The college football player-turned-country singer opens up about his journey to music

Products in this story are independently selected and featured editorially. If you make a purchase using these links we may earn commission.

He’s played on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry and watched his debut single “There Was This Girl” reach the top of the country charts, but things still don’t seem real for Riley Green.

“It’s been an out-of-body experience for the last year,” Green, 30, tells PEOPLE. “All of this has been quite the whirlwind. I just haven’t slowed down enough to take it all in.”

And slowing down won’t be in the cards for Green any time soon, as he just announced that he will be going out on his own headlining tour this fall. The Get That Man a Beer Tour will kick off Sept. 5 in Statesboro, Georgia.

“I didn’t think I would have a song, and even if I had a song, I certainly didn’t think it would end up going to No. 1,” admits Green, who was raised on a hearty mix of George Jones and Merle Haggard as a kid growing up in the South. “Heck, I’ve been in cities and states this year that I didn’t think I would ever step foot in.”

Riley Green
Riley Green
| Credit: Connor Dwyer

Seemingly taking in his new reality, Green admits “the biggest doubter in all of this has probably been me.”

Perhaps the reasons behind his ongoing disbelief that he is, in fact, on track to finding a permanent home within the country music genre despite the fact that Green has never followed the somewhat normal, Nashville-generated trajectory towards stardom.

“I did it all so backward from the very start,” says Green, who will also join fellow country powerhouse Jon Pardi this fall on the Heartache Medication Tour. “Nobody in my family was musically inclined. I never went to Nashville first. I never wrote a song that I pitched up and down Music Row.”

RELATED VIDEO: Watch Brad Paisley Guest Judge on AGT with Simon, Julianne, Howie and Gabrielle

In reality, Green was busy doing other things.

“I was really into sports, especially football,” Green says of his rather idyllic Southern upbringing. “The whole family lived 10 miles from one another. If I wasn’t doing something with sports, I was either fixing a lawn mower or going fishing or trying to learn to sing.”

Because yes, through it all, the love of music was always tucked deep into the heart of Green.

His mom signed him up for guitar lessons as a little kid, and his grandfather Bufford Green, who ran the Golden Saw Music Hall, never stopped his grandson from stepping on stage to play a few songs.

As he got older and social media started taking off, Green found himself building a country music career.

“I just went into bars and played for people, and the people always showed up because they knew we would give them a good time,” recalls Green, who released his second collection of songs back in June as part of his Dann Huff-produced Get That Man a Beer EP. “I mean, I was playing “Get That Man a Beer” before I even had my record deal. I would just play it and then the social media world got a hold of it.”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Currently, Green is out on a world tour with Brad Paisley, an artist that has quietly reached legendary status by simply keeping his foot on the pedal and staring straight ahead — a strategy that Green hopes to emulate.

“It’s cool to see the kind of career that Brad Paisley has had,” he says. “I met him and it felt like we had been buddies forever. Seeing him and talking to him reminds me that everyone has been where I’m at.”

Riley Green
Riley Green
| Credit: Connor Dwyer

And where Green is at, right at this moment, is quite a new world for him, as the former college football player is now watching his new current single “In Love by Now” find its way up the charts. And yes, he’s getting more and more comfortable about looking towards the future — including the release of his forthcoming debut album.

“I’ve got the next four songs done that I’m ready to put out,” he says, laughing.

But there is one song that he just has a feeling might take him to a whole new stratosphere.

“I performed my song called ‘I Wish Grandpas Never Died’ in Macon, Georgia a few months back and filmed it for social media and within a week it had 1.8 million views,” Green says. “I’m really excited for that song. I’m really excited about all of this.”