Brett Eldredge will admit it: He lost himself there for a bit. A nearly constant social media presence does things to a man.

"I don't regret that," Eldredge says of his attachment to digital platforms, both his own and those of his beloved pup Edgar, "but it definitely wasn't healthy for me."

So, at the start of 2019, he went (mostly) off the grid: Eldredge traded his flip phone for a smartphone; left Nashville for California and other locations; and bought a Polaroid camera, so that he could occasionally take photos and mail them to his manager to post on Instagram. The decision proved fruitful, both musically and for his mental health.

"I got a lot of surprises on this album, just the whole album in general," Eldredge says of the resulting project, Sunday Drive. "I kind of stepped away from the world for over a year to dive deep, and this album will sound way different than anything you've heard from me, and I think that you're going to love it more than anything you've ever heard of my music ...

"I've poured everything in my heart into this," he adds, "and I think you're gonna see something different from me that you've never heard before."

The Eldredge that fans have gotten to know over three prior albums and a handful of No. 1 hits is still there -- even more so, in fact. He's at his most honest and reflective, and the 12 tracks all have a folk-y dust over them, courtesy of producers Ian Fitchuk and Daniel Tashian, the award-winning duo who produced Kacey Musgraves lauded Golden Hour. Fans of both artists will likely draw parallels between that project and Sunday Drive: Both find their creators peeling away at the layers of their public personas.

While creating Sunday Drive, Eldredge bussed his producers and his manager to his hometown of Paris, Ill. "I showed them those Midwest values that I grew up in and still carry in my life," Eldredge explains. "And then we took that bus from there and went up to Chicago and made this record for -- lived in Chicago for weeks at a time."

That grounding is why a song like "Sunday Drive" -- an outside cut, but one with which Eldredge has a long history -- hits so hard. Why the upbeat "Magnolia" is so fun. And why "Paris Illinois," Eldredge's very own "New York State of Mind," wraps the record up on all the right notes.

Sunday Drive is out Friday (July 10). Keep reading for the stories behind each of the songs, told by Eldredge himself:

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