When Logan Mize says he’s excited to play Country Stampede, he means it, perhaps more than anyone else slated to perform during Kansas’ biggest country music festival at Tuttle Creek State Park.
The Clearwater native has never been on the Manhattan’s big stage before — he’ll make his debut Saturday, June 28 at 2:30 p.m. — but knows all about the biggest party to hit town every summer.
Mize, who now calls Nashville home, grew up going to Stampede, attending throughout his teenage years and beyond, even playing the festival’s small stage not all that long ago. “I got a drinking ticket there when I was 17,” Mize said during a recent phone interview. “Oh, I’ve experienced Country Stampede — always camped out, more like just slept in the back of my truck.
“It’s really cool because it’s the home stage, and these are the people I’ve connected with before I had any kind of success. The goal after this is to headline the main stage — but I’m happy to just be there.”
It may not be too long before Mize finds himself headlining — this year’s honors go to Easton Corbin, Luke Bryan, Eric Church and Chris Young for the four-day concert that opens June 26.
Mize will come to Manhattan with a hit in his back pocket: “Used Up,” the first single off his new album set for release later this summer. It was named a Highway Find on Sirius XM earlier this spring, along with his latest single, “Can’t Get Away From a Good Time,” which was released in late May. Opening shows for Lady Antebellum, The Band Perry, Dierks Bentley and Blake Shelton, the 29-year-old hopes the success of his first few singles is a prelude of what’s to come with the rest of his upcoming album.
“It’s been amazing because the new music really hasn’t come out yet,” he said. “Good things have really been happening, despite not having the new record out, so I’m really excited to see what’s going to happen with the whole group of new songs.”
“‘Used Up’ plays more like a ‘90s pop song than a country song, so the fact that it did well with a country audience is really cool. I’ve enjoyed the success of it, but I think the rest of the new stuff is more down the country vein, so it might connect even better. But we’re thrilled ‘Used Up’ has done as well as it did.”
It should come as no surprise that “Used Up” has a bit of a pop sound to it. After all, Mize’s influences include everything from Elton John to Garth Brooks. Mize was introduced to the legendary “Rocket Man” by listening to a pair of cassette tapes that belonged to his father on the drives to school each morning.
That helped foster a love for all music that would only grow from there, something he tries to carry into each songwriting session and performance today.
“I dig anything that sounds good,” said Mize, who played football at Hutchinson Community College and later at Southern Illinois. “Elton John was my favorite growing up. I’ve listened to everything — Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, and then I discovered Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers — that was my bread and butter. I was like, ‘That’s how I want to play guitar and how I want to write a song.’”
Mize’s journey as a songwriter and performer has come full circle, back to Kansas, despite doing everything he could to “get away” on his own.
“I loved growing up (in Kansas) and had so many cool experiences that were always associated with being from there,” he said. “But when I left, I was trying to leave and Kansas just seemed to follow me everywhere… I get to Nashville and the first people I meet are from Kansas — a songwriter I meet is from Kansas — so we’re writing songs about Kansas.
“Then I get called to play the inauguration for Gov. (Sam) Brownback because his daughter and her boyfriend liked this song about Kansas. I started to realize everything I write is romanticizing growing up in rural Kansas, so I really started to embrace it the past five or six years.”
In fact, Mize met his wife, country singer/songwriter Jill Martin, in Nashville and she’s from Andale. Oddly enough, the couple might have shared a Stampede experience several years ago and not even known it.
“My wife and I found out that we running around with some of the same people one year at Stampede and came to the conclusion that we may have been hanging out in an RV with a big group at one point and not known it,” he said.
“We love Stampede.”
Mize’s new appreciation for his home state led to him being named Kansas’ official tourism ambassador this past year, and his story is featured on the state’s website with music downloads and photos from his tour.
“There’s something about being from Kansas,” Mize said. ‘It’s just wide open, the freedom I haven’t felt anywhere else. And I think that comes across in my music, even the production style and the songwriting.
“It didn’t matter how much I tried to get away from there — which I haven’t done since I was 18 or 19. I totally embrace it now and it follows me wherever I go. I wouldn’t have it any other way now.”