Joel Crouse has been trying to make his way in Nashville since he was 16, and he's learned a lot in the last six years by surrounding himself with some of Music City's best.

"I was 16 or 17, and I'm writing with people in their 40s and 50s who have been doing this for a long time," Crouse tells the Hartford Courant. "So I guess what I did is, I surrounded myself with people who are crazy-more talented than I am, and eventually it just made me a better writer, a better guitar player. I learned a lot from the first guy I wrote with, and they were patient with me.

"[Now] I play a really big part in the whole process," he adds. "In the beginning, there were a few ideas I threw out there that got shot down, and looking back on them, they should have gotten shot down."

Crouse went on to tour with Taylor Swift, the Band Perry, Toby Keith and, most recently, Darius Rucker, and those gigs helped him learn even more about being successful in the music business.

"When you're on a tour, you can't help but take in your surroundings and see how the operation runs," he says. "Really what all these tours did for me was to give me more and more experience with stage presence, how to connect with a bigger audience, how to not just connect with the people in the front row but the people in the back. As the opener of a show, it's like, 'Okay, you've got 30 minutes. Show these people who you are and get them pumped up for the next act.' That's what your job is."

Crouse's debut studio album, 'Even the River Runs,' was released in August. Watch the video for the title single here, and check out a list of upcoming tour dates here.