Brett Eldredge really misses his flip phone. Long before the pandemic, the singer-songwriter forced himself to go off the grid and reassess his relationship with screens. “I started down that rabbit hole of trying to step away,” he says, admitting he even bought a Polaroid camera.
Once lockdowns became the norm, he underwent another seismic shift. With any real sense of normalcy gone, Eldredge was drawn back to having a smartphone again 一 but he realized he needed to find a happy compromise. He was scrolling through TikTok when it hit him like a bolt of lightning. “These things are built to make you addicted to them,” he reflects. Instead of cutting the cord completely, he decided to implement daily app limits and gave his screen time passcode to another party.
“That's been a pretty powerful thing 一 to not be able to reach out and get that information. Once I'm done for the day, I just have to mindfully scroll or not even scroll at all. I just have to post what I want to post and then get off,” he says. He has also been working on “not shaming [myself] too much, because everybody's in that place”.
“It's taking little steps day by day, asking how can I step back from it a little more and go outside and sit in the grass or go for a walk or whatever it is… just do something real. It’s not that none of that stuff doesn't matter,” he continues. “In some ways it can be used as a proper tool, but I used to be on it so much. At the start of my career, and even up to about four years ago, I was known as one of the people that was using it [most] in the format. But it just got to the point where I couldn't take that pressure anymore”.
Through personal excavation, self-love blossomed in exciting ways, as he details in a song called ‘Holy Water’. Released late last year, the organ-soaked song honors his evolution as a person, as much as it does his artistic journey. “I got used to broken hearts / watchin' my world fall apart,” he sings, backed by a full-scale gospel choir.
His journey with self-love has been a long, winding one. In simple terms, he’s still a work-in-progress. But he takes a moment to explain further, “I have tendencies to be a perfectionist, and perfectionism is obviously not achievable. It's made me successful in some ways, but held me back in a lot of ways too. Perfectionism makes it harder to love yourself sometimes. You're being harder on yourself when you don't quite do something the way you thought it was supposed to be done”.
Then, there’s the matter of societal pressures. “You worry about what somebody else thinks if you say no to something, and you start trying to live up to other people's expectations. That makes it worse on you, because you feel bad that you didn't make that person happy. Then you realize you have an empty space in your heart, because you've sacrificed yourself in a lot of ways”.
The past two years of deep, inner reflection has allotted him plenty of time to process and then discard these emotional forces. More than anything, he’s learned to let go of “somebody else's idea of how I should live” and focus in on “the way my heart tells me I should live - finding those balances so I can be the best version of myself and be there for other people, once I've been there for myself first”.
This summer, Eldredge returns to the UK with a string of shows, including a momentous night at O2 Kentish Town Forum in London. He’s just started rehearsals, and he hopes to bring this new-found energy and liberation into such a live setting.
“I'm preparing to add an extra level of excitement to my shows. The band is so good at highlighting the musicality, and we’ve really taken our time to let the songs breathe,” he says, teasing he’ll be playing previously-unheard songs. “I think everybody's gonna leave and tell their friends - if they weren't a fan before, hopefully they will be. Hopefully, it’ll be a good escape for a couple hours”.
Eldredge returned to the road last summer after nearly a year and a half in quarantine. To say he’d deeply missed the thrill of the stage is an understatement. But what he missed even more than anything else during the downtime was “the camaraderie backstage,” he says.
“There's a lot of downtime, which can eat your soul alive. I'm an early bird. I wake up probably [around] seven o'clock or so, but I don't play till nine o'clock that night. So, you have to figure out what to do with that time and not just sit there and think about the show all day or focus on the pressures of it”.
Wherever he goes, he finds joy in fresh experiences and “going on hikes, goofing off with the band and playing wiffle ball in the parking lot”. “That's what I missed most” he explains, “I [also] missed the moments before the show where we're all having a dance party to shake off the nervous energy and just remind ourselves that we're having fun”.
Naturally, Eldredge has his fair share of off-days when he’s feeling sluggish or less-than inspired to perform. “There are days that aren't perfect. You're tired, and you wish you had your own bed. But the moment you get on that stage, and you get to connect with everybody, it kind of erases all that worry. I'll sometimes journal after the show,” he says, “it helps to remind me to never doubt myself again”.
“I dismissed a lot of that,” he quickly adds. “I found resilience in all of it, too - being able to overcome and then go up there with the people that you love and the crowd and pour your heart out”.
Eldredge teased a new album was on the way last summer, and it’s shaping up quite nicely. Songs About You, his seventh studio album, is set for release in June, and Eldredge hints it’s the “most fun album I've made”. “It's the most confident I’ve been - it's got a swagger to it,” he says.
Apparently, it is a stark contrast from 2020’s Sunday Drive, a much more reflective LP than his other work. Within that record, he actually discovered confidence in such raw vulnerability. “I just kind of took off with that and ran with exactly what I wanted to do. I had never gotten to a place like I did with this record, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I'd go in the room and could command a situation”.
Brett Eldredge has certainly commanded the conversation since his “Raymond” days more than a decade ago. By all accounts, his forthcoming era promises to push the envelope and further demonstrate he forever has a place in country music. It’s safe to say we can’t wait.
Brett Eldredge returns to the UK this May for a six-date tour, including a headline show at 02 Kentish Town Forum in London. To purchase your tickets and to find more information, head here.