As a young man, Easton Corbin dreamed of being a country music singer. Still, he figured he'd better have something to fall back on.
That's why he enrolled at the University of Florida's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and earned a degree in agribusiness.
But he never had a chance to use his degree.
Soon after graduating in 2006, Corbin moved to Nashville. There, he spent the next few years performing in small clubs and at open mic and writers' nights to showcase his songs and voice.
"I had figured it was a good idea to have something to fall back on," he said. "But I knew I had to go to Nashville. To be able to do it, you have to be there."
Corbin was discovered and signed to a record deal in Nashville. But even in his most grandiose fantasies, he couldn't have predicted what would happen to his self-titled debut album, released in March 2010.
"Easton Corbin" produced two No.1 hits - "A Little More Country Than That" and "Roll With It" - making him the first male country artist in 17 years to have his first two consecutive singles reach No. 1. Billboard named him the Top New Country Artist of 2010.
"As a new artist, you always hope success like that happens to you," said Corbin, 31. "It's tough and the odds are against you, but it happened to me, and I feel very fortunate."
Corbin and his band will be in concert Saturday at Salina's Stiefel Theatre for the Performing Arts, 151 S. Santa Fe Ave.
Raised in rural Gilchrist County, Fla., Corbin said he grew up listening to his grandparents' large collection of country music albums.
"I listened to a lot of older, traditional country music," he said. "It was special music to me. My heroes were George Jones and Merle Haggard."
Corbin began playing guitar at age 15 and joined a band, but he wasn't sure if music was in his future. So he decided to get a college degree instead.
But the desire to play music quickly overcame his practicality. In September 2006, he married his wife, Brinn, and the couple moved to Nashville in October. There, he worked at a hardware store and played music at night.
Learning a lot
In early 2009, Joe Fisher of Universal Music Group Nashville signed Corbin to the Mercury Nashville label. Corbin's debut single, "A Little More Country Than That," was released that same year.
Although Corbin didn't write the song, after hearing it played, he knew "it was right in my wheelhouse."
In a review of his debut album, American Songwriter magazine wrote, "Easton Corbin has one of those rare, glorious voices that was made - just made - for singing country music."
To promote his album, Corbin began opening for established country stars such as Rascal Flatts, Brad Paisley and Blake Shelton. From those artists, Corbin said he learned how to entertain huge crowds.
"It's a different thing from playing a club," he said. "These guys have been doing it for a long time. They're great people, good at what they do, and you can learn a lot from them."
Fun on stage
In September 2012, Corbin released his second album, "All Over the Road." The first single from the album, "Lovin' You is Fun," reached No. 5 on the country charts. The title track was released as a single in January.
"I had a little pressure on that second record," said Corbin, "but it's great music."
Now in the middle of a solo tour, Corbin said he's performing a mixture of songs from both of his albums, plus some cover tunes by other artists.
"I like to have a lot of fun on stage, and I want the audience to have a great time, too," he said. "I want to show them that I'm real, authentic country."
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