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Easton Corbin set out to be a farmer. He grew up as a member of the FFA (Future Farmers of America) and 4-H, and even got a business degree from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Florida. But in 2006, Corbin decided to forget the field and pursue his other passion. Farming’s loss is country music’s gain.
The 27-year-old’s first single, “A Little More Country Than That,” just hit the top of the Billboard country charts. He is the first solo male country artist to achieve that distinction since 2003. He’s signed on to be the opening act on Brad Paisley’s summer tour; he appeared Thursday on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” and last month he played the holy grail of country music: the Grand Ole Opry.
“Things are really moving very fast,” he says, “but that’s a good thing. I’m just keeping my nose to the ground and getting to work.”
Although his newfound success can be a bit overwhelming, Corbin is relishing his time in the spotlight. “This is a dream come true for me,” says the Mercury Nashville artist. “I’ve been working at it a long time.”
While most popular country music today is closer to pop — think Lady Antebellum or Carrie Underwood — Corbin’s style is more traditional. “There’s plenty of steel guitar and fiddles,” he says. “That’s what I know and love.”
He cites Merle Haggard, Keith Whitley and George Jones as his influences, although his baritone voice with its gravelly undertones sounds eerily like George Strait.
His self-titled album, on which he cowrote four of the 11 tracks, includes ballads, love songs and up-tempo tunes, and offers a refreshing look back to a less complicated, if not idealized, time. He tells of warm summer days and hound dogs, sipping sweet tea, baling hay and fishing for channel catfish.
Corbin grew up in rural Trenton, Fla., and spent a lot of his childhood on his grandparents’ cattle farm. It was there he found a record player and some vintage country albums. Together, they’d sit in front of the television on Saturday night to watch “Hee Haw” and the “The Grand Ole Opry Live” show.
Corbin, whose follow-up to “A Little More Country Than That” will be the single “Roll With It,” says he’s not ready to set goals and is just trying to come to terms with his success. “I’m just happy to be on the charts,” he says. “That doesn’t happen to a new artist very often.”
His down-home sensibility also translates into his personal style and he has not intention of “veering too far off” it — Wrangler shirts, Diesel or Rock & Republic jeans and a ball cap. “I like jeans and boots,” he says simply. “Nothing real fancy.”