A River Runs Through It: The Rio Grande and the Tennessee Inspire Frankie Ballard’s “El Rio”

Warner Nashville

“It All Started with a Beer” may be the lead single from Frankie Ballard’s new project, but when it comes to the album, it all started with a river — two, in fact. The Michigan native traveled to the Sonic Ranch just south of El Paso, Texas, to record.

“Right in the back of the property is the Rio Grande river, and that’s the [Mexican] border,” he explains. “I was out there and I’m on this side… and I’m like living the epitome of what my dream is. And I’m down there making this album that I want to make and I’m feeling so blessed and right across the river there, there’s a lot of people that are not living their dream at all…I felt great walking into the studio every day because I just felt so lucky and so blessed.”

When it came time to finish the collection, Frankie happened upon another river — this one much closer to Nashville — that provided inspiration.

“We arranged the album in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, which is also a famously musical place. The native people have always said that there’s a song in the Tennessee River, so this theme of the river…We definitely soaked up a lot of that mojo when we were in town. So, El Rio simply means ‘the river’ in Spanish.” 

Frankie sang his latest hit, which is currently closing in on the top 15, earlier this week on Live! with Kelly. You can check out his performance online.

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