Over the past year, Texas native George Birge has steadily ascended Billboard’s Country Airplay chart, earning a top 5 hit with his debut single “Mind on You.” The song’s success represents a full-circle moment, given that the song was previously on hold for Jason Aldean.
“This has probably been the wildest 12 months or so of my life,” Birge tells Billboard during an interview in Nashville. He wrote “Mind on You” in 2020 with Jaron Boyer, Michael Tyler and Colt Ford. At the time, Birge, previously half of country duo Waterloo Revival, was amid a career shift.
“I had been chasing the artist dream, and I had gotten close, had some failures to launch,” he recalls. “I asked out of a previous deal and there was an eight-month period where I was writing songs for other artists. We pitched ‘Mind on You’ to Jason, who’s a huge influence on me musically, and we got an email back, saying, ‘Jason wants it for his new record.’ He was by far the biggest artist to want one of my songs. I thought that was going to be the life-changer for me.”
In 2021, Birge began releasing snippets of music on TikTok. Birge happened upon a video from TikToker Erynn Chambers, which used the phrase “Beer, beer, truck, truck, girls in tight jeans” to lampoon the tropes used in many country songs. Birge based the chorus of his song “Beer Beer, Truck Truck” on the viral video (Chambers is credited as a co-writer). The song earned more than 5 million Spotify streams, and in the process, introduced Birge as a solo artist.
Birge parlayed the streaming surge into a record deal, signing with RECORDS Nashville in 2021. When RECORDS CEO Barry Weiss heard “Mind on You,” he made a pivotal phone call to Birge.
“He said, ‘We can’t wait to work with you, but that song you’re giving to Jason Aldean, that’s going to be your debut single. You need to ask for it back,’” Birge recalls. “That was a scary prospect. At the time, I was struggling to launch my career, barely scraping by monetarily, and I decided not to let one of the biggest artists in Nashville cut my song — which would have guaranteed me some money. Instead, I bet on myself and it was a one-in-a-million long shot.”
In 2024, the WME-repped Birge will tour with fellow Texas artist Parker McCollum. Below, Billboard’s January Country Rookie of the Month discusses his musical beginnings, the success of “Mind on You,” and the career wisdom he’s gleaned along the way.
You recently released a remixed version of “Mind on You” featuring Charlieonnafriday and Kidd G. How did they come to be on the track?
I wanted to do a remix to give it the biggest pop it can possibly get when it’s at max visibility. I had seen an interview with Charlieonnafriday where he said he was new to country music but liked it. I had been a fan of his, so I sent him a note to ask if he would be on the song. Kidd G has one of the most authentic vocals of anybody I know. I sent it to Charlie and Kidd on the same day, hoping one of them would say yes. They both said “yes” in like 10 minutes, so we had both jump on the song.
Did you give them any guidance on their verses?
We didn’t give them any direction on their verses; we let them write what they wanted to write. Each artist looked at the song through a different lens. I wrote the song about my wife and how I feel about her. Charlieonnafriday wrote about a past love interest, where they still think about each other. Kidd G wrote about a full-on breakup, where he’s missing her. It was cool to see how “Mind on You” could translate to different people’s perspective and have us flip the hook on all three different verses.
Have you spoken with Jason Aldean since releasing “Mind on You”?
When I asked for the song back, he was unbelievably kind and gracious, but I never met him in person. About two months ago, we were both at a party and some of our mutual friends introduced us. He was like, “I’ve been watching the song and I’ve been rooting for you.” To have him say that was so gratifying.
He also filled me in on some parallels of what I’m doing and how he started his career — he told me about a failed record deal when he got started and later how one song changed his life and how at the time he had his first hit, [Aldean’s label home] Broken Bow Records was kind of a startup label. He talked about finding his lane, building a brand and scaling from clubs up to arenas and amphitheaters. I left that conversation feeling 10 feet tall, because it was so inspiring. I’m very thankful for the time I got to spend talking with him.
You were previously part of the duo Waterloo Revival. How do you think that experience prepared you for where you are now in your career?
I’m thankful for every second and learned more than I ever have during that time. We started as a bar band in Austin, Texas. I was working a desk job for a real estate company, but music was my passion. We started getting traction and sold out the Rattle Inn, a 300-400 person room, every time we would play there. Some Nashville industry folks flew down and before I knew it, I had a management deal, a record deal. It forced me to figure out who I want to be, what I wanted to say, how to put on a live show—because there’s a huge difference between standing behind a microphone in a club for 90 minutes and going on tour with Toby Keith, entertaining 30,000 people in an amphitheater.
What other lessons have you learned along the way?
In 2020, when I ended up asking out of that record deal, the only way I was going to do an artist project was if I was making the music that I wanted to make. RECORDS said they wanted to invest in giving me the best opportunity to be who I wanted to be as an artist, and they’ve been true to that. I feel like “Mind on You” is the first time I’ve gotten to be true to myself, storytelling-wise and sonically. Country fans are good at sniffing out what’s authentic and what’s manufactured. It’s gratifying to get to be myself and have it become the first thing that’s also ever taken off.
When did you find your passion for music?
My mom and dad weren’t musicians, but they loved music. My dad’s truck probably is where I fell in love with country music, listening to the radio. With it being Austin, there’s live music around all the time. I started writing songs in middle school. My freshman year of high school, I had started a band and we would go play on Sixth Street in downtown Austin. At the time, I thought everywhere was like that, playing on Sixth Street as a 14-year-old with “Xs” on your hand [for being underage] and having your friends coming out to shows.
The other cool thing about Austin was everybody had a garage band or music project, but nobody was in a cover band. We all wrote our own songs. I feel like that was the biggest head start my hometown gave me when I moved to Nashville: I had already had a foundation in how to write songs. Being in Nashville, with the best songwriters in the world, I’ve learned something new every day — but I at least felt like I could hang with other songwriters when I moved here.
What was the first concert you ever saw?
Bryan White and LeAnn Rimes at the Frank Erwin Center [in Austin]. She was fresh off [her breakthrough hit] ‘Blue,’ so that was cool.
Who would be your dream collaborator?
Gary Allan has had a huge influence on me. He’s got a lot of that grit and dark, smoky sound that I’ve tried to make my own.
You released your full-length album, George Birge: Mind on You, in 2023. What is next for you?
There’s a song that I just wrote called “Cowboy Songs” will come out as my next single. We started playing that live, and I’ve never seen a song react with fans like that one has.
You will be featured as part of Country Radio Seminar’s New Faces of Country Music Show in 2024, alongside Megan Moroney, Conner Smith, Dillon Carmichael and Corey Kent. What does that mean to you?
My friends at country radio, and at streaming, have changed my life this year. To be considered part of this class, with these artists, I feel so lucky — and to look at other artists and how they have gone from New Faces to selling out arenas and amphitheaters, it’s inspiring.
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