Logan Mize says he made a habit of turning left three times to get right, but with Still That Kid he skipped the long way home.

The 11-song project (plus two alternate versions) sounds like what an album made by someone who grew up in America's heartland should sound like. It's low on cheap thrills, heavy on small town imagery and brushed with muscle and soft personal touches. Mize says he followed impulses and then back-tracked. He wrote songs and then scrapped them in favor of the unbelievable cuts he received from Music City A-listers. Most of all, he listened. He listened a lot.

"Slow" is an important song on the album, if not a signature track. The soulful ballad is what you'd get if Lee Brice sang a Billy Currington song: smart storytelling combined with a passionate delivery you can't help but learn a lesson from, especially in 2021, when even during a pandemic the world moves too damn fast.

"I’m a very patient guy," Mize tells Taste of Country. "The music business is funny because you get in it and everybody wants to move 100 MPH ... That’s nerve-wracking. I’m definitely a slow-paced guy."

"I think I learned how not do everything. I took all the wrong turns you could take just so I could make sure that that is the wrong thing to do."

"American Livin'," a red-blooded, Springsteen-esque rocker, is probably the most important song on Still That Kid. Mize recalls it when asked for which is most "personal." That's not quite the right word, but ...

“I’m above my dad’s butcher shop in a studio that I made there, and I’m kind of having this whole realization that I’ve been missing out on just the small town, everybody knows everybody," he says, describing how it came to be. "I really enjoyed that growing up. I kind of got lost in the whole, try to be somebody in Nashville system for a long time. I think I lost touch with some roots for a little bit."

The "Better Off Gone" hitmaker has cycled in and out of every kind of record deal and contract to find himself mostly independent, 800 miles from Nashville and smiling. After growing up in Clearwater, Kan., Mize moved to Nashville in time to sign a publishing deal with Big Yellow Dog in 2010. He released an album on a label of the same name before Arista Nashville (a division of Sony Music) picked him up for a single and an EP. But by 2017 he was back on the Big Yellow Dog label, feeling out of balance and frustrated. He'd earned all the Artists to Watch placements already, but instead of doubling down or giving up, he did something unexpected.

Mize packed up his wife and kids and moved back home.

“I kind of took a step back from that and started to just enjoy it and have fun," he says. "I mean I did this because I love it. So moving home to Kansas and everything has been instrumental in that.”

Big Yellow Dog

The results have been tremendous. On Spotify, Mize notches over one million monthly listeners, about 20 percent of what a superstar like Kenny Chesney gets but with just a fraction of the touring success and radio hits. "Better Off Gone" took off as he was moving out of Nashville, and to date, it's been streamed over 60 million times on the platform. This led to more tour dates, more commitments and more chances to practice saying "No," something he recognized he needed to do to keep that long-sought balance. Still, a packed (if well-manicured) schedule meant this album was recorded in bits and pieces. He'd drop a single here and a single there until he looked up and noticed it all kind of fit.

Still That Kid (Big Yellow Dog) also features collaborations with Willie Jones, Alexandra Kay, Donovan Woods and Clare Dunn, an Eastern Montana-raised singer and songwriter whose story is similar to Mize's. Each was chosen because they fit, and because he's a fan. That chemistry percolates on "Get 'Em Together" (with Dunn) and "I Ain't Gotta Grow Up" (with Jones).

“I think it’s a really good way to capture an era," he says of album making in a digital era. "Everybody moves through phases. I definitely move through phases where I’m writing a certain type of song or gravitating toward a certain type of song.”

But now he's done with that phase and ready to move on to something different. This time he won't have to pack any boxes.

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