After officially landing a spot on Country radio with the title track from his first full-length album, Pretty Little Poison, Warren Zeiders credits his past experience with sports for the determination and confidence to hold his own amongst Country music’s biggest names.
LISTEN NOW: Warren Zeiders talks his lessons learned from sports with Katie Neal
“I am the man I am today because of what sports taught me,” he told Audacy’s Katie Neal. “The discipline, the characteristics… all of those things I carry with me today… There’s a switch in my brain that once I know I’m going to put myself to something and I’m gonna pursue this, nothing will get in my way.”
That drive came in handy as the 23-year-old was looking for songs to fill his first full-length album, Pretty Little Poison. Zeiders ended up penning 13 of the 14 tracks on the project with the only one he didn’t write, “Inside Your Head,” being crafted by Country giant, Chris Stapleton and co-writer, Lee Thomas Miller. While sharing most artists are hesitant to cut a Stapleton song for fear of not being able to live up to expectations, Zeiders said he had no qualms.
“This song was the only one that stood out to me,” he shared of his experience listening to outside cuts. “I get the song, I’m listening to the work tape and [Chris Stapleton singing the demo] didn’t scare me.”
He continued, “I think that having such a love for Stapleton, and hearing people say, ‘Oh, you got this similarity in your voice, and all this kind of stuff. I’m like, you know what? I’m not going to say I’m going to do it better, I’m not saying anything like that. I’m going to do my own interpretation, I’m going to do my song and dance and put my own flare to it.' That’s exactly what I did.”
The track was a full circle moment for Warren, whose cover of Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey” initially helped put his name on the map. Since including “Inside Your Head,” on his latest project, Zeiders has gained praise from Stapleton himself, who told Zeiders he’s been trying to get artists to record the song “for years.”
“It wasn’t until the album was done, we’re at the album listening party, we’re listening to it — it was Chris [Stapleton] and another writer [Lee Thomas Miller]… I had a chance to shake his [Chris’] hand because he was there listening,” Zeiders shared. “He comes up to me and says verbatim, ‘I’ve been trying to get people to cut this song for years, but no one will touch it after listening to a Chris Stapleton work tape.'”
Not bad for someone who never considered a career in music and was signed almost immediately after picking up a guitar and posting covers on his personal social media accounts to pass time through the global pandemic.
“Music was always in my heart, but it was never anybody telling me, ‘you have a gift, you should pursue this,’” Warren said of his musical past, which only consisted of singing from church pews on Sunday mornings and bonfires on Saturday nights. “It was something I just kind of did and people knew about it.”
For the Hershey, PA native, it was always about sports, especially lacrosse, which he played at the collegiate level. It wasn’t until his health took a turn that the trajectory of his life would change forever.
Listen to Launch: New Country to hear the rising stars of Country and the songs that are sure to be everywhere soon
“I’ve had six or seven concussions over the course of 12 years of playing lacrosse,” Zeiders said before sharing the last concussion brought him a “come to Jesus” moment. “That last one hit me and I had that moment of looking in the mirror and I was just like, ‘you’re not going to play professional lacrosse.’”
Leaving the game was tough for Zeiders, who said lacrosse had become part of his identity. The time freed up with no more practices, games and training sessions opened up more of an opportunity to explore music, which he leaned on to get him through the tough days of the pandemic. He had no intention of going professional.
“For me, I kind of went through an identity crisis, in a sense, because, you do something for so long and then it just becomes a part of you,” he said about leaving lacrosse. “It gave me time to go pick up the guitar again.”
He continued, “I truly just started posting on social media — no intentions of pursuing this, no intentions of 'can I get a record deal? Are they going to notice me?’ — it was for pure enjoyment,” he said. “It gave me a purpose, something to do, something to take my mind away from being confined in a box.”
That purpose became clearer in no time at all as his covers spread like wildfire. In just 3 years he’s garnered more than 1.1 billion audio streams globally and 1.4 billion views on TikTok. He recently received RIAA platinum certification for his breakthrough single, “Ride The Lightning," and was welcomed to the Grand Ole Opry stage for his debut in the summer of 2022 — nearly one year after he wrote his very first song.
His success continues to grow as his debut single to Country radio, “Pretty Little Poison,” gains momentum and connects with fans everywhere.
“I knew that 'Pretty Little Poison' was a special song the day that we wrote it,” he said of heartfelt ballad. “There was something about it, something in the air. The second I finished writing it, I was like, ‘I need to show as many people as I can.’ Whether it was management, whether it was my family, whether it was friends, I was like, ‘I’m telling you guys, this song is going to be special and it’s going to touch a lot of lives.’”
The impact of the single is just the beginning for Zeiders who is launching his Pretty Little Poison fall tour after a sold-out Spring Tour. He is also readying to make his debut at Nashville’s famed Ryman Auditorium, a venue he promised himself he’d never set foot in until he took the stage.
“I’ve got the Ryman on the books, that’s almost sold out,” he shared while talking about his goals in the next six months. “That’ll be my first debut to the Ryman. I made a vow to myself that I would never step foot in the Opry or the Ryman until I played it. I already did the Opry last summer, the Ryman I’m crossing off in the fall.”
Find out what else Audacy Launch artist Warren Zeiders has planned for his future, as well as further details on his rise to fame, family life, and more by checking out his entire interview with Audavy’s Katie Neal above.