Thursday, August 19, 2021
True artists don't just arrive on the scene fully formed, they have to find themselves. Even with a few hits in the bag, the search takes time, and it might be a few laps around the sun before things get dialed in - but when that happens it's like a switch is flipped.
Heading into his second album for Big Loud Records, aptly titled Laps Around the Sun, that quest for self discovery was heavy on Chris Lane's mind. Two whirlwind years of chart toppers and jam-packed shows had gone by for the breakout country talent, but the North Carolina native still felt restless. He found himself looking back to his early days, and back to the reasons he fell in love with music in the first place.
"I had a moment where I played a show with Kenny Chesney," the lifelong country fan explains. "It was a festival right on the beach, and I watched him do his thing and I watched the crowd, and there was just something special about that night. I hadn't seen him in a long time, and the way people connected to what he was doing ... I had one of those moments like 'Man, I really want my music to do that.'"
With Girl Problems, the 2016 album that launched Lane as one of Nashville's most exciting new artists, the singer-songwriter got a taste of that connection. Its red hot romantic edge led to back-to-back, Gold-certified singles ("Fix" and "For Her") and the first Country Radio #1 of his career, propelling the set to a Top 10 debut and sending Lane on tour with superstars like Florida Georgia Line, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill - all while helping him rack up 400 million digital streams worldwide, network TV appearances, and more.
But with Laps Around the Sun, this rising star had a bigger, bolder picture in mind, aiming for tunes "everybody can love, and everybody can feel."
"There's a certain vibe to this album," Lane says, describing the serene confidence behind his new brand of modern country. Romance is still a big part of the equation, but now his stories dig deeper - somehow feeling both personal and universal at the same time. And instead of being lit by streetlights and neon, each song basks in the golden rays of a summer afternoon. "It's a change for me this time around," Lane says. "But this is what I truly love."
Produced once again by studio ace Joey Moi (FGL), Laps Around the Sun feels more organic, building off the sandy arrangements of artists like Chesney and Billy Currington with an added touch of newschool cool. Lane and Moi recorded with a live band for the first time, fleshed out melodies on guitars rather than computer screens, and eased Lane's vocal into its timeless natural register.
Fourteen tracks written by hitmakers like Rhett Akins, Ashley Gorley, Hillary Lindsey and The Warren Brothers made the cut - and in an important lesson learned while Lane put his "laps" in on tour, they were all chosen based on meaning and personal connection, not purely on energy or feel.
The album's first single, "Take Back Home Girl" (featuring Tori Kelly) marks Lane's coming of age. It builds on the sultry swagger of Girl Problems, but he and the Grammy-nominee aren't singing about a steamy downtown hookup. Instead, the track reveals who Lane really is - a true country boy with deeply rooted family values - becoming Lane's third Gold-certified single in a row.
The patient "I Don't Know About You" charts a similar course - a hard-crushing, swollen-hearts anthem sure to inspire stadium wide sing alongs - while "Number One" takes a soulful look at regret, and "Without You" adds Danielle Bradbery for some sun-kissed romantic harmony.
On "Drunk People," Lane's good-natured sense of humor shines bright. The grinning mid-tempo is just smooth enough to not aggravate a hangover headache, but edgy enough to admit that drunk people do dumb things ... like get back together. "That song is me to a 'T,'" Lane says with a laugh. "Every time I have one to many tequila drinks, I think I've gotta FaceTime every girlfriend I've ever had."
He throws some sunny shade on "New Phone, Who's This," a sly, smile-inducing strutter. And likewise, "Fishin'" feels as fun and refreshing as a secret honey hole on a hot day. Country to the core, its lyrics recall the innocence of young love - and the nostalgia of the genre's most iconic hits. "I feel like it's a great little summer song," Lane says. "And for some reason, it lives in that same place that 'Mayberry' by Rascal Flatts does for me."
Meanwhile, "Hero" reveals the man Lane has always been, and the artist he's become. A slow, heartfelt ballad with an openly religious theme of personal conviction, Lane says he knew recording it could be risky, "but at the same time, there has never been a song that is more true to me."
"I really prayed that I would get the song," he explains. "And I don't know if it will ever be a single or anything like that, but it speaks to my heart."
Still, Lane named the album Laps Around the Sun for a reason, and the title track reflects how he feels about his journey to the here and now. Supremely relaxed, soulful, and full of mature optimism, it describes a hand-in-hand adventure which could be about Lane and the girl of his dreams ... or it could be about Lane and country fans. Either way, he promises to keep on moving forward, together.
"Don't you know we'll never be done / Taking laps around the sun," goes the chorus.
"I've learned a lot," Lane admits. "With my first record, I was trying to figure out exactly what kind of sound I wanted to have, and now I know. I know what I truly love and what kind of artist I want to be. My goal was to make sure anyone who hears this album finds a song they can relate to. I hope I accomplished that."