Fresh off multiple victories at the CMAs for his No. 1 debut, Traveller, the country singer-songwriter, 37, reveals how his killer collaboration with Justin Timberlake came about—and why 2016 might be his busiest year yet.
How did it feel to have such a triumphant CMAs this year?
It was much, much better than I deserve. It’s still just bizarre to think about!
What’d you do to celebrate—a few rounds of whiskey?
Kentucky bourbon, actually! But I started that day on Good Morning America. I got up at 4 a.m., and I’m not a morning person. I tried to get a little bit of a nap [before the CMAs]. It was the best long day I’ve ever had.
You performed with Justin Timberlake during the show. How did that come about?
We met a couple years ago through a mutual friend and talked to each other on occasion. He’s a new dad and I’ve got little kids. We tell a lot of kid stories. [Laughs] We’d always looked for a reason to do something, and this finally became that reason. I was excited to get out there and play with him and that band. We just had so much fun in rehearsals. And that’s what music should be.
As an artist who’s written mainstream Nashville hits for Kenny Chesney and Luke Bryan, how do you balance that poppier style with your old-school country sound?
I had a producer friend of mine tell me once, “There’s two kinds of music: good music and bad music.” And that’s it. Don’t worry about labels, don’t worry about anything else. Music’s not a war, and it’s certainly not a war to me. We’re all on the same team.
Since the CMAs, your album has hit No. 1. What’s next?
We were supposed to be slowing down. [Laughs] So now I think we have some stuff to figure out. You can’t expect to have this kind of a thing all the time. What a treat to get to have a moment.
This article appears in the November 20, 2015 Entertainmnet Weekly double print issue #1390-91on stands this Friday.