Q&A: George Birge On Giving New Life To Neal McCoy’s ‘Wink’ With ‘That Drink,’ ‘Mind On You’ Hitting Country Radio, & More
After George Birge went viral on TikTok with his song “Beer Beer, Truck Truck,” everything started to fall into place….
George Birge; Photo Courtesy Wide Open Music
After George Birge went viral on TikTok with his song “Beer Beer, Truck Truck,” everything started to fall into place. He’s amassed 30 million streams, signed his first record deal, dropped his debut EP and is now preparing for the release of his upcoming record.
Amid all of his accomplishments, one of his proudest moments was when country music legend Neal McCoy asked to be featured on his latest single, “That Drink.”
For this song, Birge collected his love and influence from ‘90s country music to rewrite McCoy’s 1994 chart-topper, “Wink.” After McCoy got wind of the demo, he reached out to Birge, sharing only support and admiration for his work. Before he knew it, they were in the studio recording the track together and Birge was crossing a major goal off his bucket list.
“That Drink” was just released on Friday, (Sept. 23) and has already garnered attention from thousands of country music fans spanning all ages. The Austin, TX native shared that he’s received hundreds of videos from listeners who are sharing the different ways they’re enjoying the song, whether that’s through line dancing, golfing or drinking a beer.
“Just seeing people take that and put it into their everyday life, I’m just on cloud nine with the way that this thing’s come out so far,” he shared honestly.
This single is a small taste of his upcoming album that will follow his self-titled EP. This previous collection features his popular single, “Mind On You,” which is set to impact country radio on Oct. 17. It was originally on hold for Jason Aldean, but Birge was advised to get the song back and record it himself.
Birge took the risk to take the song off the market and saw great results, and now, he will get the chance to fulfill a “lifelong dream” and hear his music on the airwaves. Looking back on his musical journey up to this point, Birge reflected on all the moments where he thought about giving up, but instead, he kept pushing forward.
“I’m really, really thankful that I didn’t give up because we’re finally getting there,” he told Country Now. “I promise there’s not a day that I’m gonna take it for granted because I know how bad I’ve wanted this for – a really long time. I’m super grateful to finally have the chance to be here.”
While on the road in support of artists like Jake Owen and Brantley Gilbert, Birge has had the chance to work “Mind On You” into his sets. He expressed that hearing the large crowds sing this song and his debut track “Beer Beer, Truck Truck,” back to him has been “mind-blowing.”
In addition to his record coming out this fall, he will also be joining Matt Stell on the road for The Man Made tour beginning Sept. 30 and serving as direct support for a few dates of Bobby Bones’ “Comedically Inspired” shows.
Country Now recently caught up with George Birge to discuss working with Neal McCoy, launching his career as an artist, his recent releases, joining Matt Stell on the road, his upcoming album, and more.
Check out our Q&A with the rising singer/songwriter below.
“That Drink” is a re-imagination of Neal McCoy’s “Wink,” so what inspired you to write this song?
I grew up in Texas, all I ever listened to was country music and I was a kid in the ‘90s, so, ‘90s country music was like in my most influential time. That’s what I heard on the radio. The songwriting, the artistry, the performances, that’s what raised me. And so it’s coming back in style and it’s getting this resurgence and I was sitting in the writer’s room about two months ago with a couple of my buddies, Jody Stevens and Tommy Cecil and I was like, “y’all, I’m not missing this boat.” I was like, “let’s do something.” So I picked my favorite ‘90s country song, “Wink,” just cause it’s got energy, it’s an earworm, it kind of just gets in your bones and makes you feel good. I was like, we’re gonna use this as the base and we’re gonna completely rewrite it as just a tribute to ‘90s country. So, we kind of dug in and changed the hook to “That Drink” and hid a bunch of Easter eggs in there, either like song references or song quotes or name checks and just made it this huge feel-good tribute to the country music that raised me.
What was Neal’s reaction to hearing the song?
In Nashville, you’ll get calls where it’s like spam alert, where you don’t answer it, or a number that you don’t recognize and you don’t answer it, but typically if you get a no-caller ID number, it’s somebody famous. So I answered the call and it was like, “Hey man, this is Neal McCoy” and my jaw dropped to the floor. Somebody had sent him a link to that preview of the song that I had done and he was like, “I’m gonna drive to Nashville and sing on it with you. I love it and I wanna be a part of it.” It just blew my mind.
The first time you got to meet in person was in the studio. What was that experience like?
He was just like everything that I aspire to be. He was humble, he was funny, he’s a family man, married to the same woman for 40 years, he’s got grandkids on a ranch in Texas and still plays 15 shows a month and is considered one of the greatest live entertainers in the genre. Everybody that’s ever met him loves him and I’m just looking at this guy, I’m like, “that’s what I want to be, like, that’s the gold standard for me.” So to be able to call him a friend, have him be a mentor, a resource, and give me his stamp of approval, you know, wanting to do this song with me, there’s just like no greater honor as a new artist and as a songwriter than having country royalty, Neal McCoy, put his stamp of approval on what I’m doing.
Since you’re from two different generations of country music, what has the response been like to this song?
It’s crazy to see people connect with this, you know, and funny because you get two different fan bases. You get people from this younger generation that have never heard the original “Wink” before, but they hear “Wink” and love the energy and the country twang to it. Then you get people that grew up listening to “Wink,” and that have seen Neal and that were on that original generation of country music and it gives them the nostalgia, but also this freshness in the rewrite. So, it spans all age groups and seeing people connect with it, it’s just so validating as an artist.
Neal has also shared that he’s a fan of your upcoming album. How does it feel to have his support on even more of your work?
It means everything because he was one of the huge influences that like raised me, that I aspire to be that I was like, “that’s what I want to do, those are the stories that I want to tell, that’s how I wanna make people feel.” And so to have a guy that you idolize and look up to as like a gold standard say, “hey man, I love what you’re doing,” that is just so gratifying as an artist to feel like, you know, I’m doing something right.
Is there anything more you can share about what we can expect from your album?
We released “That Drink” as kind of the teaser for the rest of the album that’s coming, and that’s taken off like wildfire. I’ve already recorded four more on top of that and it’s looking like there’ll be one more duet where it’s like a smokey, power ballad that’s gonna feature a country female. We’re looking for the right fit on that right now, but that’s what I’m super, super excited about as well. I’ve just been writing my tail off, and we may drop a single or two before the end of the year as a preview for the rest of the album, and then hopefully a new album coming in the top of the year.
“Mind On You” was your first big leap into the artist world, after “Beer Beer, Truck Truck,” and it’s already seen so much success. So, how has this song affected that transition for you?
It’s what I’ve dreamed about, you know, and in 2020, I was just making music that I wasn’t really inspired by and I kind of got put into this Nashville machine where I just woke up one day and didn’t really know who I was. So I ended up asking out of a record deal that I had and thought I was just gonna be a songwriter and write songs for other people and I think that was a really good exercise for me and just like finding myself and being honest with like the songs that I wanted to write and who I wanted to be as an artist. That took off like wildfire and ended up getting me a record deal as a solo artist and allowing me to write the songs that I was really passionate about. “Mind On You” was one of those songs that it was just like, I feel like this is me and who I want to be and how I wanna be represented. Having it take off and resonating with people like it has is just really special. It’s been on the Bobby Bones show and on all these national syndicated shows and people are showing up to the live shows and singing it back, coming to meet and greets and, you know, going to open for Jake (Owen) and Brantley (Gilbert) and Gary (Allen) and having people buy tickets specifically to come see me, that’s all new for me.
This song will officially head to country radio on Oct 17th. What has the anticipation been like, waiting for it to hit the airwaves?
Radio’s just such a huge platform and it’s such a huge part of the backbone of country music. To be able to say that my song’s gonna be on the radio, You know, radio is what made me fall in love with country to begin with so it’s pretty special to get my shot at it and I still am like pinching myself that I get to do that.
Jason Aldean had this song on hold, so how did you get it back?
I was so thankful to him for putting the song on hold, just because that was the biggest artist to ever pay attention to one of my songs and to kind of get his stamp of approval on it, I was blown away and it was the biggest thing that happened to me at the time. I didn’t have a record deal so I was so excited for him to wanna record one of my songs. Then I had, you know, some stuff take off and signed my own deal and I’m on the phone with the head of the label and he was like, “I’ve listened to everything and I think this ‘Mine On You’ song is the one that’s gonna change your life. So I ended up calling Michael Knox, Aldean’s producer and asking for the song back, which is a scary thing to do. There’s a lot of stories in this town where people have done that and it has not worked out very well, but it’s just a testament to Jason and Michael Knox of how good a people they are. They were excited for me, they were excited for my opportunity, and they were happy to give in my song back and it has, like no exaggeration, been a life changer for me and hopefully set me on the path to a nice long artist career.
You said your passion is songwriting, so when did you start writing music and what made you fall in love with it?
I mean, since I can remember. I think I probably wrote my first song in sixth grade or something like that. So, I always tell people, when they ask me for advice on songwriting, I’m always like, “write a thousand songs and throw ’em in the trash can and then start, you know?” That was kind of good for me. It was just repetition and trial by fire and I was always writing songs and, you know, I’m in my early 30’s now and started writing songs when I was probably 12 years old and it wasn’t until the last two, three years that I feel like I really found myself as a songwriter. So it’s always something that I took inspiration from. I always look up the songwriting credits for my favorite songs, just to see who was the mastermind behind creating ’em, and I always try to take inspiration from that kind of stuff. I just love the storytelling and the opportunity to connect with people and the really special thing about lyrics and song writings is, it’s an escape for people. As an artist, you know, people take those songs and put them into their everyday life or their own situations, either find escape in them or they feel heard, or empathy or whatever it is, but that’s really, really special to be able to connect with people on a mass scale. As a songwriter, that’s what I want to do for other people, because that’s what, when I was a kid, it did for me.
You will be joining Matt Stell on his fall headlining tour. What are you most looking forward to about being out on the road with Stell?
Matt’s one of my best friends in the world. We really get along great as friends, we play golf together, we hang together, but we also really mesh well, artistically. We wrote the song, “Whiskey Side” on my EP together, we got some major artists’ holds together and we just seem to creatively really gel. I’m so honored and flattered that he’s bringing me out for a leg of his tour. I know that’s like some of the dates that I’m looking forward to most this year, and we’re probably gonna play some golf and drink tequila and maybe write songs out there. So I’m really, really looking forward to that.
Bobby Bones is someone else in the industry who has really encouraged your career. What has it been like getting to know him and get that level of support from him?
For Bobby to get behind me as an artist and as a songwriter and support “Mind On You” in the way that he has, like prior to going to radio, you know, I’ve got people showing up to meet and greets all the time, just saying, “Hey, we heard you on the Bobby Bones show and had to come out and see you live.” I’m going out and playing radio shows or headlining shows by myself where typically I’m not used to having big crowds show up in cities that I’ve to before and there’s hundreds and hundreds of people there all there to see me from the Bobby Bones Show, like that is something that I could never repay him for. I’m so, so thankful to him for getting behind me and my song “Mind On You.”
Fans can follow George Birge on Instagram HERE.
Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.