Be skeptical of country music cliches all you want, but growing up in Patoka, Ill. (population: about 600), Drew Baldridge's life was exactly like what you hear in country songs: He sang in church with his dad, helped out on his grandfather's farm and graduated high school with 42 kids in his class.

"I didn't even know that I was actually living a country song when I was growing up," Baldridge tells The Boot. "That's just how we did it."

But along with country music from acts such as Josh Turner, Baldridge also loved pop artists such as Michael Jackson -- he even performed "Thriller" in a school talent show in elementary school -- and now, his music runs the gamut from country-pop to more traditional guitar-and-piano songs. They sit side by side on his Crossing County Lines, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 EPs, released in December and April, respectively, and on the Crossing County Lines Deluxe Edition, which combines the EPs' nine previously released songs with seven new tracks.

"Every song is its own entity," Baldridge explains, and that's how songs like "Dance With Ya," Baldridge's current single, and "Don't Over Think It" can sound one way, while "Tractors Don't Roll" and "Town the World Forgot," both of which were inspired by his small-town upbringing, earned themselves a more traditional style.

"I went into the studio with an open mind, saying, 'What does this song mean, and how do we want to produce this song to sound as real as it can?'" the singer-songwriter adds.

All 16 of the Crossing County Lines tunes, save "Something Like You," were co-written by Baldridge. While he's not opposed to cutting a song he didn't write, the artist says that he "really strives" to record his own material.

"I love being able to be a part of every song on my project," Baldridge says. "... I love being able to single something I know is true to me, and I feel like I can give it a really good, real interpretation of what I'm singing if I'm the one that wrote it."

His favorite of the new tunes is "Rebound;" Baldridge calls it "one of the best recordings I've ever done."

Music wasn't always the plan for Baldridge. He's been singing practically forever, but he never really considered it a career option; in fact, he was planning to go to college and play baseball -- until his mom bought him tickets to see Turner in Nashville for his 18th birthday. He came home from the show and told his parents that he wanted to move to Music City. Fortunately, Baldridge says, they believed in him "100 percent" -- and so did the rest of his hometown.

"[I left] with 600 fans," Baldridge recalls, and when he made it to Nashville, residents of his hometown were sending him messages saying that they were proud of him "even when I had nothing going on ... [and] had nothing to be proud of," Baldridge says.

"Those were the people that kept me going," he adds.

The deluxe edition of Crossing County Lines is available for download via iTunes. Baldridge has some tour dates scheduled throughout the fall; more information is available on his website.

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