This past weekend, fans came together sharing in the spirit of ocean conservation and music appreciation to attend the second annual Rock the Ocean Tortuga Music Festival on Fort Lauderdale Beach. The festival’s success has grown in its second year with thousands of fans turning up to hear big name country artists like Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Dierks Bentley, Billy Currington, and Frankie Ballard play their favorite songs.

Frankie Ballard has a natural charisma on stage. You can see that he genuinely enjoys performing and feeds off the energy from the crowd. The star, who debuted with his first single, “Tell Me You Get Lonely” is certainly not lonely anymore. Fans crowd around him asking for autographs, requests for pictures, or to just be in his presence. His charming, down to earth appeal creates a comfort level that’s reminiscent to talking to an old friend. The warmth he expresses to his fans makes everyone forget the overcast weather they ventured out in to hear him play. His music has a winning combination of fresh and fun, like “Sunshine & Whiskey” while also thought provoking and sincere as in his most recent hit, “Helluva Life”.

I had the pleasure of meeting with Frankie for a brief interview after his set to talk about the festival and his music. Greeted by blue eyes and a big smile, I quickly realize why everyone loves Frankie.

Dana: What does ocean conservation mean to you?

Frankie:  It’s a big ocean and the primary problem with humans living on land is that sometimes we can’t see the damage we’re doing. We can’t always see the pollution. All we see is pretty blue water. As an artist, it is my obligation to raise awareness. We need to spread the message to take care of our resources.

Dana:  Growing up in Michigan, what sparked your interest in country music?

Frankie:  I get that question a lot. What people don’t know is that many parts of Michigan are made up of farms and rural areas. But more importantly, it has many blue collar workers and that’s what country music is all about. People want to hear songs that relate to their journeys. People connect with country music because of the lyrics. They tell a real account of their lives.

Dana:  What song from your new album is special to you?

Frankie:  I’d say, “Helluva Life.” The lyrics are very true to life. The message of hope is in “bad times make the good times better.” We have to keep going even when times are tough and appreciate the small things in life. I love hearing the stories from fans about how they’ve overcome obstacles in their lives.

Dana:  As your music gains popularity, what helps you maintain perspective?

Frankie:  I’ve been doing this for a while and it doesn’t happen overnight. I remember being at the bottom level, playing free concerts or taking any spot I could get. I remember schlepping around my own gear. I am humbled by my experiences. This moment is fragile. At any time, I could go back to selling beer. (laughs)