Easton Corbin was in the middle of creating his fourth studio album when he parted ways with his record label, Mercury Nashville, in 2018 — a move that offered a chance to refocus his attention on the music he's passionate about.

"It's been a positive change for me," Corbin insists. "It's time for a new chapter."

He appreciated the album he'd been working on, but felt like "there was some stuff missing from it," he says. The missing piece? Story songs.

Corbin introduced himself with a narrative in 2009 with "A Little More Country Than That" — a traditional-style ballad that fully committed him to the country lifestyle, along with a voice that drew an influx of comparisons to traditionalist king, George Strait.

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To his credit, Corbin has largely stayed true to his country roots throughout his decade-long career. "Roll With It" and "Baby Be My Love Song" are both free-spirited, feel-good love songs hinged on twang, while "Are You With Me" is a simmering ballad that lets his sultry vocals shine. The only exception is 2015's "Yup," his attempt at a pop-country hit. It stalled on country radio. But Corbin has found his way back to traditional country with his first single in two years, "Somebody's Gotta Be Country," the song he refers to as a "check mark" next to his identity and on which he name-drops Alan Jackson, champions wearing boots in a high-class crowd and promises he has a "dirt road heart" pounding in his chest.

Then there's "Honky Tonk Land," a country-rocker that transports him to a place "where it aways feels like Saturday night" with a neon sign and a cold beer in his hand. You know the place. "Turn Up" is another feel-good tune that portrays nature as his happy place, and Corbin came alive when he performed the song live during a recent Nashville honky-tonk set.

"They're really in the vein of some of the earlier stuff that I used to do, and that's what really exciting about it because it's just real familiar territory to me," he says of the new material.

He's forever open to songs that leave an emotional impact, too — "Raising Humans" being one of them. Corbin had the song on hold for nearly six years when he decided that his upcoming album was the right place to share it. The waning country ballad features a faint steel guitar and is about the bond between man and man's best friend. "When you say the title 'Raising Humans,' you probably think it's about raising kids or having a family or something like that, but it's a different spin on it," he describes. "It's a really moving song."

Corbin has found peace in reconnecting with his roots, now equipped with the freedom to record music that defines what country means to him.

"I'm pretty good at knowing who I am," he admits. "This has enabled us to go back and take our time and write directly to the direction we want to go in, that's for me, really getting back to my roots and getting back to what started it all."

He concludes, "Reestablishing that I'm the guy that waved the flag for country music because that's what I do and that's what I love."

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