After the release of Brett Eldredge’s self-titled 2017 album, the country singer — who already had five No. 1s on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart — should have been enjoying a career peak: Brett Eldredge became his highest-charting Billboard 200 album to date, hitting No. 2. But Eldredge had become wracked with anxiety, feeling frustrated that he wasn’t reaching his professional or personal potential. He decided to disengage from social media, saying that he became aware of how it distracted him “from the real stuff in my life,” and to switch managers, partnering with Q Prime South’s John Peets (Eric Church, The Black Keys, Ashley McBryde).
Peets’ first piece of advice was to take some time off, so Eldredge grabbed a flip phone, guitar, Polaroid camera and notebook and traveled to California to write with a clear mind. With a new manager, new environment and new production team — Eldredge enlisted producer-songwriters Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk, best known for Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour — he emerged with his fifth studio album, Sunday Drive, which arrived July 10 and hit No. 5 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart.
What struck you about each other when you first met?
Eldredge: [John] had such a different way of looking at this whole music business thing. He wants you to be the artist that you want to create; you don’t have to follow any kind of formula. He said if I’ve got to take a year or two off [touring] and just focus on the music, that was fine.
Peets: His openness. [Brett] was willing to take a risk and allow himself to be open for that journey, knowing it was going to be a long time. We really did walk in the woods for a year to figure out [his next steps].
Most artists are constantly in “go” mode. How did you convince Eldredge to slow down?
Peets: A lot of confidence stems from permission: “No one little element is going to throw you off your game… It’s OK to let social media cool down… You’re not on the hamster wheel, come on off.” It’s about believing in what they’re out to do and the possibilities.
How did getting off social media influence the album?
Eldredge: It was very important to quit staring at a screen and get the flip phone — get a Polaroid camera to capture moments, but not take a hundred photos of one thing. Taking one photo, and maybe it’s not perfect, but [appreciating] those imperfections, that moved into my music and recording.
How creatively involved was Peets?
Eldredge: I would send him every song. It was really he and I deep in the woods trying to hone in on this sound. Once we had that map, I felt like I was becoming my own artist for the first time because I had the freedom to say and do whatever I like.
How do you hope this album propels Eldredge’s career?
Peets: The next level is the establishment of Brett Eldredge from the gazillion white male singers in country music. The goal is to find his own lane.