As a vacation destination, the trip from Kernersville, N.C., to Nashville, Tenn., will take you just under seven hours. As a vocational destination, however, it can take years before anyone in the Music City even notices you have arrived.
Kernersville native Chris Lane’s professional trek went more smoothly than most. Performing Saturday at Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek in Raleigh as the opening act for perennial country music headliner Rascal Flatts, as well as female vocalist wunderkind Kelsea Ballerini, Lane has made some pretty long strides in a musical career that began as a glorified backup plan to more physical pursuits.
“I moved back home after playing college baseball,” Lane explains. “My dream was to move on and play professionally, but I had several knee surgeries that really hurt my chances at that, so during my downtime from playing baseball I started to learn how to play guitar. Once I graduated college I moved back home and started teaching myself how to play and sing at the same time.”
After he learned a dozen or so songs, the UNC-Charlotte grad started a cover band. “I had my cover band that worked the Triad, and little by little I started branching out through the state,” he says. “More and more people started showing up to my shows, picking up a little bit of a following, so I took it upon myself to try writing my own songs. Eventually that all added up to where I am now – a record deal, a song in the top 15 on the radio, and it’s just hard to believe that this is really happening.”
While Lane may have trouble grasping the reality of his stardom, those around him realize that he is gaining popularity at a more remarkable pace than anyone could have hoped for. From signing on with Big Loud Records to opening for some of today’s biggest country stars – Lane already has toured with Florida Georgia Line, Lee Brice and Dustin Lynch – he finds himself at a point in his young career where dues are still being paid, but it’s becoming easier by the day.
“It’s definitely been a journey, but I’ve been very blessed along the way,” he says. “I never even went up to Nashville; the word just kind of went out that I had built up a bit of a following, and Nashville just kind of came to me. I had offers on the table, and I just went with what I thought was best for me at the time. That allowed me to spend the last two years trying to write and work on my debut record, which is due to be released later this summer.”
While that as-yet untitled album may still be in the developmental stages, the numbers for his debut EP “Fix” have been gangbusters, with most of the thanks going toward the title track. “Fix” has become a staple on country radio airwaves, currently sitting in the top 15, and it’s gaining the kind of numbers on digital platforms Spotify and Vevo that would make most musicians consider themselves superstars.
Lane realizes his star is shining bright, and he considers himself lucky to have the opportunities. It wasn’t so long ago he was buying tickets to see Rascal Flatts at Walnut Creek as a spectator, so he’s hoping this home-state show will provide a chance for folks to come see a Kernersville kid made good.
“I’m just thankful at this point that I’ve got a song on the radio that is doing pretty well, and it seems that more and more people are showing up to shows that know the words and sing along. I’m having a lot of fun with that, because the only other time that something like that happened was back when I was a cover band,” he laughs. “It feels a lot different when it’s your actual song that they are singing along to.”
Who: Rascal Flatts – Rhythm and Roots Tour with Kelsea Ballerini and Chris Lane
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Walnut Creek, 3801 Rock Quarry Road, Raleigh
Info: 919-719-5500 or livenation.com