Chris Lane chuckled when asked about the connection between country singers and baseball.
“I don’t know why that is,” Lane said by phone from his Nashville home. “There is definitely something to it. A number of guys who played some serious baseball are in country.”
Lane, 33, was a hot prospect while playing for the University of North Carolina at Charlotte 13 years ago. It’s the same story for Florida Georgia Line’s Brian Kelley, who was a star hurler for Florida State University. Garth Brooks, Conway Twitty and Charlie Pride are other examples of country superstars who played baseball at a high level before focusing on entertainment.
The laid-back Lane, who has opened for Florida Georgia Line, never realized his ultimate dreams on the diamond.
“I had so many knee injuries and I had knee surgeries that it just wasn’t meant to be,” Lane said. “But it worked out for me.”
Lane dropped the bat and picked up the guitar.
“The connection between baseball and music for me is that I did both for fun,” Lane said. “Once I was good enough to play guitar and sing, I took it to the next level.”
While figuring out what he was going to do with his life in his native North Carolina, he formed a cover band.
“One thing led to another,” Lane said. “I realized that I loved playing and singing. I never thought it would lead to a career but it happened.”
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His debut album, “Let’s Ride” charted and peaked at number 75 in 2012 and he left for Nashville the following year.
“It was beyond anything I ever imagined,” he said. “Maybe it’s because when I was a kid I didn’t imagine what this would be like, since I was so consumed with sports.”
The stylish and chiseled entertainer, who delivers country with a tinge of R&B ala Sam Hunt, broke out courtesy of “Girl Problems,” buoyed by the hit single “Fix,” which peaked at number 11 on the country singles chart.
“There’s nothing like having a song the fans sing along with,” Lane said. “It still gets me every time I play ‘Fix.’ I know some people apparently get tired of playing the hits, but that will never be the case with me.”
Lane will showcase cuts from his latest album, “Laps Around the Sun” Friday (8/10) at the First Avenue Club in Iowa City. The fresh material is looser and lacks the sheen of “Girl Problems.”
“It was a different approach this time,” Lane said. “It was more organic. Songs were cut live. The energy was different and I think you can hear that on the album.”
“Laps Around the Sun” was produced by Joey Moi (Florida Georgia Line, Nickelback), who was behind the board for “Girl Problems.” The new album features breezy, catchy material. Lane sometimes slips into bro country mode (“Drunk People”), but he’s at his best when singing about relationships, like in “Old Flame” and “Without You.”
“I think what makes this is that I’m singing about life,” Lane said. “People can relate to these songs.”
Lane has no regrets about his ill-fated baseball career.
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“That’s how it goes in life,” he said. “It wasn’t meant to be. My dad and I worked us (his twin brother Cory) hard and the great thing is that I have a really good work ethic that I apply to music. I’m not playing (baseball) anymore but I’m a huge sports fans. I follow the Atlanta Braves and I’m a massive Carolina Panthers fan.
“But most of my time is devoted to what I’m working on. Now I’m focused on this tour,” he said. “There’s nothing I enjoy more than being out there connecting with the fans. I’m living the dream.”
Get Out! WHAT: Chris Lane
WHERE: First Avenue Club, 1550 S. First Ave., Iowa City
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday (8/10); doors open 7 p.m.; all-ages show
TICKETS: $21 advance, $25 day of show, Firstavenueclub.com
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Iamchrislane.com