Entertainment Music Country Why Brett Eldredge Says He's 'Most Myself' on Stage: 'I Get Up There and Feel That Connection' "To not be able to connect with the audience is really hard because that's how I get through," the musician said of being stuck at home during the pandemic By Sarah Michaud Sarah Michaud Instagram Sarah Michaud is the senior news editor of PEOPLE's music vertical. People Editorial Guidelines Published on June 17, 2022 09:50 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Brett Eldredge. Photo: Rick Kern/Getty After more than two years away, Brett Eldredge was just as ready to get back to CMA Fest as the country fans who flooded Nashville's downtown last weekend. "It's a pat on the back for all of us just to be able to be back playing music — [the pandemic] was such a tough, brutal experience for all of us," the musician, 36, told Spotify: Mic Check host Lea Palmieri last Thursday. "To not be able to connect with the audience is really hard because that's how I get through. I feel most myself when I get up there and I feel that connection." "I feel really accomplished by just being here and showing up," Eldredge joked ahead of his set at Spotify House, the brand's four-day takeover of Blake Shelton and Opry Entertainment Group's Ole Red during the annual country music festival, which was canceled in 2020 and 2021. Brett Eldredge Opens a 'Window of Magic' to Make His New Album: 'There's So Much More to Who I Am' Brett Eldredge. Michael Hickey/Getty Reminiscing on playing his first Nashville show just around the corner from the venue years back, Eldredge spoke of a photo he'd recently seen from that day. "It was me in front of 20 people in this wide-open field. So it looks very bare! But it was so cool because there are people that still come to my shows from that very first time — and that was probably every bit of 11 years ago." "I've run the whole thing — from hosting at the stadium to playing all the different stages, and it's just good to be back [at CMA Fest]," he continued. "I feel like the town has definitely grown even more since the last time we had it." Eldredge released his latest album, Songs About You, on Friday and told Palmieri he thinks the new record has some "good swagger to it." "It's very soulful, it's very confident," he explained. "It'll make you cry but it'll make you dance, too. It's just a really special album, and I think it's my best yet." Call Him 'Mr. Christmas'! Brett Eldredge Embraces His Holiday Music Role: 'It Is My Full Passion' Brett Eldredge. Rick Kern/Getty for Spotify Speaking to PEOPLE later in the evening, Eldredge said he was gratified by the response to him digging deeper on his 2020 album Sunday Drive and used it to push himself harder with the new project. "I was a little scared because Sunday Drive ... I was really proud of that record. And I thought, 'We gotta figure out how to top that.' Honestly, once I started to get the few songs that I could build around, then I was like, 'Oh no, I know exactly what I could do.' And then it just kinda locked in and the music started to fall into a whole 'nother world that I hadn't got to touch on yet." He added, "Sunday Drive got me to find the confidence for this record. Songs About You is so personal ... but I think it will grab a hold of people in a way that they can find some of themselves in this music. It's a beautiful ride to go on from front to back."