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Ernest to Release ‘Flower Shops (The Album)’ in March: ‘I Wanted This Album to Be Bulletproof’ (Exclusive)

In 2020, Big Loud artist-writer Ernest (full name: Ernest Keith Smith) was a writer on five Top 10 songs, including chart-toppers for Morgan Wallen (“More Than My Hometown”) and Chris Lane (“Big, Big Plans”). Last year, Ernest co-wrote “Breaking Up Was Easy in the ‘90s”  another chart-topper for Sam Hunt. Ernest also contributed to 11 songs on Wallen’s Dangerous: The Double Album, which became the best-selling album of 2021.

This year, Ernest is breaking through for his own artistry, with a top 20 hit of his own on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart with the breakup-and-makeup anthem “Flower Shops,” featuring Wallen. On March 11, Ernest follow this success with the release of  Flower Shops (The Album). Ernest wrote every song included on the 11-track album, which follows his 2019 release Locals Only.

Today (Feb. 25), Ernest is giving fans an early look into the album, with the release of “Some Other Bar,” “Feet Wanna Run” and “What It’s Come To.”

“I just wanted this album to be bulletproof when it comes to true honest country songs and storytelling,” he tells Billboard. “And songs like ‘Some Other Bar’ and ‘What It’s Come To,’ those are my version of tempo, rather than the big party anthem songs.”

“It’s a bad day for love/ But a good day for flower shops,” Ernest sings in the chorus to “Flower Shops,” and says the 1970 George Jones classic “A Good Year For the Roses” served as the inspiration for the song. Ernest was listening to the mournful ballad in his truck as he was picking up co-writer Ben Burgess on the way to a co-writing session with Mark Holman.

“I had a George Jones playlist going, and I had just been on a sad song kick for a while,” he recalls. “Just listening to the lyrics to that song again, I thought, ‘We should write a song with a crazy title like that, like “Good Day for Flower Shops” or something.’ We came up with the idea of a guy who has run out of apologies and all he can do is buy every flower in sight. The song was kind of written by the time we got to Mark’s place. We added a melody and it just wrote itself. We probably spent more time recording the demo than we spent writing the song.”

Once that crucial demo was finished, Ernest knew “Flower Shops” would serve as the album’s fulcrum: “When we went in to cut the rest of the record, I wanted them all to be cousins to ‘Flower Shops.’ We used the phrase ‘Opry band’ when we were in the studio, like creating a sound to set it up for the Opry band.”

On Jan. 8, Ernest stepped into the honored circle of the Grand Ole Opry to make his debut performance as an artist, and welcomed Wallen to perform alongside him on “Flower Shops.”

“It’s kind of a song that’s built for the Opry,” Ernest says. “When we were writing it, it just felt like old-school country. I’m happy that real country music is raising its hand again. And then having Morgan come out and sing it with me, it was awesome getting to share the stage with one of my best friends and singing country music.”

A month later, Ernest and Wallen performed the song again — this time, before a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden on Wallen’s The Dangerous Tour. “Morgan and I just looked at each other, and we were like, ‘D–n dude, that was loud in our ears,’” he says. “It was the coolest thing. I mean, that’s the dream. That’s what it’s all about.”

That Opry debut was the realization of a years-long dream for Nashville native Ernest, who first had his chance to stand in the Opry circle as a fifth grade student during a family trip. Ernest’s father taught school and coached baseball, while his mother worked in real estate.

Ernest’s musical influences were two-fold; he watched as family friends were making beats on computers and later fell in love with the music of Eminem, but was also listening when his father played George Strait or Alan Jackson on his car radio. By middle school, Ernest had begun writing poems during class and adding melodies to them at home. Though he got a baseball scholarship to Freed-Hardeman University near Nashville, Ernest quit after his freshman year to focus solely on music. By 2017, Ernest had already begun his association with Big Loud.

The title track’s influence can be heard on “Feet Wanna Run,” an ode to wilder days which he wrote with Brad and Brett Warren of The Warren Brothers, as well as Chris LaCorte.

“They took me in like brothers early on and mentored me,” Ernest says. “We already had ‘Flower Shops,’ and they had the title for this song. I wanted to create this vintage world that a listener can kind of live in when they are listening to the album. I went and made a drink, and Brett already had basically written the second verse on his phone. And they’ve both had their wild side too, so I feel like it was pretty easy for all of us to be that guy and be able to write that song. To me, these songs are bullet points from the stories in my life over the course of the last couple years.”

Another track on the album, “Classic,” which Ernest wrote with Jacob Durrett, nearly ended up being recorded by Keith Urban. “We spent the day with Keith and he recorded it. It was awesome getting to hang with him, and watching him do his thing in the studio,” Ernest recalls. “Then a couple of months went by and he texted me, like, ‘Hey I think this might be better for your record.’ Some people would be like, ‘Oh man, he didn’t keep the song’ — but honestly, I was happy to get ‘Classic’ back.”

Even with a string of cuts to his credit, Ernest says his ambition has always been to be an artist, though he says the drought in touring brought on by the pandemic momentarily made him consider being only a writer.

“During quarantine was probably the only time I was like, ‘I’m fine with just being a writer.’ Because artists weren’t doing anything and songwriters could still work. But entertaining has always been what I’ve been pulled to do in one capacity or another. Even if I was just a songwriter, I would be the gigging songwriter that would still go play shows.

“And there are some songs that are so special that I don’t want to give them away,” he says. “That’s why I’m going all the way, pedal to the metal. If I’m lucky enough to still be getting some cuts outside of myself as a songwriter, then hell yeah. But I’m trying to take it to the moon as an artist.”

See the track list for Flower Shops (The Album) below:

Sucker For Small Towns (Ernest Keith Smith, Jacob Durrett, Ashley Gorley)
Tennessee Queen (Ernest Keith Smith, Dan Isbell, Jordan Schmidt)
Classic (Ernest Keith Smith, Jacob Durrett)
Feet Wanna Run (Ernest Keith Smith, Chris LaCorte, Brad Warren, Brett Warren)
Comfortable When I’m Crazy (Ernest Keith Smith, Rodney Clawson)
Flower Shops (feat. Morgan Wallen) (Ernest Keith Smith, Ben Burgess, Mark Holman)
Did It With You (Ernest Keith Smith, Rodney Clawson, Nathan Spicer)
What It’s Come To (Ernest Keith Smith, Lily Rose, Ryan Vojtesak)
If You Were Whiskey (Ernest Keith Smith, Michael Carter, Ben Hayslip)
Some Other Bar (Ernest Keith Smith, Ashley Gorley, Ryan Vojtesak)
Flower Shops (feat. Morgan Wallen) [Acoustic]

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