Excited about his upcoming nuptials, the "Slower" singer is celebrating his long-awaited debut album and the gumption that got him to this moment: "If someone says I can't do something, I will go to the ends of the earth to prove to them that I can do it"
| Credit: Dove Shore

Shocking though it may be, Filmore has been considering the unthinkable — changing his signature hairstyle — as his October wedding draws near.

"I don't know if I want to have a man bun," the 31-year-old "Slower" singer tells PEOPLE, contemplating the awkward prospect of one day pointing to his wedding photos and telling his future offspring, "Hey, kids, that was me!"

Stay tuned: He's still wavering on a decision. But in just about every other aspect of his life, Filmore (does anyone call him by his first name, Tyler?) displays a supreme sense of assuredness. He knows who he is as an artist and where he is going, and the latest and most tangible sign of that confidence is his debut album, State I'm In, released on Friday. The singer-songwriter takes listeners through 18 tracks of pop-country that vibrate with both an edgy freshness and a deep cache of his musical influences. They also trace his life story, his rural roots, his ramblings, his heartbreaks and, his discovery of his "forever" love.

Filmore's State I'm In
| Credit: Courtesy Curb Records

Though he's yet to make a major splash on radio, Filmore's single releases so far have racked up close to 150 million streams, and he's opened for Sam Hunt, Brett Young, Chase Rice and Jon Pardi, among others, and played the major festivals. "If I never have a number one at radio, it doesn't matter," he says. "I'm already happy with where I'm at, and I'm excited that I have a path to get my music out to fans."

Still, don't think this is an artist with small ambitions. Here are five things you need to know about him:

He was a school choir geek. Raised in Wildwood, Missouri, Filmore grew up listening to the diverse musical tastes of his parents and stepparents, including the Latin sounds of his mother's native Colombia. But he traces his interest in singing back to fourth grade when, he recalls, his class was offered an extra recess for joining choir — and, he says, "I loved recess." A multi-sport athlete, he was drawn to the "competitiveness" of choir, "and I never was not in choir from that moment on." In high school, he scored the plum part of Conrad Birdie in his school musical, Bye Bye Birdie. Playing the flamboyant, Elvis-inspired role, he says he realized "I know how to do this," and the audience reaction hooked him on the stage.

While majoring in vocal performance at the University of Missouri, he spent his weekends fronting bands with his sights singularly set on a music career. Once he moved to Nashville nine years ago, he focused his intent on becoming a solo artist. Billing himself by his last name alone was kind of a no-brainer "I don't remember the last time anyone called me Tyler," he says. "Everyone calls me Filmore. That's just my name."

There's a "Filmore method" to doing things. Since finding his footing in Nashville, Filmore has been going his own way, no matter the prevailing opinion. "If someone says I can't do something," he says, "I will go to the ends of the earth to prove to them that I can do it."

So what's the Filmore method? For starters, he relishes being different — but not just for the sake of being different. "I'm different," he says, "because that is the path I'm on." One way he bucks convention has been to not depend on radio play. "Maybe you can beat the system a little bit," he says. "It's not easy, but there's a lot of opportunities these days with the way the internet works and Instagram and TikTok and all these things."

Most of all, his method is never saying no to a show. "To this day, I've said yes to everything," he says, "even if I was losing money, even if I was going completely in the hole."

He recalls one extreme moment, while touring with Russell Dickerson in Colorado, sitting at his own merch table, trying to scratch together enough cash to cover gas to get him home in a rickety borrowed van. "We got down to like the last $10 when we were 20 miles outside of Nashville," he says.

He loves the stage, and the stage loves him back. Go to a Filmore concert, and you know why he doesn't say no. With a boundless energy that fires up a crowd, the guy can put on a show.

He lights up just talking about it: "When the song starts, I have no idea what I'm going to do, and that's what's so fun for me. Writing all my own songs and then seeing the crowd react to those is the craziest thing in the world. When that's happening and you're on stage, it's almost like an out-of-body experience for me. I'm like chills the entire time. Honestly, it's the most fun thing in the world."

Hello. Back to reality. "And now I'm really sad because I can't tour," he says with a mopey sigh. "Breaking my heart!"

| Credit: Dove Shore

And yet, he adds, he has been finding benefits in the quarantine life, realizing he has a tendency to move too fast to savor his experiences. His sights are still set on stadium concerts — what he calls "that Kenny Chesney effect" — but now he's resolved "to celebrate every little moment on the path."

The man bun was kind of an accident. The roots of the 'do began when Filmore surveyed all the short-haired, ball-capped male artists and decided, of course, to be different. Combined with his beard (grown to hide "a little bit of a baby face"), the mane, he says now, created an overall effect of "a less-jacked version of Aquaman."

Then, about five years ago, he found himself at an Alabama Fourth of July party, drunk, overheated and vulnerable to an offer by two party-goers — both hairstylists — to buzz the sides and back of his head.

"And I was like, all right!" he recalls. "So I sat on a cooler and they tied up my hair and shaved the sides. I woke up the next day and I was like, this is ridiculous."

He figured he had two choices: cut the hair on top or tie it up. The rest is history.

During the pandemic, he's added a new wrinkle to the bun, growing out a mullet to create a style he calls "the bullet."

"I posted it on Instagram, and I thought people are gonna make fun of this," he says, "and once they start hating on it, I'll get rid of it. But then everyone liked it, and I was like, s---."

What to do? A wedding photographer is set to record any new transformation on Oct. 20.

He found his bride-to-be when he wasn't looking. Fresh off a breakup, Filmore walked into a Columbia, South Carolina, bar about three years ago with an hour to kill before a bus call. After he spotted "this beautiful girl at the bar," he didn't get creative with any pickup lines.

"I'm like, 'Would you like a shot?'" he recalls, "and she's like, 'Yeah, I'll take a fireball.' It was cool to meet her, but I wasn't looking for anything. Basically, I was in a place in my life where I did not want to meet or be with another girl for a while."

He did get the young woman's name, Paige Korte, and six months later, they reconnected during his visit to Charleston, South Carolina. "And then we never went seven days without seeing each other after that," he says.

He now shares his Nashville home with Korte, a cardiac sonographer, and their two dogs, Wrangler and Nala. They're planning a COVID-style wedding (small and outdoors) on a Charleston beach.

Korte has been providing lots of songwriting inspiration, and the first song she kindled, "Other Girl," is among Filmore's favorites on his new album. So is the second song, "Loving Me Lately": "I've been loving me lately / 'cause you've been loving me."

"I want someone to love me for who I am," he says. "That whole song, that's exactly the truth."

But perhaps the song he's most excited about at the moment, titled "We'll Be," is still under wraps; he played its demo when he proposed to Korte back in May.

He co-wrote it with Mitchell Tenpenny "especially to ask her to marry me," Filmore says, but then he decided it had hit potential. Now he's planning to grab footage during the wedding for an upcoming music video.

The song points toward their future together. "I can't wait," the happy groom-to-be says, explaining the title, "to see what we'll be."