In the last decade, Chris Lane went from playing baseball in stadiums to playing music in stadiums. A string of reconstructive surgeries to his knee quashed any chances of a professional athletic career, so the former University of North Carolina Charlotte outfielder picked up a guitar to kill some time.
“I really started digging in on the music, and that became a passion for me that far outweighed what it was for baseball,” Lane said during a recent phone interview. “And that’s hard for me to believe, because I lived and breathed baseball for most of my life.”
The country singer comes to Spokane this week as an opener for the hugely popular duo Florida Georgia Line, but he’s now becoming a star in his own right. Lane’s debut solo album, “Girl Problems,” cracked the Top 10 on the country charts and one its tracks, “Fix,” is a No. 1 hit.
“It’s still mindblowing,” Lane said. “I didn’t know what to expect, just because it was my first time around with all that and I didn’t know how everything worked.”
Originally from the small town of Kernersville, North Carolina, Lane counts a laundry list of ’90s country superstars – Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw – among his musical inspirations. But Lane belongs to a relatively new wave of country acts that has embraced pop, R&B and even hip-hop influences.
“Those guys were country greats to me. That’s what I grew up on,” Lane said. “But I also enjoyed singing along to Justin Timberlake and Usher. The Backstreet Boys, even,” he added with a laugh.
Since “Fix” became a success, Lane says there’s been a noticeable uptick in enthusiasm for his music. Not only are his audiences getting larger, he says, but they’re more familiar with him as an artist.
“More and more people are showing up every single night, which has been amazing,” Lane said. “They’re singing not just the words to ‘Fix’ but to my record, and I’ve never had that before.”
As headliners, Lane and his backing band – which includes his identical twin brother on drums – are still performing at midsize clubs and theaters. But they’re getting their fair share of stage time at arenas and stadiums as openers, having toured in support of both Florida Georgia Line and Rascal Flatts this year.
“There’s a different energy, for sure, between clubs and arenas. An arena’s just a big club, essentially,” Lane said. “That’s something I never thought I’d get to experience, playing on an arena level. … It really feels good to play in front of that many eyes and ears every single night. I’ve heard there’s some people who would prefer to play a club over an arena, but I’m the opposite.
When he isn’t on the road, Lane says he’s experiencing what most neophyte country artists do when their stars are on the rise: He’s working with a stable of Nashville songwriters and producers to churn out more potential hits on another album.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve actually been able to sit down and write because I’ve been on the road so much. But any time I get a chance to write, especially with those kinds of writers, is a treat,” Lane said. “I’m coming from a small town where I was writing songs by myself to being thrown into a room with guys who’ve had 20 or 30 No. 1’s, and I’m scared to death of saying something stupid. But you’ve gotta learn along the way.”
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