Shaboozey's Ascent to Country Stardom Is a Long Time Coming: 'It Feels Like I'm Going to Wake Up at Some Point' (Exclusive)

Fresh off his work on Beyoncé’s 'Cowboy Carter' and with a No. 1 single on the country charts, the Virginia musician has just released his third studio album

Shaboozey has had several of what he calls “moments” of viral success in the music industry for the last decade, one for every few years. There’s been his 2014 single “Jeff Gordon,” 2018’s “Winning Streak,”  2021’s “Beverly Hills.”

But his current chart-topping success is far from just another fan-favorite song or catalog standout. Shaboozey’s assistance on Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter, along with the release of his latest LP Where I’ve Been, Isn’t Where I’m Going, led by No. 1 country single “A Bar Song (Tipsy)” have come together as a recipe for an undeniable breakthrough.

And it’s one that still doesn’t feel quite real for the 29-year-old Virginia-born country star.

“I've been doing music for such a long time, I've put a lot of time and years into it,” Shaboozey (real name Collins Chibueze) tells PEOPLE over a game of pool inside New York’s Rockefeller Center. “I put so much into it that I feel like it’s just cool to see it working. Everybody hopes it works. To see it actually working, it’s unreal.”

“It feels like a dream” he adds. “It feels like I'm definitely going to wake up at some point and be like, ‘damn, that s--- was a dream?’”

Those who have turned on their radio at any point in the last two months can attest to the fact that Shaboozey is indeed awake. “A Bar Song (Tipsy)”, released on April 12 — just days after he was featured on Beyoncé’s record-breaking country album — has sent him straight into the stratosphere. And it solidified himself, along with his collaborator, as the first two Black artists in history to consecutively top Billboard’s Hot Country Songs.

<p>Brenton Blanchet</p> Shaboozey poses in New York City's Rockefeller Center on May 30, 2024

Brenton Blanchet

Shaboozey poses in New York City's Rockefeller Center on May 30, 2024

Interpolating J-Kwon's 2004 smash “Tipsy” for a track dedicated to drinking and letting loose at the bar (as opposed to the club), Shaboozey’s breakthrough solo single has managed to connect with not only his longtime “Bootcut Gang” fandom, but lovers of ‘00s hip-hop classics who find themselves turning on country radio.

“Everybody's heard ‘Tipsy’. I think every single person. And everybody definitely goes to the bar. Going to the bar and then getting drunk, getting tipsy and then going to the club — it’s doing the same thing,” Shaboozey says of the decision to interpolate the track. “Music transcends like that. It's cool to see everyone knows that song and everyone knows this one, so there's a little bit of commonality there that people like drinking and partying.”

“You never know. You can't know. You just put out these songs that just consistency will get you there,” he adds of the song’s success. “It's about making the song and how the people react to it. It's cool to just see it actually work out that way.”

Born in May 1995 in Fairfax, Virginia, Shaboozey grew up surrounded by music. While his parents would play Kenny Rogers and Garth Brooks around the house, Shaboozey also found himself drawn to BET’s 106 & Park, eventually became a fan of Lil Wayne. “When Wayne came out, man… And even later, Wayne was someone that also experiments with combining genres and aesthetics,” he says. “Him holding that guitar just like a skater. He could be my favorite rapper.”

His love for creating songs — which he still considers a "hobby" — came naturally too, with some his earliest musical creations only existing on a Motorola phone he owned as a kid. “I didn't know I was writing a song. I would just put on a ringtone on a flip phone and just start singing to the phone. I used to just get on the ringtones and just write songs to it.”

Related: Beyoncé's Cowboy Carter Is Here! Every Artist Featured on the New Album

Shaboozey’s first proper taste of musical success came with his 2014 track “Jeff Gordon,” a punchy hip-hop cut named after the NASCAR great, whom he excitedly recalls meeting just weeks back during a performance in Charlotte.

“I get off the stage and someone said, ‘You mentioned Jeff Gordon. He's here. He missed your show but he wants to see you. He wants to meet you.’ I'm like, ‘Jeff Gordon wants to meet me?’ I’m like, ‘Jeff Gordon's heard that song? And he didn't send a cease and desist,’” he jokes. “But it was cool, man. That was awesome. When I posted that, a lot of fans were like, ‘Man, this is a full circle moment. This is crazy.’”

Since “Jeff Gordon,” Shaboozey says he’s “calmed down a lot” in terms of his overall stage presence. The shows during those early years, he says, would feature mosh pits and — at one point — he even opened for Playboi Carti.

“That’s was really where I was, like SoundCloud. I was able to see all those guys in close proximity. We're all the same age. So if I'm like, ‘Man, Uzi out here doing everything under the sun, and Post [Malone] as well.’ A lot of my friends and a lot of people that I have been around are there, doing cool stuff, and now they're probably looking at me like, ‘Man, welcome. Finally. You finally figured it out. It took you long enough.’”

“It's been a fun journey, especially with family and friends. A lot of fans that have just been around since 2014-15, I always see them in the comments like, ‘Man, this guy is so underrated. He's going to blow up one day. Just give it a couple years…’ My entry into music has always been like, ‘Man, I'm looking up to these people but what makes them different than me?’”

<p>Brenton Blanchet</p> Shaboozey poses for a photo in New York City's Rockefeller Center on May 30, 2024

Brenton Blanchet

Shaboozey poses for a photo in New York City's Rockefeller Center on May 30, 2024

Related: Cam Breaks Down 'Surreal' Job Working on 5 Beyoncé 'Cowboy Carter' Songs: 'Dream Come True' (Exclusive)

As for those he’s always looked up to, when asked what’s been the most pinch-me moment in recent months, Shaboozey jokes that “we know the answer to that.”

“Beyoncé. I don't think you can beat that in life. At all. She's such a huge part of culture, and big in my life and my family's life, and just everybody's life,” he says of his collaborator, who he worked with on both “Spaghettii” and “Sweet Honey Buckiin’,” which reached No. 31 and No. 61, respectively, on the Billboard Hot 100 following the Cowboy Carter release in April.

“I learned a lot about the work ethic [from her], for sure. I say you got to continue to be inspired. Once you lose inspiration, it's kind of over for you as an artist, you know? Just continually being inspired and trying to just trace that inspiration, because the world is full of wonders and mysteries, it's infinite,” he says. “As a creative, the only thing I believe in is infinity, man.”

“So there's infinite possibilities, infinite combinations of things, and I feel like she's still in pursuit of that. And if you have that, you'll continue to make great products.”

In pursuit of his own infinite combinations of sounds, Shaboozey has landed on Where I’ve Been, Isn’t Where I’m Going — his third studio album and one kicked off by the charting success of “A Bar Song.” For Shaboozey, the album's title means that it’s “good to look back at where you came from,” but “what's more exciting is your future.”

“As human beings, we have free will and autonomy to take our lives in whatever direction we choose. It's pretty much in the title. I wish I had something that's more metaphorical,” he jokes.

The LP — a blend of the country, Americana and hip-hop — features the likes of Paul Cauthen ("Last Of My Kind"), Noah Cyrus ("My Fault") and BigXthaPlug ("Drink Don't Need No Mix"), and as Shaboozey says, finishing it was a bit “daunting” given the timeline of his ascent toward the top of the charts. But overall, he hopes it showcases his versatility as a musician and gives fans a reason to be proud.

“It would be cool for people to just see the person, see the versatility and the taste palate,” he says. “I want people to look at that, listen to it and be like, ‘Man, what was he inspired by when he made this stuff?’ I'm excited, man. Because no one ever can predict what the next thing for me will sound like. So I think they'll be surprised with this one.”

<p>Brenton Blanchet</p> Shaboozey poses for a photo in New York City on May 30, 2024

Brenton Blanchet

Shaboozey poses for a photo in New York City on May 30, 2024

Just as his album title suggests, Shaboozey is now locked in on where he’s going — though he doesn’t necessarily need a destination quite yet.

“The most freeing aspect of music for me is, to get somewhere without knowing how to do anything. You know what I mean? It's so fun because you're just like, man, you always are blessed at every moment. You're just like, "I'm just doing what my heart and my gut tell me to do.’ And it eventually worked out, you know? It's working out. I don't know what tomorrow holds.”

Where I’ve Been Isn’t Where I’m Going is out now via EMPIRE and American Dogwood. 

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.