right now.