Country crooner Frankie Ballard says hard work is paying off _lowres

Photo by JOE LEMKE -- Frankie Ballard FRIDAY FRANKIE BALLARD: Cajundome (7:30 p.m.)

After toiling in the fields of country music for a decade, Frankie Ballard thinks he’s finally gotten a boot in the door.

And he’s right. The Nashville, Tennessee-based singer from Battle Creek, Michigan, has two big hits to his name. In 2013, “Helluva Life” became Ballard’s first No. 1 song. Now there’s “Sunshine & Whiskey,” the title song from his 2014 album, which just became his second No. 1 hit.

This year has been the greatest year of his career, Ballard said before a recent show in Charlotte, North Carolina. “It feels amazing. I have been working so hard for so long to try to make it or at least make it a career.”

Exciting as it is to see his songs scale the charts, Ballard tries not to obsess over it.

“It’s a thrill, but it also can be pretty nerve-racking,” he said. “I have to consciously stay away from the chart for a while or it’ll drive me crazy.”

The up and down journey songs make on the charts can be a roller coaster ride.

“There are weeks where you bounce around,” Ballard said. “You jump back or break even. A superstar can jump over you. But, honestly, when it starts getting down to the nitty-gritty, I start tuning in.”

As well as his career is going these days, Ballard has no plans to take it easy. For instance, his “Light ’Em Up” tour, which arrives at the House of Blues on Thursday, runs until just before Christmas.

“It’s great to be rewarded with some success after so many years of pushing,” he said. “But we’ve got a long ways to go before we get to the top of the mountain.”

“Sunshine & Whiskey,” the album, debuted in the Top 5 of Billboard’s country albums chart in February. Marshall Altman, a producer and songwriter whose credits include Christian music star Amy Grant and southwest Louisiana singer-songwriter Marc Broussard, guided the project.

Ballard and Altman worked on “Sunshine & Whiskey” for nearly two years. The singer-guitarist feared it might be his last shot with his record label, Warner Bros. So the last thing he wanted to do was give the major label a mediocre album.

“If it had taken another year, I would have done that,” he said. “Because it had to be right this time.”

The producer and artist took their time, experimenting during the making of “Sunshine & Whiskey.”

“There was a lot of figuring out that ‘sound,’ what that ‘sound’ was,” Ballard said. “We didn’t turn anything in until we felt like we had that. Marshall allowed me so much freedom in making this music. He really deserves a lot of credit for the success of this album.”

Ballard expressed his gratitude to his producer in part by giving him a vintage Fender Telecaster guitar.

“He deserved it,” the singer said.

Ballard’s “Light ’Em Up” tour, billed as his first headlining tour, gives him the opportunity to play a full show every night, a big improvement over the abbreviated set he’d be playing if he was merely an opening act.

“This is an opportunity to play some of those album cuts, to play the rest of the story, if you will,” he said. “And that’s when, I think, you really have a chance to win people as fans for life. They can get the whole picture. That’s what I’m excited about.”