Like his heroes Strait and Whitley, Easton Corbin is unapologetically country. His songs, while rooted in the present, call to mind simpler times when the back porch was where folks gathered to network. Steel guitars and fiddles are as much a part of his sound as his baritone drawl.
Easton Corbin knew he wanted to be a country singer well before he learned how to play guitar.
"One of my earliest memories is from when I was three or four," he remembers. "I was sitting between my parents in the car and a song came on the radio—it was Mel McDaniel's 'Baby's Got Her Blue Jeans On'. I began using the gearshift as my microphone. The desire has always been there."
Now those lifelong dreams are coming true. The accolades are continuing to roll in for Easton, who is the first country male artist in 17 years to have his first two consecutive singles reach No. 1 -- "A Little More Country Than That" and "Roll With It."
In a six-month period, he received 13 country music award nominations and won three country music trophies. Most recently, he received three nominations from the Academy of Country Music Awards -- Top New Solo Vocalist as well as Single and Song of the Year for his debut hit, "A Little More Country Than That."
He won 2010 American Country Awards in every breakthrough artist category -- Artist of the Year: Breakthrough Artist, as well as Single of the Year: Breakthrough Artist and Music Video: Breakthrough Artist for "A Little More Country Than That." He tied with Lady Antebellum to earn the most nominations, garnering seven. In addition, he received nominations for Best New Artist, and Single and Song of the Year for "A Little More Country Than That" at the 2010 Country Music Association Awards.
Billboard named Easton the Top New Country Artist of 2010 and "Roll With It" the No. 6 Hot Country Song of the Year, while "A Little More Country Than That" was ranked No. 19. His album was also named Country Breakthrough Album of the Year by iTunes Rewind.
The Nashville Scene's 11th annual Country Music Critics' Poll named Easton the Best New Act of 2010 and included his self-titled album in its Best Albums list at No. 19. "A Little More Country Than That" was ranked No. 11 on its Best Singles list. "This is a dream come true," he says. "This is something I've wanted all of my life. To be able to do this for a living and have people like it, I couldn't ask for any better. I am so blessed."
Born and raised in rural Gilchrist County, Fla., Easton spent much of his time on his grandparent's cattle farm after his parents divorced when he was young. "I lived a mile from the Suwannee River," he says. "I grew up fishing on it and I loved to work on the farm. Every weekend, that's where I'd be."
While no one in his family played a musical instrument, music was a big part of his upbringing. "My grandparents liked to watch the Opry," Easton remembers. "We'd start Saturday night off with 'Hee Haw' and then 'Opry Backstage' and then 'Opry Live'." It was also at his grandparent's house that he discovered a record player and his father and aunts' left-behind records in a front room. "I'd go in there and play those records for hours," he says.
An impromptu audition at a local music store led to a slot on the Suwannee River Jam, a nearby festival that attracts thousands of people and national touring acts. "It was just me and a guitar in front of a 40-acre field full of people," Easton remembers. "It was great." Soon he was opening for other national acts when they played the area, including Janie Fricke and Mel McDaniel, the man whose song Easton had performed in the car years earlier.
After earning a business degree through the College of Agriculture at the University of Florida, Easton moved to Nashville. "I always knew I wanted to move up here," he says. "There was never any question about it. I didn't want to wake up one day and wish I would have tried it, but I had to get my education first so I had something to fall back on."
Easton, whose musical influences include George Jones, Merle Haggard, George Strait and Keith Whitley, found a kindred spirit in producer Carson Chamberlain, who years earlier had toured with Whitley as his steel guitar player and bandleader. "We really hit it off," Easton says. "I love traditional music and he does too. I knew he was the producer for me."
Among the songs included on the album are three Easton co-wrote with Chamberlain and Sanders during a trip to Colorado. "When I came to Nashville I realized how important it was to write songs," Easton says. "The opportunity to sit in a room with experienced songwriters and learn their craft has helped me become a better writer.
Now that his life long dream is upon him, Easton says he's ready. "I just want to make great country music," he says. "Just the opportunity to play music for a living is a great thing. I'm just thankful to have the opportunity to do what I'm doing now."