In the weeks that his self-titled debut EP has been out in the world, Alexander Ludwig says that he’s been “blown away” by the warm reception he found in the country music world. “I’m just so grateful for, above and beyond, the community,” he explained on the phone with Country Now. “I feel like I’ve been welcomed with open arms. They’ve been so gracious and seen it for what it is.”
That last sentiment — that he’s being seen for who he truly is as an artist — is perhaps more important to Ludwig than any other point. He doesn’t take it for granted. When he first arrived in Nashville, the Canadian-born singer-songwriter had already established himself as a successful actor, with roles in films like Bad Boys for Life and the History Channel’s Vikings TV show.
“I understand that, in a really weird way, the cards are stacked against me [as a musician], and rightfully so,” Ludwig points out. “Because when you have success in one industry, I do believe that — not for me, but for some people — there can be an air of entitlement that comes, where you go into another one and expect the same kind of response…But look, I know we’re starting from the ground up. I’m ready to grind for as long it takes, for however long it takes.”
He came to Nashville ready to work. He went into every songwriters’ room and laid his story out on the table, hoping that the industry would see the heart and good intentions behind his move into the industry.
After all, while Ludwig’s public entry into country music might be new, the genre has always been an important part of who he is as a person and as an artist. He got his first guitar at nine years old; by 12, he’d started writing songs. While rising through the ranks in the film and TV industry, he spent his free time privately honing his musical skills. On the weekends, his co-stars might go out to bars and restaurants; meanwhile, Ludwig stayed home writing songs.
Still, when he got to Nashville, he realized he still had a lot to learn. “One thing I learned in acting is that you can always be better. Though I thought I could write a great country song, once I got there, I realized these guys were just on another level.”
View this post on Instagram
Wearing his transparent love for the genre on his sleeve paid off: Ludwig’s EP track list is studded with names like ‘90s hitmaker David Lee Murphy and Old Dominion bandmate Brad Tursi, two of the songwriters who co-wrote tracks on the project.
Of its five songs, Ludwig’s only listed as a writer on one — “Summer Crazy,” which is the last on the collection — but he says that writing the track was revelatory. “It was one of my first experiences as a writer where I went, ‘Oh my God. We did it. This is what I set out to do,’” he remembers.
The upside to being intentionally, pointedly himself — both in introducing himself to the Nashville songwriting community and as a songwriter himself — was that Ludwig quickly tapped into the specific kind of country music he wanted to make. When asked to articulate exactly what that is, he doesn’t hesitate: “I grew up loving summer anthems. And one thing I love so much about country music…is that it speaks so much to the fact that the dream is already here,” Ludwig says.
“You don’t need a lot. It’s a lesson in gratitude to me, especially whenever you’re grinding…[a reminder that] life is good,” he clarifies.
That combination of things — nostalgia-fueled, anthemic summer music and a sense of finding gratitude in the simple things — are, to Ludwig, the ingredients of a perfect country song. He takes inspiration from artists like Kenny Chesney, Dierks Bentley, Eric Church and Alan Jackson — singers who convey the feeling that a song can encapsulate a moment in time.
“And a hit isn’t necessarily a No. 1 hit,” Ludwig adds, pointing to another musical idol — rocker Bruce Springsteen — who technically has never had a chart-topping hit on the Billboard Hot 100.
“But he’s Bruce Springsteen,” he goes on to say. “A hit for me is a song that stands the test of time. And to me, I think of all the songs I loved growing up, which were in tune with a moment, or a feeling, or a story.”
That’s why, in his new EP and in the music ahead, Ludwig is more concerned with staying true to his musical foundations than he is with experimenting with new genre trends. “If I do this, I wanna do this right,” he says of his foyer into the country community.
“[I want to] stick with what really drew me to country music in the first place, so long ago, the sound and the songs that I really connect with,” Ludwig reflects. “And just hope that people like it.”